Are The Beatles in mono an adquire taste?
Jan 22, 2014 at 1:17 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 31

daniel0407

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Hi all,
 
Just bought yesterday the mono boxset, and shall say, yesterday after listening to some songs, I did not like it at all. I started with Help!, and I shall say I really though of never listen to that mono album again. After that, give a try to "Please, Please me", and it was better, at least I like it, even so much or better than the stereo version. Then, "Beatles for Sale", the same as Help!.
 
Today I am trying a different approach.. cup of wine, and Help! stereo and mono.. The mono now has its charm...
 
So, is it so to say, an adquire taste? 
 
Jan 22, 2014 at 2:21 PM Post #2 of 31

brhfl

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If you've been accustomed to hearing music in stereo all your life, if you've been raised on the sort of audio reproduction that is described not even by a name, but by how many points the sound is being reproduced in... then, yes, anything in mono will take a bit of getting used to. I remember in college, space and financial concerns had me deciding between the quality of sound being reproduced, and how many speakers I'd actually have to reproduce it. I settled on a (mono) Tivoli Model One, and it was quite a revelation that sound quality is more than just stereo imaging.
 
To the matter at hand, the mono mixes of the Beatles' albums in the set are generally regarded as better sounding mixes. These were mixed for mono, and stereo was an afterthought, a gimmick. There are anecdotes of days or weeks being spent on the mono mixes, and then a collective 'ah, crap, we gotta do the stereo' followed by an hour of careless cutting. Anecdotes are not gospel, of course, but there seems to be a great deal of evidence that the mono mixes were considered canonical. 
 
So, at that point, it's a matter of two things. Can you get past mono sound, in general? And then, simply, do you prefer the mixes. A lot of the stereo Beatles seem awkwardly panned, gimmicky to me. But if you prefer otherwise, that's all that matters, eh? I would give it a bit of time (and, sure, why not, wine!) to make sure you can get into the general mindset of listening in mono. But if it doesn't float your boat... at least you gave it a go, eh?
 
Jan 22, 2014 at 6:43 PM Post #4 of 31

daniel0407

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Hi! Many thanks for the answers.
 
@brhfl: Interesting anecdote regarding Tivoli model One. And I will give a go, the wine makes the music warmer.. hehe!
 
The first Beatles remasted 2009 that I got were the CDs, then the Apple USB, which I want not for the 24 bits version (there is not noticiable difference), but because the apple itself, which is beutiful. Then, after reading how the people wrote so many good things about the Mono version, I was curious. Another factor was, that I like the Black Triangle Abbey Road better than the 2009 remaster, mainly because it is not as loud and I feel (subjectively perharps), more dynamic in the sound. So, if the mono version does not had any limiting applied, shall have more dynamic, isn't it?
 
Well... after listening some albums in mono, and reading again the coments about how good the mono mixes are (despite I did not like some albums, which are, by the way, those that shall sound better in mono).. I realised something strange: the coments, in blogs and forums praising the mono above the stereo mixes, are in a good part, before 2009, and are, of course, not speaking about the 2009 remasters. Many (not all, and probably not the majority) of the newer topics that one can find after 09.09.2009 praise very well the stereo set.
 
Second, the 2009 stereo mixes have limiting applied, are louder, but when analysing some tracks with JRiver tool, looks like some stereo tracks has more dynamic than their mono counterpart. I am almost sure I am doing something wrong, and probably reading - interpreting wrongly the results given by the program, so I have to read a little more, inform myself a little better, and then probably give an example or two.
 
I do not dislike the mono sound per se, but it is more like, after getting use of the crystal clear music of the stereo mixes, makes the other sound dated, very dated. I also find dated the original stereo mixes of Help and Rubber Soul, so rather than to be a problem of Stereo vs Mono, is more a problem of restore vs worn.
 
And at this point, I wonder how the 1983 Japanese version of Abbey Road sound so well, and why the other albums (if well a very little older than Abbey Road), sound so dated.
 
I do not regret to have bought the mono set, I am a Beatle fan and am sure, with time, will appreciate the differences and enjoy them. I already like a lot "Please, Please me" (even better than the Stereo), and I appreciate "Help!", as mentioned in the first post. Also, the packaging is excellent.
 
Best Regards,
 
Daniel
 
Jan 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM Post #5 of 31

mironathetin

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When I got the Mono Box 4 years ago, I wasn't overwhelmed either. I opted for Mono mainly, because I usually listen to music with my headphones. The duophonic sound of the so-called stereo versions is incredibly annoying with headphones. So I did not vote for mono but against stereo.

There are some songs where mono is immediately appealing though. Paperback Writer for example. Or I Saw Her Standing There (one. two, three, foar ... whow!). I also have Pet Sounds (Beach Boys), Dylans Mono Box and a couple of Operas from the 50s in Mono (Macbeth, Rigoletto, Norma, Cosi fan tutte). Personally I think, all of these sound better than the Beatles, the operas even sound gorgeous. Especially Macbeth (Leinsdorf, Warren, Rysanek) is among the best recordings of music that I own (and I own a lot). No reason to miss stereo with these.

Maybe enjoying mono is not acquired, but it is against our current listening habits. My personal opinion is, the Beatles are not the best example, even after they have been remastered. Although I always liked the Beatles, I tend to find their music a bit boring nowadays. I like to listen to Love and the Anthologies though. Very nice sound and interesting alternative takes (not mono).
But really good music can also sound really good in mono.
 
Jan 23, 2014 at 3:55 PM Post #6 of 31

brhfl

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When I got the Mono Box 4 years ago, I wasn't overwhelmed either. I opted for Mono mainly, because I usually listen to music with my headphones. The duophonic sound of the so-called stereo versions is incredibly annoying with headphones. So I did not vote for mono but against stereo.
 
Only a handful were duophonic, much of the Beatles' material that was released stereo was true stereo. Obnoxious (to me) stereo, but stereo all the same. 
 
There are some songs where mono is immediately appealing though. Paperback Writer for example. Or I Saw Her Standing There (one. two, three, foar ... whow!). I also have Pet Sounds (Beach Boys), Dylans Mono Box and a couple of Operas from the 50s in Mono (Macbeth, Rigoletto, Norma, Cosi fan tutte). Personally I think, all of these sound better than the Beatles, the operas even sound gorgeous. No reason to miss stereo with these.
 
The Dylan set is excellent, but those stereo mixes were full of hard pans and the like. Up until Blonde on Blonde, I'd probably prefer a fold-down to the stereo mixes...
 
Maybe enjoying mono is not acquired, but it is against our current listening habits. My personal opinion is, the Beatles are not the best example, even after they have been remastered. Although I always liked the Beatles, I tend to find their music a bit boring nowadays. I like to listen to Love and the Anthologies though. Very nice sound and interesting alternative takes (not mono).
But really good music can also sound really good in mono.

Kind of sounds to me like the description of an acquired taste :wink:. Obviously we're not used to it, and it certainly can take some adjustment. I will confess to being the type to skip around quite a bit on a given Beatles album, can't entirely say I blame you for growing bored of them. Not always the most... cohesive.
 
To OP, because I don't feel like going back and wacking multiquote... Yes, that USB apple is a beautiful objet d'art. No matter how high res the files are, I do not like that mastering, however. And herein lies the rub with this material... The mono box is valuable for the mix, the original CD releases are valuable for the masters, and the USB apple is valuable for the pretty apple. :)
 
Jan 23, 2014 at 6:17 PM Post #7 of 31

Chris J

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Personally, I find a lot of modern recordings are so one dimensional that they may as well be mono.

The whole Beatles mythology about how long it took to create the mono mixes versus how long it took to create the stereo mixes misses one important facet of human behaviour:

Once the team had learned how to mix the album in mono, they would have been able to quickly create a stereo mix, I,e. They had already determined relative mix levels, all they had to do was mentally recall this information and create a panned stereo mix.

OTOH,
Apparently Abbey Road sounds amazing in Stereo because they never created a mono mix.
Or maybe it just sounds so good because everyone has been copying or imitating the sound of this album for the past 40 years!
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 2:11 AM Post #8 of 31

TsukiNick

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Beatles in Stereo is awful without any crossfeed....mother of god.  The first stereo recordings used excessive panning to really show that it's 2 channel audio....alright on speakers.... on headphones....kill me.
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 4:09 AM Post #9 of 31

mironathetin

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Kind of sounds to me like the description of an acquired taste :wink:.

 

I think you completely misinterpreted what I wrote.
In a nutshell:
- I agree that the Beatles don't sound overwhelming in mono.
- other mono recordings that I have sound good or even great.
- so I don't think it is acquired taste. Beatles sound dull in mono because either Beatles sound dull or the remastering is not good enough.

The panning you mentioned is still very noticeable in the white album (find Pauls bass in Helter Skelter annoying only your left ear - or was it the right?). So it is not limited to the first few albums. Only Abbey Road and Let it be sound perfect.

Beatles in Stereo is awful without any crossfeed....mother of god.  The first stereo recordings used excessive panning to really show that it's 2 channel audio....alright on speakers.... on headphones....kill me.

 

that nails it
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 8:40 AM Post #10 of 31

brhfl

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Personally, I find a lot of modern recordings are so one dimensional that they may as well be mono.

The whole Beatles mythology about how long it took to create the mono mixes versus how long it took to create the stereo mixes misses one important facet of human behaviour:

Once the team had learned how to mix the album in mono, they would have been able to quickly create a stereo mix, I,e. They had already determined relative mix levels, all they had to do was mentally recall this information and create a panned stereo mix.

OTOH,
Apparently Abbey Road sounds amazing in Stereo because they never created a mono mix.
Or maybe it just sounds so good because everyone has been copying or imitating the sound of this album for the past 40 years!

 
To an extent, yes, but the stories have never been 'well we already did most of the work, so the stereo mixes barely took any time at all!,' they've been 'well we didn't really want to do a stereo mix so a lot of the guys left and we just carelessly tossed this thing together!' The fact that there are such dramatic differences in the mix also goes a ways to showing that they really were an afterthought. And yes... the white album was right on the cusp of wide adoption of stereo, and even though it was mixed for mono and stereo, we only saw the stereo release stateside (until this box, of course). Subsequently, there were no (true) mono mixes of Yellow SubmarineAbbey Road, nor Let it Be.
 
 
  Kind of sounds to me like the description of an acquired taste
wink.gif
.

 

I think you completely misinterpreted what I wrote.
In a nutshell:
- I agree that the Beatles don't sound overwhelming in mono.
- other mono recordings that I have sound good or even great.
- so I don't think it is acquired taste. Beatles sound dull in mono because either Beatles sound dull or the remastering is not good enough.

The panning you mentioned is still very noticeable in the white album (find Pauls bass in Helter Skelter annoying only your left ear - or was it the right?). So it is not limited to the first few albums. Only Abbey Road and Let it be sound perfect.

I just meant when you said it's not a thing we're accustomed to - but upon reflection I realize that was re: mono in general, not specifically the Beatles in mono. I actually didn't mention the hard/gimmicky pans belonging to any particular era or set of albums, and I agree that the white album is just as much an offender, I would always recommend it over the stereo release to someone just getting into their catalogue.
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM Post #11 of 31

Chris J

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To an extent, yes, but the stories have never been 'well we already did most of the work, so the stereo mixes barely took any time at all!,' they've been 'well we didn't really want to do a stereo mix so a lot of the guys left and we just carelessly tossed this thing together!' The fact that there are such dramatic differences in the mix also goes a ways to showing that they really were an afterthought. And yes... the white album was right on the cusp of wide adoption of stereo, and even though it was mixed for mono and stereo, we only saw the stereo release stateside (until this box, of course). Subsequently, there were no (true) mono mixes of Yellow SubmarineAbbey Road, nor Let it Be.

 


That's how they may recall it, but there is always a learning curve.
It's just reality.
The dramatic differences can also be written off to: "we did it better the second time".
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 1:34 PM Post #12 of 31

brhfl

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The dramitic differences can also be written off to: "we did it better the second time".

Perhaps, if they sounded better.
 
Edit: I don't really need to snark out on this I suppose. I genuinely don't believe that it can be chalked up to 'well, we already did it once, smooth sailing ahead!,' especially given that the band didn't by all accounts even want to take part in the stereo mixing. Regardless, it's a bit silly to argue over anecdotes, and more practical to actually discuss the sound of the mixes. I find the mono mixes to be superior pretty much across the board.
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 1:41 PM Post #13 of 31

sonitus mirus

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  Beatles in Stereo is awful without any crossfeed....mother of god.  The first stereo recordings used excessive panning to really show that it's 2 channel audio....alright on speakers.... on headphones....kill me.

 
Yes indeed!  For many of the original mono-mixed tracks up to the White Album, most of these sound much better to me in mono.  This is how I remember these songs sounding in my youth.  The stereo recordings are often very different, not just the stereo aspect.  With headphones, it seems like a gimmick in stereo, and it feels like I'm suffering from congestion from seasonal allergies.  That said, there are a few older tracks from the mono box set that I prefer, but mostly I want to keep the mono stuff the way I originally heard it, especially when using headphones.
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM Post #14 of 31

Chris J

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  Perhaps, if they sounded better.
 
Edit: I don't really need to snark out on this I suppose. I genuinely don't believe that it can be chalked up to 'well, we already did it once, smooth sailing ahead!,' especially given that the band didn't by all accounts even want to take part in the stereo mixing. Regardless, it's a bit silly to argue over anecdotes, and more practical to actually discuss the sound of the mixes. I find the mono mixes to be superior pretty much across the board.

 
Thanks.
I was going to ignore the original response! 
redface.gif

I must confess that I do have a bit of a problem with the edict that "the Mono mixes are best!"
But can't really say that I've heard a lot of them.
To my ears the British Stereo releases are superior to the ugly Capitol Stereo releases.
It is common knowledge that the stereo "Help" and "Revolver" and "Rubber Soul" re-releases are actually stereo mixes that George Martin created in the mid 80s.
So I guess Old George didn't like some of them either!
George has also stated that the first two albums should never have been mixed or released in Stereo.
You could argue that the waters start getting murky after Sgt. Pepper..........yay or nay. 
 
Jan 24, 2014 at 9:03 PM Post #15 of 31

sonitus mirus

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The problem with some of the earlier recordings that were included in my stereo box set is that with headphones, ALL of the drums are in one ear, and the vocals are ALL in another ear. It just sounds unnatural to me.  Like I said, it almost feels like my sinuses are congested when listening through headphones.  Though, this is not true for every song, and I do prefer the quality of the later stereo albums. 
 
Have a listen to some samples:
 
http://www.goodrob13.com/2009/04/26/the-beatles-mono-vs-stereo-remastered-cds-coming-sept-2009/
 
http://www.goodrob13.com/2009/07/26/the-beatles-mono-vs-stereo-part-2/
 

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