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THE BEATLES IN MONO BOX SET

The Beatles

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Matthew T
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars When it was announced early this year that EMI were releasing The Beatles catalogue entirely remastered in either stereo or mono and they were to be released in September 2009 I knew that I would be one of the many who would be purchasing one.Throughout the review I will not be discussing the albums but primarily the sound and presentation of the albums.

With the first Beatles release as most are aware the albums were not remastered but even though that was the case the volume levels were good but as usual for cds they were a little cold compared to the records and there was no choice in sound format which was apparent in hearing the original mono and stereo mixes that they used throughout the releases and subsequently suffered in quality as the stereo albums had a separation in sound and this is particulary noticeable in the early recordings up to and including the Seargent Peppers album. Daytripper is a prime example with the guitar only coming through one speaker.

The Mono Box Set was originally advertised for the collector but it quickly became apparent to everyone that this was not only for a collector but anyone who was after the original vibe of the music coming througfh a one speaker record player (mono) or an old radio as we heard them originally on scratchy singles, worn out albums etc. The majority would probably wince at how I describe the equipment that I had but beggars cannot be choosers when you are 10 years old and the one thing that I do remember is the sound was full, pops and all as everything was mono.

The stereo remasters have been done with the best that was available I believe but with the later albums there was a choice available for the format but mono was still the main format used up to The Magical Mystery Tour EPs. The reason that the recordings have been originally focussed in Mono as Stereo at the time was really considered for HiFi Buffs and that stereo record pleyers were not a common thing in most households and so mono was the preffered mix for pop as it was still really not considered as quality music by many in the industry and how wrong they have been proven over the years. When the original stereo mixes were done on these albums it could be months after the mono was done and occasionally little things were forgotten also different takes were used. Please Please me is one. With the remastering project Allan Rouse was the main man behind it all and has been a recording engineer since 1971 with EMI and since 1991 has only been working extensively on the Beatles Catalogue. He was behind the 5.1 Yellow Submarine,Let It Be (naked) Love and Lennon albums etc

The Stereo version of the White album is superior to the Mono but the stereo version of With the Beatles even though it has been remastered the noticable separation is there all you need to do is listen to the intro of Roll Over Beethoven to hear how apparent it is. The Magical Mystery Tour sounds good in mono or stereo very little of the above mentioned issue. Abbey Road, Let It Be and the terrible Yellow Submarine are only available in the stereo format and so do not come with this set. Neither do the later singles The Ballad of John and Yoko,Old Brown Shoe (flip) Let it Be and The Long and Winding Road but you do get the actual Beatles tunes from the Yellow Submarine album added to the 2nd disc of the Mono Masters. If you did buy the Yellow Submarine album in stereo all the extra you would be getting is the George Martin input on side 2 of the record.

I have not heard the stereo version of Revolver but I have heard the complaints about limiting and compression issues. I will say this that the mono is great and I do not have an issue with the album at all.There are subtle differences in the mixes which you can read about if you aquire the set,songs Eleanor Rigby,Tommorow never Knows.I'm Only Sleeping and Got To Get you into my Life which actually lasts a little longer are the ones. I hope down the track they release Sgt Peppers in Mono on its own so people can buy it to hear the difference with out having to buy this entire set. She's Leaving Home in Stereo actually runs a little slower and there are alot of differences with volumes on certain items in the album throughout songs. The Beatles were present in the studio for the mono mix and when that was done they left and the stereo was left to George Martin and his engineers at the time in the studio.

The Set also comes with the stripes,etc from Sgt Peppers and the poster with the photos of each Beatle comes with the White Album. All have been made to a miniscule size compared to the records but so is the way with cds. I remember the photos were a bit glossier and were on high quality photograhic paper. If this set was a limited collectors edition why did they not number the White Albums anyway. These though I will admit are nit picking on a fantastic Box Set

With the Help and Rubber Soul albums you have added the original stereo mixes. They are on the same disc as the mono and just follow after the mono version. You will listen to them most likely a bit as they just follow on but they are nothing special.

If you have the stereo set do not despair you still have the best music from the 20th century in your hand and a lot will think of these as minor issues and as everybody knows Stereo is the better format but this time the Mono has a slight edge.

My personel opinion is that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the greatest song writers of the last century and this set to me is The Rossetta Stone in modern pop and rock

5 Stars more if possible

Report this review (#256605)
Posted Thursday, December 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One of the most influential bands of all time has finally been given the proper treatment.

When I heard about The Beatles' catalogue being remastered in early 2009, I was more than a little excited. I was all ready to pre- order the Stereo set, happy as a lark with the choice, but then I came across a preview online of the Sgt. Pepper album mono recording, and I instantly changed my mind. What a difference!

I don't want to go into too much detail involving the sound quality of these things individually, because I'll be reviewing them all mostly in mono fairly soon, and I don't want to spoil all the surprises I came across while comparing the stereo to mono. What I will say, however, is that after hearing all of these many times when held up against the stereo mixes, I don't think I could ever listen to the stereo versions again. Everything is so much more crisp and audible, here. I heard things I never knew existed because those said elements had either been buried in the stereo mix or were missing altogether.

So why such a drastic difference between the two mixes? Well, for those who are new to The Beatles' history, they came into the industry when mono was still the norm. Stereo mixes were made of their albums, but they weren't given as much care as their mono counterparts. If you want an even more obvious reason as to why the mono mixes are superior, the band members weren't even present in the studio during the mixing of the stereo. Well, at least not until the white album, which was the last mono Beatles record produced.

Yes, you read that correctly. You won't be getting all of the band's studio works in this set if you go with mono, but that is simply because they stopped producing mono after the white album. So you'll have to buy the stereo Abbey Road and Let It Be records separately, but let me assure you: you won't mind once you hear how these mono records sound.

So let's do a quick breakdown/comparison of each disc before we move on to the other aspects that make this set so great. Album by album. (Bear in mind, this is all just my opinion, and you may decide that you like all mono records better than the stereo remasters, but this is merely a guide for you to go by in case you find you want to compare.)

Audio:

Please Please Me - Absolutely no question, this sounds better in mono. Much 'fuller', I guess is what you say about this. As was typical with most early Beatles stereo albums, the track separation was dreadful-- voices would be in one channel, while the instruments in the other. Listening over a home or car stereo system, that wasn't as much of an issue, but try listening to it through headphones, and it became excruciating. Of course, with mono, you won't have that problem.

With The Beatles - Same story. The stereo remasters of these early albums also have the same issue with the channel separation. That should be made note of. All of these are simply remastered versions of the same mixes you're used to hearing, so if you do go with stereo, don't expect a drastic different as far as that goes. Though even the stereo remasters sound better than they did previously (I may do a separate review of the stereo set as well one day soon, just so you can get an idea of what I thought of both).

A Hard Day's Night - This is one of the rare instances in which I actually feel the stereo mix of this is better, despite the apparent lack of Beatles involvement in it. The reasons why are because I personally feel that the remastered stereo mix of this album sounds a bit 'brighter' than the mono. Since this album does NOT have the channel separation issue, it is quite listenable through any format, headphones included. But this mono version still has some minute variations and differences from the stereo, and that is something I will go into in more detail with my separate A Hard Day's Night review in the near future. For now, simply take away from this that either version is superb, and it's really about personal preference.

Beatles For Sale - Again, a great listening experience in both stereo and mono. However, it's really hard to say which is better. I think some folks may feel like the mono version sounds a little more full, where as the stereo mix has a brighter, more open sound. Neither is bad, and again, you'll be very happy with this mono edition regardless.

Help! - Oh, are you in for a treat! Not only do you get the superb mono remaster of this album, but you also get the original 1965 stereo mix, previously unreleased on Compact Disc! Let me tell you, this original stereo mix sounds miles ahead of the re- worked mix they attempted when the album first hit CD. So in other words, you get two versions of the album in the same package, so you don't have to choose in this case! There are some really cool but minute differences between these two versions as well that I will go into in my separate Help! review.

Rubber Soul - Again, another album whose stereo mix was butchered for its initial Compact Disc release. And again, that original mix in included along with the mono. However, for me, both stereo mixes can't hold a candle to this remastered mono mix. Everything about it sounds so much richer. But the stereo is still included, at any rate. So you can have both at your fingertips if you wish to switch the listening experience up from time to time.

Revolver - Finally! I have a version of this wonderful album that I can actually listen to in my headphones without cringing! I think the only thing the stereo mix has over this is the ''Tomorrow Never Knows'' track. I must admit, that song just isn't the same without the panning of the effects, and whatnot. BUT, everything else about the mono Revolver is ten times better. Another case in which the hard left-right separation made hearing the record in that way before almost impossible. Now, with everything in one channel, it is a joy to get personal with my Revolver record.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Alright, This is it. The crown jewel of this whole package. The single reason why you cannot be without The Beatles In Mono. The ONLY version of this album you will EVER listen to again. Think I'm lying? Well I was skeptical at first also, but no longer. Everybody involved with the production of that album has said something to the effect of, ''If you haven't heard it in mono, you haven't heard it at all''. I realize that's paraphrased a bit, but you get the point. Well I gotta say, folks, they weren't wrong. You may think you know this album like the back of your hand, but if you have yet to hear this mix, you have no idea what you are missing. I'm not exaggerating, here. I still remember the first time I heard all of the extra chatter during the album's opening, and Paul shouting at the crowd during the reprise, etc. It was so wonderful to hear all that had been lost (and still is lost!) from the stereo mix. I honestly don't know how any Pepper fan could go back after hearing this, especially upon realizing that the ''She's Leaving Home'' track isn't playing at the correct speed on the stereo mix! I'll go into much greater detail on my Sgt. Pepper review, I promise. You need to know everything that makes this mono version the only one worth owning.

Magical Mystery Tour - This is another rare situation in which I actually think the stereo mix of this record could give its mono equivalent a run for its money. However, you can't go wrong with the mono mix, either, and the replicated LP packaging alone makes it worth having (I'll go more into the packaging later in the review).

The BEATLES - The white album is probably the most unique case in this whole set. As I said before, by this point in their career, the band HAD begun to show interest in the stereo mixes of their albums, and while it's unclear to me whether or not they projected that stereo would become the norm, it certainly had become common enough to the point where they wanted to be involved with both mixes so they could ensure whichever version the listener got ahold of, they would have had some say in the final result. What this means is that both versions of the white album are equally relevant, yet so very different. It could be argued that this record has the most amount of variation between the two mixes, and neither is better or worse than the other. Honestly, I cannot choose between either of them. They are both incredibly well-handled mixes and will give you enjoyment no matter what, but I would recommend to own both, personally. Some things you may be used to hearing on the stereo version that are missing from the mono, however, include: the extra pig squeal effects in ''Piggies'', the fade-out-in-out effect in ''Helter Skelter'' and Ringo's shouting of ''I got blistahs on mah fingahs!''. And of course, all the panning effects during ''Revolution 9'' are gone. That's not to say the mono version is inferior, and like I say, ideally, you should own both.

Mono Masters - It's just the Past Masters collection in mono, right? Well, not quite. See, several of the tracks in the original collection are a mixture of mono and stereo tracks. Some of them were only mixed in stereo (especially the later tracks), so in place of those, Mono Masters includes several hard-to-find and previously unreleased mono tracks that make this collection pretty much another must for any serious Beatles fan.

General overview: Some people who have not experienced much mono listening may at first be shocked as to how these records sound. Let me make this clear, however: Mono, as far as Beatles records are concerned, has been considered the 'proper' way to hear the music by virtually every audiophile. Now that I have experienced it first hand, I can absolutely see (and hear!) why.

Audio Rating: 5/5

Now that we have the most important aspect of this set out of the way, let's focus on the presentation itself, which includes packaging, artwork, etc.

Presentation:

Like so many physical copies today, the record company spared no expense in making it worth the extra bucks. For music fans like me, who still enjoy the physical album format, you'll be so happy with this set, I promise you!

First, the outside case itself. It's a beautiful, ivory-colored square case with the mighty ''The Beatles'' logo printed upon it. The contents within slide out like a little drawer, and all of the discs are held neatly inside. Not only that, but each album is contained in a plastic sleeve, preserving the actual case from collecting much dust or other outside elements (as if the outer shell itself wasn't enough).

Now, the albums themselves are beautifully packaged in little mini-LP sleeves. They have been replicated to the most crucial detail from the original sleeves back when the vinyls first came out. The color is so rich and vibrant, it will put all of the poorly- printed artwork of your older Beatles CDs to shame. When held up against my real size LPs, the similarities in this regard are uncanny. They really spent a lot of time making sure that they matched.

In addition to the cases themselves looking great, they also contain the same inner contents as the original LPs, as well. For instance, the Magic Mystery Tour case comes with a scaled-down version of the attached booklet that came with the original, and that is a considerable feat, considering how much more money must have been put into it. Anyway, to have everything, booklets, posters and pictures included is quite a gem to have, especially if your original LPs are missing some of these contents. Now you've got it all back. Cool, huh? And that's still not all. You know how the records themselves came in sleeves within the outer case? Well, the discs come packaged with those, as well.

So, the entire experience of holding these babies in their cases is as close to owning the new vinyls all over again as they could possibly get. It feels so great to know that everything has been replicated to look and feel just like the originals, and especially if you never owned the LPs when they were brand new, you'll probably discover some things that you have never seen before. It will be like the first time of ever owning a 'proper' Beatles release, just as they were meant to be experienced originally, and with the best-sounding master, to boot! Say goodbye to your old Beatles CDs. These will now be your primary versions you go to whenever you want to hear the band's music.

Presentation Rating: 5/5

So, in closing, The Beatles have never sounded or looked better, and now you can finally hear their work the way they were meant to be heard on Compact Disc. I don't really see why anything else needs to be explained. You've probably already made your mind up by now, but just for a final overview:

Reasons to choose the mono set over the stereo set:

- Deluxe outer packaging that ensures long shelf life

- Each album's case is an exact mini-replica of the classic LP sleeves

- All of the additional physical content that came with the originals are included

- It's the definitive mono Beatles experience! For the first time in this format!

- Everything in the stereo box set can be bought separately. The contents of the mono set are only available in this package.

I will give the opposing reasons on the stereo set's side of things when I eventually get around to reviewing that, as well. So stay tuned.

So there you have it. The best Beatles listening experience available today, sounding amazing, looking amazing, and all in a very impressive little package, and not too steep a price right now. If you ever wanted to know what the band actually wanted you to hear, look no further than The Beatles In Mono. A truly wonderful value for such a fantastic collection of brilliant, vibrant music.

Final Rating: 5/5

Very happy listening.

Report this review (#269037)
Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars On Wednesday 9 September 2009, the date would become one of the most important of Beatles history (09 09 09), was launched worldwide three indispensable articles, At least two of them: First Beatles in Mono, then a similar Box Set but broader than meets the complete discography of the British quartet in Stereo and finally the videogame The Beatles Rockband, which allows to be a member of this quartet.

There are many reviews available on the Internet regarding these articles, some of them quite comprehensive and describe musical successes of the four of Liverpool, to very deep technological aspects about the work for nearly a decade took place on the original tapes. In the last three months I spent much of my free time analysis, objective and subjective, technological and nostalgic about the Beatles in Mono.

40 years after the breakup of The Beatles and only until last year (2009) took place decent work, honest and deep on the original mono tapes, defying the high level of technology that today is part of our world: We Are The Beatles, playing on one channel, so we sound better than many sophisticated production that does not sound like us using 500,000 sound channels. That was a conclusion after listening for nearly three months this Box Set.

And is that all things considered, The Beatles in Mono is a piece of art also for this reason: monophonic music required a greater effort to the mixtures (a process which "blend" the sounds that are part of an album to it sounds balanced) by musicians, producers and engineers. In stereo the "sharing" of these sounds is more balanced for the output of two channels. At this point it's necessary to acknowledge the efforts of those were in Abbey Road studios, worked in an honest, above all in the mono remastering of the Beatles for almost 10 years, something not found in other reviews: George Martin, Paul Hicks Steve Rooke, Guy Massey, Allan Rouse, Simon Gibson, Sean Magee, Pete Nash and Staffan Olander. Yes, we are buying two different reasons but in the end are the same: 1. The full catalog of The Beatles in mono (except Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be, which were never released in mono) and 2. The work of these men, who worked on the discography, which is a masterpiece in art restoration was carried out for a flawlessly.

The commercial value of the Beatles in Mono is another curious, considering that is higher and the Box Set is smaller to the naked eye, with fewer records, but more rustic presentation (which is a replica of the original vinyl) and without separate catalogs for each disc as it does with the collection in stereo and the individual versions of the CD's. The value is warranted, and although there are several reasons, this is the main: With The Beatles in Mono we can appreciate what the quartet originally made without engineers and producers to intervene recordings in stereo versions. This Box Set features the Beatles in an unprecedented way, authentic and original for the first time after 40 years of its dissolution. Because of this, not just hear from Please Please Me to The Beatles (aka White Album), including The Mono Masters, but John, Paul, George and Ringo wanted that his followers will listen.

As I mentioned, each album is a reproduction almost identical to the disks that originally launched, including the cover, back cover, labels and even the surrounding protection on vinyl and plastics, in this case the CD's.

The inlay included in the Box Set is filled with nostalgic notes and asides that justify the existence of this box which in itself is of immense value; The Beatles in Mono is essential in understanding and admiration of music history or at least rock. In addition, the booklet includes in-depth explanations and how was the process of developing of each disk on those sessions, also photos and credits for each of the 13 disks that make up the Box Set.

In this way I wanted to present some aspects that have not been highlighted in recent publications, relating to The Beatles in Mono, without going into further details given above or in others that deserve further analysis.

The Beatles in Mono: essential.

Report this review (#285382)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010 | Review Permalink

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