Rubber Souled Out?

As expected, Rubber Soul, sourced from George Martin's 1987 16 bit, 44.1k remix sounds like a CD. Why should it sound like anything else? That's from what it was essentially mastered.

The sound is flattened against the speakers, hard, two-dimensional and generally hash on top, yet it does have a few good qualities as CDs often do: there's good clarity and detail on some instruments. The strings are dreadful and the voices not far behind. The overall sound is dry and decay is unnaturally fast and falls into dead zone.

My copy had visible "string of pearls" non-fill and this time it was audible in a few spots as a "tearing" sound. The cover art is very, very close to the original so that's a plus.

If your system is dark and soft, this one might be a welcome wake-up call, because despite the negative hashy qualities, the EQ is pretty good, but the stage will be flat as a pancake.

It's not my pleasure to be so negative but since I have a clean UK original (signed for me by George Martin!) I'll not be playing this one again. Yes, there are some panning mistakes and whatever else Martin "cleaned up" but really, sometimes it's best to leave well-enough (and this album was well-enough! alone.

If you've got the box, you're stuck with this one. Find a good original UK but still, don't expect a sonic miracle. This was a decent sounding record but not a sonic spectacular, though it has some good sounding tracks. But at least the original exhibits proper instrumental textures.

If you're buying individual albums from the box, this one is a must to avoid! A really bad judgement call by bean counters. They should have used the original mix that would at least have been transferred at 24 bit resolution. Don't blame Sean Magee, please. It was not his decision.

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JC1957's picture

Both of them really screwed up by offering this bastardized version of a classic. Ditto for Help! So no sale here.

We can only hope that the original 1965 stereo mixes will be available when the mono box arrives.

I'll bet Sean Magee thinks these digital mixes suck too.

John G's picture

Love to read your impressions of Sgt. Peppers and White Album.  Abbey Road is on the way!

marmaduke's picture

I surrender.  I give in.  Less is more and I have more or less had it with this devil spawn of a release.

I just cancelled my Amazon U.K. box order and purchased a 1978 UK Blue Box from the original owner in mint condition for substantially less than this latest iteration. 

I will try a few 2012 UK titles of later albums but as for the set, Nyett!

My loss is my gain.

I hope EMI will learn their lesson on the Mono LP Box if they decide to go through with it at all after this fiasco. 

The path to hell is paved with good intentions.

We now have definite proof.

And as for Rainbo, I would refer them to a quote from Dirty Harry

"A man has to know his limitations"

conjotter's picture

Thanks for the candor Michael, and keep it coming. In a world full of hype it's nice to get some no B.S. reviews.

Looking forward to your assessment of the White Album and Revolver.

Regards, CJ. 

jpg r's picture

since you are using vintage uk pressings to make comparisons with the problematic usa would only be fair to get your hands on the eu pressings of this new beatles release.. i have the eu box...and i am very pleased with the sonic quality and pristine clean shiny black vinyl pressed at optimal....

Michael Fremer's picture

I am going to get a UK box, but really, better pressing quality cannot do anything about the use of an inferior CD quality remix on this record. If you are happy with the sound of this "Rubber Soul" it can only be because you haven't heard what it originally sounded like. 

I am reviewing each album separately because that's how they deserve to be judged. 

Martin's picture

on the merits.

Keep them coming.

What a shame. Missed opportunity to get Rubber Soul sounding great.

tbromgard's picture

Its difficult to deliver bad news-thanks for your honest and comprehensive review.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

These reviews spend so much time being hung up on bit depth and sample rates. That's only a very small part of the story. The remix of this album is very much of the time. In 1987 treble was king. Just listen to a Richard Marx album from that era. Yikes! That's the brightest snare drum ever, and where the bass? And that was an analog recording. That thin sound was just the fashion of the day. I'm guessing it was to combat the dull sound of duplicated cassettes, the favored format of the day.

But to blame the mix decsions the engineer made when remixing this album on 16 bit digital leads me to believe you're not very experienced with the recoridng process. We praise CDs from this era, yet blame that same recording technology for things like 'harshness' and 'flat sound' when it works to your advantage. You can't have it both ways.

I'm looking into the future and predict your review of Help! is going to be another rant on 16 bit technology.

If you wanted to rant about anything, I'd suggest you write about the mediocre D/A converter (Benchmark DAC1) used to make these LPs.

Michael Fremer's picture

Dear Mr. Assmilk:

I know a great deal about the recording process, thank you. And if you listen to the interview with mastering engineer Sean Magee, who I assure you knows more about it than do you, he agrees that moving to 24 bits produces far superior sound

Perhaps you think 16 bits is sufficient bit depth to produce satisfying, transparent to the analog source transfers. I don't.

"Praise CDs from this era"?.

I have never praised CDs from any era. I didn't like them when I first heard them, though I was primed to love them and I never have come to love them. The best I can say about the best of them is that they can sound okay. 

This remix was never done to appease the cassette market! It was done by Mr. Martin to fix what was considered to be a shoddy stereo mix repleat with audible panning errors and other issues.

Mr. Martin admits to being hard of hearing at this point and within a few years admits in a fascinating documentary I will shortly review that he was incapable of hearing above 12K.

That's obvious from the mix's tonality. I'm not sure why the remastering didn't address the bright, shrill sound. Nothing could have been done to improve the dry, parched quality, clearly resulting at least in part from a 16 bit transfer.

tresaino's picture

thanks michael, this box is indeed not for vinyl lovers. 

Mazzy's picture

Totally disagree. That's kind of a rash statemnet as we all have different ears and set-ups. You should listen to them yourself.  I too have all of the earlier version and this to me, is overall one of the best. I think it kicks ass over the MF set. But if you had a brand new original set from th beginning, that would challenge this. 

Michael Fremer's picture

Here we agree! The EQ work done on this box was very, very good overall, though I still think they pushed the bass more than necessary, though not nearly as grotesquely as did Mo-Fi.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Taking into account that they were CDs, I don't recall anyone really complaining about the previous re-issues of the Beatles on CDs from a few years ago. I bought 8 of them and thought every one was an improvement. I did not buy any of the mono versions.

I guess that is what makes this lp reissue so distressing that poor pressings will kill the sales of these box sets, or people will just buy them not knowing what is really going on.

I'm glad I did not jump on the band wagon right away. This is really becoming a sad story.

Biff's picture

I have it and like it a lot.

Mazzy's picture

I have just completed listening to the entire box three times each plus... I feel much different about this, overall I think it is about the best one overall. I have about 8 other Beatles boxes plus several hundred other Beatles LPs and I went back to a few inbettween listenings. Im a first generation fan and think these sound beautiful to my ears. Had a bad Abey Road which was exchanged though. We all have different systems, mine is not a reallyy high end one but pretty good overall. 

I love reading your reviews but I believe everyone should somehow listen to them themselves. I think most will be pleasantly surprised.  

A surpirse here is that I really love Rubber Sould and Help. 

I'm going to the San Francisco listening party Monday night . Curios how they sound on something really high end...

Michael Fremer's picture

It is surprising to me that you liked "Rubber Soul" especially. Very few Beatles fans liked the remix, never mind the sound itself. It's doubly surprising to me that you liked it considering that you have "about 8 other Beatles boxes," most of which were probably produced when the tapes were in better shape and from all analog masters. But, to each his own. 

oscelm's picture

Have to respectfully disagree with your impression of the new Rubber Soul LP.  I have the MoFi box, original Brit pressings, and American issues and this one acquits itself very well. Regardless of the source, my ears tell me that it's mastered and mixed for vinyl.   I heard adequate depth of sound field and an overall non-fatiguing sound throughout.  The transients were a little softened on some of the 'fuzz' guitar passages during 'The Word', but the sound of the LP was excellent.  My copy had extremely low surface noise and was perfectly flat, stamped well,  with no 'string of pearls' pressing anomales, and unscathed in shipment.  I've now listened to Please Please Me as well and it also is surprisingly good.  I'm relieved as much as impressed with the quality of the box set.  It's obvious that some care was taken in the whole process, with the LP's in plastic lined inner sleeves to prevent surface damage.  The 'surgical' e.q. that McGee describes is evident as well, softening only some of the sibilance on key tracks.  I was expecting to be very disappointed with it, but I'm so far relieved and reservedly impressed.  Worth $350?  You bet.  I urge listeners to use their ears and not the press on the sources, bit depth, technical data, etc.,  to decide for themselves.  

Michael Fremer's picture

However it was not "mixed" for vinyl though of course it was mastered for vinyl. But the source was a 16 bit/44.1k file, which means it is CD resolution. Given that the D/A converter used was decent but not the best, you are listening to decent CD playback mastered to lacquer using a mix few people like, including George Martin's son Giles who did a very good job with dad on "Love".

If you have original British pressings I cannot imagine why you would prefer this to that! But thanks for the feedback. 

Allan's picture

I have the EU remastered pressing of Help and Rubber Soul and they really are Crap. 

Does anyone know why they used the 16 bit version and not the 2009 24 bit versions?


Michael Fremer's picture

The 2009 versions of "Help" and "Rubber Soul" were also 16 bit masters. They used the 1987 George Martin remixes of those two albums, which were transferred at 16/44.1K.

You'll find the original stereo mix of both albums mastered at 192/24 bit, downconverted to 44.1k/24 and then decimated to 16 bits on the MONO CD box set.

Hopefully they will do the same with the mono LP box set.

oscelm's picture

An interesting aside to all the discussion here on the new Beatles box is the article from the Chicago Tribune detailing a 'shootout' between the new vinyl, mofi vinyl, and British vinyl pressings.  A panel of experts were treated to a blind listening test on a $165k system.  The results are amusing and arguably informative to those considering whether to purchase the new vinyls.  Read the article here at  If thel link is disallowed here just Google 'Chicago Tribune Beatles' and find it.  

Michael Fremer's picture

They weren't "experts" and the turntable was, I believe, a Michell Gyrodec. Nice 'table but not definitive. The comments weren't particularly illuminating and on one track the Mo-Fi won. 

I played the Mo-Fi "Sgt. Pepper..." for Geoff Emmerick and he declared the EQ "rubbish."

That's good enough for me!

gettingintovinyl's picture

First post...  Thanks for this blog. I just found this blog and find it to be a great resource for a newbie getting into vinyl.  So far out of the set I have only bought ABBEY ROAD as money is tight and I really prefer the MONO versions when it comes to The Beatles, my favorite band of all time.  What I want to try to understand is WHY The Beatles and EMI let George Martin act on his thought "Hey, I made mistakes on the RUBBER SOUL mixes 20+ years ago.  I should go back on today's equipment and try to fix them!"  That just seems like the most short-sided idea ever to me, all respect to Sir George.  The original albums should be protected.  Just as I never want to hear DARK SIDE OF THE MOON in 5.1, or see CITIZEN KANE in color, I never want to hear anything but the original mixes of Beatles songs.  I'm sure I'm not alone in the hope that they do the MONO box right.  I guess I should start saving for it now.

bent river music's picture

That was the first DDD CD I bought and  I have listened to it twice, I'm sure suffering hearing loss both times. When I discuss analog vs. digital with our cutomers that is the recording I point to as a low point for digital. However, even though I love analog I would not wholeheartedly dismiss digital - too many variables in mastering, transferring, pressings, etc.

Kirby's picture

I was waiting for your final thought on the box set as a whole before I weighed in with any thoughts of my own and as I have only listened up to Sgt Pep so far. But I have to agree with you Michael, they have uped the bass too much,wish they had of left good enough alone. Oh well here's hoping for a flat eq'ed mono box. Keep up the good work and call em like you hear em!

Static's picture

After all these years I finally purchased the 2012 version of Rubber Soul on vinyl. Ok so the source material was not the best. does IMO sound better than the cd version. I have a US Capitol Purple label copy..a UK version from 1984 (HTM) the 1987 cd the 2009 cd the 2014 Japanese SHM version. So.... first...I think George Martin was on the right track when he attempted to moderately remix the Rubber Soul album. And really ..who better to do it. the time...the equipment he was using was "state of the art" for the time. I actually feel the instrument placement is much better. Sad that the mix is locked into cd quality. Same with Help! I have the 2012 the Japanese EAS version from the Blue box and a 1971 EMI 2 box with -1/-1 stampers. and the same digital versions as above. Also the Mono cd and vinyl box set. PHEW! Overall I find the 2012 vinyl of Help! and Rubber Soul to be a great modern sounding vinyl. Bass is much better than the originals...less sibilance...and better stereo presentation. Do I wish they would have remixed the analog? Yes. Do I wish they had a 24/44.1 version or hi res version..Yes. BUT. These 2 albums sound great for new listeners. These vinyl records IMO were not made specifically for us oldies...they were made for the new listeners. Also..why have a new copy of what you already have? My kids love them. And that is what matters. And I have all the other copies I can listen to. Overall they represent a modern sounding vinyl with more modern sound for modern Beatles fans who dont like MONO and dont like 60's stereo. I think all the new 2012 reissues sound better than the cds and sound great for "daily" non critical listening. Thats all.