The Beatles’ mono and stereo remasters are released

The Beatles' remastered back catalogue has finally been released in mono and stereo by EMI and Apple Corps.

The compact discs are available as single or double CD sets, a stereo box set, and a limited edition 13-disc set containing the original mono mixes.

As announced in April 2009, The Beatles' back catalogue has been carefully digitally upgraded from the original mixes by a team working at Abbey Road Studios. The releases are the configurations as originally released in Britain, with the exception of Magical Mystery Tour, which retains the full-length US tracklisting.

No bonus tracks or alternative mixes are included, with two exceptions. George Martin's 1980s stereo mixes for Help! and Rubber Soul have now become the standard versions; the 1965 stereo mixes have been included as extra tracks in the Beatles In Mono box set.

The stereo remasters

Much attention to detail has been lavished on the packaging, from the glossy box with magnetic clasp to the three-panel sleeves (four-panel in the case of the White Album) that house the discs.

There are additional booklets containing photos and essays, and the CDs themselves have reproductions of the Parlophone, Capitol or Apple labels that originally adorned them. Additional historical notes were written by Kevin Howlett and Mike Heatley, and recording notes are by Allan Rouse and Kevin Howlett.

Initial quantities of the CDs, apart from the Past Masters collection, will contain embedded QuickTime documentaries on the making of the albums. The short films will also be collated on a DVD available only on the stereo box set. The documentaries feature extracts from interviews recorded for the Anthology project, and are brought together on a special DVD in the stereo box.

The stereo albums were remastered by Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee.

The Beatles in Mono

The mono box set is a limited edition, although initial reports of 10,000 copies have been denied by EMI. The mono mixes are unavailable as individual CDs. The box contains a total of 185 songs spread over 13 discs.

Mono remasters box set

The box contains the original albums, from Please Please Me to The Beatles (White Album), which were mixed differently for mono in the 1960s. Many fans see these as the definitive versions, as The Beatles and George Martin typically spent more time working on the mono mixes than they did on stereo.

The CDs bonus packaging is absent from the mono release, but each disc is packaged with an accurate reproduction of the original albums, including, in some cases, the folded down cardboard flaps on the back covers.

Extras such as the White Album poster and portraits, and the Sgt Pepper cutouts, are also included, as is a special 44-page booklet containing photographs and historical information written by Kevin Howlett.

The mono albums were remastered by Paul Hicks, Sean Magee with Guy Massey and Steve Rooke.

A bonus two-CD set, Mono Masters, is also included in the box. This features mono mixes made in the 1960s which were not included on the albums, together with tracks from an abandoned Yellow Submarine EP which was to include Across The Universe.

The Yellow Submarine album is not included in the mono box, as the original mono UK LP was a fold-down version of the stereo version, rather than a unique mono mix.

The full tracklisting of Mono Masters is as follows:

The Beatles stereo remasters box set

The remastering process

EMI staff, overseen by Allan Rouse, returned to the original mono and stereo mixes prepared in the 1960s by George Martin, Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Ken Scott, Phil McDonald, Glyn Johns and The Beatles. Improved technology allowed a more detailed digital transfer than was available when the CDs were first issued in 1987.

Staff at Abbey Road Studios began work on the project at the start of 2005, and the remasters were approved by Apple Corps and EMI in early 2009. All the remastering was done within Abbey Road Studios using state of the art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment. The work was done chronologically, allowing the team to progress with The Beatles' sound.

The re-mastering process began with the master tapes being copied onto digital, using a Pro Tools workstation operating at 24 bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter. Transferring was done one track at a time, and any build up of dust was removed from the tape machine heads between each title.

The early vinyl pressings and 1980s CD versions were also loaded into Pro Tools, to allow comparisons to be made at each stage. Upon completion of an album, it was replayed the following day in Abbey Road's studio three, to allow any further EQ alterations.

Although the original 1960s master tapes were used, some technical faults in the recordings were removed, including bad edits and tape drop outs. It was agreed that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be improved where possible, so long as it didn't impact on the original integrity of the songs.

Some equalisation was used where appropriate to enhance the sound, but the removal of tape hiss was used subtly and sparingly. Less than one percent - five minutes - of the stereo recordings was treated to noise reduction, and none of the mono remasters were affected.

Around 20 of the stereo tracks received no equalisation treatment after project staff decided they couldn't be bettered after the initial transfer.

The stereo Help! And Rubber Soul CDs use the mixes made by George Martin in 1987. Martin was unhappy with the how the 1960s mixes sounded when they were originally remastered in the 1980s, and so prepared new versions from the four-track tapes. The 1965 stereo versions, however, are included in the mono box as bonus tracks.

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18 responses on “The Beatles’ mono and stereo remasters are released

  1. Joe Post author

    Since I first got the 1987 Sgt Pepper CD it’s bugged me that they put an extra bar of applause at the end of Sgt Pepper (Reprise), rather than a direct segue into A Day In The Life. I can see why they did it, to separate the songs on the CD, but it always seemed like unnecessary meddling.

    The mono remaster of Sgt Pepper rectifies this, with no extra bar. However, they left it in the stereo remaster. It wasn’t there on the original stereo vinyl, was it? (I only have the 1967 mono vinyl.)

    1. Danny Caccavo

      They did not add an extra bar in 1987. Very simply, the stereo mix always had a longer crossfade from the reprise into A Day In The Life than the mono did, as the crossfades were done specifically for the assembly of the stereo or mono mixes back then.

        1. Richard Boene

          John Lennon is known to have said of Sgt. Pepper that you haven’t heard it unless you’ve heard it in mono. While some may disagree, I think your experience is a valid example Joe.

  2. Joe Stewart

    I’ve actually heard sounds on these stereo remasters I’d never heard before. The stereo versions sound more vibrant than I’ve ever heard them before, and that includes my Japanese Vinyl Master Series. I just received the Mono mixes today, can’t wait to delve into those. All things considered these recordings were worth the wait, and it was a long wait.

  3. Joseph Brush

    I live in Toronto, Canada and so far the sale price for the mono mixes is $499.99(Canadian).
    Since the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the American dollar (as of Friday Sept 18/09), I find this sale price to be outrageous.
    Beatle fans have waited a long time for these mono and stereo digital remixes but this overcharging has alienated me.
    If the CD format evolves into another format, does that mean another remastering for future retail?
    Since the Beatle catalogue was the last of the BIG acts to follow this route it could mean the CD as we know it may began to diminish as the dominating format to make way for the next format.
    I have witnessed in my time the following formats: 78 rpm records, 45rpm and 33 1/3 rpm records, eight-track, cassette, and CD.
    The next format may be either a smaller CD and/or a same size CD with greater compression that will contain multiple albums or a whole career on one disc.

  4. neptune

    I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was 5 years old, and have, up until this past hour, only heard the stereo version for these many years.
    I just listened to the mono version.
    The mix is superior, in my opinion.
    The ending of the album is completely different. Why?
    I loved all the extra audience and ad-lib talking in the reprise, and the shorter intro in to “A Day In The Life”.
    ‘She’s Leaving Home’ seems a bit faster, ‘Lucy..” sounds like it has almost a flanging effect.
    I can’t wait to listen even more closely tomorrow.
    I’ve always heard about the mono Pepper, and now I know why so many rave about it!

  5. BeatleMark

    I’m not too impressed with the remastered stereo version of “Revolver”. I can’t tell a difference! I am hoping to find a mid-seventies Apple copy on vinyl. ST 1-2576 These releases make “Revolver” sound much better! If you have one, listen to “Got To Get You Into My Life”. Ringo’s drums are out front more and not in the back. Kind of what I was hoping for from the remaster.

  6. thomas

    Joe says: “I’d recently heard that elsewhere too. I didn’t know it before – I was brought up on the mono mix, y’see, and the CD always sounded… wrong.”

    To me a disturbing facet of digital technology is the ability/temptation to “enhance” (possibly emphasize) certain aspects or range of the original work (thus “new” sounds or some previously unheard/unseen detail.) This could be good or bad but is often just distortion to me. I’ve yet to hear the new CDs, but intend to get the mono box set shortly. I definitely don’t like the stereo CD mixes I have now, released prior to these ’09 remasters (especially, as someone noted, Revolver.) Some sounds/channels seem clear, others muddy and “wrong.” My original Beatle records were all mono (up until stereo only releases), so I hope the mono set reflects that with cleaner sound, but not with tinkered sound.

    So, are there any original vinyl-types like me out there having comparative comments on those vs. the new mono CD set? Already read many reviews, but noticed above it states “Some equalisation was used where appropriate to enhance the sound, but the removal of tape hiss was used subtly and sparingly.” Just how close is the box set to the original recordings? Any opines? Thanks.

  7. Von Bontee

    Now that enough time has elapsed (9 months after 9/09/09!) & our infatuation has worn off…those remasters really are kind of a monetary ripoff, aren’t they? I mean, (qualitative sound differences notwithstanding) every studio album from PPM through MMT has a playing time of under 40 minutes, meaning that both the stereo & mono versions could easily have been included on each disc. Only offering the mono mixes as part of some expensive box – for music that was recorded some time ago – already rereleased numerous times – what a cash grab! I mean, how much money do these people really need, anyways?

    I know I’m far from the first to complain about this, but the more I think about it, the more irritated I get. This is the greatest back catalog in pop music history, and it’s as though the proprietors feel that including both stereo and mono editions on a single disc is somehow to dishonour them. Or maybe they’re just want to grab as much money as they can. Whatever their intentions, to me it smacks of arrogance and contempt for the audience. If they’d been packaged that way, as twofers, I would’ve bought ’em all for certain, no hesitation. As it is, I only bought about half of them, and ILLEGALLY downloaded the rest, mostly to hear those fascinating alternate mono mixes and minor differences, and to hear the first four albums in true stereo for the first time.

    Oh, and I hate the packaging too.

  8. Caramba

    So, is this remastering 090909 in 24 bit 192 kHz resolution? As far as I understood, mono is, but stereo isn`t after they compressed it. Mono box is uncompressed. Right?

    1. David Roof

      There are two types of compression you are referring to. Audio dynamic compression is a limiting of high volume and gain make up which limits the dynamic range and makes the CD seem louder. That was done to the Stereo version but not the mono.

      Digital compression is the conversion of sample rate and bit depth down to the 16bit 44100 hz sample rate that all CDs must use. Both are “compressed” to a digital CD format by bit depth reduction and sample rate conversion. The digital tools for this are quite good and give the impression of better than normal CD sound quality at the lower bit depth and sample rate. Digital compression is more commonly thought of in MP3s and the like. There is a fair amount of data lost and sound quality. Once you put it on you IPod as an MP3 or AAC, you’ve lost some of the quality of these reissues. I hope that clears things up.

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