- An outstanding UK pressing of The Beatles’ last and arguably greatest album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- The “medley” on side two with Hot Stamper sound? This copy will take you on a trip you never imagined was possible
- If you’ve heard the disastrous new half-speed pressing, then you know how important it is to play a real, vintage, analog Abbey Road
- It might just give you a new appreciation for one of the Greatest Rock Albums of All Time
- 5 Stars, a permanent member of the Better Records Top 100, and a Desert Island Disc if ever there was one
This vintage British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
Abbey Road Magic!
Those of you who follow the site (or do your own shootouts) know that it’s much tougher to find great copies of Abbey Road than it is for MMT or Please Please Me. Most of the copies we’ve played just aren’t good enough to put on the site. For whatever reasons — probably because this recording is so complicated and required so many tracks — Abbey Road is one of the tougher nuts to crack in the Beatles’ catalog.
We’re wild about this album, and here’s a copy that will show you exactly why. Both sides are big, rich, sweet and present with lots of energy, wonderfully breathy vocals, and huge dynamic guitars. You don’t hear too many copies with a massive bottom end like this bad boy. A copy with this kind of transparency really allows you to hear INTO the soundfield and appreciate every last detail — quite a privilege for the lucky person who takes this one home.
This is the final statement from The Beatles. To take away the power of their magnum opus by playing it through inadequate equipment makes a mockery of the monumental effort that went into it. Remember, the original title for the album was Everest. That should tell you something about the size and scope of the music and sound that the Beatles had in mind.
What the Best Sides of This Beatles Classic (with Help From George Martin and Geoff Emerick) Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had all those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of vintage import pressings of albums such as these.
What We’re Listening For on Abbey Road
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Rock Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Classic Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
This track and I Want You are both good tests for side one. They tend to be smooth, but what separates the best copies is deep, punchy bass. Without a good solid bottom end, these songs simply don’t work.
When the choruses get loud on this song, most copies will be aggressive. You’ll want to turn down the volume. With Hot Stampers, the louder the better. The sound stays smooth and sweet.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Probably the toughest test on side one. The loud banging on the anvil can be pretty unpleasant if you don’t have a well-mastered pressing. Also, this track has a tendency to be a bit lean and upper midrangey on even the best copies.
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Listen to Paul’s bass on this track. When you have a good copy and the bass notes are clearly defined, you can hear him doing all kinds of interesting things throughout the song. I remember playing the MoFi not long ago and noticing how that pressing’s lack of bass definition robbed Paul of his contribution to so many of these songs. When the bass is blubbery it’s difficult to follow his parts.
Here Comes the Sun
The best pressings are full of TUBEY MAGIC here — sweet and smooth, but still present and clear. There should be no trace of grain or spi on their voices if you have a good copy. This is DEMO DISC MATERIAL. If you have the system for it, you can show people the sound of the Beatles in a way few have ever heard.
You Never Give Me Your Money
Mean Mr. Mustard
One of the toughest tests for side two, along the lines of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
I’ve come to realize that this is a Key Track for side two, because what it shows you is whether the midrange of your pressing — or your system — is correct. At the beginning Paul’s voice is naked, front and center before the strings come in. The Mobile Fidelity pressing, as good as it is, is not perfectly tonally correct in the middle of the midrange. The middle of the voice is a little sucked out and the top of the voice is a little boosted. It’s really hard to notice this fact unless one plays a good British pressing like this one side by side with the MOFI. Then the MOFI EQ anomaly become obvious. It may add some texture to the strings, but the song is not about the strings.
Having heard a number of audiophile systems (especially recently) that have trouble getting this part of the spectrum right, it will not surprise me that many will not find the MOFI objectionable and may even prefer it to these good British copies. The point I’m belaboring here is that when it’s right, it’s RIGHT and everything else becomes more obviously wrong, even though it’s only slightly wrong.
For a while in my record reviewing system I had a relatively cheap Grado moving magnet cartridge. The midrange of that cartridge is still the best I have ever heard. It was completely free of any “audiophile” sound. It was real in a way that took me by surprise. I played Abbey Road with that cartridge in the system and heard The Beatles sound EXACTLY the way I want them to sound. Exactly the way I think they SHOULD sound, in my mind’s ear. Playing the very same record on much more expensive front ends, with much more expensive moving coils, was disappointing. It’s easy to lose sight of the heart of the music when the equipment dazzles us by doing so many other things well. Good moving coils are amazingly spacious, refined, sweet, extended, three-dimensional and all that other good stuff. But they don’t always get the heart of the music right. And it’s good to hear something that may be more crude but at the same time more correct in order to bring our listening journey back on to a truer course.
I think that people who listen to CDs exclusively — One Format listeners, as I like to call them — suffer greatly from a lack of a “comparison” sound. It’s easy to get used to the CD sound and forget that all that digital garbage doesn’t really belong there. Records have their own problems, but their problems don’t give me a headache the way the problems of CDs do.
Carry That Weight
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
The group was still pushing forward in all facets of its art, whether devising some of the greatest harmonies to be heard on any rock record (especially on “Because”), constructing a medley of songs/vignettes that covered much of side two, adding subtle touches of Moog synthesizer, or crafting furious guitar-heavy rock (“The End,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Come Together”)… Whether Abbey Road is the Beatles’ best work is debatable, but it’s certainly the most immaculately produced (with the possible exception of Sgt. Pepper) and most tightly constructed.