Anonymous Mastering Engineer's Take on The Beatles in MONO Box Set

Wow, just read the Beatles in Mono "book shocker" thread... It's not surprising that they originally were going to cut from CDs, being that they're only the moldy mono mixes anyway right?... :)

Kudos to your critical reviews for (helping steer) EMI in the right direction.... It's a miracle that they listened and made the right decision...

Do they have new personnel?....

I gotta to say I was very surprised when you gave us the news that these were going to be done properly (cut directly from the analog mono mixes!) trying to match as best they can the original Parlophone LPs..

Incredible!!.... Glad that they hired Steve Berkowitz.... He did a wonderful job on the Dylan Mono box...

I have all the original mono Parlophones except the "White Album" and Beatles for Sale... My mono box of LPs should be on my doorstep today!... It'll be fun to do some A/B comparisons...

Wish more record labels would insist on cutting from analog and pay attention to detail like Steve Berkowitz.. He's great..

If they're worried about wear and tear, they can send quality 2nd gen tape dubs like the Beatles in Mono Singles comp... Problem solved...

Digital......

Looking at an A/D converter schematic really says it all... Now that's signal degradation, like putting a screen door in front of an oil painting...

I love doing LP verses CD demonstrations at home with friends and family...

I'll often go to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks A/B for a real dramatic affect... Cat Steven's Tea For the Tillerman Island pressing verses Mo-fi's gold CD, another jaw dropper for guests...

Cheers, and keep up the great work!!


(Name withheld to protect the innocent)

COMMENTS
rischa's picture

Very cool. I hope your mystery engineer writes back with his or her (are there any female mastering engineers?) thoughts on the reissues vs. originals.

thomoz's picture

To answer Rischa's question: Emily Lazar at The Lodge masters everything for Sub-Pop. If you have to listen to modern rock, this is the consistently best mastered label out there and Emily must deserve some if not all of the credit.

It's funny that pop/rock/alternative on giant labels like Universal, EMI and others has sounded so bad in the last 10 years but indie labels Sub Pop and Side 1 Dummy release great sounding music on a regular basis.

Gstanley75's picture

Congrats to EMI for having the guts to do a full analog mono release of The Beatles Mono Boxed Set. And thanks to Mikey and other who used the power of the press to hound them into doing the right thing.

The sound is a 6 out of 5, except the Mono Masters, which is a 5 out of 5. Simply amazing. My neighbor, and old DJ had the same reaction as me, WOW, we were both transported back to our childhoods and felt like the band was in the living room. Simply amazing. This set goes on my list of about 20 albums out of over 5,000 that I have collected that give you that "you are there feeling."

Now having said that, there are a few criticisms related to packaging. The cover layer on the box has begun to peal off after 72 hours and I don't live in a highly humid place. Please Please Me has a center whole that was too tight to place over spindle. Two other discs had center holes that were lose to the tune of about 0.5mm. Others were fine. With The Beatles has a large dimple in the run in area of the record. Fortunately it doesn't encroach on the sound. But now I felt compelled to check all. No other dimples, but two other records has slight warps as if they had been removed from the stamper still too warm. Finally, every disc has small paper dust particles. Please Please Me look like it had been in a paper dust shower, maybe 200 pieces of paper dust. All the others had between 10 and 50 pieces (my estimates) of dust. I cleaned all my new albums because of dirt and mold release, etc. but this was really shoddy for a limited edition boxed set at the price point. My solution was to clean every record before playing and replace the dirty inner sleeves. During the process, I found one record with a greasy finger print, two with thin hair like threads like artifacts from trimming and one record with scuff marks from being pushed into the sleeve or cover.

Regarding the book, the image quality, cover, page weight, printing, etc. are exceptional. All the kind of quality I used to see in limited editions from the NY Graphics Society back in the 1970s. However, this was marred by paper dust impregnated on the top edge of pages 8-9, very visible on the black background, and missed trimming or cropping of pages 9-10, showing gray scale calibration bars on the outside margins of both pages. Again, poor quality control for a limited edition boxed set.

Will I return it, HELL NO. I am listening to the most live sounding recordings of The Beatles I have ever had the privilege of having cross my speakers. For less than the price of one mint mono Parlophone of the 1960s era, you can have it all and other than the poor manufacturing quality on the packaging, the sound is amazing, and the quiet vinyl pressings let the music play for our enjoyment in all its glory.

I don't have old mint Parlophones to compare. If I did, I would probably sell them and pay off my house. I enjoy reading all the reviews from the serious collectors, but even more, I enjoy listening to this rare treat from a music publisher who has heard the call of the listeners.

Michael Fremer's picture
I think given what's involved and considering the very reasonable cost (shipping alone is costly given the weight) it's a high quality box set with minor issues that mostly disappear with a good cleaning, which is something that should be done with new records anyway IMO. The set may be limited but I'm sure the number is still quite large. According to my sources getting the book to be good quality is what led to the box's release date delay.
julio's picture

I don't want to hear anything about price point or it's a good bargain. Get it right and we will pay for it. $50 a pop if need be. These sound great but I just got my replacement for my warped Pepper and it is warped as well. The stereo box was for the casual fans and the teenie boppers but damn it this was for the serious fans. I will be trying for a third time to get a copy of Pepper that is not warped. Don't even get me started on my white Album.

amarok89's picture

the Odeon Red owners listening to Sgt. Pepper as we speak.

julio's picture

These sound so much better than those odeon pressings and the packaging on those is horrible. Once I get my unwarped copy of pepper, I will have a perfect box.

amarok89's picture

about the White Album?

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes, these are far superior to the red Odeon's in every way..
amarok89's picture

My comment was based on something else. However Michael, do you know the true facts about the SP mono "one box" pressing? Mine has -1 matrix numbers but I seem to find conflicting info.

julio's picture

1st copy from Acoustic Sounds was Warped
2nd copy from local store was warped
3rd copy from Soundstage Direct was warped
Anybody out there got a flat copy except Mikey

norske's picture

My box doesn't have any records with significant issues. A few records aren't perfectly flat, but no significant warping. My Sgt. Pepper is flawless.

Biff's picture

For the money, it's a bargain. Really.

bcash96's picture

I think they hit it out of the park too. My box came Wednesday from SOUNDSTAGE DIRECT and all except Beatles For Sale were free of marks, pancake flat and sound great. BFS had an ugly long mark on side 2 like another lp's edge was scraped across it. Kim at Soundstage is sending me a replacement and asked only that I return the defective one upon delivery of the new one. How's that for great customer service? Funny thing is it plays through fine with the exception of 2 light ticks. Gotta have 'em all mint for my $337. though.

McFaden's picture

My box was flawless as well but for Sgt Pepper. My pressing looked like it was skipped across the floor frisbee style, side two was really scuffed up. Acoustic Sounds is happily swapping it out for me, not a problem. So while i have to wait a bit to get my Pepper on, I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime. I guess sometimes things get past Quality Control so I am not too bummed, especially once you factor in the nice folks in Kansas. Minty boxes for all!

thirtycenturyman's picture

Interesting, because my side 2 looks the same. I ordered from A.S. as well. We must have copies from the same batch. I honestly have no idea how it would get such marks unless a pile of records was tipped over onto the floor or something. It's definitely not from shipping or the sleeve. I could play the other side and it sounds pretty damn amazing so I am really looking forward to getting it switched out.

In all, I'm pretty happy. I expected a few duds. Glad to hear A.S. is doing right. I was waiting until I listened through all of them.

Superfuzz's picture

As for the "book shocker", I think this phenomenon is unfortunately common... especially with big labels & artists. A couple of years ago I heard Scott Hull of MASTERDISK at the AES show in NY, tell a story of a Sting LP he mastered... I'm pretty sure it was the live "Symphonicities". He got a call from the producer (Rob Mathes) who asked him if he would listen to a test pressing of the LP. Scott said "sure, who mastered it?" Rob was like, I thought you did? Scott told him that he only mastered the CD... what happened was, someone at the label had the LP cut from the CD master... and crammed the whole thing on one LP (it was about an hour long). Scott listened and of course it sounded like shit, so he advised that he recut it, using the 24-bit "pre-mastered" files he had, and spread it out over 4 sides.
The crappy sounding single LP cut almost went into production...

Hats Domino's picture

Thanks to Mr. Hoffman for your comments. Would any working, professional mastering engineer misunderstand digital audio enough to use that screen door analogy? Hoffman has used it before, and it was as wrong as it is this time.

amarok89's picture

Does Hoffman really write like that?

walrusman7's picture

Depending on the cd player...
For some cd players it may be like a nylon stalking stretched over an oil painting..

walrusman7's picture

spelling error

amarok89's picture

I thought audio engineers were only taken seriously when they were identified.

Anyway, I am hoping Michael that you still post a summary article of the entire box set and not follow Kaiser Soze's suggestion to stop with the Beatles articles just yet. I wish this site had a forum where we could post subjects that we could reply to over longer periods of time without the thread disappearing into the mist. I know we can still post to older the articles but once they disappear the conversation drops off.

I am one who am not that excited as most about the new box set because I have a lot of the important original UK mono releases already, but this past week or so has made me excited to start a long project of getting to really know the mono mixes vs. the stereo, which I admit I have not put the proper time in yet. I don't have your auditory memory capabilities.

I bought only three of the individual albums to help complete my collection of all Beatles stereo and mono mixes, all except Past Masters. I am waiting a bit to see if the price drops.

I am hoping there will be a single thread about the box set where everyone can start to post about their opinions once they have really heard the set. In the meantime with fall and winter coming to Massachusetts I am planning to really get to know all of the mono albums front to back as a winter project and really start getting properly into the differences. I am not into the hype as if this is a second Beatlemania (what kind of a bubble are we living in) but I look forward to getting more out of the nuance.

Tom Schmitz

detroitvinylrob's picture

The digital/analogue screen door analogy is the single best explanation in few words that i think I have ever heard.

+1 on SUB POP's Emily Lazar, simply phenomenal, or would that be fenomenal?!!! Every time I buy a SUB POP, a great quality Lp regardless.

Happy Listening!

bill lettang's picture

I watched a video of the celebration @ Electric Ladyland studios with a distinguished panel including our host. I had a chuckle though..Here's Michal standing off to the side ready to cue up Yesterday..he gently places the needle down and a few seconds into it, 2 loud pops shoot out over this incredible sound system, the second being so loud Michaels' jaw literally drops...and that's it, over, Priceless!! And by the way, I don't believe the unknown engineer is Steve Hoffman because Steve's not anti digital, just anti garbage.

Michael Fremer's picture
It's funny about the "Yesterday" pop. This was my box that I was asked to use for the event. When I first played "Yesterday" it skipped there because of stuck piece of something or other. I cleaned the record in the Audio Deske and the thingie disappeared. I didn't hear the noise when i played it again but for some reason the Cadenza mono picked up on something still in the groove. I just wasn't prepared for it. No the mastering guy wasn't Steve Hoffman.
Rayman's picture

It has pure silver coils. Did you notice any brightness vs the 2M SE mono which has silver coated
copper coils?

vinylrules's picture
JohnnyCanuck's picture

Do you have a link for the video?

vinylrules's picture
bill lettang's picture

Hi Michael: The Yesterday video can be found on You-tube as The Beatles in Mono listening event @ Electric Lady studios...You'll see at the right several numbered clips..It's on clip 4. Have Fun!!!

vinylrules's picture
Mazzy's picture

Mine sgt pepper fro AS Is Perfectly flat.

walrusman7's picture

Oh man,

This was a revelation, after being used to the mono 2009 CD..
Sgt. Peppers has more bass than the original pressing doesn't it?

azmoon's picture

He probably is too jealous to write it, since he was not picked to do the job.

Rayman's picture

LA Times says 1 million vinyl albums are being pressed in total. My calculator says thats equal to 71.400 box sets.

AZ's picture

There are individual titles as well.

Rayman's picture

They were all box sets

Martin's picture

A few defects are to be expected, it's vinyl after all and a very manual process.
In general from what I can see, all the suppliers have been very good about replacing defective copies.

All of mine are flat and clean, with the exception of Please Please Me, which is slightly delled, but nothing severe.

For the price, given what you are getting, the quality of what you are getting, this box set is a bargain.
The sound of these records - in my opinion - is as good or better than on the originals. And I have clean originals. (Trivia, my copy of Rubber Soul is the same pressing as Michaels; -4 / -4 matrix copy).

Well done and congratulations to everyone involved.

A note to others thinking about doing something similar (ie., the Rolling Stones), I would have bought this box if the price were 300$, 500$ or 1,000$. I.e, not price sensitive. If the quality is there, no problem. I have a number of friends who think and act the same way.
I did not buy the Beatles stereo box set. I considered it an inferior product.
If the Beatles stereo set were done in the same way as the mono, I would buy immediately. No question.

samman's picture

My White albums were perfect. Clean, flat and quiet as a church mouse even without a cleaning. The same for Rubber Soul and Help. I can't speak to the others as I don't have them as of yet.

MikeT's picture

Just adding a comment that I purchased my box at a local indie store (who matched the typical on-line price of $336.99), and my box is PERFECT in every way. All flat LPS, quiet pressings, excellent sound.

BattleScarze's picture

I would much prefer a high res digital copy for convenience of the SAME masters. What do you think the chances are?

I enjoy vinyl but digital done right can be awesome too.

Given the high praise from everyone so far I may purchase the box set. I returned the stereo release from 2009 to Costco once I heard them and found out they were sourced from digital. Tired of spending hard earned money on crap.

cundare's picture

Yikes, it's just inside out. The tighter you make the screen, the more you obscure your view. But the finer the sampling (i.e., the higher the sampling rate) the less you obscure the waveform.

A screen analogy might make sense if you equate the thickness of the screen's strands of wire with the sample rate. Higher sample rate-->thinner wires. And even that doesn't make much sense if you think about it for a minute.

And the precept pitself is silly, anyway. It's not the sampling rate, per se, that directly compromises 44.1-KHz digital sources. Just ask Nyquist. As Michael or Art has noted, most of the problem occurs when a less-than-ideal playback mechanism translates a stream of numbers into an analog signal.

Rayman's picture

You are breaking it up and putting it back together. And its never the same. Even with a $40,000 DAC and the best digital mastering.

This is not a rejection of the digital "revolution" or age.

Its a simple admission that for high quality sound the digital revolution is decidedly a devolution.

The digital revolution has left sound behind.

Lets bring it back.

David Andrews's picture

Just to seize on one thing the anonymous engineer points out: It's something of a crime that Van Morrison's Astral Weeks has been circulating on CD in the same nasty 1990s digital mastering for the last 25 years. This CD is truly a piece of trash. I own two Warner green label LP copies, and I can tell you that a lossless needle drop of the album that I downloaded as .flac files from the internet is superior to the CD. I have only heard on CD Van's other records released in the CD age, but I doubt that Moondance and other records from the pre-CD age are getting their deserts on CD. It was a serious marketing misstep to release a recording of Van playing Astral Weeks live on CD without releasing a remaster of the studio album, but that's how record companies think.

Michael Fremer's picture
WB did a vinyl reissue from tape that sounds outstanding. Compared to two W-7 Arts originals and it's a toss-up.
ctbarker32's picture

Michael, could you check with your sources about this story? It would be good to put these "myths" to bed while it is still on people's minds?

From Dr. Aix web site

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=3670

Finally, there are occasions when you learn something from a veteran that you didn’t know. I bumped into Allen Sides outside of the paper sessions area of the show and got chatting briefly. He told me that the Studer machines that The Beatles used form many of their early records had the low end restricted by an Abbey Road tech. I hadn’t heard that before. He told me that he had heard that the machines wouldn’t handle anything lower than 40-60 Hz and that’s why the low end is so thin on those albums. Interesting.

Michael Fremer's picture
While I have the greatest respect for Allen Sides, that story doesn't ring true. The bass is on the tapes. I heard them. Bass was cut for "kiddie" phonographs to handle.
Kats's picture

Just doing a quick a/b of "No Reply" to an original parlophone I own, I noticed the original had more presence or is louder. Anyone else notice this?

Kats's picture

Oh and PS, the bass issue was during mastering. There was only so much EMI allowed. Macca used to complain alot citing American releases having more bass. Now either Bob Olhsson went to EMI or EMI came to the US OR I'm totally forgetting and that it was simply Bob telling the story BUT - it was really down to the quality of musicianship whereby the Motown players (for eg) were simply much better. My assumption would be that he was referring to dynamic control allowing the increase in perceived bass volume.

Kats's picture

Sorry for the rambling, but going further through the collection I believe the pressing is slightly less loud and perhaps a little fuller in the bottom than the originals I have. I noticed the same thing on Rubber Soul as well.

A real classy job if you ask me!

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