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Why Mono?
17 March 2016
11.13am
The Void
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As a non-turntable owning Beatles fan I have finally got my hands on the 2009 Mono CD remasters - I'm very unlikely to hear the 2014 mono remasters, so I appreciate that I'm not fully up to speed.  I never realised until relatively recently that the Mono versions were considered the 'proper' versions by the band themselves and that the Stereo versions were done in a hurry, etc, etc.

I can't say that they've made that much of an impression.  Call me cloth ears, but I couldn't hear much of a difference in Rubber Soul at all for instance.  I could tell the difference on some of Revolver , St Pepper and the White Album in an interesting spot-the-difference party game way (rather liker Steve Albini's 2013 mix of In Utero) but having been advised that Mono would "completely change the way I heard the albums" I can't help but feel it's one of those things that's hyped up a bit?  I felt Help ! sounded really bad in Mono, kind of murky, and I've always had a soft spot for that album.

Also it puzzles me a bit that the Stereo versions seem to be the ones considered canon by the Beatles themselves as these are the ones most widely distrubuted in the most popular formats and available to stream on Spotify etc.  Which sort of leads to the conclusion that Apple consider the Stereo ones superior to the Mono ones nowadays, regardless of who supervised what mixing sessions in the 60s.

What are the best examples of Mono smacking Stereo down, saying "I am so much better than you with your new-fangled fancy two sets of speakers and no Beatles at your mixing sessions!"

PS: Is this where I get lynched on my first day...?

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17 March 2016
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This is where some people will lynch you, and some will agree wholeheartedly.

And some will be in-between, me for instance 😉

I prefer the mono for the earliest songs, just because I hate that "singers in one speaker, instruments in the other" stereo mix. Once things get spread around a bit I FAR prefer the stereo mix. A similar issue arises with Dylan where the (very poor in my opinion) stereo mix of his early albums has him on one side and his disembodied harmonica on the other - it just sounds more natural in mono with them both in one place in the middle.

I listen to a lot of classical these days and have a number of mono recordings - but that is purely for historical reasons as they are older than the stereo era.

I also can't tell the differences between the mixes in terms of what is in or out unless I try really hard, and honestly I can't be bothered. Some of the mono songs sound more "full" but that seems to me to only be because all the sound is in the one place.

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17 March 2016
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I don't think you've provided enough rope to be lynched.a-hard-days-night-george-10

On the Meet The Beatles album with Capitols' "highest quality stereo" it sounds awful, the vocals come out one speaker and the instruments come out the other one, there's no middle. So for that album, mono is king. But on The White Album , I find the stereo version to be better and clearer sounding.  I've never noticed the difference on the others.

  I can't add much on this topic, sorry. 

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17 March 2016
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The Void said

What are the best examples of Mono smacking Stereo down, saying "I am so much better than you with your new-fangled fancy two sets of speakers and no Beatles at your mixing sessions!"

The following should be heard in mono:

Please Please Me  

With The Beatles

Rubber Soul

Revolver (Tomorrow Never Knows stereo mix also has merit)

Sgt. Pepper (A Day In The Life stereo mix also has merit)

The Beatles (the stereo mix also has merit)

Mono Masters (you can't not hear mono masters in mono...but you know what I mean...)

 

I should add that to really compare the difference you should listen with headphones. The stereo mixes will all sound good out loud.

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17 March 2016
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DayInTheLife
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I personally prefer mono but I guess it's a matter of taste. When I first heard the mono recording I thought that they weren't that great but I start to notice how the instruments somehow sounded better (especially the bass) and also they are not divided from the vocals like the stereo version (I find this annoying!). So yes mono all the way for me! But there're albums that sound better in mono (like Sgt Pepper , Revolver , the early ones) and others which are better in stereo (Help , BFS and MMT), so that's it.

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17 March 2016
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We don't lynch folk around here... a-hard-days-night-john-1

You really can't tell the difference between mono and stereo unless you listen to them with headphones... then it becomes acutely, painfully obvious. a-hard-days-night-ringo-13Out loud, there isn't a huge difference. 

I personally prefer mono because everything is in one place and it sounds more even to me, but certain songs are more fun in stereo... like Helter Skelter . I can't live without Ringo's I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS paul-mccartney a-hard-days-night-john-6

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17 March 2016
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Cailín Amaideach said
We don't lynch folk around here... a-hard-days-night-john-1

You really can't tell the difference between mono and stereo unless you listen to them with headphones... then it becomes acutely, painfully obvious. a-hard-days-night-ringo-13Out loud, there isn't a huge difference. 

I personally prefer mono because everything is in one place and it sounds more even to me, but certain songs are more fun in stereo... like Helter Skelter . I can't live without Ringo's I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS paul-mccartney a-hard-days-night-john-6

Yes you can. There is a clear difference if the stereo system you're using is high quality (even not-so high quality). 

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17 March 2016
5.37pm
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The Void said
As a non-turntable owning Beatles fan I have finally got my hands on the 2009 Mono CD remasters - I'm very unlikely to hear the 2014 mono remasters, so I appreciate that I'm not fully up to speed.  I never realised until relatively recently that the Mono versions were considered the 'proper' versions by the band themselves and that the Stereo versions were done in a hurry, etc, etc.

I can't say that they've made that much of an impression, but having been advised that Mono would "completely change the way I heard the albums" I can't help but feel it's one of those things that’s hyped up.

The Beatles recorded in mono simply because that’s how it was done at the time and Stereo was a new thing, sort of what 4K TV is Today. They just didn’t know any better.  That’s why stereo LPs in the U.K. was an after thought. But North America was already pushing Stereo.

We’ve had Polls here regarding Mono vs Stereo, so it comes down to a personal preference.  I’m with you, but like pointed out above, the first few albums do sound better in mono simply because the crappy way the separation was done in Stereo.

As far as differences, there are only a handful songs.  Example: Helter Skelter in mono does not have Ringo screaming "I’ve Got Blisters On My Fingers" at the ending, or "Don’t Pass Me By" is sung much faster on the mono version compared to stereo.  There are others like those examples.....

Because you grew up with Stereo, it’s understandable that it feels hyped.  It’s more nostalgia for us older folks and a few younger people who agree with the ‘proper' versions.

Your allowed, no lynching required and welcome to the Forum! a-hard-days-night-ringo-15

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17 March 2016
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Its not quite accurate to say "As far as differences, there are only a handful songs."; there are numerous differences between tracks in mono or stereo its just that few are as significant as 'Helter Skelter ' or 'Don't Pass Me By '. Just by sticking to the UK mixes you can probably compile 2 cds worth of material, you then start throwing in the US variations and further afield and it keeps building; move on to later remixes ('Anthology', movie reissues) and you can end with box sets of oddities with differences.

For instance

  • 'Please Please Me ' in stereo has a Lennon vocal mistake which the mono doesn't.
  • 'Sexy Sadie ' in mono is missing a few tambourine taps.
  • 'I Call Your Name ' is edited in different places depending on the mix.
  • 'I Should Have Known Better ' in stereo has a gap in the harmonica intro whereas the mono runs straight-thru.
  • 'Matchbox ' has a very sloppy Ringo vocal in mono where it sounds like he botched it; in stereo he sings it fine ("Watch how your puppy dog runs").
  • 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' has handclaps on the intro in stereo which are missing on the mono mix.

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17 March 2016
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Evangeline contradicted 

Cailín Amaideach croaked 

You really can't tell the difference between mono and stereo unless you listen to them with headphones... then it becomes acutely, painfully obvious. a-hard-days-night-ringo-13Out loud, there isn't a huge difference. 

Yes you can. There is a clear difference if the stereo system you're using is high quality (even not-so high quality). 

I was going to add 'or if you sit your head right between the speakers' but I forgot. 

meanmistermustard said
Its not quite accurate to say "As far as differences, there are only a handful songs." <and then there was snippage>
For instance

  • 'Please Please Me ' in stereo has a Lennon vocal mistake which the mono doesn't.
  • 'Sexy Sadie ' in mono is missing a few tambourine taps.
  • 'I Call Your Name ' is edited in different places depending on the mix.
  • 'I Should Have Known Better ' in stereo has a gap in the harmonica intro whereas the mono runs straight-thru.
  • 'Matchbox ' has a very sloppy Ringo vocal in mono where it sounds like he botched it; in stereo he sings it fine ("Watch how your puppy dog runs").
  • 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' has handclaps on the intro in stereo which are missing on the mono mix.

And isn't Paul's vocal mistake in If I Fell 'corrected' on the mono version as well? I have the stereo mixes of everything after the first two albums myself, but I personally prefer mono. 

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17 March 2016
7.29pm
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Yes to 'If I Fell ' but according to Giles Martin Paul never made a vocal mistake, the error was in the mixing. I only listed a small handful to make the point that differences do exist in a good number of tracks.

 

Going back to the question in hand i'd suggest you both mono and stereo 'Pepper' and 'The Beatles' as there are quite a good number of differences in the tracks so you get a different experience depending on which one you are hearing.

 

The first two albums are better in mono, especially if listened to thru headphones. 

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18 March 2016
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I can't say much more than has already been said, really. It was just the technology available at the time of recording. I prefer mono on the early stuff only because I hate the way it sounded when separated into stereo mixes.

 

Welcome to the forum!

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18 March 2016
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The Hippie Chick said
I can't say much more than has already been said, really. It was just the technology available at the time of recording. I prefer mono on the early stuff only because I hate the way it sounded when separated into stereo mixes.

 

Welcome to the forum!

I'm told the aeolian cadences are more obvious in the stereo versions?

 

😉

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18 March 2016
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The Void said 
Also it puzzles me a bit that the Stereo versions seem to be the ones considered canon by the Beatles themselves as these are the ones most widely distrubuted in the most popular formats and available to stream on Spotify etc.  Which sort of leads to the conclusion that Apple consider the Stereo ones superior to the Mono ones nowadays
 

Yes and no.  They released the 2014 "analog" mono LP box set as the end be all "proper versions". It's just that todays younger crowd expect Stereo, hence streaming.

Best part of your box set is, you got the nicer more accurate mini LP covers compared to the stereo CD's which are not as accurate.  Unfortunately you are missing the last few CDs as they were never recorded in mono.  Abbey Road & Let It Be , so technically your box set is incomplete!

But, nowadays you can find complete "used" 2009 stereo CD box sets really cheap, so you could have the best of both worlds.a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

*** Once you've happily done the comparisons, then you can move on to the 2004 - 2006 Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 Capitol CD box sets, where you will hear the US Dexterized versions of the songs compared to the original UK recordings. Those 2 box sets only go up to Rubber Soul (8 US Capitol albums). 

Not to be confused with the 2014 Capitol CD box set that "isn't as true to the Dexterized" recordings as the above box set, and is also an "incomplete" box set!  "All" the Capitol releases come in mono & stereo on each CD. apple02

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18 March 2016
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Wow, so many responses! 

So it looks like @trcanberra was  perceptive in saying this would be a divisive subject. I've listened to all of the mono albums and the mono masters now - sometimes on headphones, sometimes on speakers. If nothing else it's been a good excuse for a Beatles binge (as if an excuse is necessary!) 

So I can appreciate there is a difference. I'm still slightly underwhelmed. When I first heard the 2009 stereo remasters I was blown away - it was genuinely revelatory having been brought up with the 1987 masters. Hearing the mono versions has been intriguing, but has left me fairly indifferent. I get the impression this is definitely a matter of taste thing - I can understand that if you grew up with mono it will have been frustrating not being able to hear the album as you remember it on modern formats until relatively recently,and it does seem strange that's been the case of mono was what most people in the 60s were getting. 

Personally I thought Revolver came off the best in mono, although the most sonically interesting track,  Tomorrow Never Knows ,  I think is vastly better in stereo! A handful of Sgt Pepper tracks are definitely different, but as an album it didn't seem changed that much. And again, the most sonically experimental track, A Day In The Life , seems better in stereo to me...

 The earlier stuff (I'd say up to and including Beatles For Sale ) is definitely a bit punchier in mono; but to be honest production was all quite rough and ready on the first albums and singles wasn't it 🙂 

I couldn't tell that much of a difference on Rubber Soul . Help ! sounded awful. The White Album varied, as it usually does. I prefer the Yellow Submarine songs in stereo. 

@Bongo, I do get what you're saying - I appreciate the 2014 remasters are meant to be definitive from an audiophile point of view. However, vinyl is still a bit of a niche format - the fact these haven't been released on CD or digital formats (or have they?) still makes it seem like they have been designed with hardcore fans and collectors in mind. If Apple wanted to make these the definitive versions that everyone should listen to, (that get played on the radio, listened to in the car etc) I feel they would have pushed them into the mass market more. For instance I don't have a turntable (at the moment I don't even have a great stereo!), so I'm unlikely to hear them! Also, having bought at least 2 copies and in some cases 3 of all the Beatles albums in my life now - even if they were released on CD they would have to be amazingly better than the 2009 remasters for me to be able to justify spending more cash! 

I guess what I meant bringing up streaming was that they're content that people discovering the Beatles for the first time should hear the 2009 stereo versions,so mono doesn't seem like something the band feel too strongly about. (Unless it's something they've been unaware of?) 

I've never really been interested in the Capitol albums, I didn't realise they sounded different - I just thought they were butchered (ha ha!) versions of the UK albums. What does Dexterised mean?!? 

Anyway, all that said I'll probably listen to the mono albums as my default ones for a while because it is nice occasionally being surprised by something that's been so familiar for years. 

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19 March 2016
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A couple of further thoughts:

  1. I'm undwerhelmed as well as suggested in my earlier post. It seems to me that a lot of the differences are only of interest to those folks who want to hear 28 takes of a song - and get excited when one version of the 3rd chorus has an "ooh" instead of an "ahh" on the third line. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad these things are available for those who appreciate them.
  2. Dexterised refers to further mastering of many of the original US Releases to add extra reverb and other funky sonics, this was done on their original release in the 60s. These were mostly stripped out when the US Albums box was released, much to the annoyance of US fans who had become used to hearing the Beatles that way and were hoping to again on the CDs.

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trcanberra said

Dexterised refers to further mastering of many of the original US Releases to add extra reverb and other funky sonics, this was done on their original release in the 60s. These were mostly stripped out when the 2014 US Albums box set was released, much to the annoyance of US fans who had become used to hearing the Beatles that way and were hoping to again on the CDs.

Couldn’t have said it better myself @trcanberra. a-hard-days-night-ringo-15

@The Void, even know I own the original U.K. Mono LPs, Singles & Turntable , I prefer the 2009 Stereo CDs as my default music listening, (or should I say my iTunes versions) as I really only play my iPod or my iPhone through my home stereo, car stereo or beats headphones. (Sold all my CDs). I really only play the mono versions sometimes to change it up.  Same with the Capitol dexterized versions, just for shits & giggles.

For me, STEREO is the way to go! apple01apple02

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19 March 2016
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More on Dave Dexter who did the Dexterising:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik.....Dexter,_Jr.

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19 March 2016
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@meanmistermustard Would you agree that there are only a handful of songs where the difference is particularly striking though? The examples you give (such as Sexy Sadie missing a few tambourine taps) are quite/extremely subtle, although I noticed the Matchbox vocals seeming dodgier than usual! 

@Bongo I at the moment have to play a lot of my music on my phone (I do a lot of late night listening with a baby who keeps anti social hours)  - that was actually a great way of listening to early mono, probably like a transistor radio! I have to agree with @evangaline, I could tell the difference between the two even on a relatively crappy Samsung phone speaker, though obviously it's most obvious in headphones. 

I wish I hadn't found out about this dexterisation whatnot because my curiosity is at some point going to lead me to spend even more time obsessing over tiny details! Very interesting though. I imagine it was done because the originals sounded too primitivly recorded compared to what US studios are capable of then? 

The whole area interests me because the most important 20th century group apart from The Monkees don't have a canon everybody agrees on, which is fascinating really. The thing it most reminds me of (of all things) is the various different versions of Shakespeare plays there are. 

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The Void said

I wish I hadn't found out about this dexterisation whatnot because my curiosity is at some point going to lead me to spend even more time obsessing over tiny details! I imagine it was done because the originals sounded too primitivly recorded compared to what US studios are capable of then? 

Pretty well what Dave Dexter was thinking @ Capitol Records USA.

You can check out Capitol versions on YouTube, but the most striking dexterized songs on the top of my head right now is "She’s A Woman ” & “I Feel Fine ”.  See if you can find them on YouTube.  It’s just so much Treblier & echoey, that it’s noticeable right from the first note. Not all the dexterized versions are as prominent, but noticeable.

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