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A Comprehensive Look At The Beatles Self-Titled Double Album Masterpiece

The White Album: Mono vs. Stereo

By Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp | 10 September 2009 | Onethirtybpm.com

Some fans insist that the mono mix is superior to the stereo one. With that in mind, Onethirtybpm’s Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp listened to both versions of the group’s iconic album to try to come to a conclusion about which version is the definitive one.

For most of The Beatles career mono was the standard and the stereo mix was something that was done as an afterthought. The band (and the producers and engineers) worked to get the mono mix just perfect and they would throw together the stereo mix rather quickly, sometimes in a very experimental fashion (as stereo was still very new.) But by 1968 mono was getting phased out and The White Album was the their final album mixed in mono.

In the US mono had already been phased out and so only the stereo mix of The White Album was released in the U.S. while in the U.K. both the mono and stereo versions were released.

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 white album to try to come to a conclusion about which version is the definitive one. 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 mix was better for normal people listening to this album on normal stereo equipment, which is the majority of people buying this album.

Here’s what we came up with:

Back In The U.S.S.R.
The airplane overdubs occur in different places on the mono and stereo versions. The mono version has a louder piano, a yell after the opening plane sound, and drumbeats under the closing plane sound. The stereo version has extra guitar chords at the start of the solo, and shouts and piano during the guitar solo.

Dear Prudence
The stereo version has slightly more treble and fades to a lower volume at the end.

Glass Onion
The edit adds the end orchestral piece. The stereo version is lacking Paul’s added vocal “oh yeah” at the end of the break. The mono mix has various sound effects, of which only the whistle after “fool on the hill” was used in the standard mix.

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
The stereo version has hand-clapping during the intro, the mono version does not. On the mono mix, Paul’s vocals are not double-tracked as they sound to be on the stereo mix which gives the allusion of two or more Pauls singing at once.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
The stereo version has some vocal sounds from George at the end, the mono version does not. The Clapton guitar remains loud in the mono version after the solo break, not in the stereo version. Near the end of the fadeout, only the stereo version has “yeah yeah yeah”, even though it is a few seconds shorter.

Blackbird
The bird sound effects are quite different between the stereo and the mono release.

Piggies
The pig sound effects are quite different between the stereo and the mono release. The guitar is louder in the mono version.

Don’t Pass Me By
The mono version is much faster than the stereo, and therefore is shorter. The violin sounds at the end are markedly different. Mono version runs faster, and it has more fiddle throughout the song and different fiddle at the end. The fiddle at the end of stereo [b] seems to a repeat of a bit of the chorus. The edit added the intro. Stereo version has only work from 5 and 6 June without the fiddle or intro added in July. It’s at the speed of the stereo mix.

Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
The stereo version has hand-clapping during the intro, the mono version does not.

Sexy Sadie
The stereo version has two taps on the tambourine during the intro, the mono version only has one.

Helter Skelter
The stereo version has a fade-out/fade-in dummy ending with Ringo’s shout of “I’ve got blisters on my fingers”, the mono version does not, this makes the stereo version almost a minute longer. The basic song runs about 3:10 to a pause shortly after Paul’s distorted vocal, too close to the microphone. The Mono version then is edited into more of the same take, with sound effects noises, and fades at 3:36. The stereo version is edited instead to a different part of the take, fading out and then back in again, with another edit, ending finally at 4:29 after Ringo shouts “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”. Is the distorted vocal “Can you hear me speaking… woo!” or “My baby is sleeping, ooh! dreaming”?

Long, Long, Long
The stereo version is fine, but on the mono, George’s double-tracked vocal is embarrassingly out of synch.

Doubletracking starts at the first “long” in the stereo version, the third “long” in mono, and sounds somewhat different thereafter. On the mono version, the rhythm guitar is softer but the lead guitar is louder, especially in the later part of the song.

Honey Pie
The stereo version has a shorter guitar solo than the mono version.

Revolution 9
Although the mono was made from the stereo, the opening lines are more clear in mono: “I would’ve gotten claret for you but I’ve realized I’ve forgotten all about it, George, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?“. This is evidently a separate piece of tape added during mixing.

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)
The screaming after “come on” in the last verse is different in the Stereo and Mono versions.

Revolution 1
The song was deliberately distorted during recording and mixing, so since the mono version sounds more distorted and compressed, it’s better! John’s guitar also sounds louder on the mono version.

Yer Blues
The 2d generation tape is an edit of two takes, each of the two tapes being itself a mixdown from the original 4-track. The edit causes an abrupt transition at the end of the guitar solos. In stereo, traces of other vocal and guitar parts can be heard throughout the song in the left channel, including something shouted over parts of the vocal and what sounds like another different guitar solo. After the edit, the trace lead vocal suggests we are hearing the first part of the song from the other take. The edit in the mixes added the countdown intro, which is louder in mono. The Mono version is 11 seconds longer, long fade.

I Will
This started as 4 track and was copied to 8 track, so it’s 2d generation. The “bass” (vocal) starts later in mono version, after the first verse. The stereo version has more prominent bongos.

Birthday
The last “daaaance” starts twice, maybe a double-track error or a leak from a guide vocal, as heard on the stereo version, but covered up by other sounds on the mono version. The stereo version has extra vocals at the end of the second chorus.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun
The 2d generation master is an edit of (copies of) two takes with more material overdubbed. Mono version has tapping (organ) on the beat from the start until the drums come in, but it is soft and mixed out 4 beats earlier in. In the “I need a fix” section in stereo, by error, although the first line was mixed out, the last “down” is just audible. Mono version has louder bass in the “I need a fix” section. Mono version has laughter near the very end, just before the last drumbeat, not heard in stereo version.

Wild Honey Pie
Mono version has the full lead guitar break, slightly shortened in the stereo version.

Savoy Truffle
The mono version has sound effects during the instrumental break, and the lead guitar continues through the break into the refrain after it. The organ is missing from the last verse in the mono version.

I’m So Tired
Paul’s harmony at the first “You’d say” is louder in mono. The muttering after the song is part of this recording.

Sean Highkin:

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.

The White Album is my favorite album ever (by The Beatles or anyone else.) I love it because of all of the different styles of music on it. I love it because of all of the brilliant songs. I love it because of its imperfections (Don’t Pass Me By comes to mind.) And yes, I love Revolution #9.

Brent Koepp:

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 Skelter.

Verdict

It’s a toss up! This is the definitive album where listeners should own both the mono and the stereo version of it. Some songs sound better on mono and vice versa.

By Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp | Onethirtybpm.com

10 September 2009

NOTES:

On 09/09/09 (a cool reference to “Revolution #9”) the original mono mixes of The Beatles first 10 studio albums (through The White Album) were released in mono in a CD Box-Set for the first time. The mono version of the White Album was not available for individual purchase, instead, it’s included only as one of the 10 Beatles albums (all with original mono mixes) in this Beatles Mono Box-Set.

The White Album is the only one of those 10 albums that was never released in mono on vinyl in the U.S. so it was really the first release of the mono mix in the U.S. ever (on any format.) For those of us who think this is the greatest album of all time (and I think there’s quite a few of us!) it was very exciting to finally get to hear this mix.

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Mono vs. Stereo

By Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp | 10 September 2009 | Onethirtybpm.com

Some fans insist that the mono mix is superior to the stereo one. With that in mind, Onethirtybpm’s Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp listened to both versions of the group’s iconic album to try to come to a conclusion about which version is the definitive one.

For most of The Beatles career mono was the standard and the stereo mix was something that was done as an afterthought. The band (and the producers and engineers) worked to get the mono mix just perfect and they would throw together the stereo mix rather quickly, sometimes in a very experimental fashion (as stereo was still very new.) But by 1968 mono was getting phased out and The White Album was the their final album mixed in mono.

In the US mono had already been phased out and so only the stereo mix of The White Album was released in the U.S. while in the U.K. both the mono and stereo versions were released.

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 white album to try to come to a conclusion about which version is the definitive one. 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 mix was better for normal people listening to this album on normal stereo equipment, which is the majority of people buying this album.

Here’s what we came up with:

Mono/Stereo Differences

Back In The U.S.S.R.
The airplane overdubs occur in different places on the mono and stereo versions. The mono version has a louder piano, a yell after the opening plane sound, and drumbeats under the closing plane sound. The stereo version has extra guitar chords at the start of the solo, and shouts and piano during the guitar solo.

Dear Prudence
The stereo version has slightly more treble and fades to a lower volume at the end.

Glass Onion
The edit adds the end orchestral piece. The stereo version is lacking Paul’s added vocal “oh yeah” at the end of the break. The mono mix has various sound effects, of which only the whistle after “fool on the hill” was used in the standard mix.

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
The stereo version has hand-clapping during the intro, the mono version does not. On the mono mix, Paul’s vocals are not double-tracked as they sound to be on the stereo mix which gives the allusion of two or more Pauls singing at once.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
The stereo version has some vocal sounds from George at the end, the mono version does not. The Clapton guitar remains loud in the mono version after the solo break, not in the stereo version. Near the end of the fadeout, only the stereo version has “yeah yeah yeah”, even though it is a few seconds shorter.

Blackbird
The bird sound effects are quite different between the stereo and the mono release.

Piggies
The pig sound effects are quite different between the stereo and the mono release. The guitar is louder in the mono version.

Don’t Pass Me By
The mono version is much faster than the stereo, and therefore is shorter. The violin sounds at the end are markedly different. Mono version runs faster, and it has more fiddle throughout the song and different fiddle at the end. The fiddle at the end of stereo [b] seems to a repeat of a bit of the chorus. The edit added the intro. Stereo version has only work from 5 and 6 June without the fiddle or intro added in July. It’s at the speed of the stereo mix.

Why Don’t We Do It In The Road
The stereo version has hand-clapping during the intro, the mono version does not.

Sexy Sadie
The stereo version has two taps on the tambourine during the intro, the mono version only has one.

Helter Skelter
The stereo version has a fade-out/fade-in dummy ending with Ringo’s shout of “I’ve got blisters on my fingers”, the mono version does not, this makes the stereo version almost a minute longer. The basic song runs about 3:10 to a pause shortly after Paul’s distorted vocal, too close to the microphone. The Mono version then is edited into more of the same take, with sound effects noises, and fades at 3:36. The stereo version is edited instead to a different part of the take, fading out and then back in again, with another edit, ending finally at 4:29 after Ringo shouts “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”. Is the distorted vocal “Can you hear me speaking… woo!” or “My baby is sleeping, ooh! dreaming”?

Long, Long, Long
The stereo version is fine, but on the mono, George’s double-tracked vocal is embarrassingly out of synch.

Doubletracking starts at the first “long” in the stereo version, the third “long” in mono, and sounds somewhat different thereafter. On the mono version, the rhythm guitar is softer but the lead guitar is louder, especially in the later part of the song.

Honey Pie
The stereo version has a shorter guitar solo than the mono version.

Revolution 9
Although the mono was made from the stereo, the opening lines are more clear in mono: “I would’ve gotten claret for you but I’ve realized I’ve forgotten all about it, George, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?“. This is evidently a separate piece of tape added during mixing.

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)
The screaming after “come on” in the last verse is different in the Stereo and Mono versions.

Revolution 1
The song was deliberately distorted during recording and mixing, so since the mono version sounds more distorted and compressed, it’s better! John’s guitar also sounds louder on the mono version.

Yer Blues
The 2d generation tape is an edit of two takes, each of the two tapes being itself a mixdown from the original 4-track. The edit causes an abrupt transition at the end of the guitar solos. In stereo, traces of other vocal and guitar parts can be heard throughout the song in the left channel, including something shouted over parts of the vocal and what sounds like another different guitar solo. After the edit, the trace lead vocal suggests we are hearing the first part of the song from the other take. The edit in the mixes added the countdown intro, which is louder in mono. The Mono version is 11 seconds longer, long fade.

I Will
This started as 4 track and was copied to 8 track, so it’s 2d generation. The “bass” (vocal) starts later in mono version, after the first verse. The stereo version has more prominent bongos.

Birthday
The last “daaaance” starts twice, maybe a double-track error or a leak from a guide vocal, as heard on the stereo version, but covered up by other sounds on the mono version. The stereo version has extra vocals at the end of the second chorus.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun
The 2d generation master is an edit of (copies of) two takes with more material overdubbed. Mono version has tapping (organ) on the beat from the start until the drums come in, but it is soft and mixed out 4 beats earlier in. In the “I need a fix” section in stereo, by error, although the first line was mixed out, the last “down” is just audible. Mono version has louder bass in the “I need a fix” section. Mono version has laughter near the very end, just before the last drumbeat, not heard in stereo version.

Wild Honey Pie
Mono version has the full lead guitar break, slightly shortened in the stereo version.

Savoy Truffle
The mono version has sound effects during the instrumental break, and the lead guitar continues through the break into the refrain after it. The organ is missing from the last verse in the mono version.

I’m So Tired
Paul’s harmony at the first “You’d say” is louder in mono. The muttering after the song is part of this recording.

Sean Highkin:

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.

The White Album is my favorite album ever (by The Beatles or anyone else.) I love it because of all of the different styles of music on it. I love it because of all of the brilliant songs. I love it because of its imperfections (Don’t Pass Me By comes to mind.) And yes, I love Revolution #9.

Brent Koepp:

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 Skelter.

Verdict:

It’s a toss up! This is the definitive album where listeners should own both the mono and the stereo version of it. Some songs sound better on mono and vice versa.

By Sean Highkin and Brent Koepp | Onethirtybpm.com

10 September 2009

NOTES:

On 09/09/09 (a cool reference to “Revolution #9”) the original mono mixes of The Beatles first 10 studio albums (through The White Album) were released in mono in a CD Box-Set for the first time. The mono version of the White Album was not available for individual purchase, instead, it’s included only as one of the 10 Beatles albums (all with original mono mixes) in this Beatles Mono Box-Set.

The White Album is the only one of those 10 albums that was never released in mono on vinyl in the U.S. so it was really the first release of the mono mix in the U.S. ever (on any format.) For those of us who think this is the greatest album of all time (and I think there’s quite a few of us!) it was very exciting to finally get to hear this mix.