Category Archives: Vinyl

The Beatles Box Set in MONO

I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was about nine or ten.  My very first album was Meet the Beatles, the U.S. Release of what in Great Britain was with the beatles.



While it’s not their best album, that honor goes to Rubber Soul or maybe Sgt Pepper, it is still my favorite.  Much like your first kiss and your first car, it holds a special place in my memories.   I’ve had a few versions of this, including a stereo LP, the stereo CD, the mono CD from The Beatles Box Set – Mono -CD.   There is no doubt in my mind, this is the best and might even be slightly better than what I remember from my not so flat and slightly noisy first and Stereo, which was fine way back when.

The original disappeared sometime during college – one of the many downsides of dorm living.  It was well used by that time, having seen hundreds of plays on my Dad’s Gerard record player, stacked up with whatever my brother was listening to, probably Elvis.

This is an excellent quality pressing, not completely noiseless, but pretty darn close, I can only detect the faintest click and pop in the silence between tracks, and I’ve got it cranked!  Thea, s LP’s are 180 gram pressing made in Germany at Optimal Media.  The new remaster done specifically for vinyl – that’s in part to Michael Fremer over at Analog Planet, thanks Mikey!  The masters for the Box Set was mixed by Sean Magee and Steve Berkowitz and from the original analog tapes. Now I’m not and extreme vinyl connoisseur like Fremer, and a few others I can think of. So I’m not really conversant with the equipment used in the manufacture of a high quality LP, but just in case you are, the lacquer was cut on a VMS80 lathe.  The lacquer is used to make a Mother, which in turn is used to mold the metal stampers.  The stampers eventually wear out so a large pressing will use a number of stampers.   The best sound is usually from an early stamper say less than #50, but it depends on a number of other considerations, so just having an LP cut from Stamper #1 doesn’t mean it’s going to sound better than one cut from Stamper #100, (probably, but not always).

Yeah, I hear you thinking – Vinyl?  What the hell dude?  Okay, it’s tough to explain to someone who’s never listened to an analog record cut from an analog master, made from analog recording tapes, played on a high quality turntable.  This is not your granddad’s record player.  There’s no automatic anything, the cartage (the thing with the needle) costs more than the old automatic record players did – or mine does, and I’m nowhere near the high end of that scale.  But you don’t really need to be, you can get a very nice turntable and cartridge for a few hundred bucks, then go buy some used vinyl and you’re in business.  Pick up a good pressing on 180 or 200 gram vinyl and you’ll see that the CD didn’t actually improve a darn thing.  It could have, but alas, it was engineered to death.  Okay – that’s not really fair, there a quite a few pretty good CD’s and with a really good DAC they sound pretty darn good.  Not SACD good, or 180 gram vinyl good, but pretty darn good.

I think if they’d standardized on already existing DSD, which was patented in 1954 and named Direct Stream Digital in 61 but left mostly unused until around 2000.  DSD, which is the SACD format encoding is seeing more and more recording engineers are using as a replacement for PCM – these are both digital recording technologies, early CD’s were converted from analog to digital in the final stage of mastering, if you look you can see the AAD on the CD, you’ll also see ADD and DDD and a number of other arrangements – known as the SPARS code it tells you what steps in the process were analog and which were digital.     Recording – Mixing – Mastering.

Even today, because of software limitations, you’ll find DAD recordings where DSD was used in the recording, but converted to analog in the mixing process, then back to digital for the mastering, another form of pure digital put not pure DSD is  DDD with PCM used in the middle stage.  You might think that if DSD and PCM are both digital it doesn’t matter, but for those who really listen, it does.   There is a perceptible edginess to anything done with PCM that doesn’t exist in analog, and is to me anyway imperceptible in DSD, although honestly, I’m not sure I could spot an “identical” mix  that was DSD-DSD-DSD and one that was DSD-PCM-DSD, on the other hand, I know people who probably could.  What does it matter?  In this day and age of serving the lowest common denominator you might think not much, on the other hand, high resolution digital is on the move, and vinyl is making a strong comeback, possibly because people are finally realizing what they’ve been missing ever since the CD arrived on the market.

You might be wondering why I picked Mono when the CD’s were available in Stereo or Mono, and the LP’s too, and my original Meet the Beatles was in Stereo – simple really, that was the way the lads intended it to be. That was the way they did it in the studio and the conversion to Stereo does not improve a single thing, actually it makes the mix kind of annoying once you have the Mono to compare it to.   Stereo is great when you plan for Stereo in the studio, otherwise it’s a bit like synthesizing surround sound from two track audio – you can do it, but… Why?  Yes, you get a soundstage with Mono, although, honestly, I’m not sure why. I might be imagining it.  The upside is that you don’t have the distraction of all the voices coming from one side, and the drums on the other side, which makes it feel a bit like you’re somewhere off stage.  I really hate it when engineers do that, although that’s not a disconcerting as having a piano pan across the stage as if the keyboard were twenty feet wide – like a scene from BIG.  In the stereo version of Eleanor Rigby from the Revolver album, Paul’s voice actually pans across the stage – very weird and annoying. So the long and short of it is – MONO is how John, Paul, George and Ringo wanted it to be heard, because they knew most of the people listening would be using MONO systems as Stereo was all new fangled and expensive.

The sound… It’s kind of wonderful.  There’s a lot of energy,  its got air, its spacious and its liquid and all of those adjectives that we use to describe sound, that don’t actually describe the sound.  Side 1 starts with a couple of Lennon and McCartney tunes, It Won’t Be Long, All I’ve Got To Do, and All My Loving, followed by a George Harrison tune – Don’t Bother Me and another Lennon-McCartney song, Little Child, then two covers Till There Was You – a Broadway tune, and Please Mr. Postman – originally a hit by an all girl band The Marvelettes.  All My Loving was probably the most famous from this album as it was one of five songs played on the Ed Sullivan show, the Beatles American TV Debut.  My personal favorites are All My Loving, All I’ve Got To Do, and Don’t Bother Me.

Let’s put it this way, on my CD player, which costs about the same as my turntable – the cost of which makes most rational people shake their heads in wonder and maybe a little… Hmm, disdain, maybe? Perhaps they’re just wondering if maybe they shouldn’t call those nice young men in their clean white suits.  When I get looks like that I chuckle because in the scheme of things – I’m a lightweight.


Vpi Super Scoutmaster Turntable, Shelter 501 mk II cartridge, feeding a Linn Linto phono preamp.  Theta Digital Gen VIII DAC (and preamp), Nuforce Reference 9 monoblock amplifiers, Sonus faber Amati Homage speakers.  Various cables.