Top Artists – The Beatles

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

The Beatles / A Collection of Beatles Oldies

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  • You’ll find superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vintage British pressing
  • An excellent source for many of the Beatles’ greatest hits up to 1966 – with 8 songs per side you are geting a lot for your money with this one
  • Several tracks, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Day Tripper,” “We Can Work It Out,” and “Paperback Writer” were given their first stereo mixes for this very album
  • Outstanding sound for “From Me to You,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Yesterday,” “I Feel Fine,” and the list goes on
  • Although the hard-to-find UK first label originals will always win our shootouts, the early UK reissues on the Parlaphone Two Box label can sound quite good on the right pressing.
  • Whatever you do, don’t boy this awful compilation on vinyl – the album suffers from digital remastering at its worst

As is usually the case with compilations like this, there is some variation between tracks — what works well for a track from 1963 may not quite suit a song from 1966 — but from start to finish on both sides this record strikes a MUCH better balance than others.

And the the choice of songs is outstanding, with just the right mix — almost as if you had compiled the thing yourself from all the best tunes from that era of The Beatles. They’re almost all favorites of mine, and I hope yours too.

This collection has a number of songs that are not on the original British LPs: the first three on side one for starters; also Can’t Buy Me Love, I Feel Fine; Bad Boy; Paperback Writer and I Want To Hold Your Hand. (more…)

The Yellow Submarine Songtrack Did Not Float My Boat

Last year a customer wrote to tell me how much he liked the sound of his 2004 Japanese DMM pressing of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack.

After looking into the background of this album, we saw right from the start that it had three strikes against it.

First off, we rarely like Japanese pressings outside of those that were recorded in Japan, such as the direct to disc jazz and classical records we’ve done shootouts for. Other Japanese pressings we like were recorded in the states for the Japanese market: the jazz direct to discs on East Wind come to mind.

Secondly, whenever possible we avoid DMM pressings. They often add what seems to us like digital artifacts to the sound.

And lastly, we rarely like modern remixes, especially modern remixes that obviously use digital processes of various kinds. The remixed Abbey Road is a complete disaster. Nothing that comes out of Abbey Road these days should be expected to sound good. Their work is a disgrace.

So rather than buy the Japanese-pressed version of the album, we cheaped out and just bought a UK one for half the price.

We half-expected the worst and that’s pretty much what we found.

I used to sell this very version of the album back in 1999 when it came out. I thought it sounded just fine. That was about twenty years ago. My all tube system was darker and dramatically less resolving than the one I have now.

Scores of improvements have been made since then to every aspect of analog reproduction, something we discuss endlessly on this blog.

We Have No Idea

To be fair, we admit that we have no idea what the Japanese pressing of the album sounds like. We’ve never played one.

So what’s wrong with the UK pressing of the Yellow Submarine Songtrack?

From the notes reproduced on the left — incidentally some of the last I wrote before I retired — you can see that the overall sound struck me as drythin and CD-like.

The vocals sound much more artificial on these remixed tracks than they do on the vintage Beatles’ pressings we offer. When a Beatles album has an unnatural, overly-processed midrange, it’s pretty much game over.

The new mixes also lacked Tubey Magic, which, for any album by The Beatles, is every bit the kiss of death that a phony midrange is. The Beatles albums remastered on Heavy Vinyl that we’ve played left a lot to be desired in that area, in addition to their many other faults.

It’s possible that the Japanese pressing of The Yellow Submarine Songtrack has none of the problems we found on the UK pressing we played. If such a thing turned out to be true, it would be a first in our experience. We can’t say it’s impossible. What we can say is that it is very unlikely.

If any of you do buy the Japanese pressing, please let us know what you think.

And that’s where we will leave it for now.

Further Reading

Listening in Depth to Abbey Road

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Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

Presenting another entry in our extensive listening in depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Abbey Road.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar track by track breakdowns.

For all you record collectors out there, please note that no pressing from 1969 has ever won a shootout. If you have an Apple UK first pressing, we would love to send you one that sounds better than yours, if you can justify the kind of bread we charge for the privilege of owning a masterpiece of music such as this.

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.

Obsessed? You Better Believe It

Abbey Road is yet another record we admit to being obsessed with.

Currently we have identified about 150 that fit that description, so if you have some spare time, check them out.

Side One

Come Together

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.

Oh! Darling
Octopus’s Garden
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.

Side Two

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
Sun King
Mean Mr. Mustard

One of the toughest tests for side two, along the lines of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

Polythene Pam
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
Golden Slumbers

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 may be in other areas, 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 becomes 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 would not be surprising that many of you do not find the typical MoFi objectionable, and may even prefer it to the 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 if only slightly wrong.

The Heart of the Midrange

For a while in my record reviewing system many years ago I had a relatively cheap Grado moving magnet cartridge. The midrange of that cartridge is still some of the best midrange reproduction 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 wanted 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 at that time. 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 to a truer course.

Alternative Sound

I think that people who listen to CDs exclusively — One Format listeners as I like to call them — suffer greatly from a lack of an alternative or comparison sound. It’s easy to get used to the “CD sound” and forget that all that digital garbage doesn’t really belong in music. Records have their own problems, but their problems don’t give me a headache the way the problems of CDs do.

Carry That Weight
The End
Her Majesty


The Beatles – With The Beatles

More With The Beatles

More of The Beatles

  • This vintage UK import copy was doing practically everything right, with a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated a solid Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Superb space and immediacy, rich and (relatively) smooth and oh-so-Tubey Magical lead and harmony vocals – this is the right sound for With The Beatles
  • So many great songs: “All My Loving,” “Please Mr. Postman,” “Til There Was You,” “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” “Devil In Her Heart”… fourteen in all
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “It was clear that, even at this early stage, the Beatles were rapidly maturing and changing, turning into expert craftsmen and musical innovators.”
  • Far from the best album the band ever released, it’s still full of great songs and must be seen as a Classic from 1963 with strong appeal to any fan of the early Beatles

This is a tough album to get to sound right, as long-time readers of our site surely know, but here are the sides that prove this album can sound very good indeed. Looking for the best sound? Try “Till There Was You” on side one and “You Really Got A Hold On Me” on the flipside.


The Beatles – Help

More Help

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, we guarantee you’ve never heard Help sound this good – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Everything that’s great about Help is here – jangly 12-string guitars, Tubey Magical electric pianos, harmonically rich tambourines and claves, and, the sine qua non of any Beatles album, breathy, present vocals
  • If you’re like us and think the new Beatles Heavy Vinyl reissues are boosted in the bass and way too smooth in the midrange, whether mono or stereo, take comfort in the fact that this pressing is neither of those things, because it sounds right
  • Side one alone boasts 7 classics: “Help!,” “The Night Before,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “I Need You,” “Another Girl,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” and “Ticket to Ride” – whew!

Want to hear The Beatles at their Tubey Magical best? Just play “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” on this copy.

One of the reasons this song stands out in a crowd of great tracks is that there are only acoustic instruments being played. There’s not an electric guitar to be found anywhere in the mix, one of the few tracks on side one for which that is true.

We flip out over the Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and harmony vocals found on early Beatles albums, and this song can be an exceptionally good example of both when you’re lucky enough to have the right pressing playing.


The Beatles – Let It Be

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More Let It Be

  • This UK pressing is one of the BEST we have ever heard, with both sides earning KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ – here is the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get outside of the first album
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The album is on the whole underrated… it’s an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.”

At its best, Let It Be has the power of live music, but it takes a special pressing such as this one to show you that sound. It’s a bit trickier trying to find good sound for this album than it is for some of the other albums in the Beatles’ catalog.


The Beatles – Rubber Soul

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

  • Boasting seriously good from start to finish, this vintage UK stereo pressing has the sound of Tubey Magical Analog in its grooves
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “In My Life,” “Wait,” “If I Needed Someone” and “Run for Your Life” sound better – and that’s just side two
  • A Must Own Folk Rock Masterpiece and permanent member of our Top 100
  • 5 stars: “The lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds.”

Since this is one of the best sounding Beatles recordings, this could very well be some of the BEST SOUND you will ever hear on a Beatles album.

There’s wonderful ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear the room around the drum. On the best pressings, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings, and especially from modern remasterings.  (more…)

Letter of the Week – “No amount of anything can replace the joy in my being upon listening to these sounds.”

More of the Music of The Beatles

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

Hi Tom,
I just had to shoot you this quickie email. I just put on side 2 of my recently purchased WHS of the White Album.

When “I’m So Tired” came on, I found myself standing there in disbelief, mouth wide open, going are you fucking kidding me?!!

Such a simple song sounded like I have never heard it before. Unbelievable… I had not idea it could sound that good.

Simply and absolutely amazing. I am so stoked to be listening to these amazing sounds.

Thanks Again,

P.S. No amount of anything can replace the joy in my being upon listening to these sounds. I feel so lucky to be experiencing this. Never will I take any of this for granted, as it is really special. You and your team deserve a medal or something!


Glad you liked our White Album as much as you did! We feel lucky to be able to play amazing recordings like The White Album and get paid to do it.

We never knew any copy could sound as good as the one you bought either, not until we started doing shootouts for the album around 2005, and it took us until about 2015 before we stumbled upon the right combination of stampers for all four sides. As I wrote to another letter writer:

It’s amazing how good it sounds once you know which pressings are the good ones and which to avoid.

Hint: it’s the originals that are to be avoided, but don’t tell that to the average record collecting audiophile. They will think you have lost your mind.

Thanks for your letter. By the way, no medals needed. We’re just doing our job. Once you catch on to how records work, then finding the best sounding pressings ever made is just a matter of applying the needed resources. It took a staff of half a dozen about ten years to unlock the secrets of The White Album, so if you are trying to do this on your own, you will need something like 10 times 6 man-years, or a total of 60 years if my record collector math is right.

The relatively high price you paid, $1100, covers the costs of running a business with more than ten people dedicated to buying, cleaning, and critically auditioning the greatest recordings of all time, as well as the ten years of research we had to do before we could dare to price “common rock records” for more than a thousand dollars.

The result is the record you now own and can enjoy for the rest of your life.

Thanks for writing and thanks for your business.


Further Reading

The Abbey Road Remix on Vinyl

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Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road


We got a copy of the Abbey Road Remix in, cleaned it and played it. Now we can officially report the results of our investigation into this modern marvel. Imagine, The Beatles with a new mix! Just what it needed, right?

So what did we hear?

The half-speed mastered remixed Abbey Road has to be one of the worst sounding Beatles records we have ever had the misfortune to play.

Hard to imagine you could make Abbey Road sound any worse. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

Is it the worst version of the album ever made? Hard to imagine it would have much competition.

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.

UPDATE 11/2022

As you may have guessed by now, I have completely lost interest in detailing the abundant shortcomings of this awful record. Do yourself a favor and don’t buy one.

If you did buy one, do yourself a different favor: order any UK pressing from 1970-1986 off the web and play that one head to head with it so you can hear how badly they screwed with and screwed up the new mix.

When the remastering is this incompetent, we

Remastering a well-known title and creating a new sound for it is a huge bête noire for us here at Better Records.

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters that sound as bad as this record does go directly into our Audiophile Record Hall of Shame.

If this isn’t the perfect example of a Pass/Not-Yet record, I don’t know what would be.

Some records are so wrong, or are so lacking in qualities that are critically important to their sound — qualities typically found in abundance on the right vintage pressings — that the defenders of these records are fundamentally failing to judge them properly. We call these records Pass/Not-Yet, implying that the supporters of these kinds of records are not where they need to be in audio yet, but that there is still hope. If they target their resources (time and money) well, there is no reason they can’t get to where they need to be, the same way we did. Our Audio Advice section may be of help in that regard.

Tea for the Tillerman on the new 45 may be substandard in every way, but it is not a Pass/Not-Yet pressing. It lacks one thing above all others, Tubey Magic, so if your system has an abundance of that quality, as many tube systems do, the new pressing may be quite listenable and enjoyable. Those whose systems can play the record and not notice this important shortcoming are not exactly failing. They most likely have a system that is heavily colored and not very revealing, but it is a system that is not hopeless.

A system that can play the MoFi pressing of Aja without revealing to the listener how wrong it is is on another level of bad entirely, and that is what would qualify as a failing system. My system in the ’80s played that record just fine. Looking back on it now, I realize it was doing more wrong than right.

One of our good customers recently moved his stereo into a new house.

Hey Tom,

Interestingly, the electricity and spatial characteristics are so much better in the new place that I’ve had a complete sea change regarding the MoFi Kind of Blue. If you recall, I previously found this oddly EQ’d and unrealistic, but also wasn’t as hell bent against it as you are (though I certainly have been against other crappy heavy vinyl from MoFi, Analog Productions, Blue Note, etc.). Well, now I can’t stand it. It sounds fucking atrocious. The difference between it and my humble hot stamper copy is night and day. Whole collection sounds better, and is awesome to rediscover again, but this one really stood out. Onwards and upwards!


That is indeed good news. That record is pass-fail for me. If anyone cannot tell how bad it is, that is a sure sign that something is very wrong somewhere. Glad you are hearing it as I am hearing it. It is indeed atrocious.


Conrad followed up with these remarks:

The MoFi Kind of Blue never sounded right or real, but now it sounds downright puke. Will hang onto it and use as a test record for fun on other systems. As bad as it is, as I’ve said before, you have no idea how much worse their Junior Wells Hoodoo Man Blues is. My god; you’d suspect your system is broken, playing that. Bloated asphyxiated subaquatic delirium.



Well said!

Further Reading

The Beatles / Rubber Soul – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Sound?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

[This review was originally written in 2015.]

We are so excited to tell you about the first of the Heavy Vinyl Beatles remasters we’ve played! As we cycle through our regular Hot Stamper shootouts for The Beatles’ albums we will be of course be reviewing more of them*. I specifically chose this one to start with, having spent a great deal of time over the last year testing the best vinyl pressings against three different CD versions of Rubber Soul.

The short version of our review of the new Rubber Soul vinyl would simply point out that it’s awful, and, unsurprisingly, it’s awful in most of the ways that practically all modern Heavy Vinyl records are: it’s opaque, airless, energy-less and just a drag.

I was looking forward to the opportunity to take Michael Fremer, the foremost champion of thick vinyl from sources far and wide, to task in expectation of his rave review, when to my surprise I found the rug had been pulled out from under me — he didn’t like it either. Damn!

MF could hear how bad it was. True to form, he thinks he knows why it doesn’t sound good:

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.

It strikes me as odd that the new vinyl should sound like a CD. I have listened to the newly remastered 2009 CD of Rubber Soul in stereo extensively and think it sounds quite good, clearly better than the Heavy Vinyl pressing that’s made from the very same 16 bit, 44.1k remixed digital source.

If the source makes the new vinyl sound bad, why doesn’t it make the new CD sound bad? I can tell you that the new CD sounds dramatically better than the 1987 CD I’ve owned for twenty years. They’re not even close. How could that be if, as MF seems to believe, the compromised digital source is the problem?

Fortunately I didn’t know what the source for the new CD was when I was listening to it. I assumed it came from the carefully remastered hi-rez tapes that were being used to make the new series in its entirety, digital sources that are supposed to result in sound with more analog qualities. Well, based on what I’ve heard, they do, and those more analog qualities obviously extend to the new Rubber Soul compact disc. At least to these ears they do.

Possibly my ignorance of the source tape allowed me to avoid the kind of confirmation bias — hearing what you expect to hear — that is surely one of the biggest pitfalls in all of audio.

Doors Progress

He raved about the digitally remastered Doors Box Set when it came out, but now that Acoustic Sounds is doing Doors albums on 45 he is singing a different tune:

Whatever I wrote about that box then [5/1/2010 if you care to look it up], now, by comparison, the best I can say for The Doors on that set is that it sounds like you’re hearing the album played back on the best CD player ever. It’s smoooooth, laid back and pleasant but totally lacks balls, grit, detail, spaciousness and raw emotional power. The entire presentation is flat against a wall set up between the speakers. The double 45 has greater dynamics, detail, spaciousness and appropriate grit—everything the smooooth 192k/24 bit sourced version lacks.

We, on the other hand, had no trouble at all hearing how bad it was right from the start. For our last Hot Stamper shootout winner of The Soft Parade we noted:

Need I even mention how much better this copy sounds than the recent 180g version from the Rhino Box Set, digitally remastered by Bernie Grundman? That thing is just awful, possibly the worst sounding pressing I have ever heard. The Gold CD Hoffman did for Audio Fidelity would be night and day better. So much for the concept of vinyl superiority. Not with Bernie at the helm.

To his credit MF finally recognizes his mistake, but let’s stop and think about how he came by this insight. He did it by playing a pressing that, to his mind, has every reason to sound better, being sourced from analog tapes and mastered at 45. Now he hears that Bernie’s cutting sounds like a CD. To us it sounded worse than a CD when we played it the first time, vinyl or no vinyl. We even recommended the Hoffman-mastered DCC Gold CDs for those who didn’t want to spring for one of our Hot Stamper pressings. As we like to say, good digital beats bad analog any day.

Real Progress

Then again, who are we to talk? Bear in mind that as recently as 2000-something we were still recommending the DCC vinyl pressings, records that I can’t stand to listen to these days. My system couldn’t show me how colored and lifeless they were then, but it sure can now.

It’s amazing how far you can get in 10 years if you’re obsessive enough and driven enough and are willing to devote huge amounts of your time and effort to the pursuit of better audio. This will be especially true if you are perfectly happy to let your ears, not your brain, inform your understanding of the sound of the records you play.

If we thought like most audiophiles, that money buys good sound and original pressings are usually the best, there would be no such thing as Hot Stampers.

That’s Fremer’s world, not ours. He’s making progress in some areas, not so much in others, but man, he sure has a long way to go. At this rate it will take him forever. It just goes to prove that Mistaken Thinking can really slow down your progress.

Take our advice (and stop taking his, which is also our advice) and you will be amazed at the positive changes that are sure to come your way.

So, What’s The Grade?

MF’s grade for the new Rubber Soul pressing was a 5 on a scale of 1 to 11. If we were to follow the more standard scale of 1 to 10, we would probably give Rubber Soul a 2, at most 2.5 (and that’s only if we were in an expecially generous mood). The new record is a drag, and even the remastered CD is better. Under those circumstances how can the 180 gram pressing be a 5? Maybe in Fremer’s world you automatically get three points for being made out of vinyl. He seems to really like the stuff, even when it doesn’t sound good. Never could figure that one out.

More Beatles Heavy Vinyl?

Due to the heavy volume of mail on the subject (2 emails flooded in!) we finally broke down and bought the set. As we pursue our Hot Stamper shootouts of The Beatles’ catalog we will be commenting on how the new pressings sound from time to time and in no particular order. We’re also in no particular hurry; practically nothing on Heavy Vinyl impresses us these days and we expect The Beatles records to be no different, rave reviews (for most of them) from audiophile reviewers notwithstanding.


After playing two titles and hearing the same mediocre sound, this survey is on indefinite hiatus.

Who has the time to play crappy records, especially when there are so many good ones, or potentially good ones, that we don’t find the time to get to as it is?