Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the (possibly) definitive guide to stereo vs. mono albums: introduction

At long last, I've come up with an idea for a new project! This is my first post in an album-by-album examination of the stereo vs. mono mixes of the core 13 studio albums.

For those who don't already know, all of the studio albums except for Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let it Be were originally recorded in mono. That means that all of the sound came out of one channel. That's in contrast to recording in stereo, where you might hear the drums in the right channel, and the lead guitar part in the left channel (that would correspond to the right and left headphones). Despite the fact that the band originally recorded all of those albums in mono, though, most people have only really heard the stereo mixes of the albums that the engineers made without the band. Stereo mixes were made alongside the mono mixes because stereo was a pretty hot new trend in the 1960s, and mono was considered sort of out of date.

Most people who aren't hardcore Beatles fans were totally unaware of the major differences between the stereo and mono mixes of these albums until 2009, when the albums got a total remastering and were released as stereo and mono boxsets. However, for whatever reason, Apple didn't release a boxset that reflects only the mixes the band authorized (that would mean mono mixes for everything but Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let it Be).

The remasters were done extremely well, but this project is going to examine the differences between the stereo and mono mixes as they're heard on vinyl. That means that I'm limited to what I have in my collection (and what I can track down at the UChicago radio station). I'll go through each album and explain what, in my opinion, you gain from listening to the original mixes.

Other places on the web have guides of this sort, but to my knowledge, no one has done this using the original vinyl pressings and with this kind of completeness.

I hope you enjoy it!


  1. I grew up with the mono vinyl versions of the Beatles music. At the time I didn't have a stereo (1964 etc) and the mono versions were also a dollar cheaper than stereo. When you're a 10 year old kid money for an album was hard to get. I still have all my "records" and I look forward to reading your opinion on the original vinyl mixes. All the best!

  2. I just found this blog and it's amazing - original, thought-provoking and funny. I will be back to read each post. Thank you!

  3. Hi Lisa! Thank you so much! I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read so far. I'm hoping to post the first installment of this current project by tomorrow night. Please let me know what you think of the other posts (whether you agree or disagree with my take on things).

    1. Looking forward to doing just that - though I have to confess my propensity towards adoration with these guys. I'm always up for an intelligent discussion of the Beatles in any case, as I find much about them fascinating.

      I also have to confess my ignorance in regards to differences in mono vs. stereo. I think I have only one album in mono and that's "Introducing the Beatles" - not even a Capitol album - and that was given to me by an aunt who was a fan when they first came over. You're discussing the American releases, correct? I'm a second generation fan (do they even use that term anymore?)so most of my vinyl was bought post '78. I anticipate the discussion nonetheless.

      Looking forward to your posts!