Alicia Keys ‎– Alicia ( Vinyl White, Cd, Hi-Res, Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal 360RA binaural)

Alicia is the 7th Album of Alicia Keys. The release of this album has been postponed a few months because of Covid19, from March 2020 to September 2020.
In the current context, a song takes a new turn. “Good Job” pays homage to his mother and the “honest and selfless” people for whom personal sacrifice goes unnoticed.
More R&B than Pop, but Alicia Keys still shines with her voice.

Technical:

  • Recorded By Ann Mincieli at Oven Studios
  • Mixed by Ann Mincieli , Manny Marroquin , Serban Ghenea,Tony Maserati
  • Mastered by Dave Kutch, Kevin Peterson at The Mastering Palace

This album includes 15 tracks : 

1: Truth Without Love
2: Time Machine
3: Authors Of Forever
4: Wasted Energy (Feat. Diamond Platinumz)
5: Underdog
6: 3 Hour Drive (Feat. Sampha)
7: Me x 7 (Feat. Tierra Whack)
8: Show Me Love (Feat. Miguel)
9: So Done (Feat. Khalid)
10: Gramercy Park
11: Love Looks Better
12: You Save Me (Feat. Snoh Aalegra)
13: Jill Scott (Feat. Jill Scott)
14: Perfect Way To Die
15: Good Job

We will review 6 editions (vinyl, CD , Hi-Res digital files , Streaming Amazon, Qobuz, Tidal 360RA binaural) of this album.

First we will analyze each edition in detail (technical and qualitative analysis) then we will compare the successive editions with their dynamics and assign a final score and you will be able to listen some samples.

The streaming versions may evolve over time, those presented here correspond to the version tested at the date of publication, or update of the review.

Summary

Review of the editions:

Ed1 : Vinyl RCA ref 19439-73411-1, AKW White (2020)

Ed2 : CD  RCA ‎ref 19439-73411-2, (2020)

Ed3 : Hi-Res Digital Files Album, Stereo, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

Ed4 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD, Stereo, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

Ed5 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res, Stereo, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

Ed6 : Streaming Tidal 360 RA Binaural, Stereo (2020)

Go to Dynamic
Go to Notation/Rating/Samples

Review

Ed1 : Vinyl RCA ref 19439-73411-1, AKW White (2020)
Presentation
LabelRCA
Reference19439-73411-1 White
Format (speed)2 x Vinyl 12” (33.33 rpm)
TypeAlbum Limited Edition, White
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingPressing Europe
Original recordingDigital
StateEurope
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Side B of the album.

The graph clearly shows the differences in levels and thus in dynamics for this track. You can clearly see the differences in volume and musical instruments impact.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Side B of the album. Interesting characteristics on this curve are:

1.      The spectrum of Hi-Res and Vinyl versions are very similar. There is a very small difference of about 1 dB which will limit the difference in sound balance (in the green zone).

2.      It is a collapse in the signal level after 22 kHz  (Yellow), normal for a master in 44.1 kHz (or 48 kHz).

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

  • The yellow arrows represent the collapse at 22 kHz  (in Yellow in the previous graph).

Ed2 : CD RCA ‎ref 19439-73411-2, (2020)

Presentation

LabelRCA
Reference19439-73411-2
Format (speed)CD
TypeAlbum CD
MasterDigital 16/44.1kHz
Mastering/PressingEurope
Original recordingDigital
StateUS
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The curve clearly shows the compression of the dynamics compared to vinyl. With a DR6, you can see the areas (yellow) where the signal is compressed. This is the case for all track. When listening, this compression limits the opening of the music.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The  Interesting characteristic on this curve is a collapse in the signal level after 22 kHz  (Yellow), normal for a master in 44.1 kHz.

There is a perfect superposition between the CD and the Hi-Res. The CD uses the same master as the Hi-Res.

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The yellow arrows represent the collapse at 22 kHz  (in Yellow in the previous graph).The black band indicates that there is no signal above 22kHz.

Ed3 : Hi-Res Digital Files Album, Stereo, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)
Presentation
LabelRCA
ReferenceAlbum Hi-Res 24/44.1
Format (speed)Hi-Res Digital Files 24/44.1
TypeHi-Res Digital Files
MasterDigital 24/44.1kHz
Mastering/PressingUS
Original recordingDigital
StateUS
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

Like the CD, the curve clearly shows the compression of the dynamics compared to vinyl. With a DR6, you can see the areas (yellow) where the signal is compressed. This is the case for all track.

The version is almost the same as the Hi-Res version.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The  Interesting characteristic on this curve is a collapse in the signal level after 22 kHz  (Yellow), normal for a master in 44.1 kHz.

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The yellow arrows represent the collapse at 22 kHz  (in Yellow in the previous graph).

The black band indicates that there is no signal above 22kHz.

Ed4 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD, 24 bit 44.1kHz (2020)
Presentation
LabelRCA
ReferenceStreaming Amazon Music UltraHD
Format (speed)24/44.1
Type Streaming
MasterDigital 24/44.1kHz
Mastering/PressingUS
Original recordingDigital
StateUS
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

Like the CD, the curve of the Amazon Ultra HD clearly shows the compression of the dynamics compared to vinyl. With a DR6, you can see the areas (yellow) where the signal is compressed. This is the case for all track.

The version is almost the same as the Hi-Res version.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The  Interesting characteristic on this curve is a collapse in the signal level after 22 kHz  (Yellow), normal for a master in 44.1 kHz.

The curve is identical of the Ed3 Hi-Res File.

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The black band indicates that there is no signal above 22kHz.

It’s like the CD edition.

Ed5 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res, 24 bit 44.1kHz (2020)
Presentation
LabelRCA
ReferenceStreaming Qobuz Hi-Res
Format (speed)24/44.1
Type Streaming
MasterDigital 24/44.1kHz
Mastering/PressingUS
Original recordingDigital
StateUS
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

Like the CD, the curve of Qobuz shows the compression of the dynamics compared to vinyl or Atmos binaural. With a DR6, you can see the areas (yellow) where the signal is compressed. This is the case for all track.

The version is almost the same as the Amazon Ultra HD version.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The  Interesting characteristic on this curve is a collapse in the signal level after 22 kHz  (Yellow), normal for a master in 44.1 kHz.

The curve is identical of the Ed4 Amazon UltraHD.

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The black band indicates that there is no signal above 22kHz.

It’s like the Amazon UltraHD edition.

Ed6 : Streaming Tidal 360RA Binaural (2020)
Presentation
LabelRCA
ReferenceStreaming Tidal 360 Reality Audio
Format (speed)360 Reality Audio decoded in Binaural
Type Streaming
Master360 Reality Audio
Mastering/PressingUS
Original recordingDigital
StateUS
Year original2020
Year production2020
Waveform

The waveform represents the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

Like the vinyl, the waveform shows the dynamics of the Tidal 360RA binaural.

Spectrum

The Spectrum allows to check the tonal balance of the music (balance between treble, medium and bass sounds) and to detect process that may have been carried out during the recording, the mixing, mastering or manufacturing phases. It is also possible to detect frequency interference issues.

The 360RA binaural version is very different from the stereo version (yellow zone), this is due to the 360RA mixing which exploits the spatialization of objects.
The cut at 20kHz is due to the 360RA encoding which limits the high frequencies to facilitate the encoding with loss of informations.

Spectrogram

Spectrogram is another representation of frequency versus time of a track. For each channel (right and left), horizontal axis represents time, and the vertical axis represents frequency. The amplitude is represented by the intensity (brightness) of the color of each point in the image.

The curve represents the average frequency distribution over the Tracks equivalent of the vinyl’s side B.

The black band indicates that there is no signal above 20kHz due to the MPEG-H Encoding.

Dynamic

Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest.

 For the 6 editions Dynamic Range (DR) is as follow:

 Ed1 vinyl  WhiteEd2 CDEd3 Hi-Res filesEd4 Streaming AmazonEd5 Streaming Qobuz)Ed6 Tidal 360 RA
GLOBALDR10DR6DR6DR6DR6DR13
MinDR8DR4DR4DR4DR4DR10
MaxDR12DR8DR8DR8DR8DR15
Truth Without LoveDR10DR5DR5DR5DR5DR12
Time MachineDR9DR4DR4DR4DR4DR12
Authors Of ForeverDR10DR5DR5DR5DR5DR14
Wasted EnergyDR12DR6DR6DR7DR6DR14
UnderdogDR11DR5DR5DR5DR5DR13
3 Hour DriveDR11DR7DR7DR7DR7DR12
Me x 7DR10DR7DR7DR7DR7DR14
Show Me LoveDR10DR6DR6DR6DR6DR10
So DoneDR11DR6DR6DR6DR6DR12
Gramercy ParkDR11DR7DR7DR7DR7DR14
Love Looks BetterDR10DR5DR5DR5DR5DR13
You Save MeDR11DR8DR8DR8DR8DR12
Jill ScottDR12DR7DR7DR7DR7DR15
Perfect Way To DieDR8DR7DR7DR7DR7DR12
Good JobDR9DR7DR7DR7DR7DR11

For the dynamics, we find the digital stereo versions with the same DR6 confirming the dynamic compression visible on the waveforms. Only the vinyl and the Dolby Atmos version have a DR higher than DR10, DR10 for the vinyl (Ed1) and DR13 for Tidal Atmos Binaural (Ed6) .


Why the compression is used?
It’s just a question of sound level strategy. If a song has a louder level, it will stand out from the other songs, so it may be successful.
But, due to compression, now, a lot of modern songs are too compressed.

The average RMS level on the vinyl track “Underdog” is -13.37 dB, and in Hi-Res it is -7.1 dB.

So there is a gap of 6.5 dB. The Hi-Res version has a louder rendering.
To realize the difference, 6.5 dB represents more than 4 times more power. If the average level of the vinyl requires 10 watts on the amp, the Hi-Res version will require 40 watts if we don’t change the level.
Adjusting the Hi-Res to the level of the vinyl will show the signal that has been suppressed. The yellow part of the vinyl has been removed by compression. It ils similar between Hi-Res and 360RA Binaural.

The zoom below shows that the signal is transformed by compression. All the peaks of the signal are missing.

The 4 waveforms below show the difference in signal between the Tidal Atmos Binaural version (DR13), the vinyl (DR10), the Hi-Res Files (DR6) and the CD (DR6).

Notation/Rating/Samples:

Ed1 : Vinyl RCA ref 19439-73411-1, AKW White (2020)

Vinyl is a very nice pressing with a very nice rendering of the voice and the instruments.
Bass is also present with power, the sound is very dynamic. Music is more airy, with more space than digital releases.
Only the surface noise could have been a little lower. Maybe it’s because of the engraving level, which is 6 dB lower than other vinyls or due to the white material used for the vinyl.

  • Ratting :
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface noise: ●●●oo (3/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (3.5/5)
Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed1 Vinyl White (24/88)*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed1 Vinyl White (24/88)*
Ed2 : CD RCA ‎ref 19439-73411-2, (2020)

The rendering is here in power (due to compression of dynamic) with more bass, but losing some of the finesse of the voice and instruments. The rendering is almost identical to Hi-res.

  • Rating :
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5/5)
Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed2 CD (16/44.1)*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed2 CD (16/44.1)*
Ed3 : Hi-Res Digital Files Album, Stereo, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

Like the CD version, the rendering is here in power (because of the dynamic compression ) with more bass, but losing dynamics and finesse of the voice and instruments.
We would dream to have a Hi-Res “audiophile” release which is not compressed with a DR6, but with a DR13 like the 360RA binaural (Ed6).

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5/5)
Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed2 Hi-Res (24/44.1)*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed3 Hi-Res (24/44.1)*
Ed4 : Streaming Amazon UltraHD, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

The Amazon UltraHD version is similar to the Hi-Res version with the same dynamic range compression that brings this bass presence and the loss of smoothness on the voice and instruments.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5/5)
Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed4 Amazon UltraHD (24/44.1)*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed4 Amazon UltraHD (24/44.1)*
Ed5 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res, 24bit 44.1kHz (2020)

The Qobuz version is similar to the Hi-Res file version and the Amazon version and remains less dynamic and precise than the vinyl version and 360RA binaural.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●ooo (2.5/5)
Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed5 Qobuz Hi-Res (24/44.1)*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed5 Qobuz Hi-Res (24/44.1)*
Ed6 : Streaming Tidal 360RA Binaural (2020)

The Tidal version in 360 RA (Reality Audio) presented in binaural for headphone listening widens the gap with the other versions in terms of dynamics and spatialization.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Spectrum: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)

The 360RA binaural version is designed for headphone listening.

Sample 1 “Underdog” Ed6 Tidal 360RA Binaural*
Sample 2 “Good Job” Ed6 Tidal 360RA Binaural*

*The level has been adjusted to have the same RMS level for an easier comparison.

We find for this album a hierarchy in term of rendering and dynamics according to 3 levels.
The versions valuing less the sound rendering of the album are the digital stereo versions (CD or Streaming) with its DR6. We find then the vinyl which brings more opening and dynamics while keeping the warm sound of the vinyl. And in first position, but for a listening to the headphones, the 360RA binaural version which brings dynamics and spatial opening to the album.

Updated 27 03 2021 with Streaming release.

Updated 10 08 2022 with streaming Amazon UltraHD (update the streaming version), Qobuz Hi-Res and Tidal 360RA Binaural

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Detail of the ratings :

  • Dynamic :
    1. Significant dynamic compression, DR less than 7
    2. Compression of the present dynamics, DR between 7 and 9.
    3. Correct piece DR >=10
    4. No dynamic compression (DR >12), dynamic rendering
    5. No dynamic compression, high DR and very dynamic sound rendering
  • Spectrum :
    1. Spectrum cut and less than 15 khz
    2. Spectrum cut at 15 khz
    3. Spectrum not conforming to the original and cut (not HD) or original but limited bandwidth (but less than 20 kHz)
    4. Spectrum conforming to the original (but not HD)
    5. Spectrum conforming to the original with HD resolution (higher than 24kHz)
  • Surface noise (only for vinyl):
    1. Continuous audible noise
    2. Audible surface noise except on passages with a high level of noise
    3. Reduced surface noise, barely audible on low level crossings
    4. Low surface noise, very good quality
    5. Very low surface noise, no defects, almost inaudible on the quiet passages (exceptional disc)
  • Spatialization :
    • Between 0 and 5 for 5.1 or 7.1 channels configuration
    • Between 0 and 10 for Atmos configuration (7.1.4)
    • For more information on spatialization, you can read the article describing this parameter here.
  • Restitution :
    1. Low quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    2. Average quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments.
    3. Quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Good record.
    4. High quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Very high level disc.
    5. Maximum quality of the restitution mixing dynamics, clarity, separation of voices and instruments. Exceptional disc.

One thought on “Alicia Keys ‎– Alicia ( Vinyl White, Cd, Hi-Res, Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal 360RA binaural)

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