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Beatles

David Harper

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I love the Beatles but one thing I've always wondered about; why does their music have no detail or transparency or sound quality at all? I know it was recorded 50 years ago but still it seems to me that it should have had better sq than it does. I believe it was recorded on four or eight track studio tape machines (?) but I would think that those recorders would have been capable of better than the abysmal sq we have. Or was the poor quality due to other links in the recording chain? Or is the reason simply because of the primitive tech?
 

Pluto

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I disagree that there is…
no detail or transparency or sound quality at all
The Night Before” (Help, 1965) is a great sounding pop record, beautifully performed and a stunning recording for its time*.

What more do you want FFS?

*when stereophony was barely understood by anybody
 

Tom C

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Not sure what you mean.
For a long while, my favorite I have ever heard their recordings sound were the stereo LP’s I bought for my collection from 1973 through 1976. The tapes were pretty fresh then, and the stereo versions had that much less layering of one track on another (vs mono). Over the years, the material has been remastered and transcoded multiple times into multiple formats, some of which sound better than others. The vinyl was sold at one point. Many years later, I bought them all again, in stereo vinyl, mono vinyl, hi-res Blu-ray, iTunes, and, of course, CD. For transparency, the 2019 Abbey Road 50th Anniversary is probably the best, but is much cleaner than it would have sounded on even the finest rig back when it was originally released.
Compared to other pop releases of the time, they sounded pretty good.
Which format or formats don’t you like?
 

Loathecliff

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The second (& rushed) UK LP 'With the Beatles' is a lousy recording. The rest were much better.
UK pop & jazz recording quality overall was IMHO well behind USA in the 50s and 60s
 

Robin L

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I love the Beatles but one thing I've always wondered about; why does their music have no detail or transparency or sound quality at all? I know it was recorded 50 years ago but still it seems to me that it should have had better sq than it does. I believe it was recorded on four or eight track studio tape machines (?) but I would think that those recorders would have been capable of better than the abysmal sq we have. Or was the poor quality due to other links in the recording chain? Or is the reason simply because of the primitive tech?
This all depends on one's definition of "Good Sound" and the particular Beatles recording being judged. The first two Parlophone LPs were recorded to two-track with the intention of mixing down to mono. Starting with "A Hard Day's Night", 4-track machines with the first stereo mixes produced rote ping-pong stereo effects [although there's some really fine sounding stuff on "Beatles For Sale"]. Around the time of "Rubber Soul" the traditional notions of what "audiophile" were thrown out the window, the target was no longer the old-school notion of "High Fidelity". The Beatles didn't have access to an 8-track recorder until "The Beatles" [the White Album]. Up to "The Beatles", the quality of engineering improved from recording to recording, though "Help" is, frankly, a mess. I'm not sure when the folks at EMI fixed that out of tune string sound at the end of "The End" in Abbey Road, but they really should have got that fixed before the first issue. On the other hand, Sargent Pepper got a [deserved] Grammy for engineering. On some gear and to some ears, it's all good. To these ears, the Giles Martin re-mixes are in some uncanny valley where Paul's "off" drumming in "Back in the USSR" is all straightened out, other things I remember being replaced by things I don't. Some of the mash-ups on the CD of "Love" are worth it in stereo. If someone's into surround I'd tell them to get the older DVD of "Yellow Submarine", with Dolby Surround mixes and the DVD-A of "Love", with loads of pure earcandy.
 
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Tom C

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Hmmm....
The worst to my ears is what was released in the US as Introducing the Beatles on VeeJay. Meet the Beatles was their second US release, roughly similar material as With the Beatles (UK release), and to my ears the sound was significantly better. I’ve sometimes thought that one reason is that the US releases had fewer tracks on them. Capitol (the US division of the parent UK company EMI) would take what was released in the UK as one album, and repackage it for the US market as 1-1/2 or two albums. I suppose one reason they were able to do that was that The Beatles were so prolific. Anyway, fewer tracks per LP side means more space between the grooves, and not getting as close to the label with the inner grooves, which can potentially mean better sound, if it’s done right.
 

Robin L

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Hmmm....
The worst to my ears is what was released in the US as Introducing the Beatles on VeeJay. Meet the Beatles was their second US release, roughly similar material as With the Beatles (UK release), and to my ears the sound was significantly better. I’ve sometimes thought that one reason is that the US releases had fewer tracks on them. Capitol (the US division of the parent UK company EMI) would take what was released in the UK as one album, and repackage it for the US market as 1-1/2 or two albums. I suppose one reason they were able to do that was that The Beatles were so prolific. Anyway, fewer tracks per LP side means more space between the grooves, and not getting as close to the label with the inner grooves, which can potentially mean better sound, if it’s done right.
The VeeJay LP was issued before Capitol signed the band, and most of the copies were generated as bootlegs, so QC was bargain basement. On the other hand, "Meet the Beatles" was "Dexterized", someone in the upper chain of command at Capitol thought that slathering on reverb would fix some of the "problems" with an album he didn't like but had to post-produce anyway. The Beatles eventually took away that kind of editorial control over their recordings: from Sgt. Pepper onwards, all Beatles albums had the same masters no matter the country producing those albums.

Again, bootlegs figure into sonic issues for Beatle albums. The other Beatle bootleg that was flooding cut-out bins in the 70's was "Let It Be", featuring a cover with a visible moiré pattern, generated by using a photo of the original LP cover and going through a second dot-matrix printing process. The disc itself would have little craters on the label area, and a much higher incidence than average of manufacturing defects. The Wherehouse had thousands of these, $1.97 a pop.
 

pma

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I love the Beatles but one thing I've always wondered about; why does their music have no detail or transparency or sound quality at all?

Do you think that the Abbey Road album is poorly recorded without "any detail and transparency"? So maybe the problem is at your end or audio chain, Sir.
 

Robin L

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Do you think that the Abbey Road album is poorly recorded without "any detail and transparency"? So maybe the problem is at your end or audio chain, Sir.
Mind you, this is slightly tweaked, in that Uncanny Valley where low-level details are altered or substituted:


 

Tom C

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The VeeJay LP was issued before Capitol signed the band, and most of the copies were generated as bootlegs, so QC was bargain basement. On the other hand, "Meet the Beatles" was "Dexterized", someone in the upper chain of command at Capitol thought that slathering on reverb would fix some of the "problems" with an album he didn't like but had to post-produce anyway. The Beatles eventually took away that kind of editorial control over their recordings: from Sgt. Pepper onwards, all Beatles albums had the same masters no matter the country producing those albums.

Again, bootlegs figure into sonic issues for Beatle albums. The other Beatle bootleg that was flooding cut-out bins in the 70's was "Let It Be", featuring a cover with a visible moiré pattern, generated by using a photo of the original LP cover and going through a second dot-matrix printing process. The disc itself would have little craters on the label area, and a much higher incidence than average of manufacturing defects. The Wherehouse had thousands of these, $1.97 a pop.
That makes sense. I indeed got my copy of Introducing the Beatles in the early 70’s. I was really surprised I had come across it, since it was a rarity even then. So it was almost certainly one of the bootleg mono versions, mislabeled as stereo.
I’ve since gotten a copy of Please Please Me as part of the 2014 The Beatles in Mono vinyl reissue, which seems to have been done with care. But I can’t say it sounds a whole lot better than what I had before.
I’ve always been pretty happy with my copy of Let It Be. I bought it maybe five years or less after its initial release. The apple on the label is red, which I’ve never seen before or since. Is it a fake?
 

Robin L

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That makes sense. I indeed got my copy of Introducing the Beatles in the early 70’s. I was really surprised I had come across it, since it was a rarity even then. So it was almost certainly one of the bootleg mono versions, mislabeled as stereo.
I’ve since gotten a copy of Please Please Me as part of the 2014 The Beatles in Mono vinyl reissue, which seems to have been done with care. But I can’t say it sounds a whole lot better than what I had before.
I’ve always been pretty happy with my copy of Let It Be. I bought it maybe five years or less after its initial release. The apple on the label is red, which I’ve never seen before or since. Is it a fake?
The original issue of Let It Be had a red apple. The first two Beatles LPs [on Parlophone] were issued in "stereo", with the instruments on one channel, vocals on the other. So, not mislabeled in stereo but not good either, for the same reason the Let It Be boots were not good.
 

Robin L

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OK, I should have mentioned I listen to the original LP and 1987 EMI CD re-master. I am never listening to any youtube sound seriously.
Well, maybe you should. I have owned/heard the original LP, US and UK, Dutch and Japanese, the 1987 EMI remaster and the 2009 remaster. This is the most transparent and detailed version I've heard. Some of the details are different, some might even be called improvements. I can play my Apple Lossless files or I can stream from a number of different sources. Whatever YouTube might be doing otherwise, that's a good sounding representation. Amazon Music has an "Ultra HD" version of that track, they sound the same.
 
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David Harper

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My Beatles music is a random mix of CD's and vinyl and I paid no attention to the mastering or the versions which I was buying so there's a good chance I bought crappy recordings. I have a CD of Sgt. Pepper which sounds like sh!t. I've been told there are much better recordings of it but I don't know how to find them or which ones they are. I have some vinyl LP's (rubber soul, revolver, abbey road, let it be) which I bought new recently but they're all recorded from CD so who knows what inferior garbage source material that is. I should have learned more about where my Beatle music was sourced from. Some new offerings of their music is an abomination. Leave it to big business to wreck the most valuable and important recordings in modern history.
 

Tom C

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I’ve read somewhere on the internet that one of the ways of identifying a bootleg copy of Introducing the Beatles (by definition the US version) was that Stereo is printed on the record jacket, but the recording is actually in mono. As you point out, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between how they did stereo vs mono at the time, with hard panned voices on one side, and instruments on the other. My copy has Stereo on the jacket, but it’s mono.
 

Robin L

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My Beatles music is a random mix of CD's and vinyl and I paid no attention to the mastering or the versions which I was buying so there's a good chance I bought crappy recordings. I have a CD of Sgt. Pepper which sounds like sh!t. I've been told there are much better recordings of it but I don't know how to find them or which ones they are. I have some vinyl LP's (rubber soul, revolver, abbey road, let it be) which I bought new recently but they're all recorded from CD so who knows what inferior garbage source material that is. I should have learned more about where my Beatle music was sourced from. Some new offerings of their music is an abomination. Leave it to big business to wreck the most valuable and important recordings in modern history.
Not wrecked, your problem is either bad playback or you don't like their sound in the first place. The LP versions that came out from digital intermasters in 2009 are flawed compared to the CD equivalents because they are LPs. Not as rolled off top and bottom as the analog originals, but still suffering from the usual problems of LPs, reduction of SQ as the stylus approaches the run-out grooves, wow and flutter, the occasional off-center pressing. I got all the Beatles mono remasters from 2013 on LP. One of the side of "The Beatles" was off center. The "hot" cut of "Revolution" on the mono LP of "Past Masters" is almost worth it. But sonically, the 2009 stereo and mono remasters on CD are good. The remixes By Giles Martin of "Pepper", "White Album" and "Abbey Road" all have sonic upgrades, while the music on those discs is slightly different from the originals.
 

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I was playing Sgt. Pepper for one of my sons , and it happened to be on CD. Perhaps in the car. There were several spots were it was different from my original 196X (7?) copy of he LP. They weren't bad but one doesn't like hearing those differences. You are used to hearing it a certain way for 54 years.:rolleyes::cool:
 

Robin L

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I was playing Sgt. Pepper for one of my sons , and it happened to be on CD. Perhaps in the car. There were several spots were it was different from my original 196X (7?) copy of he LP. They weren't bad but one doesn't like hearing those differences. You are used to hearing it a certain way for 54 years.:rolleyes::cool:
The original Mono LP had a noticeably different mix than the first stereo mix. The Giles Martin remix splits the difference, has most of the balances of the Mono mix, the vari-speeded "She's Leaving Home" and the punchier re-cap of Sgt Pepper, but mixed in reasonably ok stereo with centered vocalists and the like. So there's three different official versions.
 

Slayer

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why does their music have no detail or transparency or sound quality at all?

Some of it could be the recordings themselves. However the vast majority is just the band. They had a few songs i could appreciate.
But the majority of their stuff just gives me a headache. I may be in the minority here, but i try to avoid their music whenever possible.
It always fascinated me the big appeal they seemed to have world wide. Guess that old saying is true., " Different strokes for different folks"
 
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