Beatles In MONO Event at Electric Lady Studios Monday, Sept. 8th

Last night's Beatles in MONO listening session at Electric Lady Studios played to an overflow crowd of fans, young and old, male and female. The event and the one Wednesday night September 10th at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, both sponsored by UMe feature Beatles engineer Ken Scott (center in photo), reissue mastering supervisor Steve Berkowitz (left) in a panel discussion moderated by Sound & Vision music editor Mike Mettler (right).

Mr. Scott had invited me a few weeks ago but otherwise I had no knowledge of the event until I was contacted last Thursday by someone at UMe asking if I could help with a sound system.

On very short notice I made some calls and within an hour had it all arranged on both coasts thanks to the willingness to get involved of: New York Audio retailer Innovative Audio, Los Angeles retailer The Audio Salon and Wilson Audio Specialties.

I volunteered to install an Ortofon Cadenza mono and Ortofon USA overnighted to Los Angeles a higher priced mono cartridge. UMe asked if I could bring my box to the event (which I thought, for a record company was a rather comical request but under the circumstances I understood) so I shlepped it in last night. I was also asked if I might be capable of doing the "needle drops" to which I replied, "it's my job".

When I arrived in the afternoon the Innovative team had the system up and running while they did the final speaker voicing before spiking them. The system consisted of a Spiral Groove SG2 turntable, a Lamm LP2 phono preamp, D'Agostino Audio Momentum preamp and amplifiers, Wilson Alexia speakers and all Transparent Audio cables (custom calibrated Transparent REFERENCE XL analog interconnects as well as Transparent PowerIsolator REFERENCE power conditioners for source and preamp components, and a PowersIsolator MM for the power amps. The power cables throughout were a combination of REFERENCE PowerLink and PowerLink MM). This was a six figure system, the kind I was sure most attendees had never before heard. The entire set-up including the three chairs, the microphones and the system looked great in the room. The seats had yet to arrive.

Once Innovative's Scott Haggart had finished his set-up I installed the Cadenza after which I went into the green room to discuss things with Michael, Ken and Steve. They were happy to have me play DJ especially given he time crunch and that at the June press event Steve had to attend to the record playing and talk about the production, which was both awkward and a time-waster.

What songs to play? After some discussion the set list was finalized:

"I Saw Her Standing There"
"I Should Have Known Better"
"I Feel Fine"
"A Day in the Life"
"Within You Without You"
"I Am the Walrus"
"Glass Onion"
"Revolution" (crunchy single version)
And "All You Need Is Love" to be played while the crowd exits

The crowd filed in (the photo shows only part of the audience) and after a short video featuring mastering engineer Sean Magee, we filed in, the three sat down and I took my place by the turntable. After everyone was introduced I let everyone know to what they were listening and explained that other than the cartridge it was all American-made. Then, after some back and forth by the panelists I played the first tune. It and every one of them was met with applause at the end of the intensity you usually hear at a live performance. It was amazing!

The stories that were sandwiched in between were great and the crowd loved all of it (I hope to get the audio recording and post as soon as possible). Following the final song came a Q&A and comments that were all extremely positive and enthusiastic, the gist of many being "I've never heard these songs sound like that. I heard things I never heard before and I never heard them sound so great".

After a question from the audience a last second decision was made to substitute for "All You Need is Love" Lennon's wailing "When I Get Home" from side 2 of A Hard Day's Night

While it was a great system, it wasn't meant to be played in a large, absorbent room filled with absorbent people, so it got pushed hard and I've heard the components involved sound better but it still sounded great and the receptionist at the desk by the door later told me that the people leaving had the excitement and energy level you usually see and feel after a live concert. I wasn't surprised.

Thanks again to Innovative's Elliot Fishkin and (in advance) The Audio Salon's Maier Shadi, who I'm sure will be setting up an equally great system at the Grammy Museum. Spiral Groove designer Allen Perkins is driving down for the turntable set-up.

I will get to experience it live because last night's event went so well that I was invited to play DJ at the the Grammy Museum event in Los Angeles. So if you're going, I will see you there!

Paul Boudreau's picture

You are clearly that and I'm in awe. Wish I could have been there!

Kaiser Soze's picture

Uncle. Enough Already. Please Stop. For the love of God, no more Beatles reviews... Please.

Half the group has been dead longer than their careers have. Could you please move on to something other than the Drab Four?

Michael Fremer's picture
Funny how u waited until I had completed the run to post your bitch. Maybe one more about tomorrow night then DONE ! End of story...
SimonH's picture

I haven't had time to read all the reviews but I think you have done an absolutely brilliant job reviewing this box-set. Enlightening, interesting and informative. Take a bow Micky.

jahnghalt's picture

"Crab One" - I like it!

Pay no attention to humorless scolds - they know what to do.

I feel certain that you enjoyed every moment in the Catbird Seat - isn't it great to share this wonderful hobby?

Is that a Hammond B-3 (keyboard and instrument amp/speaker) in the edges of the photos? I saw/hear Joey DeFrancesco play an instrument that looked like that (helluva a player).

I'm tempted to ask. How many pickups do you estimate you have set up? And what alignment tool did you use that night?

Bring your box set!?! That's really a good one - considering what they do for a living! Drop the needle? OK that IS your job - considering they were YOUR LP's.

The photo of the crowd showed some real pleasure - along with some male grimness (so good to have the girls show up) - no surprise that folks walked out with high energy.

Your mild misgivings that the "components have sounded better" reminds me of my nervous audiophile days. I may have known that better was possible but no one else ever did - everyone was always pleased as could be.

I look forward to your West Coast report.


Jahn Ghalt

Michael Fremer's picture
That's the same kind of Leslie speaker/amp often used with B3 and through which The Beatles put their voices to get the phasey effect produced by the spinning pair of horn speakers spinning inside.
charliex's picture

Nice Wilson Audio speakers but why 2? Wouldn't it be proper for mono playback with one single speaker? Actually, I'm being facetious. Still, Universal should had brought their own product to the event.

Kaiser Soze's picture


Jmccabe's picture

I felt compelled to open an account to express my thanks for your support of the new Beatles release. It is always bittersweet to me when we create events around classic rereleases. For all of the money spent on laser shows and concert tickets, I wish we could figure out a way to treasure these classics using world-class sound systems. Everyone's emotional response to your presentation speaks for itself.

MicallefK's picture

loved every review, every scintilla of info. i bought all the monos and they are fabulous. not as great as my originals but damn close. more!
is the Ortofon mono cart worth it? theres no "blisters on my fingers!" theres guitar odds n ends everywhere! more Michael!

Yourgoldteeth's picture

Where did you buy the mono box from?

MicallefK's picture

Not sure if you meant this for me specifically, but I live in NYC and Other Music and In Living Stereo have the single LP copies. Other Music has a mono box right on the counter as of 9 last night.

Michael Fremer's picture
While I bought my stereo box set, UMe gave me (and others as well) the box.
MicallefK's picture

i was scheduled to attend the Electric Lady partee but deadlines prevented me ;(

vinylrules's picture

It was a true honor and a genuine pleasure to have been a part of this most magical evening. It was and incredible experience all around, nah, this was closer to a "religious experience" and well worth my having flown in from Florida to be there!

The featured speakers Ken Scott (engineer) and Steve Berkowitz (box set producer) were amazing story tellers and so impassioned. To top it off the sound system absolutely rocked (considering the limitations mentioned), the mono pressings sounded superb - and last but not least, your DJ'ing skills were impeccable sir! Haha!

All in all it just doesn't get better than this! Thanks again Mikey! Job well done by all!


P.S. I shot some video clips in case you're interested I could make them available. Just let me know.

Lofty's picture

The audiences enthusiasm isn't surprising. When the general public hears a terrific high-end sound system they are always impressed. What high-end manufacturers should do is set up a free (no sales) listening room in a very public place to audition their wares with no sales pressure. Remember AR's listening room in Grand Central Station in the 1960's?

Yourgoldteeth's picture

I guess it's now time to sell my Mono CD Box set! Who wants it? Best offer. Amazing how everyone was so enthralled with the Mono CD's and now, we have a better sound and representation in AAA. Thank goodness they did not use the Digital Masters for the Mono LP's. They should do an all AAA of the Stereo as well, maybe then AR will sound like it should. All of this will probably blow away my Parlophone's and Apple's i bought in early and mid 1970's.

thomoz's picture

You'll stop talking about the Beatles, high quality reissues and 60's music in her metal WHEN IT STARTS TO SUCK, which is NEVER. Keep up the good work MF!

MMaterial's picture

That question, and mono versus stereo cutter head questions, are addressed at the Ortofon website.

PS: For critical listening, I find it best to close one eye, plug one ear and face Abbey Road Studios.

oranfoster's picture

I've so enjoyed all the Beatles articles! Forty-eight years old, and I've always liked the Beatles. When I heard about the box set in mono I knew I had to have it. Now I would have the opportunity to really LEARN the Beatles.

Home from work today, big box on the porch! WOW! The sound is incredible....I'm giddy...I'm a kid on Christmas!!!! The past few months have seen some upgrades to my kit...A highly modified Rega, Clearaudio Maestro V2, Luxman L-550ax (as phono-stage and pre-amp), Parasound Halo A21, and a nicely broken in pair of the new ATC SCM19's. Now I think, as side two of Please Please Me is drawing to a close, that I've got the real deal. I can't imagine listening to a CD anymore. Vinyl rules!
Thanks Michael for all of your work!

jack65's picture

Did you use a "mono" y-cable connection?

Superfuzz's picture

Not necessary when using a mono cartridge. (Not necessary when using a stereo cartridge either, but with a mono cart it is definitely moot).

jack65's picture

Yes, would really like to know what the official stand on this issue is. They must have thought about this, and made them to sound the best either with the use or without a y-cable? (when using a stereo cartridge that is). Maybe Michael knows or can get a answer for this?

vinyl listener's picture

between turntable and phono stage or between phono stage and amplifier ?

Michael Fremer's picture
best between phono preamp and preamp. higher voltage...
audiophile_101's picture

Here's where to purchase that Y-Cable Suited for the New Mono Box Set,

Hope this helps!
Vince F.

audiophile_101's picture

Here's where to purchase that Y-Cable Suited for the New Mono Box Set,

Hope this helps!
Vince F.

2_channel_ears's picture

So, how did it in LA?

Kurt's picture

One of the pleasures of these mono LPs is rediscovering some of the tunes. I always thought "When I Get Home" was dull, but on the new mono LP, it's dynamic and exciting. Now I love it.