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In Mono [14 LP Box Set]
Vinyl | 180 gram, Box Set
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Audio CD, Box set, Limited Edition, September 9, 2009
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The Beatles in mono: This is how most listeners first heard the group in the 1960s, when mono was the predominant audio format. Up until 1968, each Beatles album was given a unique mono and stereo mix, but the group always regarded the mono as primary. THE BEATLES IN MONO VINYL BOX SET is released in mono on fourteen 180-gram vinyl LPs with faithfully replicated artwork, newly mastered from the analogue master tapes.
In an audiophile-minded undertaking, The Beatles' acclaimed mono albums have been newly mastered for vinyl from quarter-inch master tapes at Abbey Road Studios by GRAMMY®-winning engineer Sean Magee and GRAMMY®-winning mastering supervisor Steve Berkowitz. While THE BEATLES IN MONO CD boxed set released in 2009 was created from digital remasters, for this new vinyl project, Magee and Berkowitz cut the records without using any digital technology. Instead, they employed the same procedures used in the 1960s, guided by the original albums and by detailed transfer notes made by the original cutting engineers.
Working in the same room at Abbey Road where most of The Beatles' albums were initially cut, the pair first dedicated weeks to concentrated listening, fastidiously comparing the master tapes with first pressings of the mono records made in the 1960s. Using a rigorously tested Studer A80 machine to play back the precious tapes, the new vinyl was cut on a 1980s-era VMS80 lathe.
Manufactured for the world at Optimal Media in Germany, The Beatles' albums are presented in their original glory, both sonically and in their packaging. The boxed collection's exclusive 12-inch by 12-inch hardbound book features new essays and a detailed history of the mastering process by award-winning radio producer and author Kevin Howlett. The book is illustrated with many rare studio photos of The Beatles, fascinating archive documents, and articles and advertisements sourced from 1960s publications.
Albums included in the box set are REVOLVER, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, RUBBER SOUL, WITH THE BEATLES, MONO MASTERS (3LP SET), THE BEATLES (2LP SET), BEATLES FOR SALE, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, PLEASE PLEASE ME, HELP! and A HARD DAY'S NIGHT.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
In short I'm not going to write an album by album review because their all good. The pressings I received are mostly quiet and flat (with the exception of Sgt. Pepper's and The White Album that are warped. The White Album also came with bent and crushed inner sleeves hence the four star review). Certainly this set gives a much better first impression that the stereo box set pressed by Rainbo in the U.S. in 2012. These albums are lavishly produced. No detail is spared. But it's the sound quality that really counts. Was I in fact really missing something?
The mono mixes are clear but have that `boxy' flat mono sound. This of course is subjective, but if you're like me, and grew up listening to the stereo mixes I wouldn't count on this being an eye opening or earth shattering experience. There's a reason the mono format was abandoned for stereo back in 1968. Stereo (to me) has a more spacious sound that is more open and enjoyable (Beatles' records included). Sure the hard panning they used back in the 60's on some Beatles' songs can, (dare I say) be annoying at times, (vocals on one side, instruments on the other); but when you're used to hearing the music that way your whole life and it's what you are accustomed to, it ends up becoming what sounds `right.'
With that said the overall clarity of the mono records is impressive; but for the clarity you may gain on some tracks, you also lose the spaciousness and dimensionality of the stereo versions on others (even if some of it is artificial). I notice this more starting with Rubber Soul and continuing through The White Album.
If they produced the stereo vinyl box set with the same detail and care, and mastered it direct from the original analog tapes I probably wouldn't have even considered buying this expensive mono version. (Planned obsolesce? Marketing ploy? Who knows). Let's face it, no one wants digitally sourced vinyl, but when comparing the stereo vinyl box to the mono one (aside from the different mixes (most noticeable on the Sgt. Pepper's record) the stereo set IMHO did not lose anything from being mastered from hi-res digital transfers that were sourced from the original analog tapes.
If you got a good stereo vinyl set, the clarity, warmth and detail is all there and this mono set is really redundant. Most of the mixes are not noticeably different throughout the albums with the exception of Sgt. Pepper's (most notable on the vocals of the track "She's Leaving Home."). If you're curious about hearing a mono mix, Sgt. Pepper's would be the album to start with. See if you like the distinctively different mono sound, and then go from there, (what you thought you may be missing, you might not really be missing at all).
There are those that were there in the 60's and prefer the mono sound. Personally I find the stereo mixes overall to be more enjoyable to listen to. Either way the music is timeless and fantastic no matter what format you listen to it on. If you don't have the stereo vinyl box set, this set is sure to impress. When it comes to sound (mono vs. stereo) personal preferences are really just that. There is no 'better' version in my opinion. I hope this helps fellow Beatle fans. Kudos to the producers of this new set for making an unsurpassed effort in keeping to the integrity of the original mono releases.
Enjoy the music!
After extensive listening I have to say I'm truly impressed with this set. Maybe it took a little time and several listens to really appreciate the clarity and detail of the mono albums. Everything from PPM, WTB, AHDN, BFS, RS, Revolver, and the Mono Masters are quite impressive (Revolution on the mono masters really blew me away!). Help and MMT IMHO are a bit of a mixed bag, and I might be one of the few to say this, but I'm still on the fence when it comes to Pepper's. Pepper's in mono is certainly a different listen from the stereo version, and some songs like "She's Leaving Home" really shine, but other songs like "A Day In the Life" seem to have more impact in Stereo. Concerning The White Album I prefer the stereo version over the mono one for the most part. It seems like this is where the Beatles really started concentrating on using the stereo format for their releases.
Overall this box set is really something special. Aside from some minor pressing defects including: warps, center holes drilled off center or not drilled big enough; the records themselves are dead quiet and have a very lively and warm sound. Really this mono set compliments the stereo set (and vice versa). At first I stated this mono box set might be a redundant purchase, but after really listening (especially to the early albums) I feel this set really delivers on a majority of the albums making it a worthwhile edition to any collection.
In conclusion, if your a diehard vinyl enthusiast (like myself), and want to really discover (or rediscover) how the original Beatles records sounded, then this is a must have collection and worth treating yourself to. No doubt this set will bring years of enjoyment and become a collectors item one day like the MOFI box set of yesteryear.
Finally, I recommend buying this set directly through Amazon and not a third party seller (even if it's slightly more costly). When I had an issue with a couple of warped albums, Amazon sent me an entire new box set and a prepaid label to return the old one. It's not easy to find another online retailer that will provide that level of customer service.
Final Update 12/25/15
After now owning this set for over a year and really spending some time listening to it, I can honestly say it has become my go to set when wanting to hear the Beatles. It's really that good in the sense of giving the listener the experience that this is the way John, Paul, George, and Ringo originally recorded and intended these songs.
For the ultimate Beatles vinyl fan I would recommend this set over the stereo vinyl set filling in "Yellow Submarine" "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be" with MOFI copies that can easily be found on eBay. The "White Album" would be the one exception where a stereo version would be also be preferable (MOFI if possible). If MOFI's are out of your price range, then the remastered stereo editions would be my second choice. Finding clean original editions would prove to be difficult and costly.
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