Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Remix Full Review!

2012 wasn’t all that long ago and culturally not that much has changed, yet from that year to the September 27th release this year of the 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road is how long The Beatles made records.

Think about it! Had The Beatles released “Love Me Do” in October of 2012, by this September 27th they would have recorded and released Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Magical Mystery Tour EP, The Beatles, Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road. That’s not just “unprecedented”, it’s kind of insane.

This doesn’t include all of the American releases that contained countless singles that were omitted from the U.K. releases but appeared on American Beatles albums, nor does it include the “Red” and “Blue” double LP collections or the 16 song U.K. hits package A Collection of Beatles Oldies (EMI PCS 7016), the import album that startled many Americans completely unfamiliar with the British originals.

Hearing some of these songs in real stereo for the first time and others not “Capitolized” with gobs of reverb and odd equalization was an ear-opener that caused many fans to seek out the rest of the difficult to obtain U.K. originals. Books have been written about all of this including Bruce Spizer’s vinyl-centric ones and, Hunter Davies’ authorized Biography and of course Beatles scholar/obsessive Mark Lewisohn’s definitive chronologies.

For those of us who grew up with The Beatles (or who were for all intents and purposes already grown up), they were, whether or not they intended to be, more than just a group of musicians who wrote great songs that became the soundtrack to our adolescent lives.

As a group and as individuals they became spiritual and relationship advisors, fashion and personal grooming counsellors, figurative drug dealers, and probably more than anything, for the better part of a tumultuous decade they led us into the future, while simultaneously providing comforting security.

The Beatles were always “there”. There would always be the next Beatles album to guide us into the future. This wasn’t only a teenager’s fantasy wish.

No wonder when the group officially broke up in April of 1970 when Paul publicly called it quits (Lennon left around the time of Abbey Road’s release in September of 1969), fans of all ages felt lost and abandoned, were bewildered and actually became resentful of being “betrayed” by The Beatles!

Poor Yoko Ono was unfairly accused by otherwise rational adults of “plotting” and succeeding in breaking up the group. If you weren’t around back, then you might find this difficult to believe but it’s true.

Let It Be, the “next” Beatles album to be released but of course recorded before Abbey Road, was a mess of a production with multiple producers starting with George Martin, and then moving to Glyn Johns and finally Phil Spector who got the official credit but not before George Martin is reported to have said "I produced the original, and what you should do is have a credit saying 'Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector'". Even the distribution was mired in legal controversies but that’s best covered when Let It Be gets 50th anniversary treatment if it in fact gets it!

Even though the album sold well, critical reception went from muted to downright hostile.

Back to Abbey Road! The graphics-free cover broke new packaging ground. The iconic photo said “The Beatles” better than any typeface could and in retrospect the message that the “boys” were exiting the building literally and figuratively couldn’t have been any clearer.

The 50th Anniversary edition is, as most everyone reading this knows, a brand new remix by producer Giles Martin and mix engineer Sam Okell using the original 8 track session tapes. The original stereo mix provided guidance but the remix does effect some changes similar to what was done on the previous Beatles remixes. However, unlike those, recording to 8 tracks required less “track bouncing” than had been used on previous Beatles albums.

With the messy Let It Be events and production staffing behind them, Giles Martin points out in the set intro (all editions) that engineers Geoff Emerick and Phil McDonald were brought back as was his father George to produce and contribute musical arrangements as in “the old days” (two years earlier!). EMI had installed a new TG12345 mixing desk and between it and the new 8 track recorders, the original album’s excellent sound speaks for itself.

So why do a remix of a masterpiece? My inbox was flooded with readers asking that question as many asked about The Beatles double LP, which to many was “perfect” as-is.

That remix was, in my opinion, a complete success because it remained true to the original but made some useful improvements that included restoring the bottom end that had been attenuated on the original LPs to better play on the lesser turntables used by kids back then. Martin’s mix was also a more “in the pocket” edition that produced greater mix coherence and placed everything more tidily than did the original mix. The original U.K. vinyl edition does things the remix doesn’t and vice-versa. It’s nice to have both!

The Abbey Road Remix

I compared to this new remix an original very early U.K. pressing bought within a week of the album’s release (side 1 second lacquer [I assume the first was damaged], 3rd mother, stamper #70, side 2 first lacquer, 3rd mother, 21st stamper), a somewhat later U.K. pressing with a white inner sleeve instead of the black original that has the offset green apple under the side one track listing and other cover art anomalies (same lacquers and mothers but triple digit stampers), three original U.S. pressings one pressed by U.S. Decca that’s super rare and doesn’t include “Her Majesty” on either the jacket or label, one pressed at Capitol’s Winchester, VA pressing plant and a third, the provenance of which I didn’t bother checking out. If you really want to get into the American pressing “weeds” go to the Fab 4 Collectibles website. A mint U.S. Decca pressing must go for stupid money because that site didn’t list the price it sold for, but after listening to these three, I wouldn’t give you ten cents for any of them. The sound is atrocious: bright, grainy and not at all pleasant. I guess if you are a jacket and/or rarities collector, you might enjoy but if sound is important to you, I doubt there’s ever been a worthwhile sounding American pressing.

This is the “super rare” version of the American album, description on that website.

This is a more common version. There are so many variations you’ll wonder how that was allowed to happen! At least I did.
I also listened to the Toshiba “Pro-Use” Japanese pressing (EALF-97001), the Mobile Fidelity box set version with the “smiley face” equalization and especially to the 2011 box set version cut from the digital master used to produce the CD and I gave the USB stick 24 bit version a quick listen. Oh, and I fired up the Nakamachi BX-300 and played the original cassette that I happen to have.

Of course all are from the same original mix, though they are sonically very different. The Mo-Fi is very “clean” and well-detailed with black backgrounds but with the midband life sucked out if it. The Toshiba is similarly kind of dry and sterile but with more midband life.

I haven’t played the 2011 box set version since I reviewed it so I went back and at first it sounded ‘okay’ but as it played it got really annoying and by “Oh Darling” I couldn’t take any more of it and I’ll spare you why. The stick was similar but with a “bit” more (actually 8 bits more) resolution and life but still sterile.

The only truly exceptional sounding original I found here was the early U.K. pressing, with the second somewhat later pressing cut from a much later stamper coming very close.

I’ll leave it at that, which means most Beatles fans have never really heard a great original pressing of Abbey Road.

I brought a digitized version of the original pressing to the audio show in Tampa last winter and played to a full large room side 2 on a big rig and no one got up for the duration. When it was over there was applause and some people were weeping. I’m not kidding!

Young people getting into vinyl who bought the 2011 LP are “ripe for the picking” if this new mix is any good.

ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Steelhead's picture

I was definitely in the why even do it with any digital processing if you have already have it in analog. After buying the cd version of My Morning Jacket Waterfall album and digging it so much I bought the album version (45 rpm) and doing the old comparison thing I have to say that to this guy the vinyl was superior to my ears and personally very glad I bought the vinyl version even though I had it on cd.

As for the Beatles, well at my age it is not even close, just to have the outtakes alone make it a must buy for me. LOVE the alternative takes on the White Album and so glad I bought it. Giles is doing his daddy proud.

But of course at my age I would rather hear the Beatles playing around rather than listen to 87 percent of what ever is new.

Just to have the outtakes on vinyl make this a must purchase for me.

DrJB's picture

I listened to the vinyl disc just a few minutes ago and it sounded really sweet on my system. I observed slightly less treble and a smoother, more burnished top end; in other words, it sounded like it was mixed and mastered in 2019, not 1969. It's a very modern sounding recording with the telltale signs of a modern DAW-based mixing and mastering system augmented with some very classic-sounding outboard analog gear. From an audio engineer's perspective, it sounds like it should for this era.

I'm listening on a VPI Prime Scout w/3D arm; Grado low output Statement Master 2; Sutherland pho pre; Yamaha 100 w/ch Intie; BW 705 s2 speakers; REL T/i7sub.

I'll listen to it through my mixing desk on my Universal Audio/Focal studio system tomorrow.

By the way, can someone tell me why the kick and snare are mostly panned hard left and right in the DTS and Atmos mixes? Makes no sense since they had 8 track tapes and modern computer workstation. Am I missing something? (speaking of which, "Something" had the kick and snare centered).

dreamweaver's picture

I loaded Come Together into iZotope RX and didn't really like what I saw. Could have used a little less compression. Also the balance between Lennon's vocal and the backing instruments are not ideal. Much too often, the instruments overwhelm the vocal, rather unrealistic and un-60's to me.

gbougard's picture

how about telling us what you HEARD

dreamweaver's picture

I HEARD a little too much compression. To confirm it, I used iZotope RX to check. I don't like music with too much compression.

Macman007's picture

Where is the single LP (not the picture disc) being pressed, at QRP here in the US, or at Optimal in Germany? On the 3 lp deluxe box the sticker says pressed at Optimal in Germany. Which plant would be recommended for the best sound quality and why? It's down to either, I'm split down the middle and can't find a consensus of which one between the two.

The Super Deluxe digital box is a no brainer, you get what everyone else receives regardless. The QRP pressing makes me nervous, other albums pressed there don't always get good reviews and I haven't found a consensus and explanation posted online anywhere. Thanks!

Stephen needam's picture

Hated the new mix. Played it 3 times and just couldn’t adjust to it. It sounded cold and lacked the warmth of my early 69 Pressing (not first Pressing) maybe I am just too used to it sounding that way. What have they done to some of the vocals? They seem echoey compared to my 69 Pressing. Not impressed at all.

*Played on Technics SL-1200G with Ortofon Black cartridge, VPI voyager and Klipsch 4000F Speakers.

Stephen needam's picture

Sorry forgot to add, why bring the mellotron at the beginning higher in the mix, sounds like a children’s version. It was low in the mix for a reason, it complimented the guitar lower in the mix, now it's equal to the guitar and sounds cheesy.

Macman007's picture

Is it a Mellotron or an early Moog? Pretty sure I read somewhere that George was playing with then then new and rare Moog for the first time in the studio.

Stephen needam's picture

Not 100% sure, thought it sounded like a mellotron. All I am sure is that it doesn’t belong high in the mix.

dreamweaver's picture

A Moog Synthesizer. Yes in the original version, the synthesizer compliments the guitar. In this 2019 version, it is the opposite but I definitely believe the guitar is the main instrument, not the synth.
Too much high EQ applied on the guitar and the overall mix has too much bass and drums sound too loud. It sounds almost like a rap song. Guess this is for the younger generation.
Again, too much compression. Yes, for the younger generation.

rakalm's picture

I may have missed where these were pressed.

Michael Fremer's picture
3 LP box: Optimal, Germany. 1 LP: QRP, Salina, KS
swimming1's picture

Just received the 3 lp box.Listened to it 3 or 4 times waiting for an epiphany.None yet. I have a first or second UK pressing which is very nice,maybe that's why I'm not impressed.Well Mikey warned us! The outtakes are ok sort of annoying actually, other than the ballad of John and Yoko. But is that worth $85? Dunno yet? Already have 4 or 5 copies of various pressing. Might even return it to Amazon! It's nice if you've never heard a real original UK copy. Probably won't listen toth outtakes more than a couple of times. Cheers,Chet

Celtic Bob's picture

I was not alive when Abbey Road was released. I became a fan in the 80's. I own the 80's CD's, mono box (CD), Stereo box (CD), mid 80's LP's, the latest vinyl pressings (mono from PPM to White, Stereo for LIB & AR). I also picked up the 2LP Pepper and 4LP White Giles editions. I am on the fence for this one. Apart from mixed reviews it is over 100$ for 3LP's here in The Great White North. I would like to have the "Bonus" material and hear the Giles mix outside my Press Advance D/L of it which sounds pretty good upon a quick listen.
I would love to own/hear a UK original but that is not possible so I have to stick with what I have for now. I do not own a system that cost in the 5 figures let alone 6. I am happy with what I have. I cannot justify over 100 for 3 LP's.
Cheers
b.

rodercot's picture

Michael, So I bought both, first thing with the qrp I had to ream the spindle hole to fit my CL table, the optimal slipped right on. Both lp's were pristine in condition and not a mark on either. I am listing on a CL Performance DC, with a satisfy carbon tonearm, with a Hana ML cart, Mac C2500 gold lion tubes, MAC MC601, cardas neutral reference cables and SF Sonetto VIII speakers. I have to listen again to both a few times! My initial thoughts are I am hearing more detail in the optimal press. The walkdown of the voices on Oh Darling on the QRP seems muffled at the bottom of the run, The optimal sounds detailed to the end of the run, The optimal IMO is tighter and more controlled on the bottom and with a lower noise floor. Overall I think the timbre is cleaner on the Optimal and a wider stage, and very detailed across the entire record. I am listening to the single again right now for the third time, It sounds almost muddy or wishy washy and just lacking that little bit more on the top! All this imo of course, you will all hear your own things, and systems, and accessories will all play a part in the outcome. I am adding no eq, and tone bypass is on, and I am loading my cart at 100 ohms. But it is AR, anytime you get to listen the fab 4 is a great day! Cheers, Dave

David Martin's picture

Is the TG12345 MK1 the reason why some well respected members of the audio community and, Beatle People agree that Abbey Road is the superior sounding of all Beatle recorded output? This was the only time a solid state transistor mixing desk was used start to finish for a recording project. Question for the Editor: Do all Abbey Road U.K. pressings have H.T.M. (Harry T. Moss) inscribed on side 2's inner groove? Also, is there a Bell Sound SF Capitol press of Abbey Road? With regard to my last post, I had hoped to provide an upload of my home studio cover of George's "Here Comes The Sun" but, could not locate a link to my files ("Come here IT, I need you"). For those interested in a "Musical Sojourn" can locate Here Comes The Sun/Guitar Song, @ YouTube or, your favorite subscription provider on your device. LMW (77)IF, Dave M.

Wimbo's picture

the 3 LP box and it it fantastic.
I have a near original copy and a Japanese copy and this is by far the best to me.I was shocked to hear "The ballad Of John and Yoko". Soo glad I have this box.

MefLiszto's picture

On both the Vinyl fold-over and the CD book, the blue title page says this:

THE BEATLES
THE ABBEY ROAD

None of the box opening videos I've seen on YouTube even mention this. What say you all? Have anyone ever seen it written as "The" Abbey Road?

Celtic Bob's picture

Looks like Apple is in same place but the text has moved. Look at the bricks. On one the "I" of "I Want You..." is right on the mortar but on brick for the other.

firedog's picture

Hi-
I've compared the Bluray stereo hi-res rip to the CD streaming version and the hi-res streaming version, as well as the HDTracks 24/96 download.
The 24/96 from the streaming (Qobuz) and the HDTracks seem to be the same version. And the CD seems to also be from that mastering.

But the BR stereo rip is different: it's noticeably not as loud, and sounds a little more like the older versions of the album. The measured DR of the BR is less than the hi-res download/hi-res steaming, and when listening to "Come Together", the measured peak db level on playback is about 3db less on the BR rip.

It's pretty clear the streaming version and the BR version aren't from the same master. The BR version is what I'd call the "audiophile" version for the digital.

Hefeman's picture

Identified my copy of Abbey Road as a first US Jacksonville pressing. I agree that the only thing interesting about this release is the cover and label. Weak sauce mix. Compared this with 2011 CD and new CD by listening to Here Comes The Sun many times. The biggest discovery was how much joy each subsequent listening provided.

My findings in a nutshell. I can't recommend the vinyl. Wish I could hear a UK pressing. 2011 CD remains truthful to original mix, including GM's 65-like mix with vocals panned right and instruments left. 2019 mix splits everything out across soundstage. Both CD mixes beef up the bass.

So I lean towards the new mix. However, there's something pleasing about Martin's weird 65 mix. The space allows instrumental things to stand out, though the mix calls attention to itself. Thinking the 5.1 mix could bring some of that out and be my favorite. That said, not expecting much based on previous surround mixes. Hope to hear it someday.

Slammintone's picture

I bought the single anniversary LP and the 3cd-1 blu ray set with the book today. I too found the cd for the studio album a little bright but not unobjectionably so. The bass is strong, the voices separation front to back are the most interesting things for me because they are so much more clearly heard than any version I've listened to before. Lennons voice near the beginning of I Want You was really a stand out moment on this mix for me.
I like the LP version much better on my system (VPI Prime, Hana SH, JC3+, Pass X250). The bass is even more pronounced and the harshness replaced with warmth and delicacy on top. But my pressing is very noisy, like it's got a dried liquid substance baked into the grooves, so it's going to be replaced.

Overall this new mix slays my previous favorite version the old Mobile Fidelity LP from the 70s. All the detail and information in the mid range that is on the new mix is only hinted at on the MOFI although being a bass head, I still love the boosted big bass and punchy drums from that album.

Apart from that, the new mix isn't terribly different from the original versions I've owned. I like it and it was tastefully done.

JayTrez's picture

Michael,

Is this new reissue the same as the 180g Capital/QRP pressing on Acoustic Sounds? Same description. Also, any difference between black vinyl or picture disk?

JayTrez

allvinyl's picture

My question comes as I am about to compare my orig UK, to the Toshiba, to the Optimal pressed 3 disc set. Do you clean these new pressings before comparing them to those you have had for all these years?

mb's picture

The black inner sleeve with the UK pressing wasn’t “first”. Nor was the “misaligned” Apple jacket (or the labels without “Her Majesty”). Both inner sleeves (black & white), both jackets (misaligned & aligned) and both labels (w/ & w/o Her Majesty) were available upon release and there is little rhyme or reason to them. All combinations of the three can be found. Some are less common than others, but none are “rare”.

And the Apple on the jacket isn’t really misaligned per se. Notice that the front and back photos were more closely cropped on the “misaligned” jackets - with the Apple aligned with photos. But the song titles and credits were added after the cropping. So really everything is misaligned with the typeset.

How and why did this happen? I don’t know for certain but I assume the simplest answer - a printer error for a batch(s) of sleeves - is probably the correct answer.

As for the “first” and “later” pressings, this is a mostly meaningless distinction. They were pressing 10’s of thousands of pressing every day before release - using randomly selected mothers and stampers. While it might technically be a “later” mother or stamper, there is no way to determine if it was the first or last pressing from that stamper. I’ve seen lots of confirmation bias - particularly with UK Beatles LPs - with “the earlier pressing was better” over the years (you rarely hear somebody say “the pressing from the later mother was better...”) when the reality is it was just mass production with parts used at random (which is why you see pressings with completely dissimilar mothers and stampers).

vishal1122's picture
mendps's picture

Your comment..."No wonder when the group officially broke up in April of 1970 when Paul publicly called it quits (Lennon left around the time of Abbey Road’s release in September of 1969)"...I mostly agree with, however, John didn't really leave - mentally and internally perhaps - but not physically as he and the others continued to report for Apple Corps duty at 3 Savile Row well into the spring of 1970. Lennon's internal verbal announcement of his desire to leave the group in 1969 does not jibe with his subsequent actions, in my opinion.

Russo7516's picture

Mike which do you this is the most stellar pressing of this LP

Kokomo O's picture

Why has there been no discussion of the MFSL 1979 pressing? To me, that one solves the low end issues and preserves the top end, having been produced only ten years after the recording, well before any significant tape deterioration would have set in.

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