“The Beatles in Mono” box set getting more love than expected

Within a few years time, I’m sure there will be another influx of Beatles-related reissues, movies, documentaries, video games, etc. Right now, however, it all seems appropriate. Granted, I know hordes of individuals are making bank off the Beatles’ legacy, despite there being only two surviving members. It’s hard to even care though, considering the amazing music they left behind. It’s been a pure joy to watch this Beatles week on VH1. I know everything is tied together with the anticipation of The Beatles: Rock Band and the EMI remasters of their entire catalogue, but it seems fueled by a genuine excitement and gratitude for the music.

While those popular remasters will be in stereophonic sound, receiving less attention is “The Beatles in Mono” box set, which also hits street retailers on September 9th. EMI had originally planned to only release 10,000 copies of the box set for the U.S. market. Unsurprisingly, pre-orders shot through the roof and they’re going to expand that number.

This may be where The Beatles in Mono comes into its own. At first glance, it looks an extravagant frippery: a £240 11-CD box set, featuring perfect miniature reproductions of albums pristinely remastered in a sonic format rendered obsolete almost half a century ago. But until 1969, the Beatles were disinterested in stereo: they oversaw the mono mixes of their albums, then left the rest to George Martin. The box set can thus proudly claim to offer “the closest you can get to hearing the authentic sound of the Beatles”. On the later albums, that amounts to a handful of cosmetic differences: if it’s striking to hear Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds with added psychedelic phasing effects, it doesn’t radically alter your perception of the song. The early albums, however, are transformed.

Hardcore Beatles fans and audiophiles tend to favor the monophonic production of their first four albums over the stereophonic albums that followed. If you care to read more about the debate, check out this link. I have a record player and can notice slight differences in the production of the mono and stereo LPs. Nevertheless, you’ll need a receiver with a channel switcher to get an obvious presentation. If not, a good old pair of headphones will do when comparing both formats of a song.


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