The Beatles Get Back To Mono and AAA Vinyl

Note: there are more photos for this story in the Galleries

Apple Corps and Universal Music Group today announced the September 8th release date (September 9th in North America) of the long-anticipated Beatles’ mono vinyl reissue series, cut to lacquer using the original analogue master tapes.

The release includes all nine original mono mixed U.K. albums plus the original American-compiled mono Magical Mystery Tour and the Mono Masters, a 3 LP collection of non-album tracks also compiled and mastered from the original analogue tapes.

Each album will be available individually and within The Beatles in Mono, a lavish, limited edition 14 LP boxed set that includes a newly produced 108 page hardbound book.

The albums are presented “…in their original glory, both sonically and in their packaging” the press release asserts, so that could mean fold-over type, Clairfoil-like laminated jackets and greater attention to original packaging detail compared to the stereo box.

The 180 gram records, pressed at Optimal in Germany for world-wide distribution, were mastered at Abbey Road Studios using the original ¼” analogue master tapes played back on a mono headstock, preview-head equipped, Studer A80. No dynamic compression and minimal equalization will hopefully produce the best ever sounding Beatles reissues.

The EQ applied was based upon the original cutting engineers’ notes as well as careful listening to original first lacquer, first mother, first stamper EMI pressings (-1, 1, G matrix). The cartridge used was Ortofon’s 2M Black.

It’s important to remember that the tapes have aged—some as much as fifty years—and the monitoring, playback and mastering equipment have changed as well, even though the work was done in the very same room in which the originals were mastered. Solid state has replaced tubes in the cutting chain.

Lacquers were cut using Abbey Road Studios’ Neumann VMS-80 lathe, equipped with a Neumann SX-74 cutter head. The originals were cut on a Scully lathe, perhaps with a Westrex cutter head.

The extensive listening and final post production work was accomplished by Abbey Road’s GRAMMY® Award winning engineer Sean Magee and GRAMMY® Award winning mastering supervisor Steve Berkowitz, well-known for his Bob Dylan and Miles Davis catalog restoration work, among others, as well as for his production of Dylan’s long-running and highly acclaimed Bootleg series.

I was privileged to attend a May 14th, 2013 Abbey Road Studios mastering session during which lacquers were cut for all four sides of The Beatles (the “White” album). So yes, I got to hear and hold in my hands actual Beatles master tapes.

It was a truly magical experience as was getting to walk into famed Studio Two where all of the magic occurred. I was initially told it was off limits because it had been booked for a session but the band was late so in I went. It was a never to be forgotten “day in the life”.

I’ve had to keep the visit out of print for more than a year as the mono LP release date was pushed back more than a few times so Apple and UMG could be sure everything was done correctly.

Readers of my Stereophile “Analog Corner” column might recall last year’s coverage of 2013’s Munich Hi-End show as well as a visit to the Record Industry pressing plant in Holland. The column included this line: “I’ll spare you the details of my boring Tuesday (there was a fantastic Bowie museum exhibit in town but it was sold out and my ballsy emails to Tony Visconti, who I’d barely met at the Classic Album Sundays event, looking for a ticket ‘in’ had gone unanswered)”.

That “boring Tuesday” was the day I spent at Abbey Road. It was a very inside joke!

Berkowitz had been hired to oversee the mono vinyl reissue set by Jeff Jones his former boss at Sony/Legacy and current Apple Corps CEO.

Early in 2013 I received calls from an EMI representative and from Berkowitz inviting me to visit Abbey Road to witness the production of the long-promised mono vinyl reissue series.

Steve Berkowitz and I go back more than forty years to my first day of Boston University Law school in the fall of 1969. I took a lunch break walk into Kenmore Square and discovered the New England Music City record store. I didn’t have time to browse, I thought, but then I spied at the top of the corner store’s stairs a cardboard point of purchase display filled with an imported album. Those were obvious because the Europeans didn’t use warp inducing shrink wrap. Instead, they used a loose fitting sealed plastic recognizable to any import junkie.

I had to see what it was so I walked up the steps and it was The Beatles new Abbey Road album not due out in America for two weeks! Of course I bought a copy but should have bought two or five. That copy is still the best sounding Abbey Road I’ve ever heard.

What does Berkowitz have to do with that story? He was the record buyer at New England Music City and was responsible for ordering those albums. By the way, he too can’t believe he didn’t buy a few extra copies and he too says the copy he bought from that shipment is the best sounding Abbey Road he’s ever heard.

So first he’s responsible for me having the best sounding Abbey Road and now, forty 45 years later, he was inviting me to Abbey Road!

The EMI representative told me that after absorbing the criticism heaped on the digitally sourced stereo box—including the extensive coverage, which was correctly construed as constructive criticism—the decision was made to produce the mono LPs using an all analog mastering chain.

Berkowitz told me that in his opinion and in the opinions of many, the mono mixes were the more important reissues and I agree. They were the ones The Beatles listened to and to which they paid more attention during mixing. The monos were the ones most kids back then heard both on the radio and at home.

And in reality the albums were produced for mono. The first two albums recorded to BTR two track machines featured voices on one channel and instruments on the other to allow easy post-production leveling. Abbey Road added four track machines as early as 1963 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” being the first song The Beatles recorded using four tracks.

Still, four tracks hardly sufficed for their increasingly complex arrangements. As the tape's four tracks filled up and were mixed down to one to make room for more music, these pre-mixes were produced with mono in mind so that when all of the tracks were folded together, they would fit together like a stack of cards. That's why the mono set sounds so coherent and why arguably you can actually hear more detail in mono.

The mixers created "stereo" by separating (as best as they could) what was intended to be blended, and panning the elements across the soundstage. Since it had previously been pre-mixed, what could be done to separate the pre-mixed elements was limited.

When I interviewed Ken Scott, he told me that Paul wanted the stereo mix of The Beatles to be as different as possible from the mono because that might induce fans to buy both. The mono mix came first. And the two mixes are very different. You could say the stereo mix was more about commerce than art. If you grew up listening to the stereo mix, the mono will be an ear opener.

Of course at the time stereo was relatively new and novel so listeners craved hearing "separation" across the soundstage, but today we're all more sophisticated listeners. Hearing the records as originally intended, to me, is the best way to listen.

The day, Tuesday, May 14th began with a rainy morning car ride to Abbey Road. I’d done the tourist walk back in 1982 when I was in London to attend the “TRON” soundtrack recording sessions at The Royal Albert Hall, but this time I was going in!

Still, I did the walk across the street in the rain first, almost getting run over in the process.


AJMHobby's picture

Best news I heard all year!!!!!!!

julio's picture

I never thought they would go the analogue route. I only hope they do the jackets right and that optimal does not screw things up. Should we be nervous about about optimal? Can someone please educate me on their pressing quality. All I know is that the stereo box set pressings were awful and the jackets were sub par. Typical Rainbow quality control.

rakalm's picture

I am quite happy with my Stereo Beatles box set pressed by them. Quiet and flat. There is no comparison to the Rainbo pressings. My SP from the Optimal box is the best I have ever heard. Maybe until this mono version? I hadn't compared the jackets with the Rainbo pressings (I am not sure they are any different). I had issues with 2 of the Rainbo box sets. Optimal pressed the McCartney New album as well. No issues with that pressing either.

rakalm's picture

Sorry, for the wrong information. New was pressed by GZ vinyl, I believe in the Czech Republic?

rakalm's picture

They also pressed the BBC Beatles reissues recently. Very good overall, but hard to tell since the sound quality varies so much, my copies did require a thorough cleaning. Maybe only the 1st one was a reissue? Nice sleeves and packaging overall.

jrosemd's picture

By far the best book on recording the Beatles is "Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles" by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey.

grahamridley1985's picture

I can definitely second that, definitely the best news I've heard all year.


firedog55's picture

A real shame they didn't do the stereo vinyl the same way. And it also means no "Abbey Road" or "Let it Be" in AAA vinyl

Michael Fremer's picture
Remember The Doors box set was issued from 192/24 bit files and then Chad Kassem showed Rhino the money. So who knows?
amarok89's picture

some of us are tapped out. After a couple Japanese series and the recent box set I won't hold my breath. Plus do we really need an industry where Chad Kassem is some sort of savior?

Michael Fremer's picture
kenkirk's picture

The mono you take, is equal to the love you make"

Wonderful news!!


Hook's picture

...for $409.26! A lot of money, but exactly what I've been waiting for, so order placed! Had previously purchased the stereo CD box, and then bought and returned the US-pressed stereo box set due to quality issues. Hopefully, with all of mono box sets are coming from Germany, this won't be a problem.

kronning's picture

... for $374.98 US and you get a Beatles vinyl long play 33 1/3 RPM T-shirt. But note, they charge your card at checkout and no, you can't play the shirt.

Corey's picture

I might have a seizure im so excited

Celtic Bob's picture

Fantastic article on possibly THE best news of the year and a most welcomed release. I am glad I never got the Stereo set and just a few of the latter titles (AR, LIB and PM). Cannot wait for 9/9.

thirtycenturyman's picture

My local record shop owner will not be pleased that I won't be purchasing anything over the course of the next three months as I save up!

Hopefully, this release is a harbinger of analog remasters to come. It sounds like they realized their error and corrected things this time around. Thanks internets! "Power to the People"

luvvinyl's picture

I think it's just crap that The Beatles get the analog treatment in mono but not stereo! I for one cannot stand mono! I don't care if The Beatles were involved in the mono mixes I like the stereo versions much better! Mono just does not sound right to me. Everything is jumbled up on top of one another. Does not sound as engaging to me! I know the early Beatles albums are panned hard right and left, but I would rather listen to that than mono!
I'm sure I'll get a lot of nasty comments about my statement i.e. that I don't know what I'm talking about or my system must not be up to snuff! Bah! My system is just fine! I never liked mono in any artist catalog. I think this is just another way for the record company to make money again by saying the mono masters are cut to vinyl in all analog! Why couldn't we have the stereo versions in the same way? I for one will not be laying my money out again!

gettingintovinyl's picture

I totally agree with you on the part about them screwing up by not doing the stereos analog, but... Save your pennies and buy original stereo LPs from the 60s. Just try to get one every couple of months on ebay. My friend and I compared my 1968 numbered top loader UK White Album Stereo (I paid about $80 including shipping from the UK) to his pristine new White Album remaster on his extremely nice system. The new one sounded like they had taken the air out of the room while my old UK stereo sounded like The Beatles were in the room with us. My next one is Abbey Road so don't go bidding against me, lol. As for the part about not liking the mono, I guess that's your prerogative, but mono has always felt like the more authentic sounding way to listen to The Beatles.

dmoore's picture

No brickbats from me luvvinyl, I agree with you completely. I once nearly got to the checkout before I noticed the Sundazed reissue I was about to buy was mono.
I was born just a few years before the stereo era and for recordings made in the former era we have no choice but have otherwise never bought a mono record. I've got a two channel system and unless there is no alternative don't like loading it with recordings not designed for it.
It confirmed to me that the industry had lost the plot when mono cartridges began to be made again, some pundits insisted we could only hear our mono records properly if we used one. This just made me more reluctant to listen to mono.
The naive presentation of early stereo pop albums like the Beatles is to my ears at one with the innocence of the music and part of the charm.
However as someone who was disappointed with the Beatles stereo reissues I will make an exception and try one of the mono set. Just don't put off having your next meal till I buy a mono cartridge!
Linn Sondek Klimax (inc. Kandid), Naim Superline and Supercap.

Jeffrey Lee's picture

I have no complaints about your personal preferences. Why would I? They're your preferences. But for Christ's sake ease up on the exclamation points.

Michael Fremer's picture
He used only two….. is that too many?
Jeffrey Lee's picture

The comment to which I was replying had 10, and that's too many by any adult standard.

Ed Sullivan's picture

Mono was fine in the old days of AM radio and stereo records were more expensive back then, so we didn't buy them. But I never liked Sgt. Peppers album until about a year later a friend of mine played it for me in stereo and I was amazed.

George Harrison didn't understand what stereo was for. Anyone with two ears should know.

JC1957's picture

That's What I want, That's What I want, That's What I want!

samman's picture

Mike, I really had to wipe away tears as you described walking into Studio 2. My God, I realize that it's just a room, but then again, no. It's more. Way more. If I were there that day, I'm sure I would have been overwhelmed with emotion, just knowing where I stood and what took place there. Thank you so much for sharing. And by the way, I've got a great mono CD box I'd like to sell you.


Martin's picture

I will be getting these.
LPs done from the original masters, done with TLC.
It's a no-brainer.

Very, very cool, people read and took note of comments and feedback. And on Analogplanet. Very cool.

I agree with the Abbey Road comments, I have a UK first pressing and it's the best of the half dozen I own.

With both the White Album and Sargeant Pepper, the mono first pressing to me sounds better than the stereo. With both I have multiple stereos, but it's the mono that gets played :-)

Avalon0387's picture

I've always been curious if the Beatles songs in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" movies were in stereo in the theaters when originally shown? If so, were the songs mixed for the theaters and do the soundtrack versions match?

Michael Fremer's picture
I was a projectionist at a summer camp in 1964 (as opposed to being an exhibitionist, which I am now) and the movie "A Hard Day's Night" had a mono optical sound track. That's how it was released and why the "stereo" version of the United Artists album was poor electronically reprocessed stereo. They only had the rights to the mono Beatles tracks. The stereo instrumentals were provided for the album but obviously were not on the optical track. At the time few theaters had stereo or surround sound other than the big city venues that showed 70MM with magnetic striped film…those were the days! Help was the same when originally released but since the legal terms were different, we got a stereo LP.
Bix's picture

I don't own any Beatles vinyl now, but I'll be getting the box. What versions of the stereo-only albums are worth getting for a reasonable price? Reasonable meaning "not much more for each record than they'll cost in the box."


Hide in the Sound's picture

Apart from the albums that were stereo only, I think that the stereo versions of Beatles for Sale, Magical Mystery Tour, and the White Album are essential.

Bix's picture

That's...not what I asked.

Michael Fremer's picture
So you mean "Let It Be", and "Abbey Road"? The best "Abbey Road" is a UK original (expensive) but if you find a clean Japanese EAS series it will be very good. I saw many reasonably priced on Ebay:
rdh79730's picture

I have a UK original of Abbey Road that I picked up of the 'bay years ago for $30. Yes, it does sound damn good.

Bix's picture

Thanks Mikey. Do you know anything about EAS-50042? I've seen it on eBay and Discogs. Curious if it's the same mastering reissued under a new catalog number, or a similarly good release, or what.

vinyl_guy's picture

How much would using a mono cartridge benefit the listening experience on this set?

Corey's picture

The main benefit of mono cartridges are that the stylus are designed for tracking in mono grooves (typically a larger stylus tip), also if your amp doesn't have a mono mode the benefit is enormous, much fuller sound

Michael Fremer's picture
Mono information is all lateral. Stereo cartridge read the vertical component of the groove information. On a mono record that would all be rumble and noise produced by imperfect pressing, which is the reality of vinyl playback no matter how well the record is pressed. A mono cartridge, by definition does not read or play back any of that extraneous information. You can approximate what a mono cartridge does with a "mono" button on a phono or line pre amp or even by using a "Y" adapter when playing a mono record but a mono cartridge is best for mono records...
Paul Boudreau's picture

So there really is a "hill and dale" aspect to stereo vinyl reproduction?

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes. There are lateral movements, vertical movements and 45/45 movements. And after you drop and scratch a particularly valuable record in your collection, bowel movements.
Paul Boudreau's picture

Bin there, but I fortunately restrained myself.

Just to try your patience: What is a 45/45 movement?

StonedBeatles1's picture


MichaelTrei's picture

What was the "less than distinguished" turntable used to audition the various pressings? Technics SL-1200 mk2?

Michael Fremer's picture
The cartridge is far more important here and they used a very good one...
tolkencatholic's picture

In 2011, while I was visiting London and attending the Beatles tour, Richard Porter mentioned that Apple was working on vinyl releases of the new Beatles remasters. I waited, waited....and waited. I was disappointed with the new stereo vinyl release and lack of new mono vinyl . Happy that the mono reissue is here and done the right way! Already ordered :)

Sillon76's picture

As usual interesting article Mr Fremer but why hell these greedy labels have been waiting for 50 years to do so ? Why couldń´t we get this in 80's instead of these digitally Martin mastered crappy music, hate this business.What about these thousand dollars MOFI LPs ? Same with LED ZEP to expect ? Come on, look what´s been done with Hendrix, Doors etc.They are just laughing at us, guided by marketing assholes.Bad times, sad times, definitly...think it is last industry breath before it dies, last effort to grab music lovers money, others are listening to MP3s and they are so many around...tapes are dying, our musical patrimony too.thanks anyway Mickael !

Michael Fremer's picture
I really don't think greed was involved here or in most of this. 50 years is a bit excessive. Remember: the LP was supposed to "die" in the '80s and be extinct by the '90s. The numbers show that. In the '80s Mobile Fidelity issued a set from original tapes that was very well done except for the EQ, which was awful. It was a limited edition box and expensive even when new but it was done when vinyl was supposed to be dying. It was done not by cynics. Here, Apple Corps and UMG is trying to put out the best Beatles mono reissues possible. They are really trying to do it correctly. To make amends for the stereo box? What's the difference? Will there be another go around with stereo through licensing to third parties? Maybe. I have no idea.
vinyl_guy's picture

Amazon Canada has just posted this set for order today at $624.00, even with the added exchange rate the US price would only bring that to about $450. Who are they trying to kid?

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

It's almost beyond belief that Apple and Universal have seen sense and done this properly. I really thought they didn't care after the way they went about the Stereo reissues. Glad Sean was allowed to do a proper job after having to justify the way he had to cut the Stereos. I don't see any reason now for Abbey road to at least do Audiophile stereo editions at least for the remaining stereo only titles, Would also like to see the original stereo mix's of Help and Rubber Soul done this way. Add to that Revolver, White Album Pepper etc etc etc. I don't see a third party being allowed to do this as I can't see anyone being able to insure the tapes to leave Abbey Road again.

Joe Schmengidy's picture

If you look at their EQ notes you'll notice all the tracks on For Sale have been EQ'd -1-3dB(!) at 12.8k.

And if you're buying these records because they're all analog and contain all the ultrasonic information audiophiles crave, don't look at the 15kHz brick wall filter he has on ALL the tracks.

Michael Fremer's picture
Those notes are notes and not necessarily the final calls on any of this. You have totally misinterpreted what is that picture. The work began by writing down all of the EQ notes found in the original tape boxes and working from there. You don't know to what those notes refer plus there are no 15K brick wall filtering on any of these reissues. That would be ridiculous. 15 FLT is 15kHz FLAT. There are NO "brick wall filters" on any of it. There is no need for brick wall filtering in the analog domain.
Joe Schmengidy's picture

Your picture is labeled, "Berkowitz’s EQ notes for Help! and Beatles For Sale." To the far right, there is "15 filt." labeled for each track. "15 filt." in the team's mastering notes means a 15kHz low pass filter was applied. In your expert opinion as a mastering engineer, what else could it mean?

Like I said, this is equivalent to a 30k sample rate.

*Most* common vinyl releases are cut with a 20k filter in place (most audiophiles don't know this). Cutter heads don't like excess HF information. Why take the chance of burning out your expensive cutter head?

shortcircuit's picture

You are correct. Many cutting systems have HF compression in place by default. Low frequency limiting is often in place as well, especially if side time and or overall trackability is a concern. Too much HF or LF information and poof, goodbye cutterhead. Only way to cut extreme HF or LF content is to lower the RMS level which results in decreased signal to noise ratio. If you want to cut a hot side that can actually be played, extreme HF and LF content has to go.

Michael Fremer's picture
Calling it "compression" is the first clue that you are clueless. Were you the least bit "clued in" you'd call it high frequency attenuation or something similar. But "compression"? Severe low frequency limiting not often in place as well today. While amplitude may be ATTENUATED, response is NOT. Ortofon's DBL10 limiter is good to 10Hz even when limiting LF LEVEL…. no HF or LF content has to go. Audio Fidelity in the late 50s and 60s produced records with 16Hz-20Khz+ response.
Joe Schmengidy's picture

Mr. Fremer, for your information, shortcirciut, the reader your very harsh response was written to, is a much respected audio engineer. Calling him clueless and questioning his expertise shows how truly lacking your knowledge in professional audio is.

Michael Fremer's picture
I respond to an anonymous comment by what's written not by the supposed credentials of the anonymous poster. Your comment is truly stupid. Look what you are saying: I am "questioning" the expertise of an anonymous poster? Of course I am. Calling frequency attenuation "compression" is the only clue I have to his "expertise" and that term is misapplied by whomever he is. My knowledge of pro audio is hardly shown to be "lacking" because I responded as I did to an anonymous poster who misused the term "compression". Most audiophiles know that second rate cutting engineers just apply filters and cut. Properly done mastering these days requires none.
Michael T's picture

...check out any new release with the inscription "NRP" on the vinyl. NRP is Nashville Record Productions, and their mastering is *very* mediocre with all kinds of limiting and low/high frequency cutoff. Sadly, many new music releases from the major label are mastered there. Their engineers are clearly going by the book because all their mastering sounds the same. I suspect they are somehow tied in to United Record Pressing, because every single NRP release has the "U" also. Mediocre mastering and pressing in one convenient stop for most major labels.

If you want to hear great new mastering with lots of detail, low and high end, and none of the second rate 'by the book' described above, check out Lorde's "Pure Heroine" (Sterling Sound/Ray Janos mastered) or the new Beck's "Morning Phase" (mastered by Bernie Grundman, with TONS of low end info even in the inner grooves!). Broken Bells "After the Disco" (Chris Bellman mastered) also sounds fantastic and I would almost bet it was mastered from an analog source.
Brick filters have not been applied to LP mastering, as far as I know. Frequencies may be attenuated, but not 'bricked' (there is a HUGE difference between the two). Brick filters were/are used on CD's at 20KHz, which is one of many reasons why most sound so boring.

Michael Fremer's picture
To some degree, what comes from NRP depends upon what it's given to master from. One engineer there, Wes Garland (WG/NRP) is an audiophile and true vinyl fan. But he has to work with what he's given…...
walrusman7's picture

Hello Sir,

Wes Garland Nashville Record Productions,

There are occasions where, We are somewhat constrained in what we do by the the individual in charge of test pressing approval at the record label...
They're most likely not using turntables like mine or yours..
I use a Lyra Kleos cart at home and it's an amazing tracer...

One thing to also mention here...

Most of the stuff We get, are pre-mastered digital files that are approved already, and so We don't tamper with it in any way if sonics have already been approved,
unless.... The client has playback issues, usually with sibilance tracking distortion...

There are times We are forced to make compromises that We don't like.. Every once in a while We can talk them out of a compromise...

We'll get this response a lot, after telling them it plays clean on our Shure v15 cart at the studio... "Well, it should sound good on all players"... As you know that's impossible...
A lot of the people that approve the test pressings are young people with not a whole lot of vinyl experience..

Keep in mind....

We do a lot of analog projects for Third Man Records... Jack White sends us analog master tapes 99% of the time...
His last two LP's were AAA,(Bob Ludwig premastered to 1" analog tape) and sent it to us to cut....

We do the live direct to disc cutting at third man as well...
If ya can, check out "Mudhoney Live at Third Man Records" LP...
Cut Direct to disc in front of a live audience...

There are other direct to disc releases like Jack Johnson, The Shins, etc...

Michael T's picture

Firs of all, it is great to see that you are on

I imagine it must be frustrating to have to master from digital sources that sound like they were prepared for CD/MP3 and simply handed over to you to cut on vinyl.

Furthermore, I can't believe that record execs listen to test pressings on poor turntables/cartridges and then put you in a position to have to recut to taylor to mediocre/poor turntables.
I guess this has been going on since the 60's, however (RCA's 1812 Overture, also stories about Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun basing releases on how they played on his daughter's turntable).

I do have the first Jack White album (about to get the 2nd), and you did a great job mastering that one. I also have the Shins and Kills direct to disc releases. They sound good but there is a buzz on the Shins release (I understand this was the first live direct to disc, so tech bugs could probably not be worked out on the fly).

I have noticed a positive difference in new releases where the vinyl is cut at the same studio the project was also mastered at (particularly with Sterling Sound cuts). Maybe they create a separate vinyl master without the attributes/compromises of a master made for CD's? Perhaps your clients are just trying to save money and giving you the CD mastered files to cut from?

Thanks again,

walrusman7's picture

The problem is some of the guys that approve the test pressings, listen on headphones, which can complicate things further... Surface noise and playback distortion becomes even more noticeable..
So it can be tricky to steer them away from compromising the top end, cutting at lower levels, etc...

Michael Fremer's picture
"Well there seems to be some misinterpetations going on. Many early cutting consoles had a 15 or 20k filter that could be used for "cutting problems" only It was not a "brick wall" devise rather it had a cue such as 2 or 3db per octave. Sometimes certain signals did not track right when put on disk. Hi end problems could cause mis- tracking. Such a "filter" would be used to fix those situations. It had nothing to do with getting more level on a disk. However, low end eq did have a lot to do with the target level of a disk. But perhaps your readers are talking about a low freq cross over…….. That was commonly used back in the day, especially on 45s. This of course would be moot if we're talking about mono."—Chris Bellman, Bernie Grundman Mastering
StonedBeatles1's picture


Michael Fremer's picture
To the far right there is "15 FLT or " FLAT" not 15 'filt' !!!!!!!!!! Spectrum analysis of LPs shows information well beyond 20kHz. For instance "For Duke" has information above 50kHz. Who told you "most" vinyl releases are cut with 20kHz filters in place?
Michael Fremer's picture
Because it's a fine example of bullshit and ignorance.
amarok89's picture

continues. I am not an audio guy but the topic is fascinating. Plus I see several dotted "I's" in the photo that makes it look like filt.

Michael Fremer's picture
I will get this clarified. However, keep in mind that the work began by writing down all of the original notes found in the boxes and working from there...
amarok89's picture

with the people involved did you get this clarified? I am interested because both Beatles for Sale and Help! were my least favorite sounding of the Of the mono's on both CD and LP.. I am curious also because of the conversation on B4S further down.

StonedBeatles1's picture


AZ's picture

Aren't those mastering notes the old notes from the sixties? Judging by N.S. (Norman Smith?) initials etc.

Joe Schmengidy's picture

If you look at their EQ notes you'll notice all the tracks on For Sale have been EQ'd -1-3dB(!) at 12.8k.

And if you're buying these records because they're all analog and contain all the ultrasonic information audiophiles crave, don't look at the 15kHz brick wall filter he has on ALL the tracks. That would make them the equivalent of having a 30kHz sampling rate. Heh...

Michael Fremer's picture
As yet another example of bullshit and misinformation. There is no 15kHz "brick wall" filter on ALL of the tracks or on any of the tracks, Heh…… If you look at "Help" there is no such filtering or whatever it is that refers to. I am putting another picture here that will show no such filtering on other albums either. What issue caused whatever that is we are seeing will be clarified ASAP.
saronian's picture

Appreciate the time you took to serve us the details, making the whole experience of this upcoming reissue so much richer. Hip, Hip Hooray for Michael.

Bigrasshopper's picture

I've had an unexplainable feeling all year, whenever I thought about the mono release, that they would use the tapes directly. Intuition, the delay, or just the fact that Sean joined the group, so it was clear that eyes were turned to our concerns. I think we all deserve credit, and I mean those who spoke and those who listened, and especially Micheal, for creating a single space to educate, advocate and to engage all sides of the music experience. That a genuine effort was put forth is clear from the pride of ownership that I see on the faces of Berkowitz and Magee. Splendid.
I do have to say that although a Mono set has provided an opportunity to issue a more genuine Beatles experience, I don't have to point out that at least the last two and possibly three album were not originally intended to be heard in mono. So although this is a enormous step foreword, I think being tied to the idea of a total mono set is misguided. Why not call this The Original Beatles Experience Box and proceed from there ?
Again thanks, Micheal and everyone.

Michael Fremer's picture
Bigrasshopper's picture

I don't claim to know, but I thought at some point they started to record and or mix with intention of a stereo record. Really, I can't keep all this straight in my head. It's a relatively new interest to me. Excuse me if I erred. My sense was that there was artificial stereo and later at some point genuine stereo.

Michael Fremer's picture
True "artificial" stereo is when the recording is mono and "stereo" is created using high and low frequency filtering and/or delay between the channels like Capitol's "Duophonic" disaster. The result is two bad sounding channels! The next level is what most 'stereo' Beatles albums are, which is the left/right division of pre-mixed "stems". Yes, these can sound fine and we all like to hear the soundstage spread and on some records it works well like "Beatles For Sale". But if you listen to Rubber Soul (original stereo mix) it's a mess, which is why it was remixed in the 80s by Geo. Martin (making it an even bigger mess!) or even carefully to "Sgt. Peppers…" it's obvious that pre-mixed 'stems' were assigned left and right channels to create "stereo" but that it really wasn't what the pre-production intended.
Bigrasshopper's picture

Thanks for that clarification. I understand about the "stems" created by having to layer live recording on to existing mixes in order to create more complex compositions and free up new space on a limited track tape. So the stereo mixes that are clumps of stereo can't be viewed as illegitimate because some? were contemparily released, with the mono? Or some were released later ? So all versions become in some way legit because of precedence and what we are used to hearing.
But do you have an opinion on which albums or any, were intended for stereo release ? I thought that Let It Be, Abbey Road, and possibly The Beatles were, or could arguably be (and I reveal my lack of familiarity with their sound staging) mixed for a more modern stereo sensibility, with more discrete separation of elements. I don't have the big book in front of me, I've forgotten at what point the more advanced tape heads made their way into the studio on which albums, but this variation makes these questions more open for opinion, but do you have an opinion beyond Rubber Soul ? I ask this because although I'm very excited about the mono release, I really appreciate stereo, of course, "where it works". Where do you think it works. Does it makes sence to have a mono Abbey Road? Not that there is any reason not to have a mono AR. But If you were "calling the shots" and say, decided that more new pure analoge records were desirable, which ones would you release, as singles in stereo and which would you keep as mono ? I hope that is not to large a question ?

Bigrasshopper's picture

If you don't like that question, then can you bite on this. - if at some future date an AAA stereo set is put on the table, what changes might one want to see. I don't mean to shift the subject to stereo, I'm just trying to better understand the whole thing. Or leave things pretty much as they were on the original stereo records ? Or perhaps you could just recommend a good book on the subject of Beatles releases. -thanks

gettingintovinyl's picture

Ideally for ME, they would sound as if you had just brought one back in a time machine from 1966 (Revolver)... Or as if they had just found a bunch of old new stock in mint condition and decided to sell them.

Michael Fremer's picture
There are so many good ones….Recording the Beatles is definitive...
Bigrasshopper's picture

On order. This should quell my curiosity until the mono's arrive, and keep me from posting and pestering you with naive and open-ended questions. - I appreciate the recommendation.
Its cheaper to order direct from the publisher- Curvebender Publishing

DJ Huk's picture

I don't believe there were any commercially released mono versions of Abbey Road or Let It Be. They were both meant for stereo listening and recorded that way.

Michael Fremer's picture
I saw one actually. A Brazilian pressing surely cut from a "fold down" from the stereo tape.
amarok89's picture

I bought the Brazilian Let It Be for the heck of it when I bought all the UK Monos several years ago. I like it even though its a fold down.

DJ Huk's picture

I think he means that those two albums were released in stereo alone, so were never meant to be heard in mono.

Bigrasshopper's picture

OK, now I finally noticed that Let it be and Abbey Road aren't included. Hello! That makes a lot more sense. And I was confused about the mono status of The Beatles. Unfortunately, that means of course that we won't be getting any AAA of those two, at least not right away.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Oh, I do hope special attention is paid to quality control at Optimal. On the stereo set I had to combine two sets and return one to achieve one complete more or less flat set of pressings. I bring this up now because it appears that the Euro sets for Led Zep were pressed there with further reports of problems. How can this continue ?

Billf's picture

Great scoop, Mikey, but Abbey Road out in England two weeks before the US? First the White Album and now this- your memory is fading, my friend. I picked up the British one at NE Music City on Friday, September 26, the day it was released in England, or the next day.; It was out in the US the following Wednesday (October 1). My exclusive in BU's Myles Standish Hall lasted the weekend. Honest.

Michael Fremer's picture
The timing of the "Abbey Road" release was given to me by Steve Berkowitz. So it wasn't two weeks, it was almost a week. There was a three day difference in the release date of "The Beatles". It came out on the 22nd of November 1968 in the UK and the 25th in America. However, that is the "official" release date. America is a big place and how long it took to reach stores in smaller markets is another story. In Ithaca, the local dealer had to buy from a "one-stop". I have no doubt the store beat the "one-stop" by buying overseas a few days early. In fact I know he did!
Michael T's picture

The Ortofon 2M is not available in mono (there is a separate 2M Mono available), so it sounds like they made the mastering comparisons playing mono LP's cutter with a mono cutter head in the 60's with a stereo cartridge? I imagine they picked up lots of unnecessary surface noise.

Were the reissues cut with a true mono cutter head or with a stereo cutter head being fed the same mono signal to the left/right channels?

When these releases come out, should they be played with a traditional 45/45 degree stereo cartridge or a mono cartridge (I have the Soundsmith Otello in mono)?


berlinerpunk's picture

it seems strange that the engineers wouldn't use mono equipment for cutting this set. It's MORE strange that they didn't listen back to the music with a mono needle. The 2M Black is great but how do we know that our mono needles will give us even better results if they didn't try it first?

Michael T's picture

The *Ortofon 2M Black* is not available in mono.....

2channelguy's picture

I don't have a mono cartridge and probably will never buy one. So, would I be wasting my money buying the mono LP's?

Michael Fremer's picture
It will sound fine with a stereo cartridge but if you put a "Y" connector (in both directions) between your phono preamp and preamp it will sound better because vertical modulations will be removed.
Jazzfan62's picture

I think this would be very interesting to hear these in mono. Many of the Beatles albums have locals only out of the left or right, vs the more mainstream centered vocals and the instruments spread across the stage. I think it will be cool to hear the mono version.

soundman45's picture

I'm sorry but I can't help but get a chuckle out of the powers that be at EMI/Universal and probably the Beatles camp themselves.
From their track record you would think they entered the business yesterday. Lemme See, 1987 Beatles Cd's.....Ooops!
2012 Stereo Vinyl Reissues....Ooops!

Well at least they got it right. I guess I have to applaud them on this one, but oh wait their not out yet. Why is it that the consumer always pays the price, over and over again?

All I know is I'm glad I don't whip out my credit card every time these guys release something. Lol

vinyl_guy's picture

Did Mofi use these same master tapes or did they use the copies that Capitol had for the original american releases?

Michael Fremer's picture
Mobile Fidelity claims to have used the UK tapes. Interestingly the album covers show the various tape boxes and they are the real ones but the same tape in each box. MMT was the Capitol compilation with electronic stereo on side two because George Martin sent mono to Capitol in the 60s. The tape box shows that the UK MMT tape was assembled in 1976. Capitol did get the stereo mixes of side two in time for the Mobile Fidelity cassette, which has them in stereo.
azmoon's picture

MIkey - are they using the originals for these titles?

Thanks for all you effort on this!

Michael Fremer's picture
The are cutting all analog from assembled tapes. There's a photo of one in the gallery
Daniel Thomas MacInnes's picture

I would like to add that I found a first press UK Abbey Road at a local record shop for $20, maybe less. Sometimes, the stores don't know what gems are in their collections. At the same store, I once scored a Robert Ludwig Led Zeppelin II...ten bucks. Such finds are uncommon, but always exciting and fun. Much of the fun in collecting LPs lies in a successful hunt. Also, this is why it's always important to check the deadwax on any vintage records. You might find a rare gem in a forgotten pile of old records, foolishly ignored by everyone else. Great finds are out there, free from the grip of Ebay greed.

And, yes, the first press UK Abbey Road sounds wonderful, better than any other version I've heard. I was especially impressed at how the hidden track ("The End") begins later than other versions. It's a good surprise that reminds me of '90s CDs.

davidmreyes77's picture

In 2014 they STILL care more about the mono mixes than the stereo. I guess that is why they're making an effort with this release :)

Kirby's picture

Reading how they took your constructive criticism over the stereo lps to heart and decided to go all out with a AAA mono lp release, all I have to say is Thank You Michael! This is the best thing you have done for music lovers since you straightened out the needle on Brian Wilson's record player. My box set is ordered and now it's time for that dedicated mono cartridge,

WaltonGoggins's picture

Realistically, I only want/need 4-5 of these albums, so the box seems kind of frivolous. Still, at <$340 (10% sale at Music Direct), it is really tempting as something of a piece of art. Do these sets tend to hold value well over time? It may be sort of a cool thing for my son to inherit a few years down the road as well.

Michael, do you have any idea how many of these sets- or individual albums- will be made?

Thanks so much for all you do, Michael.

rdh79730's picture

I just placed my pre-order without hesitation. Just as I did for the stereo box, even though I have most of the original UK stereo pressings. Why? Because it's the phuking Beatles, people! Yes, I really enjoyed some of the stereo pressings from the stereo box. No, Rubber Soul wasn't one of them. It's been the holy grail for me in Beatles reacord collecting. I've bought several mono UK originals that were in horrible condition compared to what was claimed and returned them all. So I finally gave up. Now this box will give me that, plus mono versions of Sgt. Pepper and The White Album. AND via AAA process. So you won't hear any whining from me. If you get a poorly pressed record, send it back. I have found the customer service at the well known online retailers to be excellent in that regard. Come on September!

DJ Huk's picture

One of your best postings, Mike, sort of like a mystery story, the detective enters the inner sanctum to search out the solution. You seem to have been somewhat influential in their decision to go this route too. I'm still a bit confused about how they created the mono CDs though: my understanding (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that no EQ was used in the digital versions. Is that why they sound so flat and muddy to my ears, because the original EQ settings used on the first vinyl pressings were ignored? It's a minority opinion, but I've always preferred The Beatles in stereo, especially their later work, after all, back in the day, Sgt. Pepper was known as a headphones album. Then there's the story that the Ramones sound was influenced by the wide stereo instrumental and vocal divides on the early Beatles albums, which I learned from the liner notes of the Rhino CD issue of the brothers' first album. But, if these mono pressings fulfill their promise, I'm willing to change my opinion--mono cartridge or not.

Michael Fremer's picture
EQ was used to produce the CD boxes. Of necessity. I think they excessively boosted the bass on some.
DJ Huk's picture

At least for the US versions, according to Greg Calbi, who was the "mastering engineer":

TA: So here’s the million-dollar
question: For the U.S. Beatles
project, did you use the highresolution
tracks that were used
in 2009 for the last set of Beatles
remasters, or did you make some
subtle changes?
GC: They aren’t that far off. The
Beatles board had approved the 2009
remasters with the English sequence.
They said if we could enhance the
files without really changing them, we
had their permission to go on. This
was where the WireWorld cable in my
mastering console came in handy: It
saved me by passing a pure signal
through cleanly with no coloration,
allowing me to make subtle changes,
shaving a bit here and a bit there. But
it was important. The bass was not
particularly big on the early albums,
so a bit of bass had to be added, a
little bit of patina—making it the same
but better.

Jim Tavegia's picture

How cool would it have been to have 13 mono DVDs of the this project at 2496? I think that something like this from artists is going to happen before I kick. Each track could have 1a: Orignal ; 1b: the EQd version for each song. In 2014 there is no reason for something like this not to happen with most DVD and BluRay players able to play them already.

forshac's picture

You look like a kid on Christmas!

Michael Fremer's picture
That's how I felt...
Jim Tavegia's picture

How JA and JM felt hearing the masters of Kind Of Blue a while back.

junker's picture

Pre-ordered this fabulous box set offering. Thanks for the great piece on this project, it's significance, and your amazing journey!

It seems the studios were slow to embrace digital due to risks with piracy, and just plain going out of their comfort zone, in much the same way that that they have been risk averse in reinvesting in doing these analog project properly. With the success of the Zep reissues and the AAA Beatles, let's hope the studios see this another viable revenue stream and can use the ROI to justify doing these projects to the nines. Best, -Junker

John M Roberts's picture

It all sounds great, but I may still take a wait and see approach this time. I pre-ordered the stereo set when it was first announced and was very disappointed in everything except the book and the copy of A Hard Days Night. My copy of Sgt. Pepper was unplayable. What do you know about the pressing pant used this time?

Michael Fremer's picture
In Germany is pressing for worldwide pants! Sorry couldn't help myself.
J.D.'s picture

MF's made the case that the mono mixes were the ones the producer and band carefully supervised. Think I recall a PaulMc quote to that effect as well.
I've been lucky enough over time to have a shelf full of Uk Emi individual titles, some yellow/black some black/silver and some orig apple, all Stereo. Know what I do before I play them ? I punch the Mono button on my preamp.

Because to my ear a switched-fold-down to mono sounds way better on a good system than the discombobulated stereo mixes when played stereo.

(Exceptions-- White Album I've never found a Uk pressing that didn't sound anorexic, so I've gone with the Mfsl, which I vary, either stereo or mono-button, for the occasion. Abbey Road sounds better in stereo, as it is in the modern era. Let It Be I listen to an un-phil-spectored 'Naked' lp pressing.)

My point though, is that the earlier half-cooked stereo-fied stereo Beatles catalog sounds ridiculous, if you really listen. Hoping this all-analog Mono set goes some way towards a cure for that problem.

Michael Fremer's picture
You'll know that first listen to any of the later ones.
J.D.'s picture

I'm saying I listen to my early stereo pressings that way. In folded-down, switched, mono.
Bottom line being how non-intuitive the stereo mixes are, for the titles mentioned here.

wao62's picture

At the left of the tape box is a section for date, operation & initials. I can't make out all the writing, but the last two 'operations' seem to spell 'Japan' & the dates appear to be 1981 & 1986. Might this indicate that this master tape was pulled for the Japanese red vinyl mono series? If so, does anyone know if the 'operation' indicates that lacquers were cut on those dates or were tape copies produced & sent to Japan. The first date looks like 10/68 when the first lacquers might have been cut. I can't make out the second line.

This reissue is a major coup for those of us who want AAA mastering. In the future reissues sourced from digital files may be considered second rate. Now that the Beatles have done it, perhaps the Stones will be compelled (as they always have followed the Beatles) to produce a premium AAA mono box!

Michael Fremer's picture
It is noted as you noted. Yes, the 1981 was for the red mono Odeon series that are now hideously expensive and pressed from copies sent to Japan from Abbey Road Studios. These will be interesting to compare to those and I will!
Martin's picture

How far behind can a Rolling Stones all AAA box set be? With some bonus material.
That would be great! I would get it immediately.
A note to anyone from the organisation who might be reading, use the 1964 Chess stereo mixes, the Decca monos were fold-downs. The original Chess 1964 stereo mixes, done by the Chess studios at their peak are some of the nicest sounding Stones tracks, period.
It would be a shame to fold them down to mono again for a reissue just for the sake of consistency. If there is anyone else who has heard the original stereo on vinyl, on the 1978 French reissues, you'll know what I mean.

rl1856's picture

Is there any possibility that the lacquers used for the actual pressing stampers were cut from digital transfers?

Michael Fremer's picture
vinyl_lady's picture

forever. This is such fantastic news and hats off to Apple for doing it right. I have a few Parlophone 1st pressings, the MoFi box and the Parlophone blue box and I have a feeling this is going to top them all (except maybe my 1st pressing of Revolver). Looking forward to your review.

Thanks for sharing your experience at Abbey Road.

Bill-B's picture

...OH BOY"

Actually it was Monday evening. Was spinning UK Abbey Road while deleting 'junk' emails when came upon MusicD'slast chance Fathers Day special. Now I need more records like Blackburn, Lancashire needed holes & stated to hit delete...doesn't hurt to look got the better of me. Couldn't believe my eyes when the link opened up. "I saw the photograph....", what a rush. Grab my credit card "in seconds flat".

wgb113's picture

Thanks Mike for more insight into the process that went into this set. It had to be hard for you to keep this under wraps for so long. Touring the studios is a dream of mine, it was fun reading your experience of stepping into Studio 2.

jack65's picture

Dear Mr. Fremer, awesome read, thanks! :-)
Do you know or do you have access to information about which original pressings where used as reference for each title, mostly Rubber Soul and Revolver. It is well known that 1st UK pressings were deleted and replaced. For Revolver the actual 1st pressing with the alternate TNK sound better than the -2/-2 with the right TNK mix...and the 1st press Rubber Soul is cut too loud, but do sound a lot more present and full than the 2nd pressings of Rubber Soul. If they did used the 2nd pressings as reference for these titles, did they compensate etc? Thanks!

Michael Fremer's picture
I assume you are referencing the mono issues, correct?
jack65's picture

Thanks, Yes, the original UK Mono lp's :-) The "fault" 1st press Revolver is better sounding than the "corrected" 2nd pressing which is more distorted and muddy. If you want to get it right, use the actual 1st pressing as reference despite the fault.

JC1957's picture

So glad to hear that Mono Masters will be spread out over a 3LP set. There's just too much information for a double album. The stereo Past Masters LP confirms this after sonic compromises (bass cut for one) were made. Would be nice if they would reissue Past Masters as a 3LP set and cut from stereo ANALOG tapes. Chances are very slim they'll ever do it but, hey I'd buy it.

julio's picture

How did you keeps this story a secret from us? What else are you hiding from us?

AnalogJ's picture

As most know, the original UK Beatles For Sale is a terribly compressed album in mono. It is the only album which Steve Hoffman recommends getting in stereo, in spite of the left/right mix, due to its much greater dynamics. I certainly like the mono presentation in terms of the more cohesive presentation of the band, but it IS very compressed in mono.

I'm wondering if the new release will be greatly improved in terms of dynamics, or was the compression in the original mono tapes and be delivered the same way?

AZ's picture

That's what's on the master, not just on the original vinyl. The 2009 mono CD proves this.

J. Carter's picture

The compression on the mono version is what the producers and the band approved. It is the way they wanted it to sound. More compression doesn't mean it is going to sound bad especially the compression used back then. It was much less destructive compared to what they can do now. Embrace the compression it's the way it was meant to sound.

AnalogJ's picture

The stereo, to my ears, is just a much more musical presentation. They compressed the mono too much; and I have most all of their albums In mono, including that one.

AZ's picture

The stereo BFS is definitely much more pleasant. Especially if you have that original -1/-1 UK 'tube cut' :)

AnalogJ's picture


J. Carter's picture

The stereo is too separated for me to enjoy

Michael Fremer's picture
The key is where the compression was applied. If in the mastering it need not be compressed on the reissue. That is one area where I am sure they were not out to reproduce the original.
jack65's picture

Wouldn't the CD Mono box indicate this?

anomaly7's picture

SoundStageDirect has this pre-order priced at $337.00
Free Shipping
They're way cool people.

rakalm's picture

I am seeing $374.99 now, did the price change that quick?

anomaly7's picture

That was a "pre-order" price. It's possible it has gone up by now. The email from them was dated 6/17 and did say it wass for a limited time.
I guess that's one reason to be on everyone's email list, you get notice of advance sale pricing.

Yovra's picture

I bought the 'new' Sergeant Pepper's but for the stereo-versions my pristine Dutch BC13 is the best option. I might go for a UK-version, but these prices are stellar. But now there's possibly the best available option (and reasonably affordable) for the mono-versions. Especially the albums from the 'middle period' have much to gain from the more cohesive sound without these strange stereo-choices! And with restored album-art. The reissue of the year for me....

MMaterial's picture

What is all this fuss I hear about Mono? My Mom Emily had this as a teenager and said that it is nothing to mess with.

Frank Litella

PS: Can anyone tell me the make of the turntable, arm & stand posted by YNWaN on January 26, 2014 under "My turntable"? Thank You.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Maybe a change in the recording/mastering info could help. Right now I believe that we have AAA for all analog, ADD for analog master to digital.

What if we went to small "a" for analog at 15ips or less and "A" for 30ips; small "d" for digital master for 24/48 and under and "D" for 24/88.2 or more for digital masters.

We could have "add" analog master at 15ips; digital mastering at 24/48 or less and "d" for the format of CD or less.
We could have "ADD" for an analog master at 30ips, digital mastering at 24/88.2 or more, and "D" for hirez download at 24/88.2 or more or a 24/96 DVD wav file.
We could even have an "ADA" release of a 30ips master tape, a hirez mastering at 24/88.2 or better and a "A" vinyl release.

I would certainly not complain about mastering done at 24/192 of a "A" master tape. For me it would have to be a hirez sale download or a vinyl release. You probably could make a good CD from that, but would not make much sense I wouldn't think. That would be "ADd" .

People are getting more concerned about the original files and the mastering done at what rate? It used to be we just played records and didn't worry about, or know about any of this. Not any more. The 3 letter coding we have now doesn't really tell us much. Maybe they don't want us to know.

walrusman7's picture

Its real frustrating when something that sounds great, gets rejected because of tracking issues...

worse is when you have a committee that has to sign off on a ref or test pressing, and a few may have opposite opinions... The more people in the approval chain, the harder it is, and also the more likely for there to be sonic compromises...

punkzter's picture

Does anyone know how limited this will be? Do I need to jump on it right away?