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The Beatles Stereo LP Box Set
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SOUND QUALITY 

I auditioned and compared three generations of pressings for this review. I selected an original copy of ‘With The Beatles’ album (1963) and the 1978 UK version from the EMI box set reissue (better sounding than the comparable USA and Australian versions and sourced direct from the master tapes) and the new 2012 copy. 

   Also, the original pressing of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (1967) was compared directly with the new version. I also decided to undertake a more considered test with the 1978 and 2012 versions of ‘Abbey Road’ (1969). 

Starting with ‘With The Beatles’ and the track ‘It Won’t Be Long’, the 1978 reissue offered more detail than the original. I could hear that Lennon’s voice was double tracked while the bass had more resonance and body. Drums played a big part in the mix, with beautiful separation between cymbal strikes. The downside was the compression that dominated both record versions. There was a brightness that compromised the sonic improvements of the 1978 version.

   Moving to the new release, the 2012 version offered a much quieter cut: gain had to be upped a few notches to achieve the same volume. Even though there was no compression on these pressings the nature of the EQ - an Apple stipulation – meant that the vocals sounded slightly restricted. This was partly down to the early stereo mix that sounds rather claustrophobic. Even so, Lennon’s double-tracked vocals were pleasingly resonant. Similarly, the backing harmonies were far more recognisable with a separation from the lead that just wasn’t present on the original pressing and was less noticeable on the 1978 version due to the compression used. 

With the 2012 version of  ‘It Won’t Be Long’, instrumentally the track was a triumph, despite the claustrophobic effect. The drums were more at ease, making clear a flair and nonchalance that drummer Ringo Starr was known for, while the new master better revealed Harrison’s attacking guitar style. 

   Comparing the new version of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and the original, there really was no contest. The 2012 version offered a more explicit soundstage structure within the limited boundaries of the rather naive stereo mix. It also clarified the upper mids, adding separation to the harmonic and double tracked vocals and making each vocal part more recognisable. The essential brass accompaniment, an iconic section of this famous track, could be heard properly for the first time. Each instrument had personality and less bloom while the secondary percussion that was masked by compression on the original could now be discerned. McCartney’s bass was prominent too, while drums bathed in a clarity that was sadly lacking within the original.

   Moving to ‘Here Comes The Sun’,  from the Abbey Road album, I must say that I feared for the new version after listening to the 1978 cut. The latter is an excellent version, one of the highlights of that entire box set, in fact. The detail extraction was of a high order while the soundstage was wide and the upper mids were tonally accurate with a deftness of presentation, along with a 3D stereo image and an attractive instrumental separation. 

   Quite incredibly, the new 2012 version blew the 1978 master away. The right/left transition at the beginning of the track was strong and secure, while the organ effect on the left channel was more noticeable. The instrumental separation was not only superior but, once separated, each instrument was clearer. Detail on this track was quite magnificent, with tonally correct hand claps. The acoustic guitar had a rich texture that emphasised the attack of strumming, while percussive bass was solid and provided a firm foundation for the track. 

What was most surprising was the Moog synthesiser which had a dominating effect on the new master, broadening the track and adding complexity to the arrangement while adding welcome contrast with the other rhythmic elements. 



 

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