Beatles, stereo & mono

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beatlefan1970
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Beatles, stereo & mono

Post by beatlefan1970 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:23 am

Forgive a dumb question, but Larry's glowing review of the stereo vinyl box got me wondering. As much as I want to own both the stereo and mono vinyl sets, I am not in the tax bracket to make it happen. Assuming I have my rig hooked up correctly, if I were to purchase the stereo set, would hitting the ol' mono button on my amp turn the stereo mixes into the glorious and hard-rocking mono mixes Beatles and company intended the world to hear? It struck me as odd last night, for example, listening to the CD's, the way in stereo, there's just what sounds like a ton of that chamber all over the vocals, but collapse it to mono and it dries up wonderfully--I guess I just want to hear it the way it was intended.
Frankly, I love the way the mono sounds and especially the way it feels--it just rocks. But I love geeking out with headphones and the stereo mixes--and my wife likes it when the bills are paid. One vinyl set doing double duty sure would be nice...
I hope I didn't flog a dead horse with the poll question.
Thanks, all.
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Post by Mudcloth » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:30 am

I think that's a good question. It depends on, maybe, what they did during the stereo mix. Was it simple panning or did they eq differently?
I have a feeling it's not as simple as putting you stereo in mono. Any more thoughts out there?
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Post by Dakota » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:49 am

It would be cool if one could get all the angles on these recordings by owning the stereo versions and collapsing them to mono for that perspective as well...

It would be cool, but that's totally not what happens with these recordings. The mono and stereo mixes are *very* different, different mix passes with levels and EQ and fx and edits quite different, from small details to large.

Almost the whole Beatles catalog (mono being considered the common consumer listening format at that time), the attentive "for real" mixes they slaved over were the mono mixes. The stereo mixes were done as almost secondary, with less time and care, and sometimes with almost a goofy off-the-cuff approach, as stereo was somewhat considered an exotica specialty market. Which is part of the charm of the stereo mixes - some of the panning so extreme as to be an "effect" unto itself.

Relative to the huge financial outlay to have the whole catalog in both formats... maybe just get Sgt. Pepper in both formats and listen closely and compare both. They are super different in fascinating ways. I like the mono version better, but it's wonderful to go back and forth between both versions, keeps the perspective fresh.

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Post by beatlefan1970 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:00 pm

Thanks for that--I sort of assumed that with all the "who cares about stereo" remarks from Martin et al that mixing them for stereo was just a panning thing ("Uh, lessee here, not a lot of options...the hell with it, it's just gonna have to be vocals hard right and everything else hard left. Next!"), but if there's eq and such, well...mono it is!
I grew up with the stereo stuff, and have been a fan since I was, I dunno, five or something--I've OD'd on their catalog so often that I haven't listened to any of it attentively in years. A friend dropped by with some of the old mono Parlophone records, and they were kind of a revelation--I heard stuff in them I'd for whatever reason never heard on the stereo mixes (lots of Paul whooping and yeahing off-mic!). Somehow they hit harder to me as well, just a solid rock monolith, especially Please Please Me. Drums in particular sound amazing.
Those Beatles were pretty good.
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Post by E-money » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:15 pm

I got the mono CD box set 2 years ago for X-mas. I'd been hearing the hype of how much different and better the mono mixes were for years. Maybe I have tin ears, but the differences are subtle for the most part. Additionally, mono is boring as all hell, separation and clarity aren't as good as the stereo mixes.

Just my $.02.
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Post by Nick Sevilla » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:54 pm

Mudcloth wrote:I think that's a good question. It depends on, maybe, what they did during the stereo mix. Was it simple panning or did they eq differently?
I have a feeling it's not as simple as putting you stereo in mono. Any more thoughts out there?
The Mono mixes were the original ones, and as such, were not intended for Stereo "conversion". They also were the "official" ones that the band approved etc.

Indeed, the Stereo mixes were not mixed for the same amount of time as the Mono ones, and in fact there is one of the albums which was released in the States as "Stereo" which is just the dual-mono master panned left / right. Sir George Martin had a heart attack when he heard what CBS had done. A few of the Beatles albums were mixed down into a 2 channel tape, but in dual mono, like rhythm section in channel one, and vocals / guitars in channel two. Not really intended other than to be able to correct general EQ during vinyl master cutting.

To me, I would listen to all in Mono, as that was the intended delivery format.

The Stereo versions are fun to listen to, but historically not as important as the Mono ones.

I bought the Mono CD set when it came out. I also have some of the "Stereo" CDs which I bought long ago, or my wife bought them...

I have no idea if I will ever get the Vinyl re releases,it would all depend on how faithfully they were re cut. Does anyone know who did the cutting?

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Post by iamthecosmos » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:34 am

According to the engineers who worked at Abbey Road (when interviewed for Recording The Beatles) the only album that was truly intended for stereo was Abbey Road. All other records were mixed in mono.Though some of the differences are subtle the stereo versions were recreated by the engineers without The Beatles present. It's quite surprising that they let what were painstaking refining of effects at the time be recreated without supervision by the engineers.

Geoff Emerick talks about Sgt Pepper specifically in RTB, saying they mixed the mono version together in three weeks, while the stereo version was done in two and a half days (with none of the band present).

Also, in terms of stereo, the early records were only recorded to 2-track mono. There's no way the stereo versions could be anything but hard panned. Interestingly the studio logs show Martin attended a session for the creation of the Please Please Me stereo master, so he must have swiftly forgotten that to be shocked at the released record's hard panning!

Personally, I've heard the stereo versions thousands of times, but knowing what I know now I want to hear what The Beatles heard and intended. Or as close as possible.

Looking forward to the mono vinyls this year.

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Post by roscoenyc » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:32 am

Nick Sevilla wrote: The Stereo versions are fun to listen to, but historically not as important as the Mono ones.
This is true. But, us US Beatle fans didn't find out until years later.

Personally I have a great attachment to the Stereo Mixes. They are the ones that I bought as soon as they came out back then and heard constantly as I was growing up. They mark time and huge historical events for me.

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Post by beatlefan1970 » Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:09 pm

As far as which pricey box set to buy, I fall squarely in the "as meant to be heard" camp, if I can't make the stereo do double duty. Believe me, if I could talk my four-month-old into taking care of herself for a month, I'd use the daycare fund and buy both sets.
Maybe I have tin ears, but the differences are subtle for the most part. Additionally, mono is boring as all hell, separation and clarity aren't as good as the stereo mixes.
I doubt you've got tin ears!--but I wonder if my sense of objectivity with regards the Beatles has long since left the building. I mean, they were the greatest ever and all the rest of making "pop" music can do is bob uselessly in their wake, right? :lol:
I'm sitting here backing-and-forthing between stereo and mono Pepper, and it doesn't seem subtle to me at all. The mono has weight--I don't know how else to describe it. What it lacks in separation it makes up for in drive, to my ears. It's a fair trade.
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Post by BENDYmusic » Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:56 pm

If you intend on listening to the mono versions, you should listen through one speaker only. Two speakers playing mono, or as I call it "acoustic summing", is not at all the same thing as electronic summing. In other words, it won't sound the same coming out of two speakers, mono is one channel, one speaker. /rant
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Post by monrophonic » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:10 am

The problem I've always had with the stereo mixes was the backing instrumental track was hard panned to the left channel and was too weak.

Just messing around a few years ago, I tried a 'fix' for this where I took the left channel and inverted the phase and then panned it to the center. It would cancel out what used to be in the center of the mix in the right side only, so you would end up usually with vocals panned left, drums bass and rhythm guitar in the center channel and lead guitar and other overdubs in the right channel. Since half the center channel had been canceled out, the lead vocal was not as loud compared to the backing track.

This worked best on the Hard Days Night and a few songs from Revolver, including "Paperback Writer". Some songs, like "HDN", "I Should Have Known Better", "Matchbox", and a few others, had the doubled vocal panned to the right, so the end result is vocals panned left and right and backing track centered.

This method doesn't work as well on other albums as the vocals are a little too diminished. It was fun to play around with. I also took Rubber Soul and mixed it like "Doctor Robert" & "I'm Only Sleeping", panning the backing track center and short delaying the vocal from the right channel to the left channel.

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Post by beatlefan1970 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:17 am

Apologies in advance if this or something similar shows up twice--something's screwy with either the network or me...
If you intend on listening to the mono versions, you should listen through one speaker only. Two speakers playing mono, or as I call it "acoustic summing", is not at all the same thing as electronic summing.
I figure if the records were tracked and mixed in "stereo mono", though, using two speakers is going to get me closest to what they were hearing--equipment notwithstanding.

That makes me wonder if a true mono cartridge/stylus would make the mono remasters even better, though.
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Post by beatlefan1970 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:24 am

monrophonic wrote:The problem I've always had with the stereo mixes was the backing instrumental track was hard panned to the left channel and was too weak.

Just messing around a few years ago, I tried a 'fix' for this ...
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Post by Packy » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:32 am

Also of note: sometimes even the edits/lengths of the songs are different between stereo/mono.

This is especially (or only?) true on the White Album. Mono Helter Skelter has a wildly different ending that knocked me on my ass.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:50 pm

bendymusic wrote:If you intend on listening to the mono versions, you should listen through one speaker only. Two speakers playing mono, or as I call it "acoustic summing", is not at all the same thing as electronic summing. In other words, it won't sound the same coming out of two speakers, mono is one channel, one speaker. /rant
+1
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