26 November 2009
Spent some time last night analyzing one of my favorite Beatles songs (definitely my most favorite on the "Beatles For Sale" album). I've noticed one thing that may point to the differences between stereo and mono versions: listening to the stereo version, I've noticed how clearly the recording captures the sound of the room. Especially during the guitar solo, when the entire band goes into overdrive, you can palpably feel how the temperature in the recording room heats up. The players are getting extra excited, and you can feel it. The raw, exuberant energy of the young Beatles is definitely in the air, and you can hear its electrifying effect captured so faithfully on the stereo track.
Flip over to the mono version, and all of that electrifying room energy for some reason disappears! What you get on the mono version is a more polished, professionally sounding track, with all the instruments blending in more pleasantly. The music is indeed more presentable on the mono version, but alas! the electrifying energy that was flooding the room on the stereo version is nowhere to be heard.
Needless to say, I prefer the stereo version for the better depth and clarity and electrifying energy, even if it sounds a bit rougher at the edges.
Also, it looks like the differences between stereo and mono are more pronounced in the earlier recordings. This is due to the fact that the Beatles started experimenting in the studio only once they hit their mid period (1966 onwards). On the earlier recordings, they would basically set up the band in the studio and play mostly live into the microphones. After adding some minor touchups and overdubs, they would then fold the tracks into the mono mix, polishing the sound. Later on, the engineers would use the same master tracks to fold down to the stereo mix, but would be less skilled at polishing the sound, and so the sound of the recording room would 'bleed through'.
Not necessarily what the Beatles had originally intended to show on the record, but nevertheless it's fascinating to hear today, from the fan's perspective.
14 October 2009
I can appreciate exactly what you're saying here, but I think this extends to many more of their songs that we can hear in both mono and stereo. I suppose for the very logical reason that the mono is 'compact' we hear it as such, but with the stereo mixes the sound is panned giving a much wider and, quite often, looser sound. I was listening the the four 1964 EP tracks in stereo yesterday (Long Tall Sally, I Call Your Name etc) and I thought what a superb performance they put in on those songs but the playing wasn't 100% tight; however that didn't matter. This is 'lost' in the mono versions.
The stereo mix isn't always best mind. What spoils many is the placement of vocals / drums to one side when we all really want to hear them in the middle; but the more weird thing is when we get drums on separate channels (Lady Madonna for example) when it is quite obvious the additional drum parts were added later. The mono version makes you think it wasn't and sounds much, much better!
It's worth mentioning that drums (or any other instrument) can be recorded onto more than one track at the same time, and so can be spread across the stereo spectrum during the mixing stage. I don't think The Beatles did this until Abbey Road, though, when they had eight tracks to play with.
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