Abbey Road Studio's Sean Magee Talks About Mastering The Beatles LP Box

I spoke today with Sean Magee about the just released Beatles LP box set. Magee's resume is impressive. He's cut both lacquers and DMM and does a great deal of AAA cutting for Pure Pleasure among other labels. Magee produced the lacquers from which the LPs were sourced. The first interesting thing I learned was that the lacquers were cut from 44.1k/24 bit masters not 96K/24 bit masters as I'd originally been told.

The 192/24 bit transfers were done flat to produce an archival copy of the tapes and then those files were reduced to 44.1k/24 bit files for final mastering. The final EQ masters were then truncated to 16 bits for the CD box set and ..... well instead of me telling you all of this, why not listen to the entire interview? It's here as an MP3 file. I was recording to Iphone and unfortunately the phone ran out of memory so the interview ends abruptly but it was nearly over at that point anyway.

Vinyl copies available upon request:

Dpoggenburg's picture

Fascinating to hear from a guy who's actually directly involved.

While conceptually I'm probably part of large contingent who will be sorry to hear these weren't cut from 192, 96, or even 48khz files, etc etc, I've been very impressed with the sound of the USB stick (other than drop outs on various songs that, based on web comments, I've discovered consistently plague that particular product).

PLUS, the limited vinyl that has come out (RSD singles and the recent MMT deluxe box with the Blu Ray movie and the recreated EP), has sounded pretty good, so, we shall hear for ourselves and decide...

marmaduke's picture

Not able to listen to the full interview, but the revalation of lower master bit rates has me less concerned about getting the box of records out of the slip case intact, or whether Rainbo gave us quiet pressings than checking the return policy of my etailer.

The fact that quite detailed descriptions of this set were available on many vendor sites during the "Get a first pressing frenzy; order now hoopla" and now upon release and purchase these detailed descriptions are becoming suspect or outright refuted?!

Certainly takes the bloom off the rose for me.

Good chance these are going back unopened.

Let's hope within the 30 day return period my apprehensions prove unfounded.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

I posted this same information months ago, but nobody cared. Oh well, I'll just be over here writing down useful information and throwing it down a storm sewer.

marmaduke's picture

Yes ideedy do you did call into question the early info on this set and I took note. 

However shortly after the 'official' EMI release info seemed to me to refute your cautions, and I gave the credibility to the owner of the masters themselves failing to note that the release was likely generated by the sales and marketing department.

Well it would not be the first time a reissue simply confirmed the superiority of previous iterations.

Just ask the folks who purchased the most recent Exiles on Mainstreet remaster!

In fairness I have not listened to any of the new versions of the Beatle's albums, but my expectations of their fidelity are heading down hill fast to lessen the apparent disappointment ahead.

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.........

BarakaPDub's picture

Mr. Fremer,

Thanks for posting this interview.  I found it to be very educational but I am curious what some of the other mastering engineers would say about the tips getting too hot around 16 kHz.   Have you heard statements like this before?  I guess this is somewhat lathe dependent and if they can keep the tip actively cooled without compromising the cutting process. 

Also, I am glad you plugged QRP.   I am disappointed to hear they only audtioned two pressing plants.   Maybe you can start working as a consultant to the record companies or get some PR pay from QRP smiley

Michael Fremer's picture

Frankly that made little sense to me. I felt I'd let Sean speak his mind and state his claims. However, I have heard from a few mastering engineers who dispute what he said. I will follow up...

Bigrasshopper's picture

I've been reading from this site on my ipad so mabey I'm missing some flash link, I don't see a link to the interview.  Is there some other way to hear it?  Help !  Are you going to transcribe it for your readers. Can someone  say where the Euro pressing where made?     I have to say, the fact that these are 44.1 files really takes the wind out of my sails.  Was Sean asked why?  I really can't get my head around why a a vinyl album wouldn't  be made from a higher sampled down rate.  Did Sean make that call.  It's like these guys are completely cut off from from high end audio, not to mention simple technical rationality.

How about musicality?  Do they not understand that vinyl is more capable.   Can anyone penetrate the thought process of those making that decision.  That specification imposes limitations that either they do not care to admit or are somehow unable to appreciate.  Where is the disconnect?  Sean had to know that what he was mastering was inferior to what could easily could have even laid down. I feel that Sean is the target that has been put out there, he is responsible, he should tell us why he feels justified in in his product.  Some one needs to  have a follow up conversation when the review is complete.  I expect one will be deserved.

    I would be very surprised if Micheal can find these to be spacious and three dimensional.  I'm  away and cannot listen on my system, I could run up to Listen Up in Albuquerque and check out an album or two there, but their turn table is strictly entry level.  Preamp - middling, amps better, speakers - nice.  But then I might have trouble returning the box.   I would certainly check Music Directs return policy specifically regarding this box before I open it.  Would someone with a decent system be willing to comment on the sound at this website.  Would that be deemed preemptive?  I hope not.  I need a solid sound impression in 30 days or less. 

These may sound OK, better than the CDs, but I'm confident ( without hearing ) that an opportunity has been needlessly wasted.  Unless this was done strategically, inorder to offer the mono set at higher resolution.  Speaking of the mono set, I am not clear from Micheals previous comment about stereo albums in the mono set.

Of course their are perfectly legitimate reasons to keep this set, but my high hopes have moved on down the road a little further.  I like long and winding roads, but mostly when I'm the one in the drivers seat.




MusicNut612's picture

I don't have a super setup like Mr. Fremer or I'm sure a lot of people on here, but I think they sound pretty damn nice. Although for my problems with Abbey Road pressing I'm pretty damn happy. I mean if you're expecting something like the recent The Doors set, look elsewhere. But taking into fact the non the less ideal practices that went into making these there great. I'm using a Modded Technics 1210M5G, Sumiko headshell with a Dynavector 10x5 attached going into a  modded Jolida JD9. Use a Marantz SR8000 (A/V not vintage model) going out to a pair of Klipsch RF-42 II. Like I said not the most impressive setup but I feel far from what the general listening public has and I'm more than happy with them.

Prancing Horse's picture

It was very easy to hear you were immensely disappointed to hear these were cut from the evil numbers 44.1. You soldiered on with the interview none the less.

It was also very easy to hear you were VERY surprised they used that utterly mediocre Benchmark DAC1 in the cutting room.

I agree with the other poster, this is a massive excercise in fuitlity. It is for guys who want to fondle Vinyl. Too bad. Hmm...released just in time for Xmas.

Lastly, the compression on the CDs was inconsequential. I have the uncompressed Band On the Run and McCartney i, and they have to be cranked up 2/3 on the preamp volume knob to sing at all. Compression IS rock n roll. It is a necessary tool.  But like all tools, it has been over used by morons like the idiots who did the last batch of Stones remasters.

Martin's picture

Why on earth do vinyl records at 44.1/24?

This is nuts. No, it's more than nuts, for a catalog like the Beatles, it's major league stupidity.

I can go onto HD tracks and download 96/24 or 192/24 files. That's if I want digital.

For a catalog like the Beatles, if I buy vinyl, I expect AAA analog.
Failing AAA analog, I have a reasonable expectation of the highest possible digital resolution and fidelity. Not low- resolution files pressed to vinyl.

Here, there was huge opportunity; 
Reissue the Beatles catalog in full glory. Using modern mastering techniques, to even get the reissues sounding better than the originals as we've seen with some recent Elvis, Sinatra and others.

Total Fuck up.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

Wait, they used a Benchmark DAC1? Really!?! Was their Alesis Masterlink being used in another room? Why not just use the headphone output of their laptop? 

The Benchmark DAC1 is sufficient at best.

Isn't Abbey Road advertised on Prism's website? Sould they not have loaned them a converter for these LPs? Seems like a pretty crappy endorsement deal to me.

usernaim250's picture

Listen to the interview.  They chose the Benchmark in preference to the Prism (and presumably several other big boys).  They did so with B&W 800D monitors.  He doesn't say this but most likely they did the testing blind.  They thought the Benchmark was superior. 

deckeda's picture

Thanks for interviewing and posting this, Michael, and thanks for Mr. Magee for his participation throughout. He sounds like quite a decent bloke.

I can't rectify Mr. Magee's assertion that his cutter head couldn't very well handle frequencies higher that about 16k with all the evidence in our collections that reveal many LPs were cut decades ago with frequencies much higher than 16k. Hell, for CD4 wasn't a 50kHz or so bias tone mandatory? Perhaps he forgot to connect the liquid cooling's plumbing line. (I jest, but you get my point.)

The other issue he raises about not needing to retain higher primary frequencies completely ignores the world of musical harmonics and more importantly how filters work in a DAC, among other things.

In other words it's commonly accepted today you don't use higher sampling rates to merely capture frequency response. You do so to help ensure what's there is captured faithfully.

But look on the bright side? With today's digital releases no one needs a better DAC than that that $1000 Benchmark.

Prancing Horse's picture

It seems to me this was project thought up by the marketing department and the bean counters.

This was mailed in. Talk about putting in as little effort as possible..a Benchmark???

They could have EASILY cut these starting with the 192 Khz flat archives then doing what ever they needed to do. There is no wear and tear on digital files.

Essentially these are mastered from a CD.

If they did this correctly, a la Chad Kassem etc, this box would have been around two grand. The only way to make this somewhat "affordable" was put the minimum amount of effort in.

Michael Fremer's picture

I admire your cynicism. I agree that Sean was making claims with which I cannot agree and I will follow up with questions for him. For the purpose of this interview I chose to let him state his case rather than turn it into a debate.

Prancing Horse's picture

You absolutely did the right thing. Sean did the interview out of good will and he was under no obligation to talk to you. I don't think anyone thought you should have debated him. You did really well.

I don't think he was making "claims" in regards to the Benchmark or 44.1 khz..those are facts. What is debatable I guess are some of theorhetical technial claims.

Again, well done. Sean should not be a target here. I am sure he did what was decided by those higher up.

dbowker3d's picture

OK granted I've invested more in my analogue front-end than my digital, so these LPs would be superior in that sense. And maybe the re-mastering was better than what was easily available. But still! This is the dumbest, most short-sighted way to release a flagship project I've ever heard. Dump a CD onto a record: brilliant idea guys.

And how did it get that far anyway? Wasn't there anyone to ask the obvious questions? And why was there no-one listening?

saronian's picture

Thanks to Michael for extracting the information and to Sean for being forthcoming. A dissapointment for fans everywhere and another lost opportunity.

Dpoggenburg's picture

I'm no expert and won't try to argue the digits (other than most agree the higher the sampling rate, the better), but there's a VERY important comment made during the interview when Michael suggests that the bit length at 24 bits makes a critical difference in the sonic outcome.

My experience with the Beatles USB stick, which is 44.1/24 was that it sounded demonstrably better than the CDs. My limited listening to some of the LPs last night (both sides of AHDN, Side 2 of Pepper and Side 2 of MMT, Side 1 of Let it Be), correlated here, principally with instrumental textures. The kick drum on Two of Us SOUNDS more like a kick drum here, the piano on When I'm Sixty Four just sounds more like a piano, etc etc.

I'll get around to comparing the new set with my original UK pressings (plus other countries' pressing) to sort out which sounds best to my ears, and while this was either a missed opportunity or a business decision to be able to re-sell the catalogue again at 96/24 or 192/24, my guess is this collection sounds a hell of a lot better than what most people have in hand (no noise issues on the four lps I've played - not DEAD quiet like from Pallas or Quality Records, but qualifying so far as well-pressed).

Michael Fremer's picture

I think you've written the most even-handed, well-informed post so far published here. I am certain that these reissues sound better than Capitol originals in most cases. I have only played some of this box so far and I agree about the pressing quality. It's pretty good but not as good as Pallas, RTI or QRP.

Goochified1's picture

Yes: Beatles For Sale and A Hard Day's Night (US pressings) sound GREAT, with next to no surface noise. Only audio ding: "When I Get Home" suffers a brief right channel volume dip about 1:00 before the end. I have no other vinyl pressing to compare this to, so not sure if this is the pressing or the actual tape. (I don't remember that from the 2009 CD.) Oh, and the gatefold of BFS does not open the way it originally did (where you had to take out the record from inside the gatefold).

No: With The Beatles (US pressing) has a real bad sucking/pumping thing happening throughout most of side 2. The volume goes away about every revolution from the second song all the way through to somewhere in the sixth song. Haven't listened to Magical Mystery Tour yet, but the good news is that it DOES come with the book (and it's printed on thick stock too), but it's not glued or stapled to the spine like the original 1967 issue. That being said, at least it'll never tear away!

Awaiting my box set to see if the US box set uses the same US pressings as the individual LPs, or whether all box sets across the globe use the same pressing from somewhere else. (I ordered mine from Elusive Disc and it comes tomorrow!)

Martin's picture

Going online with Michael Fremer, consenting to have your words posted on the web. Respect.
I don't think there would be many others prepared to do that with an issue like this.

I've been wondering what it was like for Mr. Magee, mastering and cutting at 44.1/24, knowing there is 192/24 he could - I assume - be cutting from.
I'm guessing with 192/24 the originals would almost certainly have been bettered. Given the compromises necessary in the '60s.

With a full AAA analog chain I'm guessing Mr. Magee would have hit the ball out of the park.
Like some of the recent MFSL Sinatra reissues have shown can be done. Or the recent Sony Bob Dylan '60's box. Or the Analog Productions Elvis reissues, the 45rpm ones. Or any number of other recent AAA reissues.
It's a real shame that what was likely the most anticipated vinyl release - and likely the best selling - of recent years is well, a bit of a disappointment.
Admittedly, I've only heard a few tracks of Abbey Road and Sgt. Peppers. When I went into my local record store and put 'em on. They sound good and they sound clean. But that's all they are.
I didn't buy.

I'll stick with my Parlaphone and Apple originals. The originals have soul.

Tullman's picture

I Appreciate Mr. Magee's willingness to share this information. However, I'm not buying what he is selling, that being the box set.

I know AAA would be better. This is a real disappointment.

wao62's picture

WHOOOAAAA!!!!  Check out Mr. Wonderful mva5580. I guess he's set us all straight!!!

I'm one of those defective human beings that have at least 5 vinyl versions of each Beatles record

.  I would like the Mono box when it comes out, but I've been disturbed by some of the posts on the quality of the pressings.

Viewed some of the records at Amoeba.  The resollution of the artwork looks good (would like to compare to originals).  I would be willing to pay more for some flipbacks and lamination though.

krell's picture

@mva5580: Last time I checked "Analog Planet" is a site for vinyl and analog die-hards. I mean, why would you even bother being a part of this little corner of the web if you didn't care about this kind of stuff? You're absolutely right; the mainstream music consumer won't give a shit about whether or not these pressings are any good. But they also won't visit this website.

Time_Stand_Still's picture

We analogue buffs do easily get our backs up when we encounter "Digital" anything. We pass judgment on vinyl even before we hear it in our environment on our gear. Of course if we had our way the Beatles Collection here would be high quality analogue mastered discs from the  true master tapes. If not then atleast 24/192. But who knows how good condition the original tapes available are in? Did Apple Records store them properly all these many years? Maybe they needed some digital work applied to save or fix  age/storage  related problems, WHO KNOWS?

Now as noted in the stories here by Michael, vinyl is only a small part of the Beatles Collection going back to 2009. CD's and  downloads  were the  mass market. The fact that they   gave vinyl fans new LP's  in a total  collection  is   a good thing. Most of us have not even heard these discs and yet many poo poo them because they were ["carefully" by  Seam Magee] mastered to vinyl using the 24/44.1 masters. Ok, ok not the best but we still get 24 bit words, NOT 16bit as in the CD. Yes, there will be no info above 22.05Khz but I wonder if the original analogue tapes have any info  of value above that  especially after all these years? We seem to be getting a   high quality mastering  using   still good digital files. Lets  all just wait and see how the reviews pan out.

As to  audio,  hey I was thinking  you know many of us  vinyl buffs get all worked up  over how masters were  made and used. Dire Straits, Brother's in Arms is an ALL DIGITAL ALBUM! The original vinyl record made is a great  playback disc and most vinyl buffs will agree  it's a great LP. I have the CD and the original LP of it. The LP even though it too came from a  16 bit (probably 44.1K)  digital master back in the day SOUNDS BETTER THAN THE CD! Why? Both came from the  same 16 bit master. Because  vinyl is handled differently in production and adds a  colour and  flavour to the music in its final   rendition that  CD's  often just lack. The 16 bit  master used for  Brother's In Arns   would be low rez by many of us vinyl  buffs but most of us have the LP and enjoy it.  It tells me that   a good record cutting engineer and proper pressings can   give us  great LP's  even better than  CD's made even with 16 bit  masters as  most LP's made  from oh 1984 and onward   came from.

 Donald Fagen's, Nightfly  is another all digital album but it's LP   also is noted to sound good. You see my point? Some pop/rock digital mastered LP's in the 80s  SUCKED  CRAP! But  better  ones   are all enjoyable. I'm going to  not pass judgement on this Beatles Collection.   I'm going to try a few single discs from it and see how each may stand or fall.

AndyPrice44's picture

I assume everyone here read all the marketing hype over these re-issues. Things were being said on many e-tailers sites like " THE BEATLES ON VINYL DONE RIGHT" and "SOURCED FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES". With those things being said, I had my hopes up for the best quality source material to be used to make these LPs. I feel like I have been deceived when they have basically used CD resolution files as the source. The marketing hype did convince me to blind buy a few titles early last week. I will have them today. I will almost certainly keep them as I have no beatles material in my collection. I just hope they impress me sonically. I really feel abbey road missed out on an opportunity here. Or, they have created one. It depends on how you see it. Maybe there will be another re-issue at a higher resolution down the road. I will not purchase any more of these titles other than the ones I have coming already. I did score a beatles red album and a blue album in NM condition, being sold together on e-bay for $19.99. That was a steal for both albums. I will report back later as I get a chance to listen to the new abbey road re-issues,


deckeda's picture

Where EMI misstepped is by attempting to appeal to audiophiles, who are often better educated than they are. Engineers and other recording professionals cringe when they read anonymous Internet stuff like that, but it's because they aren't audiophiles and don't understand why we care. 

Read some more interviews. The language is typically "Audiophiles want this, they want that" --- you don't read it from the first person narrivtive, "I wanted this, I wanted that."

I'm not aiming at Mr. Magee here, with my commentary, but EMI.

All one has to do is look at (still common) practices of small audiophile reissue labels who cut from original analog masters and press at the better plants. Even the artwork is carefully considered.

EMI's done really none of that and instead offers excuses. The irony is that they've spent a ton of time and effort on "the commitee" as MF says. Tapes are too precious to risk opening up again. Abbey Road opens the vault when it sees fit; nobody's asking for 6 kinds of reissues, just a good one.

Cutting from analog is bothersome. And what was the reason given for this at the announcement last month? Getting approvals from surviving members and from Yoko and Olivia for LPs cut from analog would be tough. Does anyone understand that?

Cutting from new transfers done on a currently state of the art ADC, not downsampled, is a waste. Please, call our bluff. Not taking the time to release more slowly so that QRP or at least RTI wasn't considered here. Here's some non-fill for you. 

I have NO reason to doubt these new LPs aren't good. But that doesn't mean they also aren't half-assed.

storym's picture

I have 2 176/24 Rolling Stones releases from HD Tracks(sorry analog fans!) and I think they sound awesome!  I bought The Beatles Box because I had gotten rid of my old US Capitol/Apple vinyl albums years ago and I wanted a complete new set. That being said, I am disappointed they didn't use the 192/24 files like everyone else. I've listened up until Sgt Pepper

So far and I think they sound pretty good especially since my system is way better than anything I had when I was a kid. But I know they would be even better from the 192/24 files. Michael even wrote how good the first Stones box was using the higher res files.

sheepshank's picture


True story, when we (me and a couple of my family members) were first getting back into vinyl several Beatles and Pink Floyd reissues were bought as gifts for one another. We listened and expected the same indefinable right sounding vibe that we had gotten from a 25p Armed Forces LP and a cheap Sony turntable bought at a car boot sale- it never did sound right.

Years later, I stumbled across this video

and out assumption that modern vinyl (or at the very least EMI owned releases) were not worth the bother - which is a shame as 3/4 of Radioheads stuff is reissued by them to name many others.

And so it continues to this day- luckily stuff owned by Sony in some capacity (the Dylan reissues, Hendrix reissues) have been sounding spot on. 

I guess the point to remember old LP's sound so good even today is a lucky mistake. If they had been able to pinch pennies in some way and not have an uncompressed mastering chain they would have.

boulderskies's picture

Mr. Fremer conducted an excellent interview, probing for the stuff we audiophiles like. However, I have to say most of you who posted sound very pompous and armchair-quarterback-ish. Did you actually listen to what Mr. Magee said? I heard some very sound technical reasons for the resolution and bit rate chosen. And those that actually purchased the albums seem quite impressed with the sound quality. So, bottom line - if you dont approve, you dont have to buy it, right?

tresaino's picture


Thanks to Michael and all others for these detailed threads, and thanks also to those who criticised the analogue purists including myself for making judgments about the sound of these new records without having actually heard them.


I reversed my earlier decision and bought the box, to find out whether I could hear a difference with my own ears.  This has been one of the better musical decisions this year: the packaging of the box I found here in Europe was spectacular, with a second larger sized box and additional anti-shock protective material, stuff that you normally only see when buying high-end equipment, amazing!


The book is absolutely gorgeous. And comparing the first Please Please Me record with my 1970s pressing (I also had the MoFi box years ago, but then sold it again, it was one of the biggest 'audiophile' flops in history) was a revelation, this is by far the most enjoyable Beatles release I've encountered. 


Now to darker matters: mva5580, many of your points are definitely worth making, but your tone was wrong, there is no need to insult people.  Yes the new 24 bit vinyl edition sounds overall spectacularly good, but why would it have been wrong to release a full AAA version, and without the bad 16 bit versions of Help and Rubber Soul? And what is wrong with spending - or wasting as you may call it - time with comparing 15 versions of Beatles records? I personally do not do that, but have no issue whatsoever if someone else enjoys this.  I am proud of my family, my wife and our three children and spend a lot of time with them. But I also love spending hours of my free time tweaking my system, mounting a new cartridge on one of my turntables, changing something else in the audio chain, or - most of the time - simply enjoying music.  Do you think it would be better to join the vast majority of people out there and spend our free time with saturday shopping or in front of TV screens? What is your understanding of the meaning of life mva5580?

sandyp22's picture

I found a workaround. It is to add an additional css selector (div#studio_designer ) to the main document styles in theme designer and to then make the background rules !important. this combination will override the settings within the studio and the studio view will more closely match a running project. custom web design CT

reeti's picture  For all those people who love to travel and explore the world, planning out the journey is important. Especially when it comes to travelling alone and that for the purpose of fun and not for some business affair, then definitely the budget required is more than usual.

Mike Denning's picture

I have stayed away from the 2012 stereo pressings for close to ten years now, due to everyone's critiques of the sound quality. I work at a record pressing plant and have pressed a few albums that sound like the lacquers were cut from CD...harsh, ear piercing garbage. I broke down the other day and bought Revolver and was very pleasantly surprised at how fresh the sound was and in no way did it sound digitized. I know the lacquers for the 2012 box (and I presume the individual albums if you didn't want the whole box) were cut by Sean and pressed at Rainbo (r.i.p.). The copy of Revolver I got the other day was pressed at GZ Vinyl. I know they're a one stop shop for cutting, plating and pressing, so I'm wondering if the problems inherent in the 2012 pressings have been quietly fixed?