Mono Masters   Newly Polished And Sparkling

Lovers of original British vinyl had to hand it to Capitol: they collected the "B" sides and British EP tracks and packed them onto Beatle LPs of their invention, keeping the track total skimpy to help create even more LPs. One could buy the EPs to complete the collection but they were less convenient to play though the laminated picture sleeves added value.

This 3 LP set, which duplicated the tracks o the double CD found in The Beatles in Mono CD box set was assembled from 15IPS analog tape copies of the mono master tapes, which was the only practical way to do it. Don't worry though, the sound doesn't suffer, especially if your only reference is mono American Beatle albums.

These sound so much better than the American originals you have to wonder what Capitol did to so screw them up. I remember first hearing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" when it first came out on the original Capitol mono and thinking "are those cymbals? And if so, what did they do to make them sound like that?" That being an indistinct, shimmery blur. Here the clarity is astonishing.

The same is true throughout. These singles and "B" sides were mostly mixed and EQ'd for 45rpm release to really "cut through" on the radio and in juke boxes and that they will do on you stereo (or your mono) in most pleasing ways. On "I Call Your Name" you'll scream "More cowbell!" even though there's just enough and it rings with startling clarity and believability.

The tracks duplicate the mono CD box so you get the original "Love Me Do" with Ringo on drums and no tambourine (transferred from vinyl because the master tape had been destroyed), the take of "From Me to You" with the harmonica intro, the two songs sung in German that The Beatles did not want to do, but did at Brian Epstein's insistence, the exceptional "Yes It Is", "Day Tripper", "We Can Work It Out", and all of the rocker-covers like "Matchbox", "Bad Boy" and "Slow Down". "I Feel Fine" and "She's a Woman" were issued in electronically reprocessed for stereo awful sound in America and in a mono version that can't compare to the clarity and directness of this version.

There's also a real stereo version on the UK "hits" package that has some other unique stereo mixes. That record A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Parlophone PCS 7016) deserves an all analog reissue!

Sides 3 and 4 include the later mixed-to-mono singles "Lady Madonna", "The Inner Light", "Hey Jude", and "Revolution". Side 5 are unique mono mixes of "Yellow Submarine" tunes never before issued in mono: ""Only a Northern Song", "All Together Now", "Hey Bulldog", and "It's All Too Much". Side 6 is "Get Back" (with Billy Preston), "Don't Let Me Down" (with Billy Preston) (covered so well by Doug Dillard and Gene Clark), "Across the Universe" and of course the capper "You Know My Name (Look up the Number)".

For Beatles fans what could be more enjoyable than sitting down and listening to the singles as originally intended, (direct, sharp and juke-box bright on top) cut from analog tapes and sounding as fresh and new as if they were recorded yesterday?

The triple gate fold packaging (the same used for the two BBC compilations) features actually readable annotation from Kevin Howlett explaining the track derivation and some great photos.

If ever there was a more powerful demonstration of analog's superiority, compare these 3 LPs with the double CD set in The Beatles in Mono CD box. The rich harmonica on the LP of the primitively recorded "From Me to You" sounds hard and annoying on CD. The reverberation that floats free and surrounds the instruments dries up and evaporates. The picture is flat and un-involving and on this CD when you play "I Call Your Name" and you scream out "MORE COWBELL PLEASE" you'll mean it. Just play that cowbell for anyone who will listen and then play the record. Game over!

Tomorrow: The book and the box in perspective.

Martin's picture

And well done.

You did it. By close of business on the release date.
That must have been a real marathon.

Another very good review too. I must say I do enjoy reading all of these. I will be printing them out and putting them into my box set when it arrives. For perspective and for others to read when playing these things. As they will get played.
My guess is the ones that get most turntable time will be the White Album and the mono masters.

samman's picture

Today's copy from writer Patrick Ryan gives a good plug for the mono vinyl set. BUT, in his opening, he states that this set brings back the "Distorted, but full-bodied sound" that the original vinyl lps gave us. Mike, I don't recall reading about any "Distortion" in your reviews. It's 2014. Will these writers ever wake up and actually listen? Yep, it's the DISTORTION that I love so much from vinyl.

Michael Fremer's picture
The idiocy continues....
Superfuzz's picture

"Unlike stereo recordings — with vocals and instruments recorded on separate tracks in the studio and intended to be played on multiple speakers — mono recordings were captured all at once and played on transistor radios and turntables, where sound came from one place."

Dude doesn't even realize these aren't "mono recordings".

ejtonefan's picture

Help, I purchased a sealed copy of the Mono Masters LP during late 2020. I played it through my Rega P-6 system. The audio clarity was not nearly what I expected. I would grade it at an "8". Also, LP 5 had a long spiral marking on the spindle hole and some localized scratches. Although the record was sealed, I am beginning to wonder about the pressing and release. Any ideas about this?

Michael Fremer's picture
If online do u have URL ?
McFaden's picture
AQ Shane's picture

for a cold dose of what passes for trolls' reality, read the Comments to that piece. Note that some of these "Top Commenters" have university affiliations, so we're to assume they are educated. again, wow. Cynicism is one thing, such willful ignorance is just shocking.

JohnnyCanuck's picture

Don't discount the possibility that the 'distortion' he is hearing is from his Crosley turntable...

Paul Boudreau's picture

Thanks for the link. I think I can give him a pass on that comment since it can be interpreted to be about how the records were first heard by those of us alive at the time who had completely crummy "clamshell" record players, like me. This one, though, is another story:

"Unlike stereo recordings — with vocals and instruments recorded on separate tracks in the studio and intended to be played on multiple speakers — mono recordings were captured all at once and played on transistor radios and turntables, where sound came from one place."

Captured all at once? What a dunce. Unfortunately the piece is written from the customary "baby boomers are oppressive, geezed-out idiots" point of view. How boring.

criswood1's picture

I agree it is probably bad/crappy equipment he is using or was used to using. Years ago I had some box store equip, CD player etc.. And listening to mono recordings like Pet Sounds came across very distorted sounding. Having much better equipment now... no distortion at all.

He should have gotten an education about such things before he wrote the article which probably turned off a lot of people.

Some here have commented about this release being the most important in the past few years. I beg to differ, this may be the most important and significant ever!!

wownflutter's picture

Thank for undertaking this monumental task. From comparing all the lps with the various previous versions to writing such entertaining and informative reviews. This had to put your world on hold for the duration.
After reading all these, I'm pulling my hair out trying to figure out how in the world I'm gonna afford these.
II've been collecting vinyl since my childhood (I'm 47) and I now think this is the most monumental release in my lifetime. I don't think it will ever be topped.
Thank you

rakalm's picture

I will have to listen in order BUT side 2 AHDN, Revolver, the tabla's in Within Without You will be hard to resist without jumping ahead. AND I love all of SP in mono. Just found a Mono of Glad All Over I didn't remember I had. Will have to clean it and start the British Invasion early. My local record store has (tomorrow) the set for $300. May have to get an extra set for later gifting. Thank you for your time Michael, I anxiously awaited each review prior to their arrivals. I have to get that book you speak of so often in the reviews. I really enjoyed Geoff's Here, There, and Everywhere as well.

conjotter's picture

I've enjoyed the mono box cds, purchased some of the stereo LP reissues, but was going to draw the line here with the mono LPs.

Now I won't be able to resist! I'll try Rubber Soul and Revolver and take it from there.

What do you make of the wide range of prices for the box set? I've seen everthing from $300 to $400 U.S.

Macca's picture

Where can I find it for $300?

1957GoldTop's picture

Well, I got my Mono Box today, a day early. Not too thrilled. I've put on 4 of the records so far and they've all been warped. Not bad, but far from flat. My stereo box that everyone complains about had flatter records.

This is why I bought from Amazon... easy returns as often as I need to.

1957GoldTop's picture

Just went through them all without listening. The only ones not warped were Please Please Me, With The Beatles, and Rubber Soul. All the rest were warped. Not bad enough to effect sound quality I'm certain, but they are not flat by any means. Very disappointed . Hopefully the replacement will be better.

julio's picture

Most of mine were warped too except for the white album and rubber soul. Please please me is really warped. WTF!!!!!!, I am so pissed.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Just got my copy of the box and half the LPs are slightly warped, but not badly enough to return the set.

firedog55's picture

Your comparisons of these LP's to the mono CDs is useful, but a bit unfair, if it is meant to be an overall judgement on digital.

The only fair comparison between the formats would be to compare the mono LPs to the 24/192 transcriptions of the mono master tapes made for archive purposes and as the starting point for the 16/44.1 mono CD releases.

I suspect such a comparison would greatly narrow many - or even eliminate some - of the vinyl vs CD differences you hear.

Michael Fremer's picture
The CDs are what's been made available to the public. The LPs are what's been made available to the public. The judgement is between the two formats made available to the public. I'm sure the 192/24 archived files are better than the CDs. Not that long ago CDs were claimed to be archival and basically transparent to the source—something my ears have always told me is a ridiculous assertion. But here's a better test: compare the Rhino Doors box set produced by Jac Holzman and Bruce Botnick from digital transfers of the original tapes with the Analogue Productions LP cut from the tapes. No comparison.
Biff's picture

The 45rpm Doors reissues are stunning.

bill lettang's picture

Just A-B'd the And I Love Her 2014 lp cut to the 2009 cd..please take note of 3 things...vocal, bongos, George's acoustic guitar.....I can now use my 2009 mono cd discs as coasters. For our friends in other parts of the country and world who may not be familiar with this term, a coaster is an item placed under a soda, tea cup, etc. so you don't stain the furniture.

jpmusicman29's picture

The Ortofon folks seem to have finally figured out that they will sell the 2M Mono SE from the main (Euro) site and ship it to the US customers directly, in spite of what the Ortofon US site has said for the last month (that it would be available only from the US site). They finally added the U.S. as a shipping destination this morning so I have one on the way. My Mono box shows up today and I can't wait. Thanks for all of your work and info on this Michael!
John P

Westrell's picture

Visual inspections done. Not a single warped. Ready for the washing machine. Book is no match to the stereo box. Thanks for the reviews Mike, I've been listening to the Fab4 for a week to prep my ears to the awesome sound to arrive! I wish I have an Audiodesk Cleaner....

kammerathdk's picture

I'm not surprised that the reissue is superior to both CDs and Capitol vinyl, but did anyone compare the new Mono Masters to the original UK 45rpm releases?

scottarichards's picture

I received my Mono Masters yesterday afternoon. The discs are perfectly flat, but one side did have a bit of pressing gunk on it, which was easily removed. I will also say that my individual copies of Please Please, Revolver and A Hard Day's Night are also perfectly flat or so close as to be inconsequential.

I bought individual albums of which I don't have British original mono pressings and the Mono Masters for convenience even though I have most of the UK original 45's (but not all). So, to your question. I have not done extensive comparisons yet, but out of the box the sound is superb on this set. Everything is as MF described in his review. I compared three songs with the UK original 45's; This Boy, We Can Work it Out and Paperback Writer.

In general, there is not a lot of difference in sound. The new LPs definitely have more bass content and extension. This Boy was amazing in this regard, the others noticeable. Other than that, We Can Work it Out was almost identical. Paperback Writer it seemed to me the 45 has a bit more top-end harmonics. The guitar sounds just a bit edgier, to great effect. And I would say that to anyone who has never heard the mono mix of Paperback Writer, be prepared to be amazed. It is so much better and energetic than the stereo. This is primarily because the guitar is prominent in the mix, underlying all instead of being panned to the left.

AQ Shane's picture

Props to Mikey- I have a terrific collection of original UK Beatles records, and did some comparos of originals between mono and stereo and have typically preferred stereo even when the mixes were funky. No more. My Mono box arrived yesterday and while Please Please Me and others show noticeable warp, they play great and sound AMAZING! Mikey killed it describing the coherency of these mixes, how much inner detail and texture there is, and how jaw-dropping the vocals and harmonies sound, no matter what pressings you have heard. One of my first go-tos was While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which has sounded raspy or overly soft on every other pressing I've heard depending on EQ. On this new AAA mono it's clean and detailed and Clapton's guitar not only weeps, it positively sings. People, if you're on the fence, get off and grab this box set. And YES, a mono cartridge is so so worth it!

kammerathdk's picture

I was on the fence, but your comment on While My Guitar Gently weeps finally convinced me - even though I have decent UK mono originals of most of these, I bought the box set. And I'm glad I did - the sound is great. Unfortunately, Pepper and Rubber Soul were both warped, and Pepper had several scratches (hopefully, the replacements will match the rest of the set).

dyln61's picture

Thanks Michael for sharing your expertise and excitement over this new box set. I think we now just might have the definitive collection of the Beatles mono recordings.If you would have told me 50 years ago that I would be buying Beatles albums, and getting this giddy about it, I would've told you you were crazy.These are phenomenal!

Biff's picture

Curious if anyone else has encountered this. "Revolution" skips in about three places. I haven't found any other defects in the few discs I've played. I hate to return it just for this.

Michael Fremer's picture
could be a dried dirt ball. Or maybe it's mistracking. Try raising the VTF. You can always go lower for the rest...
Biff's picture

Another .1 gram is all it needed to play perfectly!

rakalm's picture

I have just finished hand cleaning (distilled water only). They are drying and almost ready to play. Just a question if anyone can respond, this was my only shrink wrapped LP and no Love insert. It that the experience of others? These are the cleanest and flattest records I have seen in an entire set. My White Album is 9015389, Mikey got 9013264, so how did Nash get 9000189? Got my Mono T shirt yesterday free with gift purchase of SP at my local store, lotsa comments when I wore it for the Star Spangled Celebration here in Baltimore. Some kinda fireworks!!!

kammerathdk's picture

I've been trying to thank scottarichards for his very useful reply on my question on the UK originals which I think should be the reference here, but there was a technical problem at the preview stage. I got the box myself now and I completely agree with the description above. The Mono Masters are very close to the original 45s. The increased bottom and top on the reissue may be a consequence of solid state versus tube mastering. Same goes for the singles included on MMT.

AnalogJ's picture

As an owner of several original UK monos as well as singles and EPs, ghee me, I can unequivocally say that THIS Mono Masters set is the star of the box set (other than the book).

One can argue of the merits of originals versus the reissues, but the songs on this set equal, or in must cases, blow away the originals. Given that the originals were either on 45s, 2 songs per side, or sometimes long (7 minutes of Hey Jude on a 7"?), this set really allows all of these songs to breathe. I can't think of one song that isn't bettered here, and in some cases, so far superior.

If I were to recommend only one record to get from these remasters, this would be it.

rakalm's picture

Love the entire set and this one is really great. Just an observation, has anyone noticed the volume difference amongst the various tracks on this title? Especially, LP 1 and 2. Probably true to the originals and I don't mind adjusting the volume as needed.

jimpierce's picture

I noticed that MMT was packaged with the spine facing down. I'm sure it's intended to prevent gravity from tearing the story book away from its staples as happened with my original copy. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

archiekaras's picture

I picked up the mono masters vinyl copy and listened to it on my reference system. I do not mean to offend, I am just offering an objective opinion here.

I think many Beatles fans like the music so much that they are willing to abandon all objectivity in their listening impressions. I am not a huge Beatles guy, but I have grown to like them. I have some clean UK first Pressings and a couple of German first pressings to compare songs with, I have also heard some Japanese red first monos at shows and here and there. I will first say I have NEVER been very impressed with the sound on any of their records, often the sound ranges from a 3/10 to a solid 8/10 on their best recordings.

Now, what I think has happened here is simple. The usual audiophile golden ears are put on the side, and standards are dropped when reviewing this release. This release should be reviewed based on how it sounds NOT on how it sounds relative to the other atrocious Beatles recordings. a 10/10 is LUNACY. Let us be honest for a moment here. This recording SUCKS: it is sibilant, distorts, is in MAJOR need of some de-essing, the second gen tapes are just trashed.

What I would like to know is what was this release intended to be?

For the songs that appear on albums, are they the album versions or something else?

I am not surprised that something this bad can sell so well, what I am surprised about is that something this bad is purchased and praised by any audiophile when there are companies like ORG, Analogue Productions, Music Matters, MFSL etc work so hard to deliver the absolute sound and really the best sounding vinyl records ever made that occasionally sound even better than the best originals get scrutinized so heavily.

Dont believe me. just listen to "Hey Jude" and compare it to a CHEAP red album compilation from Germany or a UK first that can be had for half the cost of this mono compilation and you will immediately notice it is in a different league. I know it is not apples to apples ( pun intended), as one is stereo and the other is not but come on this release is a joke.

Everyone is so gaga over the new Bealtes Mono full analogue release, after they got shafted by the 2009 digital remastered junk plates, that they forgot to ask themselves : Does this sound good ?

I have not bought a single other mono Beatles album from the 2014 set, and unless I am convinced that they sound better than what appears on the $70 3-LP set of crap I will not.

So I guess the question is, is the rest junk too to normal audiophile standards of what a good analogue recording should sound like or is it merely a slight improvement over other pressings but still junk over all?

Maybe I am crazy, I would love to hear from someone who has a half way decent repro system and own this record as to what thier impressions are overall and compared to the UK/japan/German first pressings ? Thanks.

Michael Fremer's picture
No one is crazy for expressing an opinion. Two things: you can't compare the stereo mixes to the mono mixes. They were produced differently and sound completely different in every way. When I rate reissues of older material the standard is not against the greatest recordings in history but against other versions of the same material. Few Beatle albums are of "audiophile quality" though some sound very good. The standard against which I measured the "Mono Masters" set was first, the "Mono Masters" CDs and the mono UK singles box set that I have. Since I believe all of the singles in the "Mono Masters" were not on UK albums I'm not sure to what UK "first pressings" you are referring!
archiekaras's picture

I hope that what I wrote previously is not insulting to you, again it is just my opinion. I am a fan and have been following your writing for years and years and years. ( Pause, now gulp as if I had just said "with all due respect"...)

However; ( Oh no)

Mikey I really think that you need to reserve the 10 on sound for albums that do have that "audiophile quality". It does lead to certain expectations and purchases given your reach in this community and your extensive experience.

It can be misleading on occasion, for example this time around I went out and bought this album expecting a 10/10 on sound not a 10/10 relative to...with an asterisk...with a but. I think you get my point. Who am I to tell you how to do your job, I know I know. Why not give it a fair grade on sound, put on the audiophile hat and grade it appropriately, but then mention in the review that it beats out any other copy you have on hand or heard. Otherwise the numerical rating on sound loses meaning. If it is a 10 compared to all else, what happens if something else comes out that is better (not in this case but in general) does it get down graded, do you go to 12, 13, 14 ? It just makes no sense. This confusion can me avoided by just grading appropriately, with the audiophile hat on. The text fills in the rest of the viewpoint doesn't it ? This avoids confusion on what you mean by a 10. I get that sound is subjective, but Mikey after all these years I am sure your "audiophile" 10 will be accurate.

I liken the situation to this. When you grade records NM is NM, no matter what there is a standard for the grade. It doesn't matter if it is you fav album, the cleanest version of it you have seen, if it is extra rare or extra old…why not apply a similar standard to these reviews.

To answer your question about what UK first or German:

I was referring to The RED and BLUE compilations for most of what I talking about. I am not sure if they were the same session, recording etc...

Also These are on Albums off the top of my head not sure if others are or are not

Love me do -> Please Please Me
All together now -> Yellow sub
Hey Bulldog -> Yellow Sub
its all too much -> Yellow sub
Across the universe -> Let it be

Lastly, yes I did compare stereo vs mono. In the case of the Beatles it has been pounded into just about everyone's head that the mono recordings are vastly superior to their stereo counterparts. So for the mono masters I compared with RED BLUE compilations I have UK first and German. Since the Mono Masters 2014 3-LP set was to be that much better I thought it should be no contest. However, not the case at all. They mopped the floor with the 2014 mono masters release.

Now, I dont know if this test holds up for the rest of the box set and I hope it does not. So please Mike can you give me/us an "audiophile grade" of the rest of the albums in the 2014 box set. Which ones are truly a 10/10 on sound not a relative grade? Which albums do you feel the audiophiles would appreciate most based solely on their sonics...we all know the music is great? I would love to have your take on this, thanks.

Michael Fremer's picture
First I do not get easily insulted! And never because of an opinion. Only when I'm accused of graft and/or corruption (etc.) do I get really pissed off. The numbers game is problematic as are the Stereophile Class A, B, C recommended components. People like these rankings so I do them here but not with great enthusiasm...I gave the mono box set the numbers I did and the "Mono Masters" the numbers I did because of what I heard. Are the red and blue compilations mono? I don't think so. Different mixes and mastering so not comparable. I did compare the Japanese Odeon red vinyl monos from the 1980s and the new box versions are MUCH BETTER! As for the tunes you cite: the version of "Love Me Do" in the 3 LP set is a DIFFERENT VERSION! (different recording). The Yellow Sub songs in mono were NEVER BEFORE RELEASED. Nor was that mono version of "Across the Universe" because "Let it Be" was never released in mono!
garrard701's picture

While the individual 2014 mono LPs have exploded in value (as has the full box), you can still find "Mono Masters" for a reasonable price. And that's good, since it pretty much completes both the UK and US discographies (for those collecting the Capitol LPs for some reason). If you're going British, you'll still need The Ballad of John & Yoko, Old Brown Shoe, and the 45 version of Let It Be... all available on the blue (1967-70) album btw.
If you're sticking with Capitol, you'll only be missing the 45 mix of Let It Be, plus three songs that are easy to find on non-Capitol US albums: A Hard Day's Night (on the UA soundtrack), plus two songs on Vee-Jay's Introducing the Beatles (There's a Place; Misery).