The Beatle in Mono or Stereo - Which is better!! *

* But Wait there is an alternative. Giles Martin, son of the late great Sir George has "remixed" (not remastered) "Sgt. Peppers" using elements from both the stereo and mono masters. On intial listening (CD only at this stage) and comparing it with the stereo LP remaster, the stereo seperation is more marked, lead vocals are central rather than left or right (or both on some of the original tracks) and everything is "cleaner". There are moments such as the orchestral climax which messes with your mind - fingers down the blackboard - awesome - and "Mister Kite" comes across as heavy metal. It is interesting listening to the outakes where the unadorned "Mr. Kite" with John's flat vocal delivery is positively threatening. I still prefer the stereo with it's richer and "fatter" sound quality, and it is also more intimate, the sound is right there rather than a more distant Giles soundscape. However, it is early days, and I look forward to hearing the LP version later this week. There is no doubt in my mind that the Giles remix is a major achievement.

 

(A personal view (this is not a rant) from Mel)

 

Credentials: Self opinionated and also I have been listening to the Beatles since my teens, and in fact was working in my father's record shop when Sgt. Pepper's came out. We had a mono player then, but not long after, a stereo arrived and the rest is..... (well, many thousands of hours wasted listening to music.)

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Ones taste in music is of course very much a personal thing, but one cannot deny the importance of the Beatles with regard to popular music, and any tampering with the holy grail of their recorded catalogue was going to be controversial. The remastering of the CDs came first, and compared with the 1980's, George Martin versions, they seemed to many as a great improvement with regard to sound quality. Then came the stereo LPs. Guy Massey, Steve Rooke and Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee undertook a four-year restoration process for the LP stereo versions, combining state-of-the-art equipment, vintage studio gear and rigorous testing. To me they were bigger (in size as well as spatially), richer and had greater clarity than the CDs. There was however criticism of the sound quality from some quarters and various folk said this album wasn't as good as another version that they had and so on - given that no other versions were currently available on record, most of us were grateful, but were they as good as they could have been is a worthwhile question. A part of the criticism is that digital tapes were involved in the stereo process as the original analogue tapes were unavailable at the time.

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The mono version of the albums came out two year later, and critically has been hailed by audiophile reviewers as a triumph. The original analogue tapes were apparently used and this is seen to give the mono versions the edge. Apart from this, one of the main arguments for mono is that most folk in the early sixties only had a mono record player, and so the Studios gave this their main focus with stereo mixes a poor second. Certainly the stereo balance on the first two albums and occasionally on such albums as "Rubber Soul" left something to be desired. One of the good things from George Martin's 80's masters was that for the first time he mixed both "Help" and "Revolver" (previously done by someone else) for stereo and these are probably the best of the new stereos.

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So which is best?

 

Most reviews that concern us record buyers have been by "audiophile" reviewers, and they are more than likely correct. However, they are listening on superior equipment, perhaps using a mono cartridge and the like, while some, such as me, are using much less august components. My set-up has been described by a former audio engineer as having very nice sound - not audiophile (he was at pains to stress), but most enjoyable. Listening on this system, for me, the stereos have much a greater richness and clarity. You know who's voice it is and you can tell when George joins the others, even on the early two albums where the voices are coming from one channel only. Guitars vibrate, errors are made, something falls at the end of "Twist and Shout", and John’s voice wanders from speaker to speaker on Sgt Pepper's - lovely. The monos in comparison have the voices places dead centre, but in all other respects the details are muddy. As well, the sheer joi de vivre of the stereos is missing.

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Is the stereo sound quality as good as it could be? Perhaps not, but it is on a level with the very best of the many versions I have heard, and better and more enjoyable than most. If you’re audio equipment is of the very highest quality, if you like a mono sound, or even if you think the above is waffle and you want to be perverse, fear not. We carry all the albums in mono and stereo as well as the complete box sets, and are happy to sell them to you, and in addition you will be assured that you have made the right decision.

A Splendid time is guarenteed for all

The stereo versions have been with us for over 3 years now, and I am still playing at least one album a week, and sometimes more, and this for me is a mark of how successful they were. Overall richness of sound, little or no compression, clarity of voices and instruments, and above all, some of the best pop and rock ever recorded, makes for a supremely enjoyable experience.

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For more waffle (not by me), information and ordering -

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