Top Artists – The Beatles

The music is great, but how’s the sound? We weigh in with our two cents worth.

How Can Anybody Not Hear What’s Wrong with Old Pressings Like These?

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New Paradigms and Old

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms — original is better, money buys good sound — may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn’t just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

A reviewer we all know well is clearly stuck in the Old Paradigm, illustrated perfectly by this comment: (more…)

The Beatles / Sgt. Peppers – Practical Advice on Which Pressings to Avoid

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Chris, an erstwhile customer from long ago, sent us a letter describing his search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper.

The first thing that comes to mind when reading his letter is that many record collecting rules were broken in going about his search the way he did. But then I thought, What rules? Whose rules? Where exactly does one find these rules? If one wants to avoid breaking them they need to be written down someplace, don’t they?

Wikipedia maybe?

Sadly, no, not at Wikipedia, or any place else for that matter — until now. As crazy as it sounds, we are going to try to lay down a few record collecting rules for record loving audiophiles, specifically to aid these individuals in their search for better sounding vinyl pressings. And by “these individuals” we mean you.

See if you can spot the rules that were broken by Chris in his fruitless search for a good sounding Sgt. Pepper. Note that this letter came to us long before the new Beatles CDs and vinyl had been remastered.
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The Beatles – Past Masters Volumes 1 & 2 – Digital Remastering at its Worst

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Sonic Grade: F

The ’90s import pressings of this album are bright and aggressive and very digital sounding, but if you want better sounding versions of these songs you’re gonna have to buy lots of pressings of the band’s albums and singles and EPs in order to find good sounding versions of them (which I did back in the ’80s and it took years to do it).

These are all the songs that aren’t on the original 13 British albums, so for those of you with the MoFi Beatles box, these 2 LPs give you all the tracks you don’t have.  

This was written so long ago that we actually refer to the MoFi Beatles Box as something and audiophile would own.

No serious audiophile who loves The Beatles should have the MoFi Box Set or Past Masters in his collection.

A Fun and Easy Test for Abbey Road: MoFi Versus Apple

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Abbey Road

There is a relatively simple test you can use to find out if you have a good Mobile Fidelity pressing of Abbey Road. Yes, as shocking as it may seem, they actually do exist, we’ve played them, but they are few and far between (and never as good as the best Brits).

The test involves doing a little shootout of the song Golden Slumbers between whatever MoFi pressing you have and whatever British Parlophone pressing you have. If you don’t have both LPs this shootout will be difficult to do. The idea is to compare aspects of the sound of both pressings head to head, which should shed light on which one of them is more natural and which is more hi-fi-ish sounding.

The Golden Slumbers Test

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. Most Mobile Fidelity pressings, as good as they can be, are not 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 side by side with the MoFi. Then the typical MoFi EQ anomaly become obvious. It may add some texture to the strings, but the song is not about the strings. (more…)

The Beatles – The Original A Hard Day’s Night on CD

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The Old CD – You Know, the Original Mono One that Everybody Used to Like…

I have the early generation mono CD of this album. Although my car has a very good stereo system, you would never know there was any magic to the sound of these recordings by playing that CD. The whole thing is hopelessly flat and gray.

It starts to perk up by the song Things We Said Today, the 10th(!) track. Before that it just sounds compressed, with all the voices and instruments mashed together. There’s no transparency to the sound. It reminds me of listening to this music on the radio. If that’s the effect George Martin was going for with the old mono mix, he succeeded brilliantly. I prefer the twin-track unapproved stereo mixes found on the LPs.

Letter of the Week – Your Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard and comparisons to Gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless

Rubber Soul

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

I was a DJ for 20 years and by nature of meeting demand for the newest I was always buying vinyl the day it came out.

Your A++ to A+++ Rubber Soul and ELO sides are clearly better than anything I ever heard then or now and comparisons to gold CDs, Legacy, MFSL, Nautilus or DCC series are pointless.

I look forward to replacing my favorites with your A+++.

Btw the B-52’s 1st LP early pressing, which I bought back in June of 1979, always lept out of the speakers. The entire lp (any track) filled my dance floor well into 1987. I am not surprised it is in your Top 100. (more…)

We Was Wrong About The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour (Circa 1985-90)

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This is a VERY old and somewhat embarrassing commentary about how We Was Wrong

This German pressing has dramatically different sound than that found on other Hot Stamper pressings of MMT we’ve had on the site. I used to be convinced that its sound was clearly superior to the regular German MMT LPs.

Back in the late ’80s and into the ’90s this was the pressing that I was certain blew them all out of the water.

We know better now. We call this version the “Too Hot” Stamper pressing — the upper mids and top end are much too boosted to be enjoyable on top quality equipment.

It does have some positive qualities though. It has substantially deeper bass than any other version; in fact, it has some of the deepest bass you will ever hear on a pop recording. It can literally rattle the room when Paul goes down deep on Baby You’re A Rich Man.

It also uses a slightly different mix on some tracks and is mastered differently in terms of levels. The level change is most obvious at the beginning of Strawberry Fields, where it starts out very quietly and gets louder after a short while, unlike all other versions which start out pretty much at the same level. The effect is pleasing, you can even say powerful, but probably not what The Beatles intended, as no other copy I’ve ever heard utilizes the same quiet opening. An unknown mastering engineer made the choice, probably because he didn’t like all the tape hiss at the opening when few instruments were playing loud enough to mask it.

With this mix the record is now more of a hi-fi spectacular — great for demonstrations but not the last word in natural sound.

The Abbey Road Remix on Vinyl

BREAKING NEWS

The half-speed mastered remixed Abbey Road has to be one of the worst sounding Beatles records we have ever had the displeasure to play. Hard to imagine you could make Abbey Road sound any worse. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

I will be writing more about its specific shortcomings down the road, but for now let this serve as a warning that you are throwing your money away if you buy this newly remixed LP.

The Beatles Please Please Me – We Review the Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed

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Sonic Grade: C

If you own the MoFi LP, do yourself a favor and buy one of our Hot Stamper pressings. (Actually any good British import pressing will do.) What’s the first thing you will notice other than correct tonality, better bass and a lot more “life” overall?

No spit! As we’ve commented elsewhere, because of the wacky cutting system they used, MoFis are full of sibilance. 

As I was playing this record many years ago, maybe by about the fifth or sixth song it occurred to me that I hadn’t been hearing the spit that I was used to from my MoFi LP. You don’t notice it when it’s not there. But your MoFi sure has a bad case of spitty vocals. If you never noticed them before, you will now. (more…)

Ridiculously Phony and Compressed Sound – The Beatles White Album on MoFi

beatlwhitemfslSonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.

The last time I played a copy of the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously phony and compressed it was. And to think I used to like their version when it came out back in the ’80s!

A good example: on Yer Blues, the MFSL pressing positively wreaks havoc with all the added bass and top end The Beatles put on this track. The MoFi version is already too bright, and has sloppy bass to start with, so the result on this track is way too much BAD bass and way too much BAD spitty 10k-boosted treble, unlike the good imports, which have way too much GOOD bass and treble.

Yer Blues ROCKS! Listen to the big jam at the end of the song, where John’s vocal mic is turned off but his performance is still caught by a room or overheard mic. They obviously did this on purpose, killing his vocal track so that the “leaked” vocal could be heard.

Those crazy Beatles! It’s more than just a cool “effect”. It actually seems to kick the energy and power of the song up a notch. It’s clearly an accident, but an accident that works. I rather doubt George Martin approved. That kind of “throw the rule book out” approach is what makes Beatles recordings so fascinating, and The White Album the most fascinating of them all.

The EQ for this song is also a good example of something The Beatles were experimenting with, as detailed in their recording sessions and interviews with the engineers. They were pushing the boundaries of normal EQ, of how much bass and treble a track could have. This track has seriously boosted bass, way too much, but somehow it works!
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