This commentary was written about 15 years ago. Unlike some of the things I used to say about records and audio, every word of this commentary still holds true in my opinion.
The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles — when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine — are truly revelatory.
So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It’s getting the damn vinyl clean. (It’s also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn’t add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)
Know why you never hear Beatles vinyl playing in stereo stores or audio shows?*
Because they’re TOO DAMN HARD to reproduce. You have to have seriously tweaked, top-quality, correct-sounding equipment — and just the right pressings, natch — to get The Beatles’ music to sound right, and that’s just not the kind of stuff they have at stereo stores and audio shows. (Don’t get me started.)
However, you may have noticed that we sell tons of Beatles Hot Stamper Pressings. We have the stereo that can play them, we have the technology to clean them, and we know just how good the best pressings can sound. The result? Listings for Beatles Hot Stampers on the site all the time.
Five of their titles — the most of any band — are on our Rock and Pop Top 100 List. That ought to tell you something. (Let It Be and Revolver would easily make the list as well, but seven albums from one band seemed like overkill, so we’re holding firm at five for now.)
A True Pass/Fail Test for Equipment
I’ve been saying for years that an audiophile system that can’t play Beatles records is a system that has failed a fundamentally important test of musicality. Everyone knows what The Beatles sound like. We’ve been hearing their music our whole lives.
We know what kind of energy their songs have.
What kind of presence.
What kind of power.
When all or most or even just many of those qualities are missing from the sound coming out of the speakers, we have no choice but to admit that something is very very wrong.
I’ve heard an awful lot of audiophile stereos that can play audiophile records just fine, but when it comes to the recordings of The Beatles they fall apart, and badly. Really badly.
Super Detailed may be fine for echo-drenched Patricia Barber records, but it sure won’t cut it with The Beatles. Of course the owners of these wacky systems soon start pointing fingers at the putative shortcomings of the recordings themselves, but we at Better Records — and our Hot Stamper customers — know better.
You can blame the messenger as much as you want — it’s a natural human tendency, I do it myself on occasion — but that sure won’t help you get your stereo working right.
The Beatles albums are the ultimate Audiophile Wake Up Call. It’s the reason practically no equipment reviewers in the world have ever used recordings by The Beatles as test records when making their judgments. The typical audiophile system — regardless of price — just can’t get their music to sound right.
Reviewers and the magazines they write for don’t want you to know that, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
* (Love doesn’t count; give me a break. I hope we’re over that one by now. Couldn’t stand to be in the room with it.)