The Audio Geek!

'The Beatles In Mono' Box Set

Finally I got my 'The Beatles In Mono' Box Set delivered today. And I must say the joy was immediate as the packaging is superb, almost Apple-like (pardon the pun!) in the fit & finish of the mini-LP packaging, inner sleeves and outer protective plastic to protect the artwork.

I have only had a brief listen so far, but the true mono sound is much different to what I had expected or imagined. The image is 'smaller' but has a real dense sound. The overall presentation has more weight and a sense of lots of things going on but with plenty of detail and a lot more emotion, particularly in the vocals. OK, so now to an album by album analysis as I progressively listen.

Please, Please Me (1963)
The original stereo mix seemed more like mono than stereo to my ears, with not so much of the hard left/right panning that exists on the later stereo albums. Anyway, comparing the stereo & mono versions, I heard the biggest differences on 'There a Place' where the rhythm guitars, drums and bass have a richness and drive that was nowhere near as obvious on the original stereo copy. Unlike some I didn't hear or feel much more emotion in 'Twist and Shout' (which I always felt had a pretty big 'jump factor' anyway) and heard only slightly (and I mean s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y) more detail in the ending.

With The Beatles (1963)
Now we are cooking! The separation of the instruments on 'All I Want To Do' really brings this track to life. 'Till There Was You' has wonderfully layered acoustic guitars and the guitar riff on 'Hold Me Tight' sounds vibrant and fresh. I enjoyed this album much more than 'Please Please Me', it felt more engaging.

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Beatles For Sale (1964)

My 'The Beatles in Mono' Summary
No question, the deeper & the harder you listen, additional details (and on some tracks, more layers) are revealed. If however you need $250 to feed yourself, make car payments or you are a 'casual' Beatles listener, I might suggest that this product is better suited to the diehards fans only. The key selling point of the Mono Set is that they were the recordings that The Beatles made and wanted to issue, rather than the re-mixed original stereo versions.

Other enthusiastic reviewers seem to focus more on the quality of the re-issued recordings (either stereo or mono) which are absolutely stunning given their age, rather than the benefits of mono over stereo.

Some insightful reviews and commentary on the Mono set here: BlogBeta, Allmusic, NPR, Tone Publications, The Guardian, Pitchfork.

It's all about the music, stupid

Well, now the system is finally going well, it is time to just sit there and spin some discs and over the last few days I have done just that. I am trying desperately to avoid the usual audiophile suspects, and play just run-of-the-mill Redbook CDs.

Some surprise with sound quality, some generate great memories and others, well, are just a bit CD-ish. But overall, all discs played at sensible levels sound better than they ever have before in my system, in my room.

What has sounded surprisingly good? Gerry Rafferty 'City to City', Nick Drake 'Bryter Layter' and the Beatles ' Let is Be - Naked' to name just three.

What generated memories? Boz Scaggs 'Silk Degrees'. An absolute classic! Being a fan, I just wish that his early, pre-Silk Degrees 'Philly sound' albums would get re-released on CD.

And I am continuing to work my way through the collection, looking for that next forgotten 'gem'.

Will list 'em when I find 'em. Great days indeed!