The Beatles – Help! (Comparison: Toshiba vs. Hörzu)

UK master meets Japan pressing: How good does Help! by the Beatles sound on vinyl in the 1976 Japan version compared to a German Hörzu edition from 1974?

The Beatles - Help!, Apple Toshiba, 1976
The Beatles – Help!, Apple Toshiba, 1976
The Beatles - Help!, Hörzu, 1974
The Beatles – Help!, Hörzu, 1974

A little background on The Beatles – Help!

On their fifth studio album, more serious themes were mixed in with the songs for the first time. John Lennon’s Help! was the title song of a light comedy, but by their own admission a serious cry for help.
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away deals with the homosexuality of their manager Brian Epstein. Musically, too, a progressive maturing process is recognisable. Songs for acoustic guitar stand next to classic Beatles rock, guitar effects were used as well as guest musicians. And McCartney recorded Yesterday without the Beatles at all, but with a string quartet. John Lennon hated the song.

What is striking about the two versions of Help!

Even after more than 40 years, there is hardly any background noise with the Japan pressing. The Japan vinyl has real advantages here.  The two-year older Hörzu-Help! has also stood the test of time well and hardly crackles. However, one more correction loop wouldn’t have done any harm: for example, there are two spelling mistakes on the labels: You’ve Got To Hilde … and the composer of Act Naturally is called Russell not Russel.

How is the Japanese Help! equipped?

The OBI shows the Union Jack – that’s how the series got its name. All covers of the Country Flag series are made of heavy cardboard. And there is always an insert with all the lyrics in English and Japanese.

How good does Help! by the Beatles sound in the German and Japanese pressings?

For the Beatles, the mono mix was certainly the decisive version, stereo didn’t matter to them. Since overdubs didn’t play such a big role in the recordings as they did on Sgt. Pepper, for example, the mono mix here doesn’t deviate so far from the stereo mix. But that is another story.

Both pressings use the 65 stereo mix – i.e. still with stronger channel separation and the original analogue reverb from the Abbey Road studios. And the German Hörzu also has no need to hide in terms of sound. Even if it doesn’t quite match the Japanese record. The last shine in the mids is missing, and the instruments are not so perfectly defined.  Unlike other Japanese pressings, which were often mastered in the Land of the Rising Sun, this pressing apparently uses a UK pressing die. The accusation that the Japanese have once again taken out bass and added treble does not apply. This is where the best of both worlds meet: The unadulterated UK mastering and the excellent production quality of the Japanese. It doesn’t get much better than this. In terms of timbre and definition, the Japan-Help! is a prime example.

How do the level and frequency response of Help! differ in the German and Japanese versions?

Waveform diagram for Help!
Waveform diagram for Help!

The German and Japanese pressings of Help! differ neither in level nor in dynamics. But the Japanese pressing arrives at the finish line about two seconds later (arrows)! When cutting the German matrix, the speed of the tape machine was probably increased slightly to help the drive. Of course, this is out of the question for a Japanese master cutter striving for perfection. In Tokyo, the tape was played back at the intended speed. Honestly, I wouldn’t have heard the difference.

Frequency spectrogram for Help!
Frequency spectrogram for Help!

Who said that “the Japanese turn down the bass”? The frequency spectrogram shows quite the opposite here. At least for this Japanese pressing of Help! the record collector’s prejudice does not apply. In the range between 80 and 350 hertz, i.e. in the bass and fundamental range, the Japanese pressing is louder than its German counterpart. This can be seen in the larger orange areas in the frequency range mentioned.

Which pressing of The Beatles – Help! is better?

By no means all records from the Japanese Country Flag series sound better than their European competitors. For Help! a UK pressing die was used and pressed with Japanese quality standards. The result is convincing all along the line. Hörzu does not sound bad at all – just not quite as excellent as its Japanese relative.

Title list

Side 1

  • Help!
  • The Night Before
  • You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
  • I Need You
  • Another Girl
  • You’re Going To Lose That Girl
  • Ticket To Ride

Side 2

  • Act Naturally
  • It’s Only Love
  • You Like Me Too Much
  • Tell Me What You See
  • I’ve Just Seen A Face
  • Yesterday
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Beatles Help JPN Front
Help! from the Country Flag series: The Union Jack on the OBI gave the series its name.
For the cover, the Japanese stick to the UK original on the front and back.
For the cover, the Japanese stick to the UK original on the front and back.
The Japanese Help! from 1976 adorns the Apple logo.
The Japanese Help! from 1976 adorns the Apple logo.
The deadwax area hardly differs ...
The deadwax area hardly differs …
Japanese customers were treated ...
Japanese customers were treated…
... to a four-page insert ...
… to a four-page insert …
... that provided liner notes in Japanese ...
… that provided liner notes in Japanese …
... as well as song lyrics in English and Japanese.
… as well as song lyrics in English and Japanese.
In addition, there was another insert with the Japanese label programme at the time.
In addition, there was another insert with the Japanese label programme at the time.
Beatles Help HZ Front
Help in the German Hörzu version: Identified on the cover as the soundtrack to the film of the same name.
The design of the German edition also differs slightly from the UK original on the back cover.
The design of the German edition also differs slightly from the UK original on the back cover.
The German Help! from 1974 adopts the red Hörzu logo
The German Help! from 1974 adopts the red Hörzu logo
... between the two variants.
… between the two variants.
ArtistThe Beatles
TitleHelp
LabelApple Toshiba/EMIHörzu
Released19761974
Catalogue numberEAS-80554SHZE 162
Format12“12“
Revolutions/minute33 1/333 1/3
TypeAlbumAlbum
CoverSingle SleeveSingle Sleeve
Add-onsOBI, 4-page inlay with English lyrics and Japanese translation, Weaving inlay with the current Japanese release programme
Mastered by   not specifiednot specified
Pressing plantnot specifiednot specified
Matrix-RunoutYEX-168 2S4 13 〄
YEA̶X-169 5S 9 〄    
SHZE 162 A-2 04257-A-2
SHZE 162 A-2 04257-B-2  
Edition/Limitation
Consecutive number
Country of manufactureJapanGermany

Here’s how the 65 and 87 stereo mixes differ from Help!

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