Top Artists – The Beatles

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

“There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

We review the newly remixed Revolver.

As I was reading the newspaper today, I chanced upon Mark Twain’s famous quote and immediately recognized a way to put it to good use. I had been searching my brain for a good way to start a commentary detailing the multitudinous problems with the remixed, half-speed mastered Revolver LP. Kicked in the head was exactly what I needed.

In 2020 I had reviewed the Abbey Road remix and was astonished that anyone would release a record of such utter sonic worthlessness. A few choice lines:

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.

Of course I never did write more about it. The thought of listening critically to the album in order to detail its manifold shortcomings was more than I could bear and onto the back burner the idea went, where it remains to this day.

In 2020 I warned the audiophile community not to go down this foolish half-speed mastered road, and now that they have been kicked in the head a second time, perhaps when they wake up they will come to their senses, although I doubt very much that they will.

Giles Martin is the guilty party here, and I hope it is clear by now that he simply has no clue as to how a Beatles record should sound. If he did have such a clue, this new Revolver would never have seen the light of day.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Here are the notes our crack listening panel (our very own Wrecking Crew) made as they listened to the new Revolver.

Note that they listened to side two first, playing a Super Hot stamper ’70s UK pressing head to head with the new release, so we have listed our notes for side two above those for side one.

They listened to the first two tracks on side two in this order:

Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing.

On side one they played the first three tracks and listened to them in this order:

I’m Only Sleeping, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby.


Some of the highlights from side two:

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The Beatles – Two Key Tracks for Testing Rubber Soul

Hot Stamper Pressings of Rubber Soul Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul is one of the most difficult Beatles records to get to sound right. The individual tracks seem to vary drastically in terms of their tonality. Some (What Goes On) sound sweet, rich and near perfect. Others (You Won’t See Me) can be thin and midrangy. What’s a mother to do?

I think what we’re dealing with here are completely different approaches to the final mix. The Beatles were experimenting with different kinds of sounds, and their experiments produced very different results from track to track on this album more than practically any other I can think of besides The White Album (which was recorded in multiple studios by multiple producers and engineers).

Is Your Rig Up To It?

One final note: this is the kind of record that really rewards a good cartridge/ arm/ table combination. You do not want to play this record with a lean or bright sounding cartridge, or a front end that does not track sibilances well. (I could name some equipment that I would not want to play this record on, but rather than insult the owners of such equipment, let’s just say they will have a tough time with this record.)

The Toughest Test on Side One

Nowhere Man.” Unless you have an especially good copy this song will sound VERY compressed, much too thick and congealed to be as enjoyable as it should be. The best copies manage to find the richness in the sound as well as the breathiness in the vocals that others barely hint at.

Play this track on whatever copies you own (more than one I hope) and see if it doesn’t sound as compressed, thick and congested as we describe.

The Toughest Test on Side Two

Wait,” a song we’ve never commented about before. The drums in the left channel are a key test — they should have huge amounts of energy.

In the other channel, the shakers and tambourines are well up in the mix and really come jumping out of the right speaker on the best copies.

The bass is a slightly lean compared to the other tracks and tends to get lost somewhat. If you can follow it throughout the song that’s a good thing.

Balancing the bass and drums in the left channel with the vocals and percussion in the right channel is not easy to do, which is of course what makes it a great track to test with.

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Should We Follow George Martin’s Expert Advice?

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

One of our good customers had this to say about the new Revolver pressing and The Beatles in mono:

Hey Tom,

I think the Revolver new thing doesn’t sound terrible. It’s just what you’re comparing it with. Most people are going off original pressings maybe and the acclaimed mono and stereo box stuff that came out in the last 10 years. IF you don’t try one of those Harry Moss records or a 1970s pressing, you probably think the new Revolver is fine or even good. That’s my theory. Who knows.

And as far as mono vs. stereo… you know the answer to this but I’m not sure. Were those earliest records meant to be mono or recorded as if they would be put out as mono and later records – maybe Rubber Soul on – meant to be stereo? I don’t know the answer to that. But maybe that’s why people are so loyal to mono. They feel like “this is how it was meant to be heard by the artist.”

George Martin was very clear about that, the first two albums for sure and really, the first four are, for him, better heard in mono than stereo.

I disagree. I think George heard the playback on studio monitors stuck on a wall five feet from his head. Who cares what that sounds like?  Nobody who isn’t mixing a record would ever listen to music that way, certainly not in this day and age.

More importantly, who are you going to believe, your lying ears or George Martin?

This is so fundamental to understanding everything to do with audio and records.

Richard Feynman summed it up beautifully: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Watch the Let It Be documentary put out by Peter Jackson, the last part where they play the album back for everyone.

With four monitor speakers lined up left to right and shoved up against a wall.

This is how they listened to the album in order to approve Glyn Johns’ mix and the takes he chose to use?

How can anyone take any of it seriously?

TP


Beatles, Beatles, Beatles

The Beatles in Mono – Why No Hot Stampers?

Please Please Me – Which Is More 3-Dimensional, Mono or Twin Track?

Customers Really Seem to Love Our Beatles Hot Stampers

Answers to Some of Your Hot Stamper Questions

The Beatles in Mono, Our Grading System, Our Cleaning System and More

We discuss a number of issues with our letter writer, the kinds of questions we often get, so here are some of the answers we often give out.

  • While Prices for Many Records Have Trended Down, Others Have Gone Up
  • The Beatles in Mono
  • Our White Hot Triple Plus Grade
  • Why Our Stereo Is Good at Its Job, and
  • Record Cleaning

  Hey Tom, 

First off, I got to say, congratulations on a great concept. Also, congrats on having the balls to charge what these albums are worth.

Thanks. Like any business, we charge what the market will bear, and it seems people are willing to pay a lot for these records, although less for some than they used to — some of our records now sell for half or even less than what we were getting two or three or five years ago.

That said, the top copies have held their prices pretty well over the years and often gone up substantially. It’s the second tier and third tier titles and the Super Hots that have really fallen in price. That’s where the real “bargains” are these days. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Abbey Road

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

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 arguably the toughest nut to crack in the Beatles’ catalog. 

Most of the copies we’ve played over the years suffer from too much grit and grain, particularly on the vocals. Not the best ones though. We just couldn’t believe how smooth and sweet the vocals were on our shootout winner last time around, especially on side two, without sacrificing any breath or texture.

The Power of Abbey Road

This is the final statement from The Beatles. To take away the power of this music 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. 

In-Depth Track Commentary (more…)

Listening in Depth to the White Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The White Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

It’s exceedingly difficult to find audiophile quality sound on The White Album. The Beatles were breaking apart, often recording independently of each other, with their own favorite engineers as enablers, and George Martin nowhere to be found most of the time. They were also experimenting more and more with sound itself, which resulted in wonderful songs and interesting effects. However, these new approaches and added complexity often result in a loss of sonic “purity.”

Let’s face it, most audiophiles like simplicity: A female vocal, a solo guitar — these things are easy to reproduce and often result in pleasing sound, the kind of sound that doesn’t take a lot of expensive equipment or much effort to reproduce.

Dense mixes with wacky EQ are hard to reproduce (our famous Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS) comes into play here), and the White Album is full of that sound, taking a break for songs like Blackbird and Julia.

Some of the Tubey Magic that you hear on Pepper is gone for good. (Play With a Little Help from My Friends on a seriously good Hot Stamper pressing to see what has been lost forever. Lovely Rita would probably work just as well, too.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Looks at the lineup for side one. Is there a rock album on the planet with a better batch of songs?

Having done shootouts for the White Album by the score, we can also say with some certainty that side one is the most difficult side to find White Hot stamper sound for. It’s somewhat rare to find a side one that earns our top Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade, even when all the other sides do. (Actually what happens more often than not is that we take the best second discs and mate them with the best first discs to make the grades consistent for the whole album. But don’t tell anybody.) (more…)

The Beatles / Magical Mystery Touring – Baby You’re a Rich Man

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Magical Mystery Tour

Below we discuss in detail what we’re listening for on Baby You’re a Rich Man.

If you own a copy of the German MMT, play yours and listen for all the same things that we do.

For those of you interested in digging deeper, our Listening in Depth commentaries have extensive track by track breakdowns for some of the better-known albums we’ve done multiple shootouts for.

Baby You’re A Rich Man

This track is Demo Disc Quality on the best Hot Stamper pressings. As I was playing this song for the beatlmagic_depth_1176424879shootout, the thought occurred to me that if I had one track to play to someone to demonstrate what a thrill it is to have a big, expensive stereo, it would be hard to pick a better song than Baby You’re A Rich Man.

The only other one that occurs to me off the top of my head is Sergio Mendes’ For What It’s Worth off of Stillness. The sound is wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling and BIG as LIFE. You can’t do that with screens and you can’t do that with smaller speakers and their smaller drivers.

Once you’ve heard that sound it’s hard to get too excited about any other.


The Beatles – Revolver

More of The Beatles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

  • Here is the space, energy, presence clarity and massive bottom end you had no idea were even possible on Revolver
  • 14 amazing tracks including Taxman; Eleanor Rigby; Here, There and Everywhere; Yellow Submarine; Good Day Sunshine; Got To Get You Into My Life and Tomorrow Never Knows (!)
  • 5 stars: “Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.”
  • If you’re a fan of the Fab Four, and even if you’re not, this groundbreaking album from 1966 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Want to be blown away by Beatles sound you never imagined you would ever have the chance to experience for yourself? Drop the needle on Taxman on this very side one — that’s your ticket to ride, baby! We were knocked out by it and we guarantee you will be too. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I needed a day to fully pick up my jaw from the floor after hearing Revolver and Dark Side…”

Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

Letters and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

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

Hey Tom, 

I needed a day to fully pick up my jaw from the floor after hearing Revolver and Dark Side…

Now that I‘ve given them both a few listens to fully absorb how revealing these recordings I thought I knew so well really are, I just have so many questions. 

How much better sounding can the respective White Hots really be?????

As far as Dark Side, I’m finding out for myself. Just ordered the white hot stamper. Most likely will be returning one of them, but I hope that after this, I will finally be able to stop looking for “the better sound” on this one….

Regarding Revolver, will the A++ side of my Revolver Super hot sound the same as the A++ side of the WHS? Or is the A++ grade on the WHS relative to its A+++ side, and still better than the SHS? What I am getting at is, will both sides blow me away in comparison to my SHS, or is it better to be patient and hold out for a two-sided A+++? Btw, regardless of your answer, you cannot have this copy back, it is simply fantastic!

I know these kinds of questions are quite relative to a number of variables, but any enlightenment you can provide is welcome…. I appreciate what you do, you have gained a very happy customer. (more…)

The Beatles / Past Masters Volumes 1 & 2 – Digital Remastering at its Worst

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Beatles Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Beatles

Hall of Shame pressing and another album reviewed and found to be perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

The late-’80s import pressings of this album are bright (the tambourine on Hey Jude will tear your head off, just to cite one example) and aggressive and very digital sounding.

Unfortunately, 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 is exactly what I did back in the ’80s. It took me years to do it.

In the ’90s, when I was actually selling this awful record (because my system was just too dark and unrevealing to show me how awful it was), I wrote:

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 an audiophile would own.

To be clear, in this day and age, no serious audiophile who loves The Beatles should have the MoFi Box Set or Past Masters in his collection.


FURTHER READING

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