The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) (also known as The Beatles: Stereo Box), is a box set compilation comprising all remastered recordings by English rock band the Beatles. The set was issued on 9 September 2009, along with the remastered mono recordings and companion The Beatles in Mono and The Beatles: Rock Band video game. The remastering project for both mono and stereo versions was led by EMI senior studio engineers Allan Rouse and Guy Massey. The Stereo Box also features a DVD which contains all the short films that are on the CDs in QuickTime format.
It is the second complete box set collection of original Beatles recordings after The Beatles Box Set (1988). Two earlier album collections, The Beatles Collection (1978) and The Collection (1982) did not contain all of the Beatles recordings. Although sales were counted as 1 unit for each box set sold in the mono and stereo format, total individual sales exceeded 30 million.
The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) received the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album at the 53rd Grammys. The box set was issued on vinyl in 2012.
The sixteen-disc collection contains the remastered stereo versions of every album in the Beatles catalogue. The first four albums (Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale) made their CD debut in stereo, though most songs from those albums have previously appeared on CD in stereo on various compilations. Both Help! and Rubber Soul use the remixes prepared by George Martin for the original 1987 CD releases (the original 1965 stereo mixes were released on The Beatles in Mono). Magical Mystery Tour is presented in the sequence and artwork of its original North American Capitol Records album release, as opposed to the UK six-song EP.
All CDs replicate their original album labels as first released, from the various Parlophone Records variations, to the Capitol Records label (for Magical Mystery Tour) and the UK Apple Records side A label from Yellow Submarine through Let It Be, and with the side A & side B Apple labels for discs one & two respectively for The Beatles. For Past Masters, disc one uses a mid-1960s Parlophone label design and disc two uses the (side A) Apple label design. Each of the albums except Past Masters includes a mini-documentary, mainly drawing from The Beatles Anthology (with a few animated 3D scenarios made up of original photos thrown in), about the album in QuickTime format. The Beatles and Past Masters are two-disc sets.
Please Please Me (1963)
With the Beatles (1963)
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Beatles for Sale (1964)
Rubber Soul (1965)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The Beatles (1968)
Yellow Submarine (1969)
Abbey Road (1969)
Let It Be (1970)
Past Masters (1988)
Missing stereo session tapes
No stereo mixes exist for the 1963 single "She Loves You" and its flipside "I'll Get You" or the 1962 single "Love Me Do" and its flipside "P.S. I Love You". It was the practice at Abbey Road Studios prior to early 1963 to wipe and re-use master tapes once they had been mixed down to mono for single release. For this reason there will never be true stereo mixes of "Love Me Do" or "P.S. I Love You". Although the practice had stopped by the time of the release of the "She Loves You" single, and although it is possible that the master tapes were in EMI's possession in January 1964, when the German language version was recorded, it is commonly believed that those tapes were either stolen or destroyed. Competent-sounding stereo versions of "She Loves You" have been created unofficially using the backing track from "Sie Liebt Dich", but the engineers who prepared the remasters elected not to do this. Every release of these four songs has been in mono (or simulated stereo) and they appear in mono on the stereo version of Past Masters and Please Please Me. This is also the case for the single version of "Love Me Do" with Ringo on drums but at some point (fairly early on) even the mixed down mono tape of this version of the song was lost. Some authors have expressed the opinion that the original version of "Love Me Do" was intentionally destroyed in order to alleviate possible confusion between it and the more common version of the song. Since 1980, new transfers sourced from reasonably clean 45rpm mono singles from private collectors have been used as the master for this version of the song.
Two other songs in The Beatles' catalogue which also appear in mono on the stereo CDs are "Only a Northern Song" and "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)". Neither of these songs received stereo mixes at the time they were recorded, although other songs that were similarly not mixed into stereo during The Beatles' recording lifetime were not excluded from the set: the stereo mixes of "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," and "Baby, You're a Rich Man" all made in 1971, the stereo mix of "Yes It Is" that was given a very limited UK release in 1986 on a mail order cassette promotion that Apple and The Beatles did not authorize and was commercially released in 1988 on Past Masters; and the 2000 edit of "Day Tripper" from 1. "Only a Northern Song" was first mixed into stereo and 5.1 surround for the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album in 1999 and a differently-edited stereo mix of "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" appeared on Anthology 2 in 1996. "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" is the only track left in The Beatles' catalogue of which the original edit has never received a stereo mix despite the multi-tracks being available.
Included in the set is a DVD called The Mini Documentaries compiling all the short documentaries released on the individual albums in QuickTime format. The DVD features narration from all four Beatles as well as George Martin as the opening on each of the individual albums. Each documentary contains rare footage and previously unheard dialogue. There are sound excerpts from various songs, accompanied by still photos, clips of television appearances, footage from inside recording sessions, film footage from their final photo session, and material from the five Beatles films A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be. The DVD has a red Apple label (similar to that on the original US Let It Be LP). This DVD is exclusive to the Stereo set, and is not included in the Mono version.
Limited edition USB flash drive
Apple-shaped USB flash drive
On 7 December 2009, The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) was also released as a limited edition of 30,000 apple-shaped USB flash drives. This event marks the first appearance for the Beatles catalogue in a high-resolution digital format being encoded in 44.1 kHz/24-bit FLAC format. CD-standard is 44.1 kHz/16-bit. The 16 GB flash drive also includes 320 kbps MP3 copies of the albums, a specially designed Flash interface, and all the visual elements from the boxed set — the mini-documentary films, original UK album art, rare photos and expanded liner notes.
Although it received positive reviews from critics and users, many complaints were received  that the "stem" on the USB flash drive is very fragile that it can break off when attempting to remove the USB drive out of the apple-shaped holder, making the USB drive difficult to remove.
On 12 November 2012, the set was released on 180-gram vinyl, specially prepared for vinyl, with a 252-page book included. Also included are the inserts which were included in the original LPs such as the cardboard cutout sheet included in Sgt. Pepper plus the photos and poster included in The Beatles.
Professional ratingsReview scores
AllMusic 5/5 stars
The Austin Chronicle 4/5 stars
Entertainment Weekly A
Pitchfork Media 10/10
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars
Spectrum Culture 5/5 stars
On the United States Billboard Top 200 albums chart the set debuted at number 15. On the Japanese Oricon weekly album charts, it debuted at number 6, selling over 35,000 copies in its first week. The set was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in April 2010. The set was also certified Diamond in Canada in March 2010.
In Germany, the box set reached number 37.
Remastering The Beatles
Guy Massey, Paul Hicks & Steve Rooke
https://vintagerock.com/the-beatles-2009-remasters/Mastering Mixing /Production
By Sam Inglis, Published October 2009
Remastering projects don't come much bigger than this: a team of engineers spent four years in Abbey Road creating the definitive Beatles collection.
"Today's stuff has no dynamics at all,” says mastering engineer Steve Rooke. "It's really squashed, and if the Beatles were recording today I'm sure they'd be squashing their music. But we've all lived with the sound and the dynamics we've got. We didn't want to destroy that at all, but it's got to appeal to today's CD‑buying public.”
The remastering team readjust to daylight after their four‑year incarceration in Abbey Road Studios. From left (back): Simon Gibson, Sean Magee, Allan Rouse; (front) Guy Massey, Paul Hicks, Sam Okell and Steve Rooke.
The remastering team readjust to daylight after their four‑year incarceration in Abbey Road Studios. From left (back): Simon Gibson, Sean Magee, Allan Rouse; (front) Guy Massey, Paul Hicks, Sam Okell and Steve Rooke.Photo: Richard SkidmoreThe question of whether or not to apply limiting was just one of many dilemmas that faced the Abbey Road team — headed by Allan Rouse, and including Rooke and engineers Guy Massey, Paul Hicks, Sean Magee and Sam Okell — who worked for four years to create the definitive digital versions of the world's most important pop music catalogue. "We know it's going to be put under the microscope,” admits Guy Massey, "but you can't think about it in those terms, because you'd never get anything done. You'd be like 'The people who talk about this sort of thing, are they going to like this? Maybe we shouldn't do it.'”
Faced with, on one hand, the demands of purists, and on the other, the expectations of modern listeners, the team chose to take two directions at once. For collectors and audiophiles, they created a box set comprising all the original mono versions of the Beatles' albums (less Abbey Road, which was not issued in mono, and Yellow Submarine, where the original mono was a straight fold‑down from the stereo), which for the most part was as faithful as possible to the source. Simultaneously, they reworked the stereo catalogue for release in a second box set, and also as individual albums — again treating the material with respect, but not shying away from the application of modern technology, if it was felt that fidelity could be improved.
Here, There And Everywhere
So why the need for remastering in the first place? Well, for one thing, the existing Beatles catalogue on CD was incomplete. When the albums were first made available digitally, George Martin took the decision to use the mono versions of the first four albums, and the stereo versions of the rest — even though, as Guy says, "The mono was always The Mix. On Pepper they spent three weeks mixing that, and the stereo was done in three days.”
Steve Rooke's mastering room at Abbey Road.
"I found it quite fascinating,” says Paul Hicks, "because I wasn't that familiar with all the monos, and it is interesting listening to how different the crossfade is from 'Sergeant Pepper Reprise' to 'A Day In The Life' — that's very different from the mono to the stereo versions — and on 'Lucy In The Sky', the mono's got loads of phasing all the way through the verse vocals that the stereo doesn't. It's fascinating, what is now considered to be the masters and what in the '60s was considered to be the masters, and the differences.”
The Beatles' masters were originally recorded using the EMI 'British Tape Recorder' (top); after extensive tests, a Studer machine (bottom) was chosen for the digital transfers.
The Beatles' masters were originally recorded using the EMI 'British Tape Recorder' (top); after extensive tests, a Studer machine (bottom) was chosen for the digital transfers.What's more, as Paul explains, "When the CDs were released in the '80s, George Martin decided he wanted to remix Help! and Rubber Soul. So basically, the CDs that everyone knows of those two albums are actually new mixes that were done in the '80s by Geoff Emerick and George Martin.” (The original stereo mixes of these two albums are included in the mono box set.)
There's also the issue of audio quality. The catalogue was first digitised in 1986, and although it was done well by the standards of the time, the improvement in digital audio since then has been vast. "People slag off the original CDs, and I definitely think what we've got is a step up, but I don't think they sound awful,” says Guy Massey. He believes that the '80s team did apply some digital noise‑reduction, to the original CDs' detriment, but credits the improvement in sound above all to the new transfer from the original tapes: "We always had the original CDs in a [Pro Tools] Session and I'd always refer to that. Immediately, they were better.”
Studer tape machine was used to remaster The Beatles recordings.
"I think one thing people will notice is more low end and more top end, and the majority of it was what we got out of the tape,” adds Paul.
From Me To You
The transfer process was certainly treated with the utmost care. "We had a good few weeks of basically checking things like the tape machines,” says Paul. "Obviously, somewhere like Abbey Road has got a lot of different test tapes from over the years. The main thing was we didn't rush this! We experimented with different machines. We tried some with valve preamps and things, but we didn't let any of that bias us. We ended up going with the Studer A80 — we just used our ears.”
One machine that never entered into the equation was EMI's own 'British Tape Recorder', which would have recorded the masters in the first place. "They have some in storage in Hayes somewhere, but they're not in working order,” says Guy. "They would have been pretty hard to get back into the scratch they would have been in in the late '60s.”
Because of their importance, the analogue masters had been scrupulously maintained and archived. "All the Beatles tapes are in fantastic order, the multitracks as well as the quarter‑inches,” enthuses Paul. "Guy and I have been doing Beatles stuff for about 15 years, on and off, and we've never baked a Beatles tape. The formula on that EMI tape was just fantastic. The only thing we did find, which we had to be incredibly careful with when we were transferring it — and especially with the monos, which hadn't been played in 40 years — was that a lot of the glue had dried up on the edits. So on the first wind‑back you had to be incredibly careful, because a lot of the edits just split apart when winding. We had to get the gloves on!”
"For the transfer and archiving part of the process, we did it song by song,” continues Guy. "So if the tapes had come apart when we were spooling back, we'd replace all those [splices] — same length, we'd measure them all and make sure it was all pukka — and then song by song we'd transfer them. We'd transfer the first one, go back, clean the whole tape path again. Beginning of each week, we'd de‑mag the heads. We had a speed reader on the capstan all the time so we knew it was running at the right speed.”
"We'd line up and then we'd always play through, manually checking the azimuth,” says Paul. "It was amazing just by tweaking that, if nothing else, how much more top end you could potentially get. That was a significant part of the transfer process.”
George Harrison puts his feet up during a long mixing session at Abbey Road; Ringo Starr looks on.
Fixing A Hole
The digital files were recorded in Pro Tools at 24‑bit, 192kHz through a Prism A‑D converter. "The Pro Tools system was treated as a tape machine,” says Paul.
Guy takes up the story: "There was a listening period once we'd transferred an album and were happy with the transfers. We would have detailed lyric sheets and timing sheets, and between us all, we'd identify areas that we thought we would want to remove — clicks, de‑popping, if we could do it. We've got the luxury of going back to the multitracks and saying 'Is that an electrical noise? Yes it is, let's take it out.' In 'Kansas City' [from Beatles For Sale], the stereo version, there's quite a big drop-out that's very noticeable. We used Retouch in the CEDAR world to fix issues like that. And then we'd cut those fixed portions into the master file, so it wasn't a complete process we were doing there. On some tracks there were quite a few little edits we had to do.”
De‑noising, meanwhile, was confined to gaps and fades. "Until there's a de‑noising system that works properly and doesn't take the air and all that stuff that de‑noising takes off, we didn't want to use it,” insists Guy. "We'd use it in gaps. If there's no programme, just tape hiss, we would use it very subtly. It's less than one percent of the whole thing.”
The amount of restoration that could be done was, of course, limited by the fact that they were working only with the master recordings — even though, in some cases, it would theoretically have been possible to go back to the multitracks for a cleaner fix. "If there's some low‑end stuff under a vocal wind pop, or something, we wouldn't be able to achieve as great a reduction as if the vocal was by itself in the right‑hand channel,” admits Guy. "People have asked us whether we could slot in a bit [from the multitrack], but it was like 'No, we're dealing with the master mixes. That's what they did then. That's what we're presenting.'”
"This is a remaster project,” agrees Paul. "It's basically taking what George Martin, Norman Smith and Geoff Emerick considered to be the masters and making them sound as good as possible.”
Even then, the very idea of issuing the earliest Beatles albums in stereo blurs the boundary between remix and remaster. These were recorded on two‑track, but mono dominated the market at the time. "The stereos are theoretically multitracks, because it was the predecessor of the four‑tracks,” explains Paul. "You've got the band on the left and the vocals on the other side. The purpose of them being done like that was so they could then balance the mono in more detail.”
In theory, then, it would have been possible to re‑balance the vocals against the instruments, but as Guy explains, they were careful to preserve the levels as they made it to the mono originals. "Obviously, if we decided that we'd like a little bit more guitar within the balance that they'd had for the band, if that then increased the left channel a fair amount we'd rebalance the vocal to that; or similarly, if we wanted to EQ a bit of vocal out, if that upset the balance in any way we'd do a bit of jiggery‑pokery in that sense, but we didn't remix it. If we upset the balance in any way because we were EQ'ing quite narrowly, we'd always mono it and make sure we hadn't destroyed the balance.”
After the transfers and restoration were complete, the actual mastering began, with Guy and Steve tackling the bulk of the work on the stereo albums, while Paul and Abbey Road's Sean Magee handled the mono set. Steve Rooke takes up the story: "Guy and Paul came up to my room, we had a listen through to what was now the cleaned‑up master version, and decided how we were going to tackle each track. We took each track in turn and tried to get the best out of it sound‑wise. We were always careful not to go too far, because we were dealing with the Beatles, and everyone knows the Beatles sound, but we wanted to give the public the best possible sound we could. So we were trying to get as much separation between the instruments, as much clarity as possible. If we could put a bit more bass line or kick drum in and give it a bit more punch, we would do. So we listened to each track in turn, once we were happy with the sound, we'd put it onto my workstation. It took about a day to do 14 tracks, something like that.”
The fruits of the project are collected in two box sets. The Beatles In Mono is a faithful reproduction of all the original mono mixes, while the stereo set has been remastered with modern tastes in mind.
The fruits of the project are collected in two box sets. The Beatles In Mono is a faithful reproduction of all the original mono mixes, while the stereo set has been remastered with modern tastes in mind. Apart from surgical tweaks, which were done using a Prism digital EQ, equalisation was done using an almost period‑correct piece of Abbey Road history: "We came through an original EMI TG desk, which dates back to about 1972,” explains Steve Rooke. "We went through that, and once it was all in the workstation we would then compile it in the running order we wanted, gap it, and whatever, limit it and then capture it to CD.”
"A lot of the stuff we transferred flat and left, because there's no point fixing stuff that's perfect,” adds Guy. "A hundred of the tracks, maybe, we did tiny amounts of EQ'ing if we felt something was lacking in the mix. A lot of it was very subtle.”
What, then, of the controversial limiting applied to the stereo albums, which yielded a level increase of 3‑4dB? "On this we used a Junger D01, which we felt suited the sound we were after,” says Steve. "We've got several limters in the room. They've all got different sound and different effects, but this seemed to be the flattest, if you like. We didn't want the limiter to change any of the sound we'd got, and used it very discreetly.”
Remastering The Beatles
"When we did the limiting, we would then level‑correct that with the original capture and listen for any artifacts, make sure there was no pumping or anything odd happening,” explains Guy. "We purely used that as a level gain stage, as it were. So the loudest song's loudest part would be limiting a little bit, but the rest of it would just be level correction.”
Extensive reference was made not only to the original CDs, but also to the vinyl albums — which, in some cases, represent the definitive versions as far as listeners are concerned. These had been cut at Abbey Road, meaning that the team had access to the original cutting notes as well as the resulting discs. "It's very interesting to see what was done,” says Guy. "Quite often, not that much. They had to filter quite a bit of the low end off to get it on and cut a loud vinyl, and then obviously add top towards the centre [to compensate for so‑called 'diameter loss'].”
Yet another debate in which purism and modern tastes clash is over the question of gaps between songs. "In the '60s, there was a set rule that when they were banding an album together, it was six seconds per song, which obviously is incredibly long by today's standards,” says Paul. "So on the monos we did decide to keep it exactly as it was, but on the stereos we got a bit more creative.”
"Even on the '80s CDs we felt some of them were a bit long,” says Guy. "Some of them were maybe a bit short. So we did them on a more musical basis.”
The remasters were revised several times as a result of further listening, before test CDs were sent to the band's Apple HQ for approval. Such was the surviving Beatles' faith in the team that they had allowed the project to run to completion with no intervention at all. "Basically, Apple told us to get on with it!” says Paul. "We did it, and when we were happy we sent discs out to Apple, which went out to the shareholders — ie. Paul [McCartney] and Ringo [Starr], Yoko [Ono] and Olivia [Harrison].”
"And the phone didn't ring,” says Guy, with obvious relief. He pauses for a second. "Yet!”
De‑mixing The Beatles: Rock Band
Few were surprised that the Apple Corporation had decided to revamp the Beatles catalogue for the iTunes age, but the announcement of a special Beatles‑branded edition of the Rock Band video game raised plenty of eyebrows. "Dani Harrison, George's son, was a fan of the game,” says Paul Hicks. "I think he got to know one of the members of the team who make Rock Band, and one thing led to another, and it ended up going to Apple, and everyone thought it would be a good idea to do it. I think more and more people are realising that it's a legitimate outlet for music.”
You can play as any of the four Beatles, and the playing principle requires that their individual instruments be streamed on separate tracks — something of a challenge when, in many cases, they were all recorded to one! Paul worked with Giles Martin to prepare the music for the game. "A lot of people have said, 'Do you just put the stereo mixes in?' Well, no, because if you stop playing the guitar, the guitar has to stop playing. If you stop playing the drums, the drums have to stop playing.
"There's guitar, drums, bass, vocals and, on this game, backing vocals as well, and there's a backing track which is everything else, so maybe strings or something. We did push the boundaries with that sometimes — if there isn't a guitar for three‑quarters of a song, we'd put a string element in or a piano element in, so at least the guitar can still be playing something.
"We start with the multitrack. We basically mix it, we get happy with the sound of it — we've still got the plates and everything here — you make it sound like the mix and then you have to 'de‑mix' it. Every era has its own challenge. When you get to the end [ie. the Abbey Road album] it's a little easier because everything went to 8‑track. Again, Giles and I went through a lot of thought processes, and we ended up utilising Simon [Gibson] here with his Retouch system. With a lot of the processes we'd been fiddling round with on the remasters, it was like 'Maybe we can push it further and try some advanced filtering.' And a lot of the time we'd get it back and Giles and I would look at each other and be like 'Bloody hell, that's brilliant.' We'd be taking the bass line out and this and that — it's one of those things that you don't know until you try it — but obviously, if you just filter the low end out, you're going to be getting rid of the kick drums and stuff, which we weren't comfortable doing. We knew there would be limitations, because a lot of the time you've got drums, bass and guitar all on one track, so you have to look at it as an advanced bottom/middle/top instance.
"Once we were happy with that, it would go off to Harmonix‑MTV Games. They would encode it and we would get it back and play it, and Giles and I would sit down and think 'Maybe for the sake of the game...' We did a few little tweaks, like 'You can't quite hear that guitar.' And for some of the live ones we brought things in a tiny bit.”
Review: Beatles Mono and Stereo Remasters Box Sets
SO, HOW DO THEY SOUND?
THE HOWS AND WHYS OF THE 2009 REMASTERED MONO AND STEREO BEATLES CATALOG,James N. Perlman
On September 9, 2009, EMI/Capitol released the entire Beatles catalog, both stereo and mono, in a remastered CD format. The primary purpose of this essay is to discuss the remasters largely in terms of their sound. Listening occurred on what would be considered an audiophile system with Quad 988's and a Rel sub-bass as the speaker system. The conclusion I reach, after listening to both the mono and stereo remasters, is that, overall, the mono remasters are the better, truer, releases, not only in terms of content, but as also in terms of pleasure, and trueness, of the listening experience. [The mono mixes were the ones the Beatles and George Martin worked toward through The Beatles (The White Album).]
Universal Observations About the Sound of All of the Remasters
Before I address the primary subject of this article I want to address the first question many people ask when it comes to these remasters: Why remasters instead of remixes and remasters, as has been done with other catalogs from other musicians and groups from this era? When we think about the process of getting Beatles material into commerce, it seem pretty logical that remasters are probably the way it had to be in order to get these albums out. Sometimes we forget that in order for this enterprise, or most any Beatles enterprise, to get off the ground Paul, Ringo, Yoko and the Harrison estate have to come to an agreement. It is one thing to start a new project, like Love, and do a remix. It is quite another thing to start down the path of a remix of the core, legendary, catalog. A deal breaker could be just as simple as someone complaining that in a proposed remix someone else had been mixed louder than in the originals. That would end the discussion. For this reason, we will always be "stuck" with remasterings, or re-issues on advanced formats, rather than any form of remix. It is also the reason why EMI really didn't involve any of the Beatles in this project. Instead, when the project was finished, EMI presented the finished products to the Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia Harrison and they were simply asked for a thumbs up or down. (Stereophile, October, 2009, Vol. 32, No. 10, p. 117)
Once it is realized a remix just couldn't be in the cards (thereby really improving the sound, as we heard in Love and Let It Be Naked), the remastering team was confronted with the original master tapes. Now, another problem crops up: the quality of the sound of the original recordings. Most people understand that from a technical perspective, at best, these were only OK recordings for the time. No one claims these were great recordings [save perhaps for Abbey Road and possibly The Beatles (The White Album)]. The reasons the bulk of the catalog can't be considered "great" recordings are because of the technical limitations at Abbey Road Studios I discuss later in the individual review of the album A Hard Day's Night. The reality of the matter is the Beatles mono recordings do not even compare favorably with earlier American mono recordings, such as Buddy Holly or, going back even further, Little Willie John. Similarly, overall, British stereo recordings from this era tend to lag behind American stereo recordings. Consequently, the remastering team was confronted with two very significant inhibitors in terms of making these re-issues sound great: 1) they couldn't re-mix the albums and 2) the actual sonic quality of the source material. The aforementioned Stereophile article also provides additional technical information regarding the remastering process that is pertinent to my conclusions about how these remasters sound:
- Tape Recorder used: Studer 80.
- Compression/limiting: Yes on the Stereos but "gingerly" according to Allen Rouse. Specifically, according to Rouse, the average level of the mixes was raised 3-4 dB "to make better use of the CD's dynamic window." Stereophile, November, 2009, Vol. 32, No. 11, p. 3. Limiting was not performed on the monos. When asked why limiting was used on the stereo remasters, Rouse replied: "When everybody stops limiting, then I guess that's probably the best thing that can happen, but everybody wants theirs louder... Everybody had phasing; it was a fashion, and then eventually people grow up and work out how far and how much you should use these things." Rouse stated they did not want to compromise the dynamics. But, as the graphic below seem to indicate, dynamics were affected.
- Pro Tools: Yes at 24 bits/192 via Prism A/D converter.
- NoNOISE Yes but only for a total of 5 of 525 minutes. Read more about Sonic Solutions NoNOISE (PDF).
Point No. 2 from the Stereophile article provides a launching point for one reason I find the mono remasters more satisfying than the stereo remasters.
If one takes a very simply oscilloscope, found in any commercially available CD burning software, it is clear very little was done to the mono remasters, just as Rouse stated. Here is a graphic of the song "A Hard Day's Night" taken from the 1987 mono re-issue:
Now let's look at the same track from the 2009 mono re-issue:
There is slightly less headroom in the 2009 remaster, and the track starts with a tad more gain. But, if anything, the 2009 mono actually shows a bit more definition in the dynamics without any clipping. On paper, this appears to be a good thing and a good job.
Regrettably the same cannot be said for the stereo remasters. As written above, compression/limiting was used on the stereo remasters. Compression changes the sound and wave form. It can make things sound uniformly, or more uniformly, loud. It can make a recording fatiguing and/or harsh. Dynamics at the peak of sound are almost always affected. Read more about compression...; Read more about the "loudness war"...
Again, the use of a simple oscilloscope reveals how this manifest itself in the 2009 stereo remasters. First, here's a graphic of "A Day In The Life" from the 1987 CD:
Now here's a graphic of the same song from the 2009 remaster:
Now look very closely at the graphs. In a few spots you can actually see where the tops of the volume are cut off by the compression in the 2009 stereo. One place is at the end of the song before the final piano chord. Notice how on the top channel the piano chord is as loud as the preceding orchestration as it reached its peak. Yet, in the 1987 graphic, you can see how the end of the orchestration is actually louder than the piano chord. Any question of regarding the relative actual loudness of the orchestration versus the piano chord is resolved by looking at the graphic of the 2009 mono:
Our ears can play tricks on us. Oscilloscope, not so much. Let's be clear about this: perhaps the most important moment in the entire Beatles catalog has been altered.
Another place is about 1/2 of the way into the song on the top channel. A third revealing part of the two graphics is near the beginning, after the crowd noise from "Pepper's Reprise" dies down. Look at the relative bloom in sound, on both channels, when the 2009 graphic is compared with the 1987 graphic. While this bloom is most apparent at the beginning of the song, it continues on throughout. This bloom is separate from the fact the song starts out with slightly greater initial gain in the 2009 remaster. A further example of this bloom can be found by comparing the decay of the piano chord in the 1987 and 2009 graphics. Again, notice the bloom in the 2009 remaster. A final revealing portion is the funky "Answer me never" found at the end of the LP. All these artifacts are functions of the compression applied to the stereo remasters.
Hence, there should be no mistake about this, the stereo remasters have changed the music. One can argue whether this results in a better sound, but most would argue it doesn't. What cannot be contended is that this is the "same" music from the standpoint of dynamics of the recordings. These graphics, and you can find many, many other examples in the 2009 remasters if you look, explains to me why, overall, I find the stereo remasters lacking. I can hear the artifacts that are prevalent in a compressed recording. This affects the "musicality" of the recording. And, at the end of the day, what counts most to me is the "musicality" of the recording.
All this provides objective evidence for the conclusion the stereo remasters are lacking. But there is an addition reason the monos, overall, sound better. This reason flows from the actual recording process. It has been said, many times: the Beatles and George Martin spent most of the time working on the mono mixes. While emphasis has been placed on the notion the monos are the definitive mixes in terms of content, and in a purist sense they are, there is another, less obvious reason, the monos sound more musical. This reason has to do with the actual recording process. Remember, each track recorded (track used in the context of this and the following paragraph means track on a tape, not the full song; as in track on an album), that was later used in both the mono and stereo mixes, was designed to fit in with the overall sound of the mono mix of each song. Thus, at the end of the mix of the monos what exists is the full musical puzzle; with all the pieces in their proper place relative to the other. This results in the intended musical puzzle fully assembled.
When George Martin went to do the stereo mixes, he took many of the individual tracks, pieces of the puzzle, that were designed to fit into the final full mono puzzle, and separated them from the whole. Consequently, while, in almost every instance, these separate pieces of the puzzle sound clearer and more distinct in the stereo mixes (and this has its advantages when one actually wants to examine individual piece of the puzzle; say a Paul bass line or a John's harmony), many times the individual pieces of the puzzle sound out of context or thin or harsh, etc. in the stereo mix. This may not have sounded so wrong to many of us, particularly to those of us living in the United States, as all we really knew were the stereo mixes. But now, as many of us are hearing this complete catalog of music in the mono format for the first time, we can now actually hear the full musical puzzle as it was intended, with all the pieces of the musical puzzle properly assembled. For this reason, it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many are coming to the same conclusion: the monos, overall, sound more musical and, overall, provide the more satisfying listening experience. The reason for this is simple, the monos sound more musical because the intent behind each track was that it be used to assemble a mono mix, not a stereo mix. Sure, the vast majority of these same individual tracks were later used for the stereo mixes. And sure, they will sound individually clearer (Because they are, in varying degrees, separated from the sound as a whole.). But this doesn't change the controlling point, that from a production perspective, a musicality perspective, it obviously makes a world of difference that these tracks were recorded to fit in a mono mix not a stereo mix.
While there are many songs from which to choose to illustrate this point, let's examine one song, "Can't Buy Me Love," brought to my attention by Steve Brauner and K. Giorlando. In the '09 mono Ringo's drums drive the song. Ringo's drums give the song its energy. The volume is right up there with Paul's lead vocal. However, when you go to both the '09 stereo mix and a mid-70's vinyl stereo mix, where Ringo's drums come out of one speaker, they are muted and, consequently, there is a loss of energy to both of these stereo mixes. I think it is fair to conclude that when it came to the stereo mixes, George Martin, for production/sonic reasons, had to dial back the drums when he put them on one side of the mix. Still, the musicality and, arguably, the pleasure of the song is compromised by what Martin, no doubt, had to do in order to create a stereo mix. Obviously, there are any number of songs in this catalog where the same sort of analysis could be made.
All this said, I acknowledge that musicality is only part of the calculus, albeit a very large part. Clarity, tonality, dynamics, the ability to hear separate sounds, all play a role in creating the full listening experience. Thus, as will become evident in the individual reviews that follow, the heightened clarity of a stereo mix can overtake the mono mix, when the musicality is not compromised, or not, overall, compromised significantly (A Hard Day's Night, Beatles For Sale) or when the material cries out for stereo and the stereo mixes musicality isn't significantly harmed (Magical Mystery Tour) as opposed to when the musicality is significantly harmed by the nature of the stereo mix (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). There are even instances where the compression applied provides a benefit. This is most prominent in the pre-Rubber Soul stereo remasters where the compression adds a bit of needed body to the tracks. This compression is somewhat similar to what Capitol did with the early releases here in the United States when Capitol enhanced the tracks with reverb and the like.
Still, in the end, I cannot come to the conclusion the stereo remasters are the definitive/best available stereo renderings. Instead, my recommendation is that people interested in the best stereo experience should stick with, or go to, either early EMI pressings or the Mobile Fidelity pressings. There are also some early 21st Century Japanese pressings, released at the same time as Let It Be Naked, which sound quite nice and quiet. As for the mono remasters, as I only have one Beatles mono on vinyl, Sgt. Pepper's, in a Japanese mid-1980's pressing, the only thing I can say is the two sound very, very, similar. As Pepper's seems to be the most challenging recording in the Beatles's catalog, this augers well for a conclusion the entire remastered mono project will compare favorably with mono vinyl pressings. Now that my general impressions of the sound quality of the stereo and mono remasters is complete, attention can be placed on the individual albums.
The Individual Albums
Please Please Me
The sound on the mono is just amazing. You can really hear the fullness of the echo as John sings Anna. The vocals just soar. Ringo was just so good, even at this early stage and so was Paul. They supported and framed the songs so perfectly. While the mono is the winner, the stereo has things to recommend. There is a bit more clarity, but this comes at the expense of fullness. If one is not bothered by the left right separation found in this, and With The Beatles, the stereos provide a complementary listening experience. With The Beatles: As with Please Please Me, the mono sounds so, so, nice. The stereo is perhaps not quite as good PPM, but the same overall comments above about the stereo PPM apply.
A Hard Day's Night
Because of the way HDN was initially rolled out here in the states, soundtrack not the EMI version, I think HDN is a bit of an overlooked album by the group. The album seems better and more enjoyable in stereo as you do get the clarity, without some of the negative sonic artifacts I find troubling on Pepper's, etc. I think the reason is that they now had four tracks so George Martin could do proper stereo mixes and still have a mostly fresh first-generation sound. Remember, there were only two track available for Please Please Me. However, when they got to Rubber Soul and Revolver, four tracks weren't enough, which required, in some instances, numerous dubs of the four tracks to another four track tape, merging the four tracks to one track, thereby opening up three new tracks. While this degraded the sound somewhat it also made it difficult to back-track and do the after-thought stereo mixes, which is why we have the atrocious "stereo" of Rubber Soul and Revolver. Consequently, the reason the monos of these albums provide the better listening experience has mostly to do with technical limitations. While the mixes on A Hard Day's Night are stereo mixes, they carry George Martin's idiosyncratic, but really right, decision to put the vocals in the center, the rhythm section to the left and the other instruments to the right. I always have loved how Martin took care to isolate the brilliant work of Ringo and Paul so many times instead of just following the convention of placing the drums in the center. This is why one of Martin's memoirs is entitled: All You Need Is Ears.
All this said, if you really want to hear HDN in stereo, and it isn't too expensive, try to find an early EMI vinyl pressing (anything from the mid-'70's back.). But for the vast majority of listeners, the remastered HDN and Beatles For Sale too, will provide immense pleasure.
Beatles For Sale
Comments, preference and reasons for preference similar to A Hard Day's Night.
Thank God we have three different versions to compare to make life ever so easy. First, mono is the definitive mix, that's a plus. As a minus, while it sounds richer, it is also a bit cluttered compared with the stereo mixes. As for the stereo mixes, the remaster of George Martin's '87 remix does show some limiting in this new incarnation. A bit a hard to dial in the right volume. Sounds fuller, but that's the limiting. I am not sure I care for this version too much. As for the `65 stereo version, that comes on the same disc as the mono version, as this album is somewhat acoustic, the absence of the limiting that was done to the new stereo remix/remaster is a plus. The delicacy is there in "I Need You." Overall, the "old" stereo is prettier than the "new" stereo. One can argue over whether the "new" stereo or the ""old" stereo is better, I come down on the side of the "old" stereo, I like pretty. But as you get both the mono and the "old" stereo on the single mono disc, the cheapskate in me screams if you had a pistol to your head and only had to purchase one version of Help, it would be the "mono" disc.
Mono over stereo, if for no other reason than the left/right channel mix that plagued Please, Please Me, With The Beatles and is most egregious in Revolver.
There is a section of "I Want To Tell You" where Ringo is so muscular and explosive in the mono that is missing in stereo and this is before we get to the issue of the left/right "stereo" of the stereo mix. Plus, there is just this overall richness of sound to the mono that is missing in the stereo. That said, it is a bit cooler to hear "Tomorrow Never Knows" in stereo. But, overall, mono, particularly considering there are parts of Revolver in stereo that sound a bit harsh.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The things you have heard are correct about the mono mix, the clarity and control over the notes, instruments and vocals are all there. Overall, it just sounds better, fuller and richer than the stereo 2009 CD, plus it is what the boys intended. Oddly, the thing that was most breathtaking was "She's Leaving Home;" just a full, gorgeous, sound. In stereo, it just sounds relatively wrong; thin compared with the mono. That said, because "Day In The Life" is such a mind-f the stereo is the definitive version of this song.
As I live in Chicago, and have access to one of the country's remaining great stereo stores, that also boast three incredibly knowledgeable owners and an original Sgt. Pepper's British stereo pressing, following posting this review I went over there to compare the original vinyl with the two new CD re-issues. We listened to the reference system, Naim Audio electronic and Quad speakers. There was total agreement on what we heard. First, Pepper's mono CD had better tonal balance than Pepper's stereo CD. Pepper's stereo CD had better clarity than the mono, but this was defeated by the harshness of the sound (more on harshness shortly). Thus, overall, between the two CD's we preferred the mono CD. All that said, the original stereo British vinyl pressing crushed both. It had both tonal correctness, coloration and stereo effect.
Now as to the harshness issue, please be mindful that I have listened to these discs on two audiophile systems. Something like harshness is likely to be more prevalent the higher up you get in the stereo food chain. Thus, someone who doesn't have an audiophile system may not experience the harshness at all, but it is really there. This may render some of the stereo CDs more listenable for these people than they were for me, at least when it comes to Pepper's.
Magical Mystery Tour
While Pepper's sounded better in Mono, MMT sounds better in stereo, and remember good vinyl will be better in stereo.
The Beatles (The White Album)
Both versions have their merits, you need both. If you can only go for one, it's the stereo. But remember, good vinyl will be better in stereo.
The defining moment of these re-issues, and why it took four years, may be found on AR's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." Because they couldn't take the tape hiss out without compromising the sound, they didn't. But when it came to John's final "yeah" which was over saturated and clipped previously, they were able to take the clipping out, and for the first time, you can hear all of John's vocal. With all that said, remember, good vinyl will be better, and the flat-out best sounding CD is the unauthorized Japanese issue available from 1983-1985 (Sony CP35-3016) which is quite pricey due to its unavailability and high-quality. For more information on this issue see these two helpful links: MopTop.org Review on Ebay
Let It Be
For this title I decided to compare three versions of LIB, an original 1970 EMI vinyl, this remastered CD and LIB Naked. Following this comparison, it turns out that LIB is one of the more interesting remaster releases. First, LIB Naked has it all. It is true to the original vision of the Beatles for this music. It has clarity, correct dynamics and musicality. One of the places you can hear this best is in the title track and the differences between the Martin and Spector mixes. Martin got the church-like nature of the song. Consequently, you get more organ and the choir-boy harmonies of John and George, which Spector dubbed over with horns, strings and over the top solos by George. And I'm with Sir Paul concerning the damage done by Phil to "The Long And Winding Road." As for the 1970 LIB vinyl, it has its problems from a sonic standpoint, particularly as it is a Phil Spector production. This brings us to this remastered CD. It trumps the 1970 standard vinyl in clarity but not LIB Naked. The real surprise is that the compression added to this remaster actually makes this a more Phil Spectoresque production than the original. And, surprisingly, I like it, at least compared with the 1970 vinyl. Still, Naked is what you want.
Past Masters (Mono and Stereo)
As these are songs from the entire range of recording techniques used in the years of the Beatles's career, for the most part, the general advantages and disadvantages of the mono and stereo recordings discussed above apply. The one thing to add is that the mono tracks from Yellow Submarine are wonderful; another reason, if another reason is actually needed, to purchase the mono box set. In fact, the Mono Past Masters would have been the knock-out winner between the two if they had added a stereo "Let It Be" and "The Ballad Of John and Yoko." After all, the "stereo" Past Masters is actually a mixture of stereo and mono.
Somewhere along the line, during the weeks following the release of these remasters, I started to draw an analogy between these remasters and the Sistine Chapel. Like the Sistine Chapel, we have works of great, timeless, art. And, like the Sistine Chapel, necessary restoration work has been done to a work of art. When it comes to the mono remasters, the work done by Allen Rouse, and his team, was largely akin to removing all the soot and dirt that had accumulated on top of Michelangelo's masterworks, thereby restoring the original work to much of its initial beauty. This is the true goal of a restoration, preservation, project. But when it comes to the stereo remasters, what Rouse's team did was exactly what later "artists" did to the Sistine Chapel: They colored over it to, in part, make it more fashionable for the time in an "attempt to enliven the appearance of the work." Rouse admits this in the Stereophile article mentioned above. But I contend altering a masterwork to align it with fashion, or to enliven it, is something that should never be done when the goal is to preserve timeless art for history. Eventually, as was the case with the Sistine Chapel, the layers added to the 2009 stereo remasters will be removed. We'll get the stereo mixes in a more natural state. Will this reveal the inherent faults in the stereo mixes? Sure. But these inherent faults cannot be changed. I think the true purpose, or value, of the stereo mixes is, primarily, to have a stereo mix to complement the mono mix. Mixes that, many times, will reveal more detail than the monos and provide a different perspective to this wonderful music. Having the stereo mixes in their original state is what is required for this role and for history.
© Copyright James N. Perlman. 2009 All rights reserved.
The Beatles | 2009 Remasters – CD Review
Much has been made about the remastered Beatles catalog, and for good reason: it rocks! I could go into glossy detail about the sound — how the mids are smoother, the bass is punchier, the highs crispier, less noise, more EQ, greater dynamics, you feel like you were there, blah, blah, blah. A lot of people who scoop up the 2009 Remasters will only be vaguely aware of what went into the audio refinements applied to these precious recordings. Even then, will it even matter? The promotional campaign snarls ’em in, the packaging and extra goodies and exclusivity catches their eye, the whole Beatles phenomenon is reborn again, and it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the mania. The fact that these shiny pieces of plastic, spread out over a dying format, sound so terrific is a bonus.
As for what’s become available, the choices are quite fetching. Audiophiles purists, self-described completists, Beatlologists, and borderline anal-retentive types who have been screaming about superior mono mixes over what’s out and additional mono mixes of what’s not out, have finally gotten their wish. The Beatles In Mono box set features 10 albums in their original monaural mixes, plus a couple of discs worth of miscellaneous songs, including four from Yellow Submarine, also mixed in mono (think the Past Masters discs from 1987).
This is the first time mono mixes of Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, and The Beatles have been released on CD. The original 1965 stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul also make their debut on CD, following the mono mixes on their respective discs.
For the rest of us (and I count myself among them) where the stereo mixes are every bit as cool and coveted as the mono mixes, there’s some decision-making. You can get the 14-CD box set or choose any of the 14 titles individually. The individual discs are enhanced with QuickTime mini documentaries about the making of each album. Unless you get the box set, which has a DVD packed with all the mini documentaries, you’ll have to watch the video on your computer.
The individual discs are housed in colorful digipaks — eco-friendly packaging with its own advantages and disadvantages. It really comes down to whether you want to stare endlessly at the cover art or extract the CD from a tight-fitting pocket inviting future abrasion. The box set, by contrast, does a better job protecting the CD. Any shortcomings are more than compensated for with the liner notes and groves of new, unseen photos. The aesthetics politely put aside, let’s have a listen.
Remastering the Beatles catalog was an extensive and time-consuming process. It involved teams of recording, mastering and restoration engineers. After a series of tests, the original analog master tapes were transferred to digital with a Pro Tools workstation via an analog-to-digital converter. One song was transferred at a time, and tape heads were cleaned afterwards, but work on the actual audio was minimized to preserve “the original integrity of the songs.” Digital technology was employed to reduce noise sparingly, yet effectively, as well as to pump up the EQ and overall dynamics.
Logic would dictate one start from the beginning, but logic is overrated, especially these days, so instead, I went backwards and unwrapped Abbey Road. First released on Friday, September 26, 1969, Abbey Road would document the Beatles’ last stand in the studio. There is no question they went out on top by recording a tight and cohesive album. George Harrison contributed “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun,” arguably his two greatest songs. Both register incredibly big and bright on the remaster. To clearly hear the Moog synthesizer and guitar through the Leslie on “Because” and ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a godsend. After an A/B comparison of the famed medley, I’m ready to sell off my 87 model and let the remaster guide the way.
Next up was the big daddy, The Beatles widely known as The White Album. The packaging of the remaster doesn’t quite match that of the 30th anniversary limited edition, which was far more true to the original LP. The tunes, however, are another story. Eric Clapton’s ax cries out a lead on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and Paul McCartney’s bass is thumping everywhere like nobody’s business. It’s even impressive on “Martha My Dear.” The orchestration, the brass, the acoustic guitars — all given a face-lift. The syncopation and snorting may be frightening on “Piggies,” but the guitars on “Yer Blues” and “Helter Skelter” have never been more gutturally realized. So I peruse lyrics and recording notes in the booklet, pull out the mini Richard Hamilton collage (remembering my original full-size poster fell apart from over-folding) for a gaze, and think about Christmas 1968 when my parents gave me a new stereo and a fresh copy of The Beatles.
The booklet that comes with the Magical Mystery Tour remaster is reproduced from the original EP and subsequent Capitol LP. Like the 1987 CD, The songs replicate the Capitol version, which contained six songs from the Magical Mystery Tour TV show, and five additional tracks, including “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.” All it took was one spin through the instrumental “Flying,” and a couple of clicks over to “I Am The Walrus,” and I knew this was a keeper.
The film and songs on Yellow Submarine fell somewhere between the period of The Beatles and Magical Mystery Tour; the soundtrack album wouldn’t appear until early 1969. Out of all the remasters, this may be the most expendable. The title track is on Revolver and “All You Need Is Love” is on Magical Mystery Tour. Which leaves four Beatles tracks and the film’s score, composed and orchestrated by George Martin. Harrison’s “Only A Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much,” along with Lennon-McCartney’s “All Together Now” and “Hey Bulldog,” are good enough to make this record an essential piece of the puzzle.
Spending time with Rubber Soul and Revolver, one truly gets a sense of how the Beatles were developing as recording artists. Certainly, Help! is surging with growth — the title track and “You’ve Got Hide Your Love Away” are two of John Lennon’s most eloquent songs. That momentum would carry over to Rubber Soul where Lennon pulled away the blinds on “Norwegian Wood,” exorcised his demons on “Nowhere Man” and took a step back on “In My Life.”
The subtleties and nuances come alive on these two CDs. The sitar dances and leaps on “Norwegian Wood” but becomes more integral on the next album. Revolver would be the initial step away from the normal range of songs and sounds, utilizing a menagerie of ideas, effects, percussion devices and loops to spectacular effect. McCartney worked it on a few different fronts — going long with more sophisticated material like “Eleanor Rigby” and “For No One,” while turning out light-hearted fare such as “Good Day Sunshine” and “Got To Get You Into My Life” that sparkle with optimistic charm. Lennon was more intent on instilling a hallucinogenic spin via “She Said She Said,” “Doctor Robert” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Sequenced and stitched together, these songs gloriously parade a polish unmatched by even today’s high recording standards.
Following this progression, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is perched on top of the heap. This is the record that abandoned the organic glimmer of Revolver, but faithfully pushed the Beatles to grandiose heights of grandeur — clearly in need of addressing and direction at the dawn of 1967 and the Summer of Love. The fake band, as conceived by Paul McCartney, stayed at home while the craziness ensued. But the music rose to the challenge.
“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!” once again found Lennon pushing the bounds of imagination. “Within You Without You” whetted Harrison’s appetite for Indian music to a startling beautiful degree. For their one of their most ambitious statements, Lennon and McCartney married two pieces of music to create the epic “A Day In The Life.” To hear this one in all its pristine glory is truly a highlight of all the remasters.
Coming three years later, Let It Be fell short of the lofty expectations set forth by the likes of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. In light of George Martin’s absence, Phil Spector’s unruly occupation and 2003’s Let It Be…Naked, the Let It Be remaster may be less desirable than other titles. If you can get through “The Long And Winding The Road,” however, the rest of the album includes some of the Beatles’ best bits on record. “Two Of Us” is still one of the great underrated collaborations between Lennon and McCartney. Spector’s embellishments aside, he managed to add a nice touch of strings to “Across The Universe” that reverberated swiftly in my headphones. The remastered CD’s mini documentary and historical notes also offer some keens insights into the Fabs’ dissolution.
There will undoubtedly be dissension among Beatle hardcores with regard to the mono mixes and stereo mixes. The new stereo mixes of Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles For Sale may be the line in the sand, but for the casual fan with a passing interest in the songs that put the group on the map, any one of these may do the trick. Here in the States, those first few albums were much different in appearance and content. Once the hardcores jump into the fray, it’s as if the Capitol versions never existed (unless you have an early copy of Yesterday And Today). On play back, you can definitely pick up on the differences between the 1987 monos and the stereo remasters. Which means, you can keep the old versions, upgrade to the stereo versions, and buy the mono box set for another perspective.
The double CD Past Masters combines the previous two Past Masters releases from 1987. The 32 songs are mostly miscellaneous A and B sides, none-album tracks that either fell between the cracks, missed soundtrack slots or simply didn’t fit anywhere else. Stacking hits like “She Loves You,” “I Want To Hold You Hand,” “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” with oddities like “Kom Gi Mir Deine Hand” (“I Want To Hold Your Hand” in German), “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” and “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number),” Past Masters is a template for everything right and just about the Beatles and their place in history.
Future mongers and format naysayers may have their opinions on fanciful CD packages like the 2009 Remasters in the age of the digital download. Indeed, as numbers increase for the convenience and impersonality that come with the iTunes lifestyle, remastering CD collections like this could become an obsolete practice. Can one sonically asphyxiated by the low fidelity of an MP3 ever learn to love the superior sound and accouterments associated with the CD? Perhaps the Beatles’ 2009 Remasters can show the way…~ Shawn Perry
The Beatles in Mono-2009
The Beatles in Mono is a boxed set compilation comprising the remastered monaural recordings by the Beatles. The set was released on compact disc on 9 September 2009, the same day the remastered stereo recordings and companion The Beatles (The Original Studio Recordings) were also released, along with The Beatles: Rock Band video game. The remastering project for both mono and stereo versions was led by EMI senior studio engineers Allan Rouse and Guy Massey. The release date of 09/09/09 is related to the significance to John Lennon of the number nine.
The boxed set was released on 180-gram heavyweight vinyl on 8 September 2014, mastered directly from the original analog tapes and not the digital masters used for the CD release.
The Beatles in Mono was released to reflect the fact that most of the Beatles' catalogue was originally mixed and released in the monophonic format. Stereo recordings were a fairly new concept for pop music in the 1960s and did not become standard until late in that decade. This explains why the Beatles' initial album releases were mixed for mono. By the late sixties, however, stereo recording for pop music was becoming more popular and, thus, the new standard. Therefore, the last few Beatles albums—Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let It Be—were mixed and released only in stereo. Many feel that the mono mixes reflect the true intention of the band. For example, in the case of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, all the mono mixes were done together with the Beatles themselves, throughout the recording of the album, whereas the stereo mixes were done in only six days by Abbey Road personnel George Martin, Geoff Emerick and Richard Lush after the album had been finished, with none of the Beatles attending. George Harrison commented:
At that time [...] the console was about this big with four faders on it. And there was one speaker right in the middle [...] and that was it. When they invented stereo, I remember thinking 'Why? What do you want two speakers for?', because it ruined the sound from our point of view. You know, we had everything coming out of one speaker; now it had to come out of two speakers. It sounded like ... very ... naked.
Besides Harrison, John Lennon did not like the stereo mix of "Revolution" used on the 1967-1970 compilation album. When interviewed in 1974, Lennon said:
The fast version was destroyed. It was a Heavy Record, but the stereo mix made it into a piece of ice-cream.
Amazon.com advertised the set as a limited edition item in the United States, and less than a month prior to the set's release announced the site had sold out of units. Less than two weeks before 9 September, many other online retailers announced the selling out of units from their inventories, including the Canadian Amazon.ca site.
EMI announced on 3 September that more mono boxed sets were to be pressed due to high demand from online pre-orders. It is still to remain a "limited edition", but since it has already been certified platinum by the RIAA, it was not limited to 10,000 copies as originally stated. As of July 2018, the CD set is still readily available; however, the vinyl box set is out of print. Individual mono albums on vinyl still available are: Rubber Soul, Revolver, The Beatles, and Mono Masters, a 3-LP set of singles.
Five years after the initial CD release, mono editions of each of the albums are available individually in the vinyl format, though the mono editions for CD are still only available in the box set. All of the American albums can be had on CD individually in mono paired with the original stereo mixes; this is the only other way to acquire the mono mixes on CD.
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The thirteen-disc (fourteen on LP) collection contains the remastered mono versions of every Beatles album released in true mono. The original 1965 stereo mixes of Help! and Rubber Soul are included on the CD version as bonuses on their respective albums. (In 1986 both albums had been remixed by George Martin for their CD release in 1987.) The box contains a new two-disc compilation album titled Mono Masters, which compiles all the mono mixes of singles, B-sides and EP tracks that did not originally appear on any of the UK albums or Magical Mystery Tour.
Please Please Me (1963)
With the Beatles (1963)
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Beatles for Sale (1964)
Rubber Soul (1965)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The Beatles (1968)
Mono Masters (1962–1970)
The albums Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be are not included in this set, as no true mono mixes of these albums were issued. The same holds true for the songs "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "Old Brown Shoe" and the single mix of "Let It Be", which were also omitted. A mono version of the Yellow Submarine album was released in the UK, but it was simply a fold-down (two stereo channels combined into one channel) from the stereo mix, not a unique, separate mono mix. Abbey Road and Let It Be were issued in the UK in mono on reel-to-reel tape and on LP in Brazil and other countries, but again, only as fold-downs from the respective stereo versions.
The previously unavailable true mono mixes of the four new Beatles songs released on the Yellow Submarine album ("Only a Northern Song", "All Together Now", "Hey Bulldog" and "It's All Too Much"), originally intended for a separate, but ultimately scrapped mono EP which would have also included a mono mix of "Across the Universe", are included on the Mono Masters compilation.
Also omitted from this set, but included in the stereo box set, is a DVD containing the mini-documentaries included with the stereo remasters of the different albums.
The "White Album" was originally released in mono and stereo in the UK and several other countries, but in the United States, it was only released in stereo. However, the mono mixes of "Don't Pass Me By" and "Helter Skelter" had been previously issued in the US in 1980 on the Capitol Records Rarities compilation album.
All CDs replicate their original album labels as first released, from the various Parlophone Records label variations, to the Capitol Records label (for Magical Mystery Tour) and the UK Apple Records side A and B labels for discs 1 and 2 respectively for The Beatles. For Mono Masters, disc 1 uses a mid-1960s Parlophone label design and disc 2 uses the unsliced Apple label design. All vinyl labels use the Apple label design.
The CD set also includes a 44-page booklet which includes an essay on the important role that the mono mixes played in the Beatles' recording career, notes on every track featured in Mono Masters, and a track-by-track listing of the recordings. The vinyl set includes a 108-page book which also includes many rare photographs of the Beatles in Abbey Road Studio, fascinating EMI archive documents and evocative articles sourced from 1960s publications.
The set debuted at number 40 on Billboard's Top 200 chart and the magazine reported that 12,000 copies were sold in its first week of release. In Japan, it debuted at number 10, selling over 20,000 copies in its first week on the Oricon album charts. The set was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2010.