The Beatles remastered box sets
Written 7 September 2010, exactly one year after their release on 7 September 2009
Opinion by Tony Copple
I want to comment on a couple of aspects of this impressive project. I have had the time to listen and relisten to these discs in both stereo and mono. I have had the pleasure of writing reviews for The Ottawa Beatles Site of a number of repackaged Beatles material, and have always been pleasantly surprised by the quality of work and the final result.
In this short piece I am not reviewing the music, but I would like to have my say about two production aspects of the project.
The remastered Yellow Submarine film was released in 1999, with the best versions of many Beatles songs that had ever been heard. Gone were the annoying thin-sounding voices way over to the left. Voices were generally centred and instrumentation placed across the sound stage. In 2006, "Love" gave us spectacular sound for the mash-ups used in the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas production.
I assumed that the 2009 remasters would build on or replicate the quality of the Yellow Submarine and Love versions. I was to be sadly disappointed. The early indications came on the first two discs: Please Please Me, and With the Beatles. Exactly the same placement of voices and instruments were presented that I had been disappointed by in the sixties. Granted, the sound fidelity and dynamic range was a great improvement which makes these discs very listenable.
But the real let down was with Yellow Submarine. I compared the DVD sound with the CD sound on tracks like Yellow Submarine, All Together Now, and Hey Bulldog, and far prefer the film versions. The bass on the film DVD is deep and satisfying, while on the CD is significanly cut - a problem with many Beatle recordings. The remastered CDs offer little improvement in fidelity over the film versions, and definitely suffer by comparison with the Love versions.
What are we to make of this? Is Apple perhaps planning yet another reissue of all the songs in good stereo? Has George Martin's failure to appreciate the potential of, and audio engineering behind, stereophony continued to this day?
The later albums audio quality
The mono versions
The excellent song "Hey Bulldog" appears on Past Masters II in the boxed set, but only on the mono disk. If you bought the stereo disk, you don't have that song. Since it is a good song, it should have been included on the stereo disk. If you want to hear an excellent stereo version, it's on the Yellow Submarine DVD. This is not fake stereo to my ears. So why didn't they include the stereo version on Past Masters II? I don't know.