Prince & The New Power Generation / Diamonds and Pearls Dolby Atmos Mix – reviewed

Spatial audio version assessed

Originally released in October 1991, Diamonds and Pearls was Prince’s 13th overall studio album and first to feature his new backing band The New Power Generation. Recorded at his Paisley Park complex in Minnesota, the album yielded multiple hit singles including ‘Gett Off’, ‘Cream’, ‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’, ‘Insatiable’, and the title track (featuring co-lead vocals from Rosie Gaines).

Various reissues of Diamonds and Pearls appeared in the autumn of 2023, including a Super Deluxe Edition box set containing a new remaster of the album as well as previously-unheard live and studio recordings from that era. For audiophiles and immersive music fans, the most exciting of all the new editions would have to be the Blu-ray Audio, featuring a brand-new Dolby Atmos mix of the album by longtime Prince collaborator Chris James. This marks the first occasion that a Prince studio album has been remixed in any spatial audio format, be it 5.1 surround sound or Dolby Atmos (though an Atmos mix of ‘When Doves Cry’ was made available on the streaming service way back in 2020).

Diamonds and Pearls marks the first occasion that a Prince studio album has been remixed in any spatial audio format

Jonathan Cornell

Diamonds and Pearls is notable for its incorporation of then-contemporary hip-hop elements, including sampled percussion, loops, and even rap passages. Though some of the production comes off as somewhat dated today, the fusion of organic and electronic sounds definitely makes the album a perfect candidate for immersive audio. For the most part, I found James’ new Atmos mix to be an interesting, albeit occasionally-flawed, expansion of the 1991 stereo mix by Michael Koppelman. Though some passages are dazzling in terms of both sonic clarity and spatial impact, other key moments seem to lack the ‘punch’ and groove of the original version.

The opening track ‘Thunder’ was an adventure even in two channels, so I was most excited to see how it would unfold in Atmos. As expected, the quick bursts of electronic percussion, sitar-like keyboard licks, and backing vocals are spread all around the room to great effect. Prince’s vocals are interestingly panned to the front ‘phantom’ center, rather than the physical center speaker. I did find the lower frequencies a bit overwhelming on my system, but that obviously varies room-to-room and to taste.

Percussion pops out of the front left height speaker during the intro to ‘Daddy Pop‘, quickly joined by a keyboard line in the right rear height channel while the rhythm section thunders in from upfront. Keyboards extend from the side speakers up into the height array for the title track, with both Prince and Rosie Gaines’ vocals both sharing the front channels. There’s a particularly fun moment at around two-and-a-half minutes in, where the synth brass appears solely in the rear surrounds.

The low point of the immersive presentation would unfortunately have to be ‘Cream’ one of my favourite tracks on the album. The snare drum is oddly set way back in the Atmos mix relative to the original stereo, really robbing the song of its power and drive. It’s a shame as there’s again fun use of the expanded soundstage, with percussion and guitar licks positioned largely in the overhead speakers.

Prince’s guitar appears mostly in the front right height speaker for the jazzy ‘Strollin” with the lower-register backing vocals confined to the side surrounds and fingersnaps coming from the back. Percussion pops from behind throughout ‘Willing and Able‘ again with a steady diet of overhead guitar and rear-panned harmonies. At around the three-minute mark, the organ blasts appear solely in the rear height speakers to great effect.

Following a center channel scream, the band launches into the explosive ‘Gett Off‘. The main rhythmic elements appear in the front soundstage, with ancillary sounds like the sampled percussion and rhythm guitar filling out the side, rear, and height speakers. The rap vocal parts interestingly seem to use the center speaker more, while the sung vocals are confined to the front channels as on other songs.

Iconic hit songs like ‘Cream’ and ‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’ are somewhat marred by curious mixing decisions.

Jonathan Cornell

Percussion dances around from above throughout ‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’ with the guitar
elevated into the front left height speaker and backing vocals taking up residence in the sides. Unfortunately, the saturation effect on the lead vocal that was applied judiciously in the original
1991 mix (apparently it was recorded like this – Ed.) is way overdone in the Atmos version – giving Prince’s voice an unpleasant grunge-y quality.

Insatiable‘ gradually presents itself in Atmos, starting off as more of an ‘expanded stereo’ presentation with the big drum reverbs hitting off the back wall. Backing vocals soon rise from the side surrounds up into the heights, as sprinkles of keyboard later appear overhead. Diamonds and Pearls then concludes with ‘Live 4 Love’, one of the most effective demonstrations of immersive audio on the album. The call-and-response vocal parts alternate front-to-back, while keyboards blast from the sides and tambourine hovers overhead.

Overall, at least to my ears, the Atmos mix seems to work best on lesser-known album tracks such as ‘Strollin’’ and ‘Willing and Able’ – whereas the iconic hit songs like ‘Cream’ and ‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’ are somewhat marred by curious mixing decisions. Nevertheless, it’s fantastic to finally hear a Prince studio album reimagined in surround sound and I’m hopeful that future releases will fully highlight the detailed artistry captured in these iconic recordings.

Review by Jonathan Cornell for SDE. Read more of Jonathan’s reviews at ImmersiveAudioAlbum.com.

The Diamonds and Pearls Dolby Atmos Mix is available on blu-ray audio and is in stock and ready to ship from the SDE shop. Place an order using this link or simply use the ‘buy button’ below. Other blu-ray audios, including exclusive titles, can be found on the blu-ray audio section of the SDE shop.


Diamonds and Pearls Prince & The New Power Generation /

    • Dolby Atmos and remastered stereo versions of the following songs
      1. Thunder 5:45
      2. Daddy Pop 5:17
      3. Diamonds and Pearls” 4:45
      4. Cream 4:13
      5. Strollin’ 3:47
      6. Willing and Able 5:00
      7. Gett Off 4:31
      8. Walk Don’t Walk 3:07
      9. Jughead 4:57
      10. Money Don’t Matter 2 Night 4:46
      11. Push” Prince, Rosie Gaines 5:53
      12. Insatiable 6:39
      13. Live 4 Love (Last Words from the Cockpit) 6:59

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