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    The Definitive Sgt. Pepper's In High Resolution

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    Artist: The Beatles

     

    AlbumSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Anniversary Edition) 24 bit / 96 kHz

     

    From: HDtracks

     

     

     

     

     


    This write-up seems a little strange for me. I'm used to writing about subjects in which I have experience and expertise. The Beatles? Heck, I was born in 1975 and by that time the band was broken up for five years. It goes without saying that I'm no expert in the music of The Beatles, but I know good sound and more importantly, I'm not tied to a nostalgic sound that's engrained in my head and reminds me of high school. I've listened to all The Beatles' albums many times and have enjoyed them over the years. I recently introduced my five year old daughter to The Beatles. In fact she came down to my listening room while I was jotting down notes about this album, and she identified Paul McCartney from the Sgt. Pepper's album cover on my 27" iMac. 

     

    I can't underestimate my lack of feeling for or memory of the original Sgt. Pepper's album. It's great stuff, but I couldn't name a single track from the album if my life depended on it. Sure I know the tracks well, but before writing this I had no idea they were on the Sgt. Pepper's album. All of this matters because it enables me to have an open mind and enables me to sonically analyze and enjoy the album without any baggage. 

     

    Hoping to avoid easily avoidable mistakes about the album, I did some research. I found a wonderful interview of Giles Martin talking about who, what, when, where, and why of this new release. All the naysayers will quickly conclude that remixing Sgt. Pepper's in 2017 is all about money. Fine, don't buy it and ignore the facts that I'm about to present and why I think this is the definitive stereo version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 


    Who: The Beatles and the son of George Martin, Giles.
    What: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Anniversary Edition) 24 bit / 96 kHz
    When: Available for download from HDtracks December 2017
    Where: Abbey Road Studios, London, England 


    Why: This is the big question that everyone has, including me. The short answer to this question is, because it's possible. The long and much more interesting answer to why remix one of the greatest albums of all time, is because it was possible to create something better than was previously available. 

     

    Back in 1967 The Beatles and George Martin were all present for the mono mix of Sgt. Pepper's. The stereo mix was done as an afterthought without any Beatles involved. In addition, due to technological limitations of the four-track system used by The Beatles, the stereo mixes had serious limitations and didn't sound like the album created by the band (details below).


    According to Giles Martin, the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is unlike any previous release from The Beatles. Giles and his team went back to the original tapes, no not the tapes used for the 2009 release or even the original releases of the album. The tapes used for this remix were earlier generations of tapes that hadn't been played for 50 years and were in pristine condition. Because this is a remix, Giles was able to use the tapes of the instruments that were later used to create the final mixes everyone is used to hearing. Using the already mixed tapes, would have made this a simple remaster, not a remix. 

     

     

    Let me try to explain this a bit better. 

     

    All other Beatles albums:
    A. Instruments were recorded to tape, sometimes one at a time or multiple instruments, in 1966 & 1967. 
    B. Several tapes were played through a console and the sound was mixed together, with the limitations of the four-track system in use.
    C. This mixed sound was output to a master tape, from which all albums of The Beatles were made (including the 2009 remasters).


    Sgt. Pepper's 2017 Remix:
    A. Instruments were recorded to tape, sometimes one at a time or multiple instruments, in 1966 & 1967. 
    B: In 2017 Giles Martin used these tapes to create new mixes through the same equipment at Abbey Road, with some technical help from modern day tools. 
    C. This mixed sound was output to a high resolution 24/96 file and made available for download.

     

     


    Examples & Sound Quality

     

    Here are my top ten reasons why the 2017 high resolution remix of Sgt. Pepper's is by far the best version of this album to date. 

     

    1. Overall, using the original pristine tapes (not the mixed tapes used for all previous versions) in 2017 enabled better quality to be pulled from the tapes than in 1967.
    2. On the definitive mono mix of Sgt. Pepper's, the track She's Leaving Home has the pitch a half-step up from the stereo mix. This higher pitch is how The Beatles wanted it to sound (Paul wanted his voice to sound younger). Remixing enabled Giles Martin to match the pitch from the mono version on the new high resolution stereo version.
    3. The original recording of the strings in She's Leaving Home was used to create this new remix, sounding much better than what was available for the 2009 remasters. 
    4. In the track Lovely Rita, Giles Martin was able to move instruments into the right channel rather than just the left channel because there were no technical limitations from the four-track system used back in 1967. This sounds much more like the mono than the 2009 stereo remasters.
    5. There is actually a good sounding kick drum in Lovely Rita's high resolution version because according to Giles Martin, remixing enables him to bring out each player individually and in this case give Ringo a big thump where it should be. On the original mixes, this drum was said to be veiled / pushed down because of the limitations of the vinyl playback medium and not wanting to knock the needle out of the groove (per Giles Martin).
    6. On Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Johns voice has really neat sounding ADT (artificial double-tracking). But this was only in the mono version of the album, again because of technical limitations. On the new high resolution version the ADT effect was brought into the stereo version as it should have been all along.
    7. Sgt. Pepper's Reprise was remixed to get the organ off to the left side, out of the center. This is how it should have been. Giles used meticulous notes of the recording sessions to closely follow what the band had wanted. 
    8. Giles doesn't like album clean-ups with modern technology because they don't sound good. He likes the dirt. Thus, the high resolution Sgt. Pepper's isn't one of those poor sounding clean up jobs. It's the definitive version. 
    9. On A Day in the Life, the strings are much more dynamic because of Giles going back to the original tapes (not master tapes already mixed). Also on A Day in the Life, Ringo's drums are much closer to the mono version. They sound like an explosion rather than the totally flat, zero impact drums on the 2009 stereo remasters. According to Giles, John's voice and George's bass are much deeper and precede on the 2017 remix as well. 
    10. The 2017 high resolution remix of Sgt. Pepper's like a stereo version of the mono, that The Beatles slaved over, but better.

     

     


    Other notes, the above list is a mix of technical / objective reasons and subjective reasons such as, it sounds better. There is no accounting for taste, but I believe most music aficionados / audiophiles will prefer this high resolution remix of Sgt.Pepper's. I listened to the album over and over after downloading it from HDtracks. I clicked between the mono and stereo 2009 releases (both 16 and 24 bit), and this new 24/96 version. The difference was immediately apparent and better. This isn't like the difference between putting one's speaker cables on maple blocks versus the floor. This is a real sonic difference that can't be denied. Perhaps some people won't like it, but they can't deny the better sonic quality over the 2009 remasters. 

     

    I used to listen to the 24/44.1 stereo version of this album from the green apple USB storage device released in 2009. That was my definitive version. The 2009 mono releases sounded like my dad's music. Something about them just didn't thrill me. Now, in the 24/96 stereo version of Sgt. Pepper's Giles Martin managed to take the artistic direction of the mono versions and create the new definitive version. Not just a remaster, but a remix from the original-original tapes. 

    Well done. 

     

    ADayInTheLife.png

    Technical Note: At 5:05 of track 13, A Day in the Life, there is very loud 16.026 kHz sound that plays for roughly four seconds. The tone is down -10.71 dB and very audible. When I first heard it, I felt like a dog being trained with a dog whistle. This 16k tone is present in the 2009 remaster of the album, but it's closer to -35 dB down and much less audible. 

     

    The image at left shows the 16 kHz tone at 5:05 of the track, as does the video below.

     

     

     

     

     

     


     

     

    Listen to Giles Martin explain the remix and provide examples of why I believe this is the definitive version of Sgt. Pepper's

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Where to Buy: HDtracks

     

    LinkSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Anniversary Edition) 24 bit / 96 kHz

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    User Feedback




    Nice write-up.  I ripped the BluRay as soon as I got it, and the 5.1 surround mix is quite something special too.  I can't wait for the White Album and Abbey Road, to name two.

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    Pretty much agree with you, Chris - and I am older and had a lot of built up sonic/emotional memories of this one.

    My only complaint about the remix is that I wish it had just a bit less volume compression - maybe even one db less of added loudness. But overall I think it is great, and is the version I listen to now.

    I think Giles accomplished exactly what he set out to do - make a modern stereo remix that still gives us what the Beatles intended with the mono mix  they made in 67. 

     

    Hope Ted B. is right and more remixes come out. Of course, I actually prefer Revolver and Rubber Soul because their stereo mixes really suck - they are just bad. The White Album and Abbey Road were all or in part recorded on at least 8 tracks and were mixed to stereo by the Beatles, so they sound pretty good. 

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    I don't think my preference for the mono albums of this vintage is going to change. If the artist intended the album to be stereo I'm good with it but if they didn't it you don't have what the artist intended. The Beatles cared about the mono versions good enough for me.

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    A quite good example for the "divide et impera" strategy of the major labels. Sgt. Peppers as HiRes download is only available at HDtracks.com and Qobuz.com and quite expensive, compared to other recently reissued HiRes "must haves", if you're not being a Qobuz Sublime subscriber and pay "only" € 19.99 what seems to be a fair price.

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    18 hours ago, ted_b said:

    Nice write-up.  I ripped the BluRay as soon as I got it, and the 5.1 surround mix is quite something special too.  I can't wait for the White Album and Abbey Road, to name two.

     

    I couldn't see this on Amazon Ted. Do you have a link?

     

    Thanks

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    20 hours ago, firedog said:

    Hope Ted B. is right and more remixes come out. Of course, I actually prefer Revolver and Rubber Soul because their stereo mixes really suck - they are just bad. The White Album and Abbey Road were all or in part recorded on at least 8 tracks and were mixed to stereo by the Beatles, so they sound pretty good. 

    Giles is quoted somewhere that the White Album is next, so I assumed the earlier anniversary dates won't be redone like this.  Yes, Revolver in hirez, OMG.

     

    I am 63 and remember just about every Beatles album purchase or sibling's purchase like it was yesterday (Beatles 65 at a store called Uncle Bill's for $3.20).  And have nostalgia for the mono mixes (which are included on the Pepper bluray).  But the 5.1 remixes are so amazing (the 5.1 Love stuff that wasn't mashed up aggressively, for example) that I can't wait for the rest of the catalog going forward. 

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    Quote

    At 5:05 of track 13, A Day in the Life, there is very loud 16.026 kHz sound that plays for roughly four seconds. 

     

    Okay, this is funny, ,I think. The Beatles added a dog whistle to the end of Sgt Pepper, just for a joke - so dogs would react and maybe people wouldn't. I seem to remember that it was at the very end of the record -but maybe it is those 4 seconds. I assume this is what you are hearing, as I can't hear it anymore - I just hear silence in those 4 seconds you are referring to.

     

    The dog whistle wasn't included in the original US release of the album:

    http://www.beatlesebooks.com/sgt-pepper-song

     

    Quote

    On September 21st, 1987, twenty years after its initial release (as in “twenty years ago today”), theSgt. Pepper album was first released on compact disc.  It was the only Beatles CD released at that time to have extensive liner notes.  Also in place for the first time in the US was the high pitched dog whistle and “inner groove” that was omitted from the original vinyl release in the states.  This CD was then re-mastered and re-released on September 9th, 2009 with even more extensive liner notes.

     

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    10 minutes ago, ted_b said:

    Giles is quoted somewhere that the White Album is next, so I assumed the earlier anniversary dates won't be redone like this.  Yes, Revolver in hirez, OMG.

     

    I am 63 and remember just about every Beatles album purchase or sibling's purchase like it was yesterday (Beatles 65 at a store called Uncle Bill's for $3.20).  And have nostalgia for the mono mixes (which are included on the Pepper bluray).  But the 5.1 remixes are so amazing (the 5.1 Love stuff that wasn't mashed up aggressively, for example) that I can't wait for the rest of the catalog going forward. 

    Giles made a comment about the White Album being the 'next" album in an interview, and that was immediately interpreted to mean he was remixing the White Album. He came out and made a correction, saying he was only referring to album order (as MMT wasn't originally an album, just an EP) and not to any remix project of his. He said at that time (when the 2017 mix came out) that there haven't been any discussions of what or if there will be more remixes. I think I saw that on his Facebook or Twitter page. 

     

    edit: okay found one of the Twitter quotes: 

    Giles Martin Retweeted David Doll

    Just to confirm..I said the White Album is the next Beatles album. I promise that I'm not working on it. Enjoy Sgt Pepper first! X

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    18 hours ago, wwaldmanfan said:

    It's easy to embrace this revisionist remix as the definitive version if you weren't alive when the original came out. There is a strong nostalgic component in the Beatles music for me.  My fond memories from those days are brought back when I listen to the original versions, and less so when I am aware that it is a modern remaster.

    I prefer Beatles on vinyl. I still have the US mono LP of Sgt. Pepper that I got as a bar mitzvah gift right after it came out.

    To each his own. I was alive back then, but prefer this version and it doesn't lessen my memories of it. But if you prefer the vinyl, great. Did you get the re-releases of the vinyl in mono that came out? What did you think?

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    3 hours ago, firedog said:

    To each his own. I was alive back then, but prefer this version and it doesn't lessen my memories of it. But if you prefer the vinyl, great. Did you get the re-releases of the vinyl in mono that came out? What did you think?

     

    I have heard the 2014 mono box set, and I like it, especially Revolver and Rubber Soul, as the original stereo mixes were not done well.

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    3 hours ago, monteverdi said:

    I am not quite understanding why mono as originally intended is not the definite version. It was their artistic choice!

    And I like the mono box set a lot! 

    It's not an argument, just a matter of taste. A lot of people agree with you. 

    The intent of the stereo remix us to give a modern improved stereo sound that reflects the intent of the original mono mix. 

    Most people seem to think GM succeeded - it sounds "like the mono", but is in stereo, with overall sonics also improved.

    Paul and Ringo approved the remix. They and George also approved the "Love" mashup and remix, and remixes to the soundtrack songs from Yellow Submarine.

    If you aren't on board with the the results, you can simply listen to the original.

     

     

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    I too am 63 years old. I've been listening to Sgt. Pepper's since 1967, when my sister received a vinyl copy as an Xmas present. I've had various other copies since then, stereo vinyl, regular CD, remastered mono CD. This is certainly the best version I've heard, the greater depth and fullness in both instrumentation and vocals, which are buried in older versions, bring out details that, I think you could argue, are likely closer to what the Beatles envisioned when they were in the studio.

    My advice? Buy it and enjoy!

    Edited by Major Roadrash
    Corrected grammar.

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    On 12/28/2017 at 6:28 AM, ted_b said:

    Giles is quoted somewhere that the White Album is next, so I assumed the earlier anniversary dates won't be redone like this.  Yes, Revolver in hirez, OMG.

     

    I am 63 and remember just about every Beatles album purchase or sibling's purchase like it was yesterday (Beatles 65 at a store called Uncle Bill's for $3.20).  And have nostalgia for the mono mixes (which are included on the Pepper bluray).  But the 5.1 remixes are so amazing (the 5.1 Love stuff that wasn't mashed up aggressively, for example) that I can't wait for the rest of the catalog going forward. 

    Uncle Bill's! I haven't thought about that store for years. We'd go to Uncle Bill's in Rocky River then go down a few storefronts and hang out at Olson's electronics drooling over the hi-fi stuff they had there. Good times!

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    22 minutes ago, ChrisG said:

    Uncle Bill's! I haven't thought about that store for years. We'd go to Uncle Bill's in Rocky River then go down a few storefronts and hang out at Olson's electronics drooling over the hi-fi stuff they had there. Good times!

    +1  Yep, same store, Rocky River.  And Olson's, down at the east end of the strip.  Yes!  Years later I think Tokyo Shapiro took over that location and I would buy my laserdiscs there!!

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    4 hours ago, ted_b said:

    +1  Yep, same store, Rocky River.  And Olson's, down at the east end of the strip.  Yes!  Years later I think Tokyo Shapiro took over that location and I would buy my laserdiscs there!!

    Tokyo Shapiro...holy crap, talk about the wayback machine. I bought a lot of stuff from them, including lots of EPI speakers. Haven't thought about any of these places for years. And don't leave out the Lafayette store at Great Northern!

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    4 hours ago, saturdayboy said:

    sounds great, but can a remix be the definitive version of any album?

     

    If definitive means "best", then yes.

     

    This one has the advantage that the remaining principals approved it. 
    GM was quoted somewhere  saying that Paul and Ringo did ask for changes in some of the test mixes they received, so apparently their approval is something to be taken fairly seriously. 

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    Seeing that the three reviews on Qobuz all expressed disappointment about the DR of the hires version being the same as for the Redbook version, I decided to get the latter. As in - I bought the CD and ripped it.

     

    My impressions are that I don’t know quite what to think about the result. While I enjoy the proper stereo, I think the voices are a little drowned out by the instruments, which have become almost too full and modern sounding. Also, I think that particularly the voices sound more edgy/less natural and organic than on the 24 bit remaster from 2009. While I haven’t analyzed the DR of the 2009 24 bit remaster, it looks noticeably less loud and more dynamic than the 2017 remaster in Roon’s visualization of the tracks.

     

    I haven’t regretted buying the 2017 remaster but that is mostly because of the Disc 2 with a treasure trove of alternative takes and instrumental versions and a lot of chatter from the recording sessions. Really fun. 

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