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1,910 of 1,967 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cheapskate's (Relatively) Guide To The Mono and Stereo Re-Issues
Introduction: The following is pretty much a full review of both the mono and stereo reissues largely written in real time as a series of e-mails to an old friend who once owned a legendary record store here in Chicago. The story of the reissues really comes down to the technical limitations of two-track, four-track, eight-track, etc. recordings and the relative...
Published on September 10, 2009 by James N. Perlman

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102 of 152 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Stereo box is tops!
This Beatle fan plunked down money for the mono box and also purchased the individual stereo versions. After sampling and spending much time just listening this weekend, my preference is for the stereo albums/stereo box set. I would recommend the stereo albums for the casual fan-the mono set being for completists. I am playing these CDs through a high end system utilizing...
Published on September 12, 2009 by S. Sigel


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1,910 of 1,967 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cheapskate's (Relatively) Guide To The Mono and Stereo Re-Issues, September 10, 2009
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
Introduction: The following is pretty much a full review of both the mono and stereo reissues largely written in real time as a series of e-mails to an old friend who once owned a legendary record store here in Chicago. The story of the reissues really comes down to the technical limitations of two-track, four-track, eight-track, etc. recordings and the relative complexity of the music of the Beatles. Listening occurred on what would be considered an audiophile system with Quad 988's as the speakers. If following reading this review, you wish to read an expanded essay by me on the box sets, please visit The Beatles Wiki site by Hyperarts.

Please Please Me: The sound on the mono is just amazing. You can hear the echo in the room 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. And just think, in twenty-one minutes, or so, Twist And Shout! Stereo can't hold a candle to this, if for no other reason than the left/right "stereo" found later in With The Beatles, Rubber Soul and Revolver.

With The Beatles: As with Please Please Me, the mono sounds so, so, nice. As the stereo has that annoying left/right "stereo," no contest: mono hands down.

A Hard Day's Night: Seems better and more enjoyable in stereo. 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 generationish 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 rule has mostly to do with technical limitations. While the mixes on A Hard Day's Night are true 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."

The Beatles For Sale: Comments, preference and reasons for preference similar to A Hard Day's Night.

Help: Well, 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 muddy compared to 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. 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.

Rubber Soul: Mono over stereo, if for no other reason than the left/rt channel mix that plagued Please, Please Me, With The Beatles and Revlover.

Revolver: There is a section of I Want To Tell You where Ringo is just 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.

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 is all there. Overall, it just sounds better, fuller and richer than the stereo, 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 to the mono. That said, because Day In The Life is such a mind-f the stereo is the definitive version of this song.

Magical Mystery Tour: While Pepper's sounded better in Mono, MMT sounds 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.

Abbey Road: The defining moment of these reissues, 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. Second side now, Here Comes the Sun and now Because. Wonderful sound throughout. Can't wait for Ringo at the end.

Let It Be: Now that I have had the time to compare three versions of LIB, an original 1970 EMI vinyl, this remastered CD and LIB Naked, 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.

Mono Past Masters: Right now, listening to the The Inner Light, which I hate, but it sounds so, so, so good in mono that I may actually like it. And, look out, Paul's bass piano notes in Hey Jude are right there as is Ringo's tambourine. Can't wait for Revolution plus the mono songs from Yellow Submarine. The mono Past Masters would have been perfection 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.

So kids, here's where we end. Your core, oddly enough, should be the mono box set. Augment this with the stereo Hard Day's Night, The Beatles For Sale, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles, Abbey Road, Let It Be and stereo Past Masters.

Addendum: 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. Peppers British Stereo pressing, following posting this review I went over there to compare the original vinyl with the two new CD reissues. 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 Peppers stereo CD. Pepper's stereo CD had better coloration 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 stereo original British vinyl pressing crushed both. It had both tonal correctness and coloration.
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 really is 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.

9/12/09 THANKS TO ALL: The past few days, following the posting of my review, have been a lot of fun. So many people have taken the time to write me, quite a number saying the review was flat-out the best review of any sort they have read. Others shared memories and feelings about how important this music is to them. Amazingly, two brother, one in Boston one in Paris, found they were reading the same thread and were kind of amazed by the co-incidence. All in all, it has been a very rewarding experience. I thank Amazon for providing this opportunity, and those of you present and future who have/will take(n) the time to play.
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292 of 303 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb sounding mono Beatles experience, September 9, 2009
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This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
Those of us old enough to have experienced the Beatles first hand will never forget the excitement of hearing their latest release being played for the very first time. Each record as the band matured was invariably a step forward in creativity. And each release in those early days of FM and the continuing dominance of the AM format was invariably heard in Mono. Stereo was mixed differently in those days. In order to promote the new Stereo recording method as a distinct sonic experience from Mono, engineers created the widest possible soundstage with music heavily separated into the left and right speakers. If you really want to hear a typical difference in mixes listen to Cream's I Feel Free in both Mono and Stereo. The Stereo mix seems equally divided into each speaker with almost nothing coming from the center. As a result the music sounds diffuse and oddly unreal in the Stereo version with barely any bass at the bottom. The Mono mixdown, on the other hand, is sonically powerful and beautifully focused with Jack Bruce's 6-string bass and Clapton's amazing guitar solo now full-throated and much punchier. The Mono version is preferable even after all of these years of remasterings.

The Beatles recordings were similarly constructed with their earliest Stereo albums attempting to showcase the new recording method by separating the music into the widest possible soundstage. This was meant to be more lifelike than Mono but to my ears it always seemed to dilute the music a bit. On the Stereo albums Paul's bass lost a bit of its punch and never really reproduced the 'fat bottom' that anchored those beautifully recorded Beatle records. The wide dispersion of the vocals had a similar effect. Those glorious John + George or Paul + George harmonies, often originally meant to be sung into a single microphone, never sounded as solid and rich in Stereo as they did in Mono.

On this new Mono box set we can hear for perhaps the very first time (in a non-bootleg recording) the experience one had during those long ago days when these immortal records were first released. Here we can hear Paul's bass producing the same deep, flowing lines that revolutionized the way bass was presented in popular music. The vocals are now full and rich, with harmonies that flow like sonic honey ON TOP OF THE MUSIC instead of weakly dispersed at its periphery as in the Stereo versions. Ringo's tom-toms and bass drums are powerfully propulsive, causing my floor to bounce on several occasions. Revolver is a revelation in Mono with tracks like Tomorrow Never Knows and Taxman now having a 3-dimensional depth to them. Eleanor Rigby with its overwhelming power will make you weep. Rubber Soul has a similar depth that is lacking in the Stereo version. Sgt. Pepper sounds so much more unified in Mono: it is acoustically less jittery than the Stereo version which occasionally suffers from excessive brightness and brittleness.

The first few Beatles albums all have that early wide Stereo separation with a center one could drive a truck through. In these excellent new Mono remasterings solidity has finally been returned to the early Beatles albums. Where the Stereo versions were weak these new Mono versions are powerful with a propulsive inevitability to the music that reminds me of what made the Beatles so very special in the first place. More than anything else, these new Mono remasterings recreate the experience of hearing the Beatles with all of their brilliance and freshness intact. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Mike Birman
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285 of 302 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WATCH OUT FOR COUNTERFEITS!! And a FAST, EASY REVIEW TO HELP YOU DECIDE! AND, September 9, 2009
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
FIRST! Watch out for counterfeits. They are all over the place. The fakes have flexible boxes rather than firm, sturdy boxes. The artwork is fuzzy and not as sharp as originals. The CDs are lighter to hold (just a bit) than the originals This is especially true on many Japanese issues whch were actually made in China. In one incident, some of the CDs were not able to play music on a standard USA CD player. So, be careful!

FAST FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE! What is great about the original non-fake box set?

*Album (CD) covers are Exact replicas of those issued in the UK

*The CDs are replicas of the record labels issued in the UK

* The CD covers are larger than normal size making them very easy to handle and easier to read and enjoy!

* The booklet is large and full of info and photos

* Also, the "Help" and "Rubber Soul" CDs include the additional 1965 original stereo mixes on them so that is very cool.

* And please note that even though this is a USA Box set, ALL the CDs state that they were manufactured in Japan. That's actually a good thing.

* The four Beatles songs from YELLOW SUBMARINE album which were not previously issued in Mono on CD ARE included on the Mono Past Masters CD in this box set. They are "It's All Too Much", "All Together Now", "Hey Bulldog" and "It's Only A Northern Song".

* Wonderful, clear mono sound with special goodies like the Original Single Record version of "Help", the fast version of "She's Leaving Home" which is how Paul intended it to sound (By the way, when George Martin made his "Insightful Comments" on the "Making of the Pepper Album", he never talked about "She's Leaving Home" as he did not actually produce it in its entirety. Paul was upset with Martin's availability at the time and had someone else do the initial arrangments of the song. This fact is rarely discussed and it is still iritating to George Martin.

**In overview, these CDs are great with excellent packaging that includes plenty of photos. But be careful Beatle People, it isn't worth more than $230.00 and people (Blue Meanies) are selling these sets for $400.00 on Ebay. Don't even fall for that. Stick with Amazon! It is by far your best buy!

Looking Forward to the future CD release of the USA Issue of "A Hard Day's Night" which has some outstanding instrumental music on it by George Martin and His Orchestra i.e. "Ringo's Theme (This Boy)" and "And I Love Her". Those two songs actually charted on the Billboard 100 in 1964. And I actually bought the 45 record when it came out. I just thought it was so good! And being very young at the time ( and very ignorant), I actually thought that The Beatles played some of the instruments on these songs. I remember thinking "Man, are these guys talented" :)

PS: Even though The White Album is interesting to listen to in Mono, the Stereo Issue is still sooo much better....cuz you can see that Paul really put some quality time in on his bass dubs. GENIUS! BRILLIANT! :)
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, mono Beatles beyond the first four albums!, September 15, 2009
By 
Craig Dickson (San Mateo, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
I'm delighted to see Beatles remasters after 22 years of listening to the original 1987 CD releases. The sound is greatly improved and does not suffer from the more annoying fashions of many 21st century CD releases, such as the use of excessive compression to raise the average volume level.

Best of all, we finally have ALL of the Beatles' original mono masters on CD -- along with the original stereo mixes of "Help!" and "Rubber Soul." This requires a bit of history.

When George Martin and the Beatles began making records together in the early 1960s, stereo was a fairly new thing. Most people did not have stereo systems, and AM radio, which was mono, was the typical way the public heard new songs. Because of this, the goal of the earliest Beatles recording sessions in 1962-63 was exclusively to make a good mono record. Two-track tape was used, with the instruments on one track and the vocals on the other, simply to allow Martin to balance vocals against instruments when mixing down to mono. He never intended the early Beatles singles or the first two Beatles albums to be released in stereo, and he was appalled when EMI did so.

Beginning in late 1963, the Beatles' records were made on four-track tape. Usually Martin recorded vocals on one track, guitars on another, drums on a third, and kept the fourth for double-tracking or any last-minute overdubs. (Later on, as the Beatles' music became more experimental, the situation got a lot more complicated, but this is how they usually did things in 1964, according to George Martin himself.) This makes a decent stereo mix possible, but the goal was still to produce a good mono mix because, again, most record buyers and all radio listeners at that time would be hearing the mono version. Stereo mixes were usually done at the tail end of the recording sessions, and usually tossed off fairly quickly, in much less time than was given to the mono mixes. Mark Lewisohn's book on the Beatles' recording sessions bears this out. So while stereo versions of Beatles albums beginning with "A Hard Day's Night" were made, the mixes generally weren't all that good, partly because mono was where the market was and also partly because Martin himself was learning by trial and error how to make stereo records.

All later Beatles albums up through the White Album were separately mixed for both mono and stereo editions, and both George Martin and Paul McCartney have said in interviews that they regard the mono versions as the better of the two. Over time, the stereo mixes got better, both because Martin was becoming more experienced at stereo mixing and because stereo was becoming more important in the marketplace and thus deserving of more careful attention in the studio. The "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack album, released in early 1969, was the first Beatles album where the mono version was simply the stereo mix collapsed to one track (effectively the same as pressing the "mono" button on a stereo system), and "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" were released only in stereo.

In 1986 EMI finally got around to digitizing the Beatles' original master tapes for CD release. George Martin was not involved in this process, but when the CD masters were ready, he was invited to hear them and give his approval before release. He was disappointed to find that EMI had used stereo mixes for all the albums -- even "Please Please Me" and "With the Beatles", which, with instruments on one side and vocals on the other, hardly even qualified as "stereo" at all. He voiced his opinion that mono should be used for at least the first six Beatles albums. EMI compromised by using mono for the first four and allowing Martin to create new stereo mixes for "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" since he was unsatisfied with the original stereo mixes. Yes, you may not have realized it, but the versions of those two albums that you've been hearing on CD for the last 22 years are not the original mixes, but 1986 remixes!

Now we come to 2009 and the new Beatles remasters in their Stereo and Mono boxes. The Stereo box contains all the stereo albums, even "Please Please Me" and "With the Beatles", plus the "Past Masters" singles collection. George Martin's 1986 remixes of "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" are the ones used in the Stereo box. The Mono box includes all the original mono versions of all the albums for which mono mixes were made, that is, all of them but "Yellow Submarine", "Abbey Road", and "Let It Be," plus a mono version of "Past Masters" called "Mono Masters" that is missing a few late singles such as "The Ballad of John and Yoko" that were only released in stereo. So if you buy only the Mono box, you do not have a complete Beatles collection; at the very least, you would need to buy the stereo editions of the above-listed albums and "Past Masters." The Mono box also includes, as a bonus, the original 1965 stereo mixes of "Help!" and "Rubber Soul", which have never been on CD before.

A few tracks are duplicated between the Stereo and Mono boxes (that is, the same mono version is used in both) simply because no stereo version exists. The original single version of "Love Me Do" (a different take from the one used on the "Please Please Me" album) is one example. This is consistent with the idea that the Stereo box, despite its name, is intended to be a complete collection of the Beatles' original albums and singles. The Mono box is also slightly mis-named, since it contains not only all of the Beatles' mono mixes, but also the original stereo mixes of "Help!" and "Rubber Soul." But enough nit-picking.

So, all that said, what versions are really preferable? This is a matter of opinion. Some people, apparently, just can't stand listening to mono recordings, and others have sentimental attachments to the stereo editions; these people will probably prefer to bypass the Mono box and just buy the Stereo box. However, I find the mono editions generally preferable. For the 1962-63 two-track recordings, I find the "instruments on one side, vocals on the other" fake-stereo "mixes" unlistenable, especially on headphones. From "A Hard Day's Night" on, stereo is okay (though George Martin really did improve on the original "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" stereo mixes when he redid them in the '80s), but I find the mono mixes to be better up through "Magical Mystery Tour." Stereo placement and balance is generally a bit off on many of these albums, and the greater care taken with the mono mixes really shows. What is particularly interesting is to hear how some songs actually differ in notable ways. To list only a few of the more obvious examples, the tape loops in "Tomorrow Never Knows" fade in and out at different times, "She's Leaving Home" is distinctly faster and a half-step higher in pitch in the mono mix, and the drum solo at the start of the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise is a little longer in mono.

The true Beatlemaniac, of course, will get both boxes (well, I did, anyway). After listening to all of both boxes, I think I will listen to the mono CDs more often than the stereo discs.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gave in and am I Glad I Did!, September 21, 2009
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This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
I don't write many reviews, and by the time I write one, there are usually hundreds ahead of me, so I don't guess many will read this...BUT I had to write something after hearing this box set.

I'm 57 and grew up with the Beatles, and I've always been a STEREO man, liked the different sounds from different speakers (still do, by the way). After reading James N. Perlman's review, I broke down and bought the mono box set--after getting the stereo set. I like the stereo set, but I am enthralled with the mono set!

I'm a drummer, and though Ringo wasn't the most accomplished, he played tastefully (better than Paul who rushed the tempo on Dear Prudence during his fills--though I give full credos to Paul for being a very good drummer). I can hear every stroke of Ringo's cymbal work. A lot of time, I'd hear his cymbals in the background, but it sounded like one sound, not individual licks. His work on Long Tall Sally is gorgeous. I even hear bass drum work that I'd missed before, in step with Paul on bass.

I always figured with the same sound coming from every speaker (mono) that the sound would be less defined and boring. What a mistake! The sounds are clear, detailed, and the high end is wonderful. The stereo set is very good: still love that old separation from the 60s, but James N. Perlman has it right in the comparison. My two cents(worth even less today...) :-)
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where Have THESE Beatles Been All Our Lives?!, September 18, 2009
By 
M. McKay (Downey, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
I was 3 years old in 1980, the year I discovered the band that would change my life forever. My mother's record collection was like looking at a mysterious treasure chest sitting there on the floor of her closet. I would always sneak in there, pull out a few of the records, and gaze in amazement at the covers. My mother told me, "You can look at any of my records but you are not to touch my Beatles records in the front." That was all it took. I nagged and nagged her to show me these "extra special" records that I was forbidden to touch. One day she took her collection out to the living room, slapped side two of "The White Album" on the turntable and I was mesmerized.

Since that first introduction, I've always known The Beatles' songs in stereophonic sound. My mother never bought a mono Beatles album, not even in the '60s. I learned of mono mixes when I purchased the book "The Beatles' Complete Recording Sessions" in high school. I figured all mono mixes just sounded like, what I would later find out was called, a stereo "fold down" where both stereo channels are combined onto one track, creating nothing more than a compressed sounding version of the stereo mix. When I started hearing about how different the mono "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was compared to the stereo, I eventually sought out and scored a decent vinyl copy. I was amazed at all the cool differences I heard in the mono version! Especially the phasing effect used on the vocals for the chorus of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" and the delayed intro to the "reprise" version of the title track. If only I could have this version on CD!

In 2009, the dream of many a Beatlemaniac has finally come true. From "Please Please Me" to "The White Album," and for all of their singles from 1963 to 1969, The Beatles created a separate mono and stereo mix for each song. Some original mono mixes have been available on CD, some have not. But never have ANY of them been available looking or SOUNDING this good! "The Beatles In Mono" box set is gorgeous! All of the original mono L.P.s are presented in authentic Japanese replicas, right down to the original inserts and sleeves included inside! The CD's comes in a rice paper sleeve that you can place INSIDE the paper sleeve that comes along with it. I don't see how this set could have been manufactured any better. But what's the preference, mono or stereo? Both have their merits and if you're a hardcore Beatles fan you should have both. Let's break it down by year shall we?

1963: One listen to PLEASE PLEASE ME in it's entirety and you'll know why this is one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock and roll. This album is just so gosh darn CONSISTENT for it's time! Because The Beatles were recording on twin track tape machines, the mono mix is the way to listen to this album. If you think the original CD release from 1987 sounded good, wait 'till you hear this one. Their second, WITH THE BEATLES, is nearly as good. Though the mono mix may be preferred, I like this album in both formats simply because I grew up with stereo versions of these songs. The first big difference you're going to hear between the two mixes is the intro to "Money (That's What I Want)."

1964: It's a toss up between the mono and stereo versions of A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and BEATLES FOR SALE. If you want a more clear, spread out, surround sound go for the stereo versions. If you want a more cohesive, live sounding performance from the Fabs, then go for the mono. I absolutely loved the blending of John and Paul's harmony vocals on "Baby's In Black." You'll also hear Paul hit his high register note for the line "was in vain" perfectly on "If I Fell" instead of the strain he does on the stereo version.

1965: The mono version of HELP! isn't as murky as some people have said it is. The mono version of the title track most definitely contains a different lead vocal track from John. That's obvious. On the mono CD you get the original 1965 stereo mix as a bonus which prompted me to ask the question, "What was wrong with it?" Sounds fine to me! You may prefer the original stereo mix over the '86 digital mix. I do. As for RUBBER SOUL, both mixes sound great! "I'm Looking Through You" features a longer fade on the mono.

1966: Here's where you're really going to start hearing the differences between the stereo and mono mixes. REVOLVER is essential in both mixes. The "I look at all the lonely people" of "Eleanor Rigby" is much more blended. There is more backwards guitar on "I'm Only Sleeping." "Love You Too" features a longer fade at the end. You can clearly hear John's reply of "life of ease" on "Yellow Submarine" and the strummed acoustic guitar starts right as Ringo's vocal does. There is no cymbal flourish from Ringo for the last verse of "And Your Bird Can Sing." The fade out to "Got To Get You Into My Life" is completely different. And the tape loops on "Tomorrow Never Knows" rise and fall much more rapidly while the middle eighth backwards guitar break sounds downright FREAKY!

1967: The mono SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND really is the way to go when listening to this album. What they've always said about the mono mix of "She's Leaving Home" really is true. Slowed down on the stereo mix, the emotion doesn't come through the same. On the mono version, the strings will pierce your heart and so will Paul's vocal. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is presented as a mini replica of the American Capitol album. Differences? The last bit of scat vocals on "Flying" are missing and the fade is longer with more mellotron. Both of the creepy sounding "aahs" after George's first two lines in "Blue Jay Way" are missing and the distorted cello chops off suddenly at the end. Ringo's drums are "phased" for "Your Mother Should Know." For "I Am The Walrus," Ringo's snare doesn't start the 2nd verse and the backing track falls out completely after John's "I'm crying" in the 2nd verse. You get to hear "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" as everyone heard them both in the '60s. The "leslied" piano on "Baby, You're A Rich Man" comes in much sharper after the verses. "All You Need Is Love" has a longer fade with the orchestra playing "Greensleeves" and both the bass and the drums come in right as the band starts singing "Love, love, love."

1968: For THE WHITE ALBUM, good gosh, where to begin?! For starters, the sound effects are in different places for "Back In The U.S.S.R.(Paul's "Yeah, ooo yeah" is missing during the guitar solo)," "Blackbird," and "Piggies." There are no hand claps at the start of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." One particular multi-tracked vocal from Paul on "Wild Honey Pie" stands out way more than the rest. Paul's harmony on "I'm So Tired" stands out more than on the stereo. George's last yelp on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is missing. John's muttered "down" is missing before the "I need a fix" section of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" and the "Mother superior" section sounds much heavier. The fiddle coda is different to "Don't Pass Me By" (as well as the tape being sped up a bit for the mono mix). The bass starts later on "I Will." "Yer Blues" sounds about five times dirtier than it does in stereo. "Helter Skelter" is missing it's fade down and up that includes Ringo's famous scream. George's double tracked vocal on "Long, Long, Long" is out of place for the first verse and the organ is pushed down in the mix. And "Savoy Truffle" features a extra bar after the guitar solo plus an extra heavy sounding last verse...."Cream tangerine." The mono mix of THE WHITE ALBUM seems to have a more cohesive power than the stereo version does, like you're watching a play with 30 different acts. I think it's because of the aural consistency that takes place with the mono, as opposed to stereo where your ears and mind have to readjust to every track whether you know it or not.

1962-1970: MONO MASTERS contains all the singles as they were originally first heard. The riff for "Paperback Writer" is going to hit you harder than ever before! "Revolution" is a masterpiece of DISTORTION and the previously unreleased mono mix of "It's All Too Much" from "Yellow Submarine" rocks even harder than the stereo version.

I don't know what else to say but if you are a hardcore Beatles fan, you need this. The demand for this box set has been out of control, surpassing EMI's expectations. To all my fellow Beatle Brethren, I hope you get the opportunity to hear this set for yourself. Mind blowing.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Part of a Complete Beatles Catalog, November 4, 2009
By 
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This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
Much has been written on these pages as to whether purchasing The Beatles In Mono is worth it or not, and why. I'd like to hopefully add a bit more color, but not before first answering the key question.

In a nutshell, if you are a very casual Beatles fan who will listen to their songs in a non-critical way, then the investment isn't worth it. You will be more than happy with the re-mastered stereo mixes, which sound wonderful, are much less expensive, and can be purchased separately.

But if you have more than just a casual interest in the Beatles, and you are looking for the definitive statement of their art, then you simply must invest in these recordings. I'll explain why in more detail, but in short this is the sonic experience the Beatles and George Martin crafted, and it is often tremendously superior to the better known stereo counterparts.

A brief moment first on the current unfortunate situation for Beatles fans who are simply trying to build a reference collection of the music of the World's Greatest Band: in the least, it is tremendously frustrating, and at worst it feels like being on the receiving end of a well-orchestrated swindle. Why is there not an "Everything" box, that delivers the entire catalog in all its permutations? Why must fans become musical Indiana Joneses, having to invest time and energy into learning the confusing landscape of available "collector's" products that all have premium, wallet-burning prices? It is my sincere hope that those in control of this catalog ultimately understand how unacceptable this is, and correct the situation.

A case in point: neither the stereo or mono box sets together represent the "final" reference collection. You need to explore more, specifically The Beatles Capitol albums Vol 1 box set, and three other albums that provide not just remasters but genuine remixes of a number of songs.

For Beatles fans, the history of the American Capitol albums is well-known. They are a bastardization of the original British product, in both packaging and audio treatment of the songs, most having been soaked in heavy reverberation that someone thought was necessary once upon a time. As a result, the American albums are considered sonically inferior, non-representative of the Beatles' intent, and are largely the domain of Beatles "completists" who simply need to own all versions of the Beatles' material. Except for one case: The American "Meet The Beatles" album, which opens with the iconic "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Whatever Capitol did, they did it right, and the sound on the mono version of this release, which is included in the Capitol Records box set, is simply extraordinary, far and away much better than either the mono or stereo British re-masters. Although the rest of the Capitol box set is unnecessary, it is required to get your hands on this one mono album. For me, there is no better listening for this group of songs.

Then there are the remixes, which represent a tantalizing view of what is possible in terms of highest possible sound quality. Because the Beatles worked most of their recording career using 4-track tape, they often used "reduction" mixes to create more tracks to hold all their creative ideas. They would fill up four tracks, for instance, and copy that tape to another tape, while mixing 4 tracks into 2 on the new tape, leaving two blank tracks available for more recording. Then the process might repeat again. The end result was a four track master that had instruments combined together that could no longer be isolated for sound treatment, set apart in the stereo spectrum, or rebalanced in volume level. And of course there was the loss of sound quality that comes with multiple tape copies. Modern technology offers the ability to go back to these pre-reduction tracks and synchronize them all together into a multi-track digital configuration, with full isolation and best sound quality preserved. In fact, as a safety exercise, all the Beatles material in the Abbey Road vaults has already been transferred to digital - that work is done. All that remains is to actually create the remixes, and some of this has now seen the light of day. The best example of the sonic possibilities of remixing is the Yellow Submarine soundtrack that was released ten years ago, which contains 15 songs that span several "normal" Beatles albums. Songs like "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" jump to life like never before, while "Baby You're A Rich Man" and especially "It's All Too Much" are nothing short of a revelation.

There are other remixes. "Let It Be - Naked", which might be best described as Paul's long desired re-statement of the Let It Be album, is a great sounding record. Debates aside of whether Phil Spector's mix was or was not definitive, "Naked" sounds great, with a very good stereo mix.

Then there is the Beatles "Love" album, with what's referred to as "mash-up" mixes - so-called because Beatles songs here are completely re-imagined from the originals. As a soundtrack to a Cirque de Soleil show, the idea was to re-shape the songs to fit the show. They are shortened, overlaid, run backwards - all sorts of permutations. As a Beatles purist this is alarming at times, but again this is a remix and it offers a glimpse as to what is possible with the sound. Listen to "I Am The Walrus", in true stereo with pre-reduction takes: it is simply fantastic. For this album, you just need to hang your purity hat at the door and go along for the ride, which can be very rewarding.

So, "Yellow Submarine Soundtrack", "Let It Be - Naked", and "Love" are all essential. This review is not the time or place to debate the religion of whether remixes are "ethical" in regards to Beatles material. Let's just say for now it is a vital glimpse into the possibilities, and frankly a preview of where the next frontier of Beatles releases will be - a fully remixed catalog. And hopefully 24 bit as well, which is another story...

Which finally brings us to the Mono Box.

I'm not going to provide a song by song analysis, or better said I won't give you a very exhaustive one. Having listened to these CDs several times each now, my thoughts have coalesced around what it really is that I find most striking about them, and that is the Beatles sound like a BAND in mono, rather than "recording artists".

Going back to the 60's, which I remember as a child, you have the first appearance of stereo playback equipment in people's homes: huge pieces of furniture with left and right speakers separated by a few feet, often with Reverberation effects available to add to the music. As this was all brand new stuff, stores would sell stereo "sampler" albums that were filled with nothing but sound effects designed to show off stereo separation. Things like footsteps that simply panned from one channel to the other. Extremely trivial now, of course, but incredibly cool then. This was the stereo home listening environment that existed when the Beatles were at their peak, and it is clear that the extreme stereo mixes prepared by Abbey Road engineers were meant to function in-part as a type of stereo sampler, to show off the separation that was possible. These mixes, which have become the de-facto reference standard that we best know, were done for the most part after the Beatles and George Martin left the studio, and are an approximation of their original mono mixes, splashed out in extreme stereo. As stereo became the dominant playback medium, these mixes eventually became the only form most of us would hear the songs in. As such, I think this historical accident has shaped an opinion of the Beatles as sort of an "intellectual recording artist" group, which turned songs inside out that sounded downright trippy on headphones. The Sgt Pepper album represents the height of this form - I can clearly recall many, many reviews that spoke of the stereo imaging as part of the "acid trip" of this album.

But it wasn't George Martin's or The Beatles acid trip, and this was never their original vision.

The Beatles in mono are a rock band, the greatest rock band that ever existed. Sgt Pepper is not an acid trip, it's a driving, pulsating, rocking masterpiece. Songs leap from the album, especially the wind up on the original vinyl side 2 that leads to "Day In The Life". "Lovely Rita", "Good Morning", and especially "Sgt Pepper Reprise" are intense and riveting. Paul's bass and Ringo's drums love the center channel, which is where they always belonged. Close your eyes, and the band is right in front of you. This experience doesn't happen listening to the "cerebral" stereo mix. "Day In The Life" itself is different - more emotional, more powerful. The resolution from John to Paul's middle-8 part feels like jumping off a speeding car - you scramble to re-orient yourself. The urgency is remarkable.

And it's not just that the mix is folded together in the middle - it's a different mix. The instruments are more carefully placed. The vocals sit a little lower, bringing greater accent to the music. There's Mal Evans shouting a countdown in "Day In The Life" - it is adding to the tension. The guitars sear across. This is the genius of George Martin.

Other examples abound, with my absolute favorite being "Dear Prudence" on the White Album. Similar in texture to the stereo mix for the first couple of minutes, something amazing happens towards the end. The drums begin to stagger, and change to a roll through the last verse. Yeh, that's on stereo too, but not like this - the effect is driving the song right through the wall. Guitar riffs ride over this like bright rays of light, and John holds it together with a vocal containing a newly detected pleading emotion. By the time the drums switch back to straight time, it comes as a massive release of tension - a virtuoso band performance. I had goose bumps listening to it, realizing that after all these years I was actually hearing one of my favorite Beatle songs for the first time.

Revolver has special moments as well. You will never appreciate Taxman in stereo again after hearing the exciting mono version. And the ending of the record, with Paul's "Got To Get You Into My Life" leading into John's "Tomorrow Never Knows", is fantastic. These mixes are completely different and markedly superior to the stereo.

The list goes on, and since many have written about them in detail in other reviews, no need to go further.

So - does that mean that mono is "better" than stereo? It surely is better in that it represents the Beatles original vision of the songs. But does it sound better? That will always have a subjective answer. I am partial to hearing the slower Beatle songs in stereo, particularly harmony-laden ones. I particular like softer portions of "Help" and "Rubber Soul" presented as extras in the box set with their original 1965 stereo mixes that were re-done in 1987. The point is, you need both. They are both a part of the Beatles legacy, and musical history - the products of their time. The rocking Beatles in mono, the intellectual Beatles in stereo.

One final note, also mentioned elsewhere, is that the mono box set thankfully did not get caught up in the CD volume wars that are raging out there. Frankly the Beatles used a lot of compression to start with - no need for more. As a result, the louder you turn up the volume, the better these disks sound!

Maybe one day all this reference material will be pulled neatly together, so it can be more easily accessed and appreciated. But that is just a packaging complaint. At least the package exists, and we now have it available to us. I encourage and recommend any serious listener of The Beatles to get the mono box set and enjoy!
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beatles in Stereo vs. Mono vs. Old vs. New, September 18, 2009
By 
edison (California, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
I think it would be more helpful for potential buyers to compare the various incarnations of Beatle material out there so that buyers can make an informed decision about what is right for them. There really is not a definitive package of Beatle recordings. Each has it's own magic and benefits and you just need to figure out what you are after.

As for me, so you know, my background is a musician and recording studio owner with 32 years of experience. As for my perspective in comparing Beatle recordings, I've owned the entire Beatles catalog, both American and British versions, in multiple and various pressings on vinyl LP, as well as many unique foreign pressings, cassette and some 8-tracks. I currently have the 1980's box, the Capitol box sets, the Apple remastered stereo box and the Apple remastered mono box and I've been listening to them all side-by-side for this review.

I think buyers of these discs may fall into a few key categories:
1. Long-time Beatle fans who had the original LPs
2. Audiophiles who are looking for the most pristine audible version
3. Young/new fans who just want a nice copy of everything

In short, I'd recommend the following for the respective categories:
1. Apple remastered mono box or Capitol box set, rounded out with individual missing discs
2. Apple remastered stereo box
3. The previously-available 1980's box set

Here's why:

For category 1, the remastered mono box set (or the Capitol box sets, which are stereo and mono) may be the way to go, then just round it out with the individual copies of the missing discs. The mono box has much better sound, clearer than ever before, but still reminiscent of the original LPs tonality and far superior packaging. The mono remasters mimick the original LP packaging even down to spine text and the printed paper inner sleeves! Each disc in the mono set has a resealable outer plastic sleeve (Japanese style) and a plastic inner sleeve to protect the actual disc. The box itself affords direct access to any CD without disturbing the others and the overall box is about the size of CDs, so it fits nicely on a CD shelf (albeit a slightly taller CD shelf; e.g. CD/DVD shelf).

The remastered stereo box is a terrible package. It's 12" high and vertical, doesn't fit on the shelf with other CDs/DVDs. You can't access any CD individually. Instead you have to lift this cloth strap to pull an entire stack of CDs out to get to the one you want, frequently spilling the others everywhere like a deck of cards. You are forced to grab the disc surface to get it out of the cardboard sleeve it's in. Only the front cover reproduces the original artwork. Everything else, back, inside and booklet, while it's nice that there are new, never-before seen photos, makes it hard to reminisce if you remember the original LPs. But for audiophiles and new fans, this packaging might be fine, or even preferred.

The remastered mono CDs only have the original liner notes on the back cover, as they were on the LPs, but this is difficult if not impossible to read. The mono set also lacks the album recording notes that the stereo box has. Only notes for the past masters discs seems to be included in the mono set. The benefit of the remastered stereo CD packaging is that the original liner notes are printed in a booklet for each disc, so they are easy to read.

Unlike the mono remasters, the stereo CDs themselves have significantly different sound from the original LPs. Whether you consider it better is subjective depending on your listening goals. For example, Please Please Me (and all other discs that Paul Hicks remastered) seem to be bass-heavy compared to the original LPs and CD sets. While it's quite an improvement that you can now hear the bass lines clearly and the balance seems more up to date with modern recordings, it just won't be as familiar to those who owned all the original albums. Additionally, the beautiful reverb tails that were on the original Please Please Me album seem to decay quicker on the remaster. (Possibly due to various limiting/compression/eq artifacts?) The mono remaster of Please Please Me seems to suffer this same way. The reverb tails are slightly shorter than previous CD editions like the Capitol box or 1980's Apple box.

The mono set, being mono, all musical elements have to fight for audibility in the center, so, for example, you won't be able to focus on a particular instrument all the way through as easily. The real benefit of the remastered stereo box sound is that you can now clearly hear many of the little things that were previously buried in the mix. It is beautiful and incredible sounding. The various layers of overdubbed parts across the entire box set are clearly audible, which is a treat to hear clearly for the first time.

There are a very few cases, however, where this isn't true. One very small example is on Don't Bother Me. Early in the song George can be heard saying "Fast" on the backing track, but only on the Capitol box set stereo version is this completely and clearly audible with the level of detail other tracks in the Apple stereo box have. This gets back to my point that there really isn't one definitive set. Details come out differently in different versions. There are also some strange artifacts of this latest stereo remaster. For example, on Maxwell's Silver Hammer, the lead vocal occasionally seems to shift between being perfectly centered to splitting into a duophonic kind of sound from both the left and right. None of my other copies exhibit this characteristic. I believe this may be caused by phase artifacts introduced in the remastering from the heavy processing required to being out all the details. I also noticed that on some songs the lead vocals actually were quieter than on other available CD editions, possibly caused by the same.

The short movies included on the stereo remaster CDs and the DVD are sometimes interesting, but not great. There are a few comments buried in there that I had never heard before, but there are also strange inaccuracies; like seeing stills from Paperback Writer/Rain promo films during the Rubber Soul segment. In general, the movies are only a bonus for Beatle completists, due to a couple details that are revealed. They aren't terribly enlightening otherwise.

While the mono set lacks the videos, the bonus of the mono set is the complete original cover art (front, back and inside, where applicable) as well as all the original inserts, e.g. the 4 individual photos from the white album and the original green cut-out card in Sgt. Pepper, not to mention the groovy rose-to-pink paper inner sleeve, etc.

These sets are a bit overpriced. If the stereo set had the mono packaging, then it would be worth the price. The mono box really should be reduced to the price of the stereo set or less, particularly since it's no longer a limited edition (or at least the edition has been expanded such that it's not as much of a rarity now) and it doesn't have all the music or extras (no booklet for each album, no movies).

The terrible packaging, the overpriced price tag and significant deviation from the original sound (in general) knocks the remastered stereo box down to 3 stars for me. (Yes hearing all the little details is great for me as a fan, but the tonal balance was compromised notably to get that, and that is not how these albums were originally mastered nor intended to sound by George Martin and the band themselves. I think these details could have been brought out reasonably without changing the sound as much as they have.) Because of the cost and significant differences from the original cover art and sound, I can't consider the stereo remaster a 'definitive' set, but rather a supplement to the others sets that are available.

The mono remaster box however, I give 5 stars for having pristine sound without sacrificing the original tonality of these legendary recordings, having the original LP packaging and inserts, much better protection of the discs and sleeves, as well as sized to fit on a CD/DVD shelf.

In summary:

If you are a long-time fan who wants to reminisce and re-experience the original LPs, I would suggest either the new Apple remastered mono box set or Capitol box sets, then round it out by buying any individual stereo discs that are missing (Abbey Road, Let It Be, etc.).

For the new fan who wants a copy of everything but isn't nit picking over whether they can hear John say, "Cranberry Sauce" on Strawberry Fields or whether everything is in mono or stereo, the previous 1980's box set would be just fine. You might even find it used/cheap on an auction site, now that these remastered boxes are available. For what it's worth, the previous 1980's box set actually does sound like the original LPs. It's just that people are listening to them on modern equipment. Those mixes were originally created for equipment with tube amplifiers and real wood speaker cabinets, which impart a great deal of bass and warmth to the sound. Putting the same mix through printed circuit board stereos with modern plastic little speakers doesn't quite work with the music to produce the intended result.

For the audiophile who must hear the creaking chair on the final chord of Sgt. Pepper in stereo, the newly-remastered stereo box would be the way to go. The remastered stereo set is also good for anyone who wants to read the original liner notes from the albums and learn more about how the albums were originally recorded.

For the Beatle-completist who must have a every version of a Beatle recording, I'm assuming you already own the 1980's box, the Capitol boxes, the Apple-remastered stereo and the mono box sets prior to reading this review, and there is no review that would help you, since a Beatle purchase is compulsory. (^_^)v
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally the mono versions of "Help!" through "The Beatles" are released on CD ("Yellow Submarine" isn't included), September 8, 2009
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
"You've never heard 'Pepper' until you've heard it in mono"-John Lennon

These seminal albums sound terrific in this great remaster boxed set. With "Help!" through "The Beatles" appearing on CD in mono for the first time, we get to hear what The Beatles themselves considered the definitive versions of their albums. Nicely packaged with sharp reproductions of the original LP sleeves (at least as they appeared in the UK) this set is missing a two classic albums "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" where the band had adopted the stereo format as their preferred format at the time. They've done a very nice job of also reproducing the inserts that appeared with the original vinyl releases of these albums.

While "Yellow Submarine" was mixed as fold downs for mono, there are dedicated mono mixes for the new songs included here. The "Past Masters" set sounds terrific--"Paperback Writer", "Revolution" and other tracks sound punchier than their stereo variations (that's not to imply that the stereo versions are bad--they just don't quite have as much punch as the original single mixes which were designed to be heard on radio and knock off the socks of listeners.

"Pepper" in particular benefits from this release with "She's Leaving Home" played back at a slightly different speed, slightly different edits and sound effects for many of the tracks included. The big news though is that unlike the stereo set (which I think sounds quite good as well despite some peak limiting)the mono CDs have the full dynamic range of the original recordings.

You'll also hear differences on some of the mixes (and the running speed for "Don't Pass Me By" which is played back at a different speed than the stereo version)"The Beatles". As to which one you prefer, it depends on what you were raised on. For me hearing everything from "Help!" on in mono has been fun because as a kid we had a stereo so I heard the unusual stereo mixes that George Martin and his team put together. I'd also add that for "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" we get the original 1965 stereo mixes for both albums as bonus tracks on the mono discs for each album. This is a nice plus since many fans were dissatisfied with George Martin's 1987 remixes (which are on the stereo stand alone and box set releases of each respective album).

I'll admit that I haven't had the time to listen to all the recordings completely here more than once since receiving this set--there's so much here to appreciate. Little details are evident in the mastering here that weren't evident in the first four albums when they were original released in mono on CD (many sounded muddy compared to the original British vinyl--the U.S. Capitol vinyl couldn't compare to the British versions since they were more than one generation away from the mastertapes)The early first four CDs had other issues because they were transferred on a stereo machine even though they were in mono. That is remedied here. Choice vinyl versions of these albums blew away many of the original first four albums released in mono and that's not the case here (although some fans will perfer the vinyl versions to the CD simply because of the medium and the analog sound).

The booklet is nice but does avoid a lot of the controversies that often surrounded some of these albums.

Capitol will be doing a second run of the CDs for the US (originally they were going to be limited sometimes reported to be no more 10,000 copies per country depending on which report you read). The demand was way beyond what Capitol and EMI worldwide expected (although the mono CD box set was more readily available in the UK)so there will be a second run. Should you pay $500 or $400 for this set? I don't know I would just wait until the second run is released if you can. That way you have more $ to spend on other stuff (maybe that stereo boxed set you were looking at...).
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-core Beatles fans will be pleased. Casual fans might not be as impressed., September 9, 2009
By 
roebeet (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beatles in Mono (The Complete Mono Recordings) (Audio CD)
I was lucky enough to receive these from another online retailer, in time for Labor Day weekend. I've casually listened to most of the mono albums by now, so I'll break up my review into several sections:

1) The packaging. A real treat for hard-core fans - each CD is enclosed in a miniature version of its vinyl counterpart, and the attention to detail is simply AMAZING. Examples: The title of the Sgt. Peppers album is upside down (just like the vinyl LP), the cutouts are all there, the MMT booklet looks exactly the same as the vinyl LP version, each CD has a small duplicate of the vinyl slip cover that can be used to hold the CD, and the CD's themselves look like the original vinyl pressings.

2) Overall sound quality. Since this is the first time that all the mono versions have been released on CD, it's obviously hard to compare them to anything else but bootlegged needledrops. I think that hard-core fans will not be disappointed, going on what I've heard so far. Using the mono 1987 CD's as a baseline, the new remasters are superior - it is subtle, but definitely noticeable (like some "sonic grime" has been removed from the master tapes).

3) Differences between the mono and stereos versions. For the uninitiated, the mono mixes are not fold-downs from the stereo mixes (in other words, that the mono mixes are not just the stereo mixes converted to mono). These mixes are completely different - the majority of them were created before the stereo mixes (with MMT and The White Album being the turning point where the Beatles started looking more deeply at stereo). In some cases, the differences are subtle - but, in other cases (like "Helter Skelter", "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" or "She's Leaving Home") the differences are very noticeable. Whether or not these versions are "better" than their stereo counterparts has been an endless argument for Beatles fans, for decades.

4) The price. Unfortunately, EMI has treated the mono set as a "limited" edition and the price reflects that. You get fewer CD's, but the excellent packaging more than makes up for the difference. I only wish that they had added packaging for Abbey Road / Let It Be / Yellow Submarine CD's, even if they didn't include the actual stereo-only CD's with them. That would have been the icing on the cake.

Overall, this set is a real treat and I think that Beatles fans will definitely enjoy them.
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