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The Beatles - The Beatles In Mono Box Set CD (album) cover

THE BEATLES IN MONO BOX SET

The Beatles

 

Proto-Prog

4.88 | 41 ratings

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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.

JLocke | 5/5 |

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