Which Box Set Is Better?

Mono Or Stereo: Which Bea­t­les Box Is Better?

Bea­t­les his­to­rian Kevin Howlett talks about the newly remas­tered albums

All Songs Con­sid­ered
Date Aired: Sep­tem­ber 8 2009
Reporter: Bob Boilen | NPR
Time: 00:22:23


All The Bea­t­les’ music has been remas­tered, mean­ing the engi­neers at Abbey Road Stu­dio pulled out all the final mas­ter tapes (those final mixes of The Bea­t­les’ music) and tried to make them sound as pris­tine as pos­si­ble, while pre­serv­ing the integrity of the orig­i­nal mixes. It also means that The Bea­t­les’ music now sounds bet­ter than ever.

There will be two box sets — a stereo set and a limited-edition mono set that con­tains every­thing from 1963’s Please Please Me through The White Album (The Bea­t­les), the last Bea­t­les record mixed in mono. It’ll also include a CD full of mono mixes of the band’s singles.

So why mono? Why, in this day and age, would any­one want to hear The Bea­t­les in one-channel sound?

Accord­ing to Bea­t­les his­to­rian Kevin Howlett, George Mar­tin and The Bea­t­les put the most care into the mono mixes. He also notes a num­ber of dif­fer­ences between the stereo and mono mixes. For exam­ple, the mono ver­sion of “She’s Leav­ing Home” has a major change in pitch. John Lennon’s voice on the mono ver­sion of “Lucy in the Sky With Dia­monds” has a lot of flange effect on it.

Howlett helped write the new liner notes for the remas­tered albums. He notes that the record­ing process “has devel­oped so much over the years. Now you can go back to those (orig­i­nal record­ings) and clean them up and remix the whole thing. What they’ve done, the whole amaz­ing team at Abbey Road Stu­dios, is gone to metic­u­lous care and atten­tion to clean up any blem­ishes that might have been on the orig­i­nal mas­ter tapes that you can now cor­rect. Dropouts on the tape. Or any kind of micro­phone pops when peo­ple were singing too close to the mic. Just smooth­ing out any kind of blem­ishes and mak­ing it as pris­tine as pos­si­ble, but not alter­ing the integrity of the orig­i­nal mixes.”