Dr. AIX's POSTS — 21 September 2014

By

Driving to the studio on Sunday morning means that I get to listen briefly to a couple of Beatles shows on the radio. The sound, the familiarity, and the nostalgia that accompanies the Fab Four’s music are always a treat. No matter how many times I’ve listened to their catchy tunes and amazing productions, I find myself relishing the magic that was the Beatles. My life was steered towards playing the guitar and making a career in music because of the Beatles.

The Beatles in Mono, a 14-box set of their albums from “Please, Please Me” to “The White Album”, was recently released by Apple for fans or the group, vinyl, and urtext advocates. Urtext is a noun that means, “an original or the earliest version of a text, to which later versions can be compared.” These new versions of the old analog masters were cut from the original master tapes by mastering engineer Sean Magee and mastering supervisor/researcher Steve Berkowitz at Abbey Road Studios. These analog masters were approved by the band and by the producer, Sir George Martin.

140921_the_beatles_in_mono

Figure 1 – The Beatles albums in mono package including the book. [Click to enlarge]

According to Sean, “I’ve heard the original cuts, I’ve heard the test cuts, I’ve heard test pressings, I’ve heard test production runs — I’ve heard them all. We cut straight from the analog tapes, and conformed to the original cutting notes. We’re not trying to re-create the originals, but we tried to produce the original intention. And nine times out of 10, it was as near to the originals as we could get. [via Digital Trends].

The goal of this particular set was not to “re-master” these well know albums but to bring the original analog masters back using current technologies. This is a laudable goal but one that leaves some things of value on the table. If I were doing the interview with Steve and Sean, I would ask whether a digital 192 kHz/24-bit transfer was done at the same time as the analog transfers. I would hope that they would relate how they carefully split the feed from the original Studer machines to the new analog cutting master AND to a PCM digital copy made with the best converters available (my choice would be the Benchmark ADC-1). That way the new mono vinyl releases would be available for the vinyl crowd and those of us that wish to avoid the further sonic degradation of analog transfers and the compromises of releasing on vinyl would both be happy. The hubbub is all about the majesty of pristine mono version. I haven’t heard or read anyone talk about digital copies. I’m sure the mono versions are terrific and they are the “best that we can expect” from recordings made all those years ago but I personally would have a hard time listening in mono.

140921_the_beatles_w-g_martin

Figure 2 – Sir George Martin and the Beatles at Abbey Road Studio in the 60s. [Click to enlarge]

The new releases are of historical interest; there is no doubt of that. The research and careful engineering that went into getting these albums back to their original state is important and should be celebrated and enjoyed. But I’ll keep waiting for the “The Beatles in Surround” transferred in full 96 kHz/24-bit PCM. We got a clue to what could be accomplished with the “Love” DVD-Audio disc a few years ago. But as much as I enjoyed the mash-ups and creative editing that Giles and his dad did with that project, I would love to get surround mixes of “Revolver” and “The White Album”. That would be something that I would invest in.

Forward this post to a friend and help us spread the word about HD-Audio Forward this post to a friend and help us spread the word about HD-Audio

Share

About Author

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(24) Readers Comments

  1. In addidition to the Urtext approved mono I would love to hear new stereo mixes from ’65 onward too. The Yellow Submarine Original Soundtrack release circa ’99 featured some awesome new stereo mixes…and yes, surround mixes would be nice too.

    • I remember the “Yellow Submarine” too. It was simply magic.

  2. For all of the Beatles albums in surround,”That would be something that I would invest in”.

  3. Would a surround mix of these albums be possible at all?
    I thought many of the recordings were ‘done’ with very few tracks/channels.

    After all the ‘Love’ project was for a specific purpose – and not meant to ‘reproduce’ the albums of the Beatles with ‘the possibilities of today’.

    I’d love to hear these LP’s .
    But I would not invest in them either.
    If a 96/2 version was avaible, I would certainly concider it – even if they are mono.

    • No, they wouldn’t be due to the way the tracking was done back in the early 60s. Although, I believe it’s possible. I just happen to have a 48 kHz/24-bit copy of the Sgt. Peppers 4-track multitracks and this morning I decided to invest a few hours and play around in search of 5.1 surround mix of the opening tune. After a few hours, I’m convinced that it’s doable and the results would be compelling. I had a lot of fun playing with various things. If I get it to a place that’s worth sharing, I’ll think about posting a small chunk on the FTP site.

  4. I gave up many years ago trying to keep track of all The Beatles’ releases, but isn’t this vinyl version based on the 2009 remastering effort? At least, that’s what I gathered from http://variety.com/2014/music/news/the-business-of-the-beatles-continues-to-grow-1201073393/.

    But as you state, clarity on how transfers from the original tapes were done and processed for the vinyl release, and how that compares to the same for the 2009 CD release, would be nice to know.

    I listened to the mono and stereo 2009 CD versions fairly carefully when they came out, and I preferred the stereo versions sonically, so I only kept those.

    • Interesting article but I’m not sure exactly sure whether the transfers of the master were redone for the mono vinyl versions. I haven’t followed it that closely.

      • I recall reading somewhere that the 2009 Mono CD’s were from the Analog Masters with no tinkering like they did on the stereo CD’s. Can someone confirm that?

        • I can confirm I heard the same, but can’t confirm if it’s accurate :). I can confirm the stereo mixes sound different than the stereo mixes released before 2009, and I prefer the 2009 stereo mixes over all previous stereo releases.

  5. I’ve read elsewhere and from interviews with Giles/Sean that the catalog has been digitized at 24/192, but in my opinion, a lot of the stereo mixes are just plain bad. I’m hearing things on this mono vinyl that I’ve never heard before. I vote for a 24/192 mono transfer and a stereo/surround remix of the entire catalog.

    • Thanks, that’s really good to hear.

  6. Quick question. You consistently tell us why 192khz is pointless in recording then why use it when transferring tape?

    • If I had the opportunity to transfer the original master of any analog tape, I would use 192 kHz/24-bits too. It’s just a safety margin thing and lower noise floor.

  7. Hi Mark, boy, I’m with you. I would dearly love to hear The Beatles albums in surround.
    I read an article where Giles Martin claims to have transferred every take of every track to digital 24/192.
    The brief introduction to the Beatles in surround (Love) allowes us to hear “into” the tracks. No one has listened to The Beatles more than I and I have to say that I heard things in those tracks for the first time. Fabulous.

    • I forgot to add that the mono box set sells here in Australia for $595.00. Each single album at $45.00.
      Repeat….mono. Ridiculous!

      • Rich collectors only. Sorry but this just doesn’t cut it. Give me the 192 kHz/24-bit files instead.

    • AUD424 delivered to Melbourne from Amazon.com vs $580 at JB HiFi. Definite vinyl price gouging has emerged in the last 18 months here. They’ve gotta put food on the table I spose but Oh WOW!!

  8. Hello Mark

    I think here is somehing that maybe will interest you.

    http://www.recordere.dk/indhold/templates/design.aspx?articleid=11572&zoneid=3

    Peter Lyngdorf and Mark Knopfler tells about The Loudness War. (Peter Lyngdorf in Danish).

    • Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look.

  9. I am quite sure you also know Ian Shepherd and his quest for ending the ‘loudness war’ – http://dynamicrangeday.co.uk/

    Seems to me that demanding ‘better’ mastering should even have priority above demand for high res/def audio.
    There is not much sense in paying extra for a 24/192 files originated from a ‘ueberload’ master.

    N.B. I know that your files are ‘gently’ mastered AND high def!!!
    But shouldn’t we in general pay more attention to how this ridiculous ‘loudness war’ could be ended.

    I want ‘better’ mastering plus (at least) 24/96 quality files

    • I’m in complete agreement with you on the mastering issue. But the sad thing is the labels aren’t going to change this…they demand that there artists be as loud as everyone else.

      The only mastering I do for my own productions is to establish the space between the tracks and the overall level. I never use any dynamics processing…not even gently.

  10. For me, the stereo mixes are the ones that I enjoy most. Surround sound mixes will be my next purchase.

  11. “…available for the vinyl crowd and those of us that wish to avoid the further sonic degradation of analog transfers and the compromises of releasing on vinyl … I’m sure the mono versions are terrific and they are the “best that we can expect” from recordings made all those years ago but I personally would have a hard time listening in mono”.

    I suppose that this is the sort of commentary to be expected from one who regards 16-bit digital audio as merely ‘different’ to analogue rather than vastly and audibly inferior, but the comment regarding “mono” is a joke. This man shouldn’t be in charge of his own socks, let alone the recording of music…

    • Dave…you must be a major vinyl LP lover. To refuse to acknowledge the specifications of analog tape and vinyl LPs as being less capable than even CDs is very telling. My preference for better fidelity and stereo and multichannel can and should be able to coexist with your preference for analog. The recordings I’ve made exceed the fidelity of analog…you should give them a try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eighteen − 15 =