12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful set, good-sounding digital masters, some pressing issues,
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This review is from: The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set (Vinyl)
There are some early reports of pressing issues with this set, and indeed my copy of "Abbey Road" has got many problems, not least of which are some serious scuffing in the dead wax and an overall appearance akin to a used record. And sure enough it is very noisy -- defective output from the pressing plant, most likely. Online conversations suggest I'm not alone.
Now, with that out of the way, and assuming that gets resolved, this is a lovely set. The box and book are beautiful, the cover art all well done.
Most important, how do the masters sound? And where do they come from? There is some misinformation circulating about the sources, including claims that the vinyl records are transfers from CD. That is not the case. The transfers were made from unlimited 24-bit, 44.1kHz files which were the parent, so to speak, of the CD files, but the key difference is the lack of limiting that was felt to be necessary for the CD release. Tech specs aside, how do the records sound (at least those that are not defective)? Terrific, in my opinion -- excellent detail and clear bass. Sean Magee, the Abbey Road engineer responsible for the transfer, has stated that the intent was to replicate the sound of the original tapes, not necessarily the sound of the original LP releases, which would have been made with compression so that they could "compete" with other pop music in circulation at the time. I've never heard the original tapes of course, so I can't compare, but these cuts do sound true.
To sum up, assuming I can get a clean copy of my favorite album, this should work out wonderfully. For anyone like me, a fan of the band not already possessed of older, beloved vinyl versions of the albums, this is something you'll love to have.
EDIT: Please be sure to check out the comments thread below, where some other Amazon members have posted some very helpful information on the sources for various issues of the remasters, thoughts on this vinyl issue, etc. Thanks Amazon friends.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 13, 2012 8:13:45 PM PST
Thank you for your review. I posed this question in another review thread, but I'll re-pose it here. My understanding is that the "parent" 24-bit/44.1 kHz files were the ones released in the Beatles USB issue. I've heard those, and have analyzed them (checked peak volume, average volume, and looked at their waveforms) and they sound (and look) identical to the CDs, complete with limiting, and the same EQ. This suggests the limiting and EQ were applied to those files, rather than when creating the 16-bit master. Therefore, I wouldn't have thought those would be used for the vinyl pressings, especially since the PR copy says 24-bit files without limiting are being used. So, do you, or does anybody else, know the origin of the master files for this set?
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 8:33:11 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2012 8:35:04 PM PST
Aggressive Arms says:
Hello Giacomo, unfortunately I really don't know much about the USB release, nor did I buy it. I've not seen it mentioned in any of the online reports regarding this release that quote Sean Magee, the Abbey Road engineer responsible for the vinyl cut. I believe if I tried to post an html here that Amazon would edit it out, but I would encourage you to search for any articles online with comments from Sean Magee. Those could help explain the source for this set.
The book that comes with the box describes the decisionmaking as follows: "Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that had to be used for CD production. It was also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone 'limiting' - a procedure to increase the sound level, which deemed necessary for most current pop CDs."
I read that as implying that there may have been limited and unlimited 24-bit files, and that the former were the parent for the CD release, while the latter were used for this set. If that's correct, and your USB files are limited 24-bit files, then they are not the parent. Hope this helps.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 8:53:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2012 6:23:53 AM PST
That could well be, and would explain the difference. Part of the reason for my confusion is that, as part of the remastering process for the 2009 releases, engineers (led by Paul Hicks) transferred the tapes into Pro Tools at 24-bit/192 kHz resolution. Those were done without limiting or EQ, for the purposes of fixing some of the technical issues with the tapes. Those files were then used to create the 24/44 masters, which were then bumped down to 16-bit for CD. Therefore, when the book (and PR copy) refers to "24-bit" files without specifying sampling frequency, one could reasonably infer either the 24/192 transfer files, or the 24/44 master files. Another reviewer here referenced some discussions with Magee, who has said the files used for the set are 24/44, which suggests there was more than one set of those created - one limited and one unlimited, as you have surmised.
BTW, I have had no problems posting URLs in review threads, which can then be copied and pasted by others, although HTML codes don't work. Also, in the actual reviews, Amazon will edit out any URL. In other words, if you want to post URLs in here to other discussions or articles, go for it. I'll search some out on my own, too.
Thanks again for your time and comments.
Posted on Nov 14, 2012 5:44:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2012 7:34:22 AM PST
Joseph Benzola says:
Bought Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Magical Mystery Tour. All sound WONDERFUL but I have an issue with side 1 of Pepper...Some serious distortion starting from track 4 onwards. Returned album and got a replacement.... same issue! Side 2 is fine and the other 3 releases have no issues at all. Quite strange....
Posted on Nov 14, 2012 7:12:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 14, 2012 7:13:39 AM PST
J. Gilvey says:
Thanks for the review. While I usually jump headlong into anything Beatles and ask questions later, this time I ordered Abbey Road (my favorite album. My favorite anything, really) to see if I could better my 24-bit FLAC files (yes, I bought the apple - see above) given the digital masters. I started off with side 2 but just seconds into the intro to Here Comes The Sun there was such a weird, wind-like noise I had to re-start to see if it was on the record. Sure enough, it was. Overall the impression I got, after going back and forth from FLAC streamed by my Squeezebox Touch and vinyl spinning on my KAB SL-1200 w/ Denon DL-103R, is that they're quite similar with the principal difference being the noise of this pressing. Even my BC-13 set Abbey Road copy is quieter. I may try Revolver seeing as AR is a known problem (which is a bit of a relief to read).
As an aside, if you ever get the chance to see the Fab Faux and haven't already - do it. I saw them do Abbey Road from start to finish at a local theater and it was almost surreal.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 9:01:49 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012 9:03:17 PM PST
Mr. Mustard says:
I have enjoyed this review, and the subsequent responses. I am by no means an expert, but from what I can surmise, the 24 bit tape transfers were used for the USB release, the Mono CD box (straight to 16), and now the Stereo vinyl reissues, which would have required a separate master entirely. The 16 bit Stereo CD remasters were the only ones that were treated with limiting (admittedly a tad distracting at times).
My long-winded point being these vinyl remasters were a completely separate project, hence the three year delay. In my opinion, they sound tremendous!!!
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 9:14:03 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2012 9:19:35 PM PST
Mr. Mustard, I've done some research since my previous post, and came across an audio interview with Sean Magee, who mastered the vinyl release. The 24-bit/44.1 kHz files included in the USB release had limiting applied to them. The 24-bit/44.1 kHz files used for the vinyl releases did not have limiting applied. Also, the vinyl set is not a "completely separate project," in the sense that Magee did not go back to the original tapes. The master files used for the vinyl project were created during the 2009 remaster project. They just weren't used for commercial release at the time. Magee chose to cut the vinyl from the non-limited 24/44.1 files that already existed, and he did not go further up the "food chain" to other sources.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 10:57:25 PM PST
Mr. Mustard says:
Thanks GH. I'll definitely look into Sean's perspective about the remasters. I guess I should clarify my statement regarding the vinyl, as a completely separate master is always neccassary for that format. I only meant that the same master used for compact disc couldn't be used for the vinyl. I was not aware that limiting was used for the 24 bit transfers (USB). I thought those were treated the same as the Mono remasters, which had used no limiting, just a straight transfer. Very interesting nonetheless, thanks for the details!
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2012 4:39:01 AM PST
J. Gilvey says:
There is apparently some limiting on the USB files but it's very judicious and nowhere near what people talk of as "loudness wars" ammunition. The main difference I heard between the 24-bit FLAC and new vinyl of Abbey Road was the noise of the pressing. Search the Analog Planet Abbey Road review, Michael Fremer gives a pretty exhaustive comparison of various versions including the 24-bit USB apple.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2012 5:50:57 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2012 5:51:41 AM PST
"There is apparently some limiting on the USB files but it's very judicious and nowhere near what people talk of as 'loudness wars' ammunition."
You're absolutely right. Some professional reviews of the '09 remasters even said the limiting added a certain amount of punch to the music, and was used very skillfully, much the way a fine chef uses spices in cooking. According to Paul Hicks, in an interview he gave in 2009, all the EQ-ing and limiting for the CDs was applied at the 24-bit stage. Then the files were noise-shaped and dithered down to 16-bit for CD, but no other changes were made to the signal. So what's on the USB stick is essentially what's on the CDs, except for greater bit-depth.
I read Fremer's review, and thought it was quite thoughtful and fair. I wonder, though, if he's talking himself into hearing dramatic improvements in the USB files over the CDs. I can't hear much - if any - difference between them, although I fully acknowledge that my DAC is not on the level his is.
There was an interesting study done a few years ago, which suggested people cannot actually hear the difference between Red Book format and higher resolutions, at least not in a way they could tell which was which. Of course, audiophiles will always argue they can hear plenty of difference, but I've learned that some audiophiles are capable of convincing themselves of anything.
Here's a link to an article detailing the study: http://mixonline.com/recording/mixing/aud