Revolver by the Beatles was last re-released twice. We compared and now know why mono is better in case of doubt.
Which versions of Revolver are we comparing?
Here, two Revolver reissues are in a duel, which have a lot in common, but could hardly be more different. Sounds strange, but that’s how it is.
First of all, the similarities: Both are relatively recent. The stereo version was released in 2012, the mono in 2014. Both were cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios and Optimal pressed both on 180g vinyl. The cover is no different at first glance either. The front is adorned with Klaus Voormann’s collage, the back shows the Beatles’ picture. In both cases there is no barcode to be seen there, even the original reference to the EMI cleaning agent Emtex has survived the decades on both versions.
But now for the differences. The 2012 is a stereo version based on the digital CD remasters from 2009. At that time, the complete UK album catalogue was re-digitised and re-mastered for CD reissues. Three years later, these master files were used for vinyl releases. Our 2012 Revolver is also from this series. So it is a slightly modernised version of the original album in current digital technology, adapted to modern listening habits.
Our 2014 mono version takes the opposite approach. It aims to be a historically accurate, true-to-detail copy of the mono first release. In 2014, the box set The Beatles in Mono was released, which contained all UK albums in the single-channel version, cut on the basis of the original analogue master tapes. The complete signal path remained analogue and the sound engineers strictly adhered to the notes of the engineers of the first pressing. The aim was to stay as close as possible to the original as it was released in August 1966. uebervinyl.de has already taken a closer look at Please Please Me and Rubber Soul from this box. No effort has been spared on the cover either, and the elaborate two-piece “flipback” covers have been revived. The front is printed on a different piece of cardboard than the back. The front is glossy laminated. The back remains matt. It is held in place by the fold folded over edge. This is exactly how the first editions of Revolver looked in the UK in 1966.
Some background on Revolver by the Beatles
We had already compared two stereo versions of Revolver before. But why is the mono version so important? Because the Beatles didn’t give much to stereo. Until 1968, all Beatles albums in the UK were also and first and foremost released in mono. Most of the time all Beatles were involved in the mono mix. The stereo mixes were often done by George Martin or his sound engineers alone. Revolver also received a two-channel mix in this way in the dreaded Beatles stereo: the band in one channel, overdubs in the other. And the vocals, if things go well, in the middle. Sometimes, however, exclusively from one stereo channel.
So the mono versions sound exactly as the Beatles themselves once approved. Some fans even claim that you have never heard the Beatles until you have heard them in mono.
How good do the 2012 and mono pressings of Revolver sound?
The mono mix has the advantage that the stereo image does not fall apart as blatantly as in the stereo mix. The vocals are mainly in the centre of the two-channel version, but even earlier Beatles albums received a more modern sounding stereo mix than Revolver. Beatles For Sale from 1964 is such an example. Why the Beatles subsequently reverted to stone-age stereo on Help!, Rubber Soul and even Sgt. Pepper is beyond us.
Thus the imbalance of the stereo mix in Taxman is immediately disturbing. The band has retreated to the left channel, the right is home to a few overdubs, but above all the cowbell! Only the vocal tracks stand razor-sharp in the centre. In contrast, the mono version develops more pressure. Although only one channel is available, every instrument can be heard clearly and distinctly.
In Eleanor Rigby, Paul McCartney’s voice moves a good bit to the right in the stereo panorama. In return, it was polished up a bit by equalisation. In the mono version it is obviously limited in a rather narrow midrange spectrum, in the 2012 version it has a little more fundamental tone and a few more highs.
This basic characteristic remains the same on Here There and Everywhere. The voices on the mono pressing sound a little (really only a little) like through the telephone. In the 60s, this was necessary for them to come through well even when played on junky suitcase record players. The 2012 produces a more modern sound that sounds a little more like hi-fi and probably cuts a better figure on Bluetooth boxes and in-ear headphones. The Mono, on the other hand, produces a warm, round sound image that opens the heart without detours.
This hi-fi sound also comes into play on Tomorrow Never Knows. The 2012 gives more body to the individual drums. The bass drum has more thump. In the 60s, sound engineers made it a point when mastering not to put too loud bass accents on the record. Otherwise, the needle would often jump on bad turntables. Today, such problems have largely been overcome, so the 2012 can step on the gas a little more here.
What the mono version lacks in frequency response, however, it easily makes up for with the more compact stereo stage.
How do the levels and frequency response of the remaster and mono pressings differ?
The waveform for Taxman shows the imbalance in the stereo mix. The upper half of the waveform represents the left channel where the band plays. Here the level has been pulled way up and often hits the limiter’s limit. The right channel almost never reaches the limit. The mono version has a lower level overall and almost never reaches the limit.
We often hear that the 2012 Remaster is too bass-heavy. Our frequency spectrogram for Taxman shows a different picture. The larger the purple areas, the louder the low frequencies. The 2012 shows slightly larger areas here, but it is also louder at the average level. The difference in the bass is therefore rather minimal – if it can be heard at all.
If you change the scale of the Y-axis from logarithmic to linear, you can see the differences in the high frequency range better. The frequency spectrogram for Taxman then reveals that our mono version stops above about 14,000 hertz. The 2012 version, on the other hand, repeatedly plays up to 20,000 hertz.
In terms of compression and limiting, no major differences can be discerned in the waveform for Eleanor Rigby. Once again, however, the 2012 is a good deal louder.
Although louder, the 2012 does not score with more bass. The violet areas are about the same for both recordings in the frequency spectrogram for Eleanor Rigby.
There are also no major deviations in the frequency spectrogram for Eleanor Rigby with linear scale. The frequency spectrum ends in both diagrams at about 14,000 hertz. Where there is nothing, nothing can be made louder.
The waveform for Here There And Everywhere holds a real surprise: Now both recordings are about the same volume (no confusion, we checked). And in terms of dynamics, both versions seem equally exemplary.
Doch sobald der Song mehr Energie verströmt als Here There …, spielt die 2012er wieder bis an die Dynamikbegrenzung des Limiters. Im Wellenform-Diagramm für Got To Get You Into My Life zeigt sich zudem, dass die Mono-Version gut 15 Sekunden länger dauert. In diesem Fall hat aber niemand am Pitch-Regler des Tonbandgeräts gedreht, wie der Verlauf beider Wellenformen bestätigt. Alle Einschnitte oder Ausschläge passieren in beiden Varianten ungefähr zur selben Zeit. Im Outro wurde bei der Mono-Version einfach ein Chorus länger abgewartet, bevor schließlich ausgeblendet wurde.
Now the difference in the bass becomes clear after all. The frequency spectrogram for Tomorrow Never Knows clearly shows larger violet areas on the 2012. This can also be explained to some extent by the higher average level. In fact, it also represents a slight bass emphasis that was given to the remastered version.
Und auch in den Höhen zeigt sich die 2012er im Frequenz-Spektrogramm für Tomorrow Never Knows mit der linearen Skala spielfreudiger. Während die Mono-Version erneut bei etwa 14.000 Hertz aufgibt, gibt die 2012er Frequenzen bis über 20.000 Hertz wieder.
Welche Pressung von Revolver ist besser?
In our opinion, the stereo remaster from 2012 is far better in sound than its reputation. Here, the frequency spectrum has been extended upwards and downwards, the volume has been raised carefully and enough headroom has been left for natural-sounding dynamics. We know of much worse examples of failed remastering.
And yet we prefer the mono version. Why? On the one hand, the mono mix does the album good because it sounds more “right” than the clumsy Beatles stereo. On the other hand, the described differences in frequency response can only be heard in a comparative arrangement. If you just listen to the mono version, you will enjoy the warm and round sound and the certainty that the Beatles agreed with this version.
- Eleanor Rigby
- I’m Only Sleeping
- Love You To
- Here, There And Everywhere
- Yellow Submarine
- She Said, She Said
- Good Day Sunshine
- And Your Bird Can Sing
- For No One
- Dr. Robert
- I Want To Tell You
- Got To Get You Into My Life
- Tomorrow Never Knows
|Revolutions/minute||33 1/3||33 1/3|
|Cover||Single Sleeve||Single Sleeve|
|Lacquer cut by||Sean Magee||Sean Magee|
|Pressing plant||Optimal Media||Optimal Media|
|Matrix-Runout||94638241713 B983070-01 A2 M 94638241713 B983070-01 B3 i…i N||6338041 BD11539-01 A1 M G.E. 6338041 BD11539-01 B1 D. i…i|
|Country of manufacture||Germany||Germany|