The 2009 Remastered White Album: Mono vs. Stereo
Onethirtybpm’s Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp on The Beatles Remastered White Album:
The Beatles’ catalog finally got remastered on September 9th. The group’s 13 albums were released on CD, both individually and in two separate box sets. One box set contained the stereo mixes of the albums that are also available individually. The other box set contained mono mixes of all of the albums except Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let it Be. These mono mixes are not available individually.
Some fans insist that the mono mixes are superior to the stereo ones. With that in mind, Onethirtybpm’s Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp listened to both versions of the group’s albums to try to come to a conclusion about which versions are the definitive ones. This was not done with the audiophile in mind…those people will have equipment far more expensive than ours. We were trying to figure out which mixes were better for normal people listening to these albums on normal stereo equipment, which is the majority of people buying these sets. Here’s what we came up with:
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The most frustrating of the Beatles’ studio albums is also the most frustrating when comparing mixes. The sheer volume and diversity of the music means that it will vary from song to song as to which version is better. “Dear Prudence” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” sound absolutely perfect in mono, but the acoustic guitar in the background has much more impact on the stereo mix. The mono mix also features a version of “Helter Skelter” that is a minute shorter and far more cluttered than the stereo mix. But there are enough positives for each mix that it’s worth keeping both around if you’ve got the hard drive space.
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The White Album is literally a toss up when it comes to mono vs stereo. This is the album that every fan should own both versions of – because literally, some songs sound better on mono, some sound better on stereo. For instance, I noticed on “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” the bass is a little too loud, and the guitar bits are more muffled on the mono version. On the flip side tho, the vocals sound much better. So a bit of a trade off. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” always sounded strange on the stereo mix to me. Especially if you have headphones on. The mono delivers a much better sounding version of the song, and this is a good example of why you need to own both version. So to sum up it up: there are moments when the mono version is clearly better – where the drums smack with ferocity and the vocals sound beautiful. But on the same note, there are also times where the stereo mix breathes better – especially on “Helter Sketer”.
Verdict: Toss Up! (This is definitive album where listeners should own both the mono and the stereo version of it. Some songs sound better on mono and vice versa).