Joy Crookes – Skin – Review (Vinyl, Streaming Amazon Music and Qobuz, 360 Reality Audio)

At only 22 years old, Joy Crookes presents us with her first modern soul-jazz album. Of Bangladeshi and Irish origins, born in London, Joy Crookes has a great voice that some people compare to Amy Winehouse. Album to listen and to discover.

You can find the measurements of each edition in the different parts and listen to the samples of these albums here.

This album includes 13 tracks : 

  1. I Don’t Mind
  2. 19th Floor
  3. Poison
  4. Trouble
  5. When You Were Mine
  6. To Lose Someone
  7. Unlearn You
  8. Kingdom
  9. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
  10. Wild Jasmine
  11. Skin
  12. Power
  13. Theek Ache

We will review 4 editions (Vinyl, Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD and 360 Reality Audio, Streaming Qobuz) 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 change, the streaming versions presented correspond to the version tested at the date of publication of the review, or of an update of the review.

Review of the editions:

Part 1: Presentation of the editions

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamique comparaison

Parts 3 : Spectrum comparisons

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Sample

Part 1: presentation of the editions

Ed1 : Vinyl ref 19439918611 – 2021
Presentation

It is a very nice vinyl proposed here in its clear version. This one also includes 4-page insert.

LabelInsanity Records
Reference19439918611
Format (speed)LP 33.3 RPM
TypeClear vinyl LP , gatefold with 4-page insert.
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-48kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Amazon Music proposed in UltraHD (24 bits 48 kHz).

LabelAmazon Music
ReferenceUltra HD
Format (speed)Streaming Ultra HD
Type24 bits 48 kHz
MasterDigital 24-48kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-48kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed3 : Streaming Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio binaural- 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Amazon Music proposed in 360 Reality Audio Binaural. This binaural is a specific version for headphone listening.

The first track is indicated as being in UltraHD stereo only and not in 360 Reality Audio.

LabelAmazon Music
Reference360 Reality Audio
Format (speed)Streaming 360 Reality Audio
Type360 Reality Audio Ambiphonic
MasterDigital
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021
Ed4 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021
Presentation

This is the Streaming Qobuz proposed in Hi-Res (24 bits 48 kHz).

LabelQobuz
ReferenceHi-Res
Format (speed)Streaming Hi-Res
Type24 bits 48 kHz
MasterDigital 24-48kHz
Mastering/PressingDigital
Original recordingDigital 24-48kHz
StateEU
Year original2021
Year production2021

Part 2 : Waveform and dynamic comparaisons

Waveform

The waveform represents all the tracks of the album.

We have a new hierarchy in the representation of waveforms.
The Ed1 vinyl version is the most dynamic stereo version compared to the Amazon (Ed2) and Qobuz (Ed4) digital versions.

Waveform Ed1 : Vinyl 2021

The most dynamic version, which presents the largest level differences on the curve is the Ed3 version in 360 Reality Audio here in binaural version.

Waveform Ed3 : Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio – 2021

The two streaming versions (Ed2 and Ed4) have compacted curves producing a very low average dynamic DR5!

Waveform Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music 2021
Waveform Ed4 : Streaming Qobuz 2021

Dynamic

We start this test by measuring the dynamic. Dynamic represents the ability to reproduce a wide range of sounds from the softest to the loudest. 

For our 4 editions we have obtained the following Dynamic Range (DR):

 Ed1: VinylEd2: Amazon MusicEd3: Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio BinauralEd3: Qobuz
GLOBALDR9DR5DR12DR5
MinDR8DR10DR10DR10
MaxDR11DR3DR13DR3
I Don’t MindDR9DR5DR10DR5
19th FloorDR9DR4DR11DR4
PoisonDR10DR5DR12DR5
TroubleDR9DR5DR12DR5
When You Were MineDR8DR4DR12DR4
To Lose SomeoneDR10DR5DR12DR5
Unlearn YouDR10DR7DR12DR7
KingdomDR10DR4DR13DR4
Feet Don’t Fail Me NowDR8DR3DR12DR3
Wild JasmineDR9DR4DR12DR4
SkinDR9DR7DR11DR7
PowerDR10DR5DR11DR5
Theek AcheDR11DR10DR11DR10

My DR measurements confirm the waveforms analysis. The Amazon and Qobuz streaming versions are heavily compressed with an average DR5, and one track even with a DR3!
The vinyl with DR9 gives better results in terms of dynamics.
The 360 Reality Audio Binaural version is here the most dynamic with DR12, too bad it is specific for headphone listening. We would have liked to have a DR12 on the Stereo versions

As a reminder, the scale goes from 0 to more 20, but the dynamics are considered good from 12, quite good between 10 and 11, and deteriorate below 10.

Part 3 : spectrum comparisons

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 sample “poison”.

The curves are similar from the bottom of the spectrum to 10 kHz. There are some small variations in level on the Ed1 vinyl compared to the Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music, but overall staying at the same level. So we will have a similar sound balance on both sources.

Spectrum Ed1 Vinyl (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music(blue)

The two curves are similar on the whole spectrum for Ed4 Streaming Qobuz and Ed2 Streaming Amazon (Updated 08/11/2021).

Spectrum Ed4 Streaming Qobuz (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music (blue)

The curve of the Ed3 Amazon 360 Reality Audio Binaural version is very different from the curve of the stereo version of the Ed2 Amazon UltraHD. This is due to the different mix and the reduction of channels and sound objects in the binaural version of 360 Reality Audio.

Spectrum Ed3 STreaming Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio (white) vs Ed2 Streaming Amazon Music(blue)

Part 4 : Spectrogram comparaisons

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.

For the spectrogram of the Ed1 vinyl, the yellow arrow shows the limit is below 20 kHz (the sampling frequency of the master). The white arrow shows the harmonics created by the vinyl playback method.

Spectrogram Ed1 : Vinyl 2021

The streaming Amazon Music, Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio Binaural and Qobuz release show the frequency limit at 24kHz (yellow arrow) . The black area (white arrow) shows that there is no signal above 24 kHz, which is normal for a 48 kHz sampling rate.

Spectrogram Ed2 : Amazon Music 2021
Spectrogram Ed4 : Qobuz 2021

In Ed3, the green arrow shows the song in stereo with a higher cutoff frequency than the other tracks in 360 Reality Audio. The green arrow shows the track that is not in 360 Reality Audio, we see that the bandwidth is a little higher above 20 kHz.

Spectrogram Ed3 : Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio – 2021

Part 5 : Summary, scoring and Samples

Ed1 : Vinyl ref 19439918611 – 2021

The pressing of the vinyl is good with a reduced surface noise.
The rendering is smoother than the streaming version, with the warmer rendering of the vinyl going over Joy’s voice very well. Moreover it is a very well packaged vinyl.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Surface Noise: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (3.5/5)
  • Sample : “Poison” vinyl 24 bits 88.2 kHz :
Sample “Poison” vinyl
Ed2 : Streaming Amazon Music UltraHD – 2021

The streaming version here is highly compressed, which results in a lack of dynamics and precision compared to the vinyl version.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
  • Sample : “Poison” Streaming Amazon Music 24 bits 48 kHz :
Sample “Poison” Streaming Amazon Music
Ed3 : Streaming Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio Binaural- 2021

The 360 Reality Audio Binaural format brings here a different mix of music with a more pronounced separation of instrument and voice, and a more extended spatial representation. The dynamics are the best of the 4 versions. It’s a new approach to headphone music.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●●●oo (3.5/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●●o (4/5)
  • Sample : “Poison” Streaming Amazon 360 Reality Audio :
Sample “Poison” Streaming Amazon Music 360 Reality Audio
Ed4 : Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res – 2021

The Qobuz version is very similar to the Amazon version with identical compression.

  • Rating:
    • Dynamic: ●oooo (1/5)
    • Bandwidth: ●●●●o (4/5)
    • Restitution: ●●●oo (2.5/5)
  • Sample : “Poison” Streaming Qobuz 24 bits 48 kHz :
Sample “Poison” Streaming Qobuz

Very beautiful first album for Joy Crookes that you can discover in vinyl for a warm and very soft sound of the voice or in headphones in 360 Reality Audio Binaural streaming for a precise, dynamic and spatial sound. The Stereo streaming versions are behind the two other versions.

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)
  • 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.

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