I tried to resist, I truly did.
Any new Beatles music related item has a way of knocking at my brain until I mull it over again and again and then finally give in and purchase it. (Well, at least in most cases).
Anyway, last week a truly lovely box set of 22 vinyl singles was released called “The Beatles – The Singles Collection”. Instead of using strictly American or British sleeves for the records as has been the custom, this new set uses pictures sleeves lovingly reproduced from around the world which in itself is reason alone for collector’s to be intrigued.
But word came that the entire set was also newly mastered completely in analog straight from the original singles masters except for a few songs which don’t have an analog master still surviving or in the case of the 1990’s Beatles singles only have digital masters.
That tasty “analog” factoid my friends is the reason many a collector, me included, were really tempted to get this set. A new mastering in analog is rarely done and has the potential to be truly great.
Now let me preface this by saying I already own a great box set of The Beatles singles that was released in 1982 which sounds terrific. There was truly no NEED for me to buy this set. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s got brand new mastering but really another singles collection?
And don’t get me started on the price! This set’s retail list price is around $229 which is a lot of money for something that honestly most collector’s won’t even play much. It is a great looking set but really falls more into the memorabilia side of things for most people and I totally get that.
In fact, I did actually resist this set for quite a long while – for me anyway. I didn’t have it on pre-order and didn’t rush out to buy it last week. I only broke down in the last few days since I had quite a lot of credit at my local record store which made the price MUCH more attractive to me.
Let me also say that there has been a decidedly mixed reaction to this set online as well. Many collector’s have reported warped records, distorted sound and a general lack of quality control for the set.
One big time reviewer thought the set even sounded more digital than analog and he was the one who reported it was all analog as he got it from the mastering engineer himself!
Since I have a weird sense of curiosity I was dying to know for myself how this set sounds. And well, since I have a track record of giving into most things Beatles – here we are.
So after looking and listening to this set the past couple of days here’s what I’ve found:
* The artwork throughout the set including the box and booklet is SUPERB! No one online has disputed the fact that these sleeves and labels which reproduce singles from around the world are truly magnificent.
Most of the sleeves look nearly perfect but there has been comment that the “We Can Work It Out”/”Day Tripper” sleeve has some pixelization on it. It indeed does but I was relieved to see it wasn’t as bad as I feared.
Most everything looks great and each sleeve is made of sturdy cardboard and each single is tucked inside a nice protective paper sleeve.
* The sound of the discs was also a plus for me. These discs are definitely mastered “hot” and most of these songs jump right out of the speaker with a loudness level much like original pressings but with a clarity that’s missing from the few worn originals I personally own.
The 1982 Beatles singles set I own sounds great and this new set actually sounds a bit more aggressive yet more detailed at the same time. Luckily all the singles in my set are nearly dead quiet which is also a plus.
I’ve read online that some folks are having problems tracking these discs (skipping issues) and several folks have reported a lot of distortion as well.
I can say that luckily I didn’t have either issue but at times a couple of the singles were so hot sounding I thought they reached the limit just before distorting but overall I was very pleased by what I heard. I may in fact make a digital CD of the set to play more often as it’s a pain to switch singles all the time.
I guessing the thought with this set was to make the singles sound as close to the sound of the original UK singles as possible. For the most part I think they succeeded.
Some of the singles here sound just great and better than ever: “Love Me Do” (this sounds like the best version of the Ringo drumming take I’ve heard so far), “I Feel Fine”, “Paperback Writer” all sound just great to me.
Some of the singles still sound congested and murky – “Help” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” come to mind – but all of them sound like a different listening experience to me which is a good thing.
Nothing sounded bad to me but after a while I was a bit fatigued by the punchiness of the sound of the early singles but overall I’m very happy with the sound.
* While I didn’t have any skipping issues with these discs I did have six discs in the set that had some slight warping on them. They were not enough to mar the sound but I could see the needle go up and down like a roller coaster but they disc played fine.
Funny enough the worst warp was the “We Can Work It Out”/”Day Tripper” disc which also had the worst sleeve in the set. Too bad as that was the number one record in the States the week I was born. Lol, maybe we’re just a little warped together.
* I also had two discs that had small blogs on them that I think must have been a glue like substance. Both discs with the issue played fine but had a thud at those spots. I was fortunate to finally be able to remove both spots thought that took some time and effort. Both discs now play thud free but that was a bit of a errr moment for me.
So where does this all leave me. Actually overall I’m very pleased with the set. It sounds really nice on my system and now that all the discs are pop/thud free I’m pretty happy. I’m not liking the slight warps on a couple of discs but I’ve played them a couple of times each and they play fine so I’m good.
The sleeves are truly wonderful and it was a blast to play the set even though I was flipping over discs constantly. It reminded me of my long ago days spent on a small turntable pouring over 45’s so nostalgia wins again!
I can see why some people are upset and have returned the set. If they distorted or skipped I would have returned it myself. But they all sound fine so because I got a really good price on the set I’m pleased.
My rating would be:
It’s too bad that at this price point this set sound have any production issues but welcome to 21st Century record buying! it’s become very common thus I limit my vinyl purchasing to Beatles or Monkees items that have unique or new mastering.
So there you have it! Feast your eyes above on this lovely set. As usual I’ve posted quite a few photos so folks can see what’s inside if they decide to take the leap and get the set. I must say though that I may have been lucky as I’ve heard others have worse issues.
I must say you’d have to be a super fan to want to buy this set but then again I’m sure that’s the target audience for this set.
As far as my box set, it looks great and sounds great so I’m happy. It’s a more aggressive sound than my 1982 box singles set but the detail it has and the punch make this a fun listening experience and that’s a really good thing!
That’s all for now.
See you next time!!!