A Jury of My Peers Weighs in on The Beatles The Singles Collection

Ever since the publication of The Beatles, The Singles Collection box set review, it's been gnawing at me. I went into this hoping and expecting the new set to better or at least equal the older set but that clearly was not the case. However, it's also true that had I not had the World box with which to compare the new box, I'd probably not have been so negative. Nonetheless, the second and more complete listen confirmed the initial conclusion that the new box sonically disappoints.

I used the opportunity of an in-store appearance at Audio Advisors in West Palm Beach, Florida last Friday evening November 22nd to bring with me (along with a heavy case of LPs) singles from both the World and the new box sets to play for "a jury of my peers". The system consisted of an SAT LM-09 arm, Lyra Atlas SL, on a VPI Avenger turntable, Audio Research REF 3 Phono preamp, and REF 6 preamp into an Audio Research stereo tube amp driving a pair of Wilson Sasha DAW speakers. Quite a good sounding system!

I played for a few groups of listeners (store customers) both versions of "Something", "Penny Lane", "Hey Jude" and a few others. I did not suggest to them which was better nor had most read the original review. To the person, all preferred the World Records versions. Why? "Greater clarity and focus". "Better three dimensionality", "better instrumental and vocal textures", etc. and a general "doesn't sound 'right'". At the same time, all said had they not heard a comparison, they would not have said the new box set versions sounded "bad", though a few thought the EQ on the new "Something" was "off" and bass-heavy.

This is the last I'll write about this, so let me conclude by writing that the new box's sound consistently disappointed compared to the earlier set, but that heard on its own (difficult to do once you've heard both), it's pretty good and certainly well-pressed and superbly packaged.

I bought a set at retail for contributing editor Malachi Lui's birthday-combined Christmas present (December 25th is his birthday) and he may weigh in as well from a position of not having heard any original or the World Records box set versions. That's all I'm going to write other than to offer a public apology to Sean Magee, who I didn't intend to "throw under the bus" with all of this.

Tullman's picture

Abbey Road's mastering has been pretty lousy for over a decade. Their mastering philosophy is flawed. They are digital happy. They like short cuts in the process. They are a lazy lot.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Based on available evidence, I would have to agree with you. As rule I have avoided them for several years, unless told otherwise. Speaking of vinyl, the best thing to come out of Abbey Road in the last 10 years, that I’ve heard are the first three Paul McCartney albums that came out around 2012. McCartney sounds the best. The half speed digital stuff is just a waste of time. Worse, is that people are buying it.
My memory may be incorrect but I’m thinking Paul Simon’s Graceland was remastered there ? A little later, like 14.
I wish we could get an honest opinion of what they think of their own work. It may be that analog sources have dried up to such an extent and these guys have simply become so habituated to to dry digit sound that they have literally forgotten what’s possible.

Michael Fremer's picture
The all-analog mono box set was damn good by any definition...as was the Red and Blue Beatles comps cut from tape...among others
Bigrasshopper's picture

Yes, but as more time passes those seem to be revealed as exceptions. Abbey Road just doesn’t seem to have the will to be the world the class mastering facility that it could be, that is, on par with there other services. I’m not up on recording studios but it feels like they’re e riding on reputation and the Beatles catalog that is not being fully served. We should at least be getting more analog releases. Not getting the Abbey Road album in all analog was a huge disappointment around here. I thought of the digital version as more of an interesting but passing distraction. I think there priorities are backward.

tnargs's picture

What are you talking about? Is *is* in all-analog.

So much for the rest of your bashing attack on the studio.

Tombby's picture

I was overjoyed the 1st time I heard the Sound of the singles in the World Box. I was tempted by the artwork to buy this new box & maybe I will once the price drops. But when I want to really hear the songs, I grab the World box.

mmaterial1's picture

If they were trying to replicate the sound of a Beatle 45 rpm first pressing, as seems to be reported, then that may be the problem.
They may have been made to sound "good" on the radio.
My early Beatle first press Parlophone 45's don't sound particularly good, but my early Parlophone first press 45 rpm EP's sound wonderful.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Don't apologize for calling it like it is. We expect no less from you and you never seem to do it just to be mean spirited.

This should be a warning to all who want to "remaster" something, important as the Beatles or not: "Do not mess something up to make a buck"! If someone remasters something they should be responsible for getting all the copies of what has been sold at retail and insure they are doing it better or don't do it and be embarrassed like here.

If one can't find the World Box, and you want this one, then go ahead if you must. Now you know what it is quality wise.

Chemguy's picture

...because, by now Michael, you should be able to immediately hear if something sounds good or not. You don't need to convince yourself, nor us...Just call em as you hear em!

Martin's picture

Well done.
You put it to a jury of your peers. Remember "Juke Box Jury". We had that show in Australia while I was growing up, loved it.
Remember hearing Keith Richards "You don't move me" played for the first time on that show. Loved the song but I had no idea what it meant or half of what the three hosts were hooting and laughing and talking about. That came with time.

But, running a juke box jury like this was absolutely the right thing to do. Get the same sound in front of a bunch of people used to hearing good sound and letting them decide on the basis of what they heard.

HiFiMark's picture

OK people - let's move on from the Beatles' analog debate and get Michael Weiss' analog effort over the finish line. For about a tenth of the cost of this Beatle box, you get Michael's beautiful and beautiful sounding record. Only $2300 more needed at this point!

Michael Fremer's picture
AnalogPlanet covered this kickstarter project but it ran short and re-posting it slipped my mind so yes...
Michael Fremer's picture
Thanks to a generous $2300 contribution by the owner of Audio Advisors in West Palm Beach Florida. I found out, he didn't want me to spill the beans, but I don't care. That was incredibly generous of him and now Michael can produced the record!
HiFiMark's picture

Well done AA in West Palm Beach! AP readers - get in on the party. The better supported this is, the more artists there are likely to jump in on this model of releasing music.

StraitsResearch's picture

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.