Best Sounding digital Beatles singles comp?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by RZangpo2, May 14, 2005.

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  1. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    This continues an earlier thread: http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=52823. We reached some interesting conclusions, but they were buried under four pages of posts. I've tried to summarize them here. I've also drawn on earlier threads by SH, which you can find in the archives. The short version goes like this:

    The Beatles released 22 singles during their career. All of them are collected in the CD singles box. The box has the correct original mixes for each single. Except for the first two singles, it uses the correct original single masters. For the middle- and late-period singles, the CD singles box is the only digital source for the correct original mono mixes.

    But even though it has the correct mixes and (mostly) the correct sources, the singles box suffers from mastering problems. As SH has pointed out, the mono single masters were played back over a stereo tape head which was not properly aligned. (The mono tapes should have been played back over a mono head.) The result is that the mono signal was split into left and right channels that are out of phase with each other. This causes audible problems, mainly a "defocusing" or blurring of the mono image. This effect is most noticeable in the high frequencies (e.g., cymbals), but it also muddies the vocals and gives the whole recording a "phasey" sound.

    Until recently, it was thought that the out-of-phase left and right channels had been recombined to mono, making the problem permanent. Just recently, however, forum member another side and I discovered that this is not so. Rather, the out-of-phase channels were mastered in stereo. So in the CD singles box, the mono singles are actually in what I call "slightly out of phase stereo". The mono signal is split in half, and the two halves are out of phase with each other. One half appears in the left channel, and the other half in the right channel.

    This means that the problem can be fixed. To fix it, all you have to do is copy one channel -- either the left or the right -- and paste it into the other channel. Now the two channels are identical. Presto! You've gone from "out of phase stereo" to true mono.

    Is this a real improvement? Oh, yes! Anyone with a sound editor on their PC can try this and hear the difference for themselves. AS tried it with "I Feel Fine", and posted .wav files of the results in the earlier thread. I've done it, too, and compared corrected and uncorrected versions of "From Me To You" on my own system. To my ears, correcting the phase problem also corrects the sound. The mono image goes from vague to solid. The voices and instruments are better defined. The sound loses that annoying "phasey" quality. The recording just pops into focus.

    Some of you may be wondering where the EP box fits into all this. The EP box uses the correct EP masters, and is mastered properly to boot. All the tracks on the EP box are in true mono. It sounds great. There is considerable overlap between the singles and EP boxes. Which sounds better?

    IMO, after the singles from the singles box are phase-corrected, they sound better than the same tracks on the EP box. This is because, where the singles are concerned, the EP box comes from sources that are one generation down. (When the original EP masters were assembled, they used dubs of the singles.) The singles box versions, after being corrected, are clearer and more dynamic than the EP box versions. Of course, this is just what you'd expect from earlier-generation sources.

    So (again IMO) the best-sounding digital Beatles singles are the phase-corrected ones from the CD singles box. (Except for the first two singles, of course, which do not use the correct masters.)

    But don't take my word for all this; try it for yourself. If you have a sound editor on your PC, it's not hard. Rip the singles and open them in your editing program. Choose one channel -- left or right -- copy it, and paste it into the other channel. Save the result. That's all!

    Remember that the first two singles in the CD box are from the wrong sources, so don't use them. Also, remember that the last three singles are in stereo. Do not use the above method to "fix" them, or you'll lose half the music! For the rest of the singles, fix away.

    The following list shows how I've put together my comp. For the first two singles, I've shown the alternate sources I used. For the mono singles, I've shown which channel I picked to duplicate. (I compared left and right channels for each mono single and tried to pick the better one, but in each case the difference, if any, was extremely subtle.) One single in the box (She Loves You/I'll Get You) is in true mono; that one doesn't need to be fixed.

    1. Love Me Do (Andy White version) - EP box (true mono)
    2. P.S. I Love You - EP box (true mono)
    3. Please Please Me - no digital version uses the correct single master. I used Dr. Ebbetts' needle drop of the 45. You can use that or make your own needle drop.
    4. Ask Me Why - no digital version uses the correct single master. I used Dr. Ebbetts' needle drop of the 45. You can use that or make your own needle drop.
    5. From Me To You - L
    6. Thank You Girl - L
    7. She Loves You - true mono
    8. I'll Get You - true mono
    9. I Want to Hold Your Hand - R
    10. This Boy - R
    11. Can't Buy Me Love - R
    12. You Can't Do That - R

    I'll post the rest of the list soon. It's very late and I'm off to bed. Play safe and have fun!
     
    BlueSpeedway likes this.
  2. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    In the "what do you people want" thread, another member complained about unfounded speculation masquerading as gospel. Fair enough. So: how do we know that the mono singles are in "slightly out of phase stereo"? Do this test: rip the mono tracks. Open them in your sound editor. Invert the phase of one of the channels (i.e., peaks become valleys). Then combine the channels to mono. If the track is true mono, the channels will cancel out, leaving no signal. If there is a residual signal, then the channels are not identical, i.e., not in true mono.

    If you try this with the EP box, the channels will cancel, showing that the tracks are true mono. Same for Dr. Ebbetts' singles needle drops. But in the case of the singles box, all the mono singles (except for She Loves You/I'll Get You) will leave a residual signal, showing that the tracks are not identical, i.e., not true mono. Some are worse than others; look in the earlier thread for another side's posts about this.

    BTW, another forum member taught me to use this trick for mono needle drops. As the last step in mastering, copy one channel and paste it into the other, so that both are identical. This gives you perfect mono.
     
  3. JohnS

    JohnS Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London, UK
    Do the Ebbett's needle drops cancel out exactly?! Are they actually 'needle' drops, sourced fom vinyl - if so, and they cancel out exactly, that's incredible, I'd have thought ANY vinyl, no matter how 'unplayed/mint', would have physical imperfections on each side of the record grooves that would show up using this procedure. The EP box was sourced form genuinely-mono tape masters, so they wouldn't have this problem. Right?
     
  4. john lennonist

    john lennonist There ONCE was a NOTE, PURE and EASY...

    I'm pretty technologically-challenged, but I find RZangpo2's posts above extremely interesting and they seem to make sense... doesn't anyone else want to chime in on this!? :confused:
     
  5. Another Side

    Another Side Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    You're talking about two different things. One is a needle drop done from a mono LP or 45. If you used a stereo cartridge to create the needle drop, yes you will have two channels that are slightly different, because the stylus will pick different surface noise on each channel. However, if your cartridge is set up correctly, that should be the only difference. Futhermore, a well done needle drop will have the two channels added together or alternatively only one of the channels will be picked.

    The other case is that of a mono tape like that of the EP masters. If the tapes were mastered by being played on a mono tape machine, then you are correct, they shouldn't have this problem. However, that is not what happened, they were mastered by being played back on a stereo machine and the azymuth was not properly aligned, meaning the information on each track was different enough to creat phase problems.
     
  6. JohnS

    JohnS Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London, UK
    Yep, point taken. I've just been reading the earlier threads about playing back mono on stereo systems using 'Y' leads etc... that'd conquer the L-R noise problems...
    :righton:
     
  7. Ryan

    Ryan That would be telling

    Location:
    New England
    I tried the "copy one channel into the other for mono" method on my "A Swinign' Affair" CD. At least it solved the phase problem.
     
  8. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    Ebbetts' singles needle drops cancel out exactly, as far as I've tested them. I assume he either used a double Y cable to sum the L and R phono channels before digital transfer, or else he did what I did: picked one channel and duplicated it. But I don't know for sure.

    P.S. I see a.s. has already caught this one. :wave:
     
  9. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    BTW, I did the same out of phase test on "She Loves You" from the Past Masters CD. That one is also in "out of phase stereo", so it can be fixed in the same way I described above. I haven't tested the rest of the mono Past Masters tracks, nor the EMI CDs of the first four albums. Maybe someone could do it and post the results. If they are also in "out of phase stereo", they can be fixed, too.
     
  10. mdpierocarey

    mdpierocarey Active Member

    This is great new info! Very, very exciting. And very timely too, I was just getting ready to burn a decent-sounding mono Beatles catalog from my collection, and I am expecting this singles box to be much improved as I go. (I spread the singles on as bonus tracks for my burns).

    For the sake of clarity, are you using the same singles as I plan to use? I'm planning on using this info to re-burn my black box set by the Beatles, called "CD Singles Collection". Looking at the box, it appears to be Capitol/Apple/Parlophone catalog number C2 0777 7 15901 2 2. It contains 22 normal sized compact discs in cardboard sleeves.

    Rzangpo, are you using this same package?

    Cheers,
    Doug Piero Carey
     
  11. Another Side

    Another Side Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Francisco
    That's the one we are talking about. :agree:
     
  12. mdpierocarey

    mdpierocarey Active Member

    Right, then, thanks a.s..

    So then, my PC really isn't up to doing this operation the modern way, just choosing a channel on the PC etc. I should get the same results by connecting my CD player up with a double-Y cable, but only connecting one lead (or the other) from the player. The double-Y will take the left (or right) channel, spread it out to L+R, & my stand-alone CD burner will pick up the same nice true mono signal, eh? Do I understand correctly?

    Again, I think this a pretty good discovery here for those of us with CD Singles boxes. I had been A/B-ing it with the EP box in prep for assembling a nice mono catalog, and was finding it disappointing. I'm looking forward to hearing these improvements here.

    Cheers,
    Doug Piero Carey
     
  13. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    Doug,

    Your Y cable solution will work, but in that case aren't you taking the analog signal and re-digitizing it? In other words, you're going from digital to analog and back to digital again. You'll fix the OOP problem, all right, but I'm afraid you may hear some generational loss in quality.

    Other than that, I think you have the right idea!

    P.S. You can hear the same improvement by playing the CD singles with one speaker disconnected!
     
  14. mdpierocarey

    mdpierocarey Active Member

    Well, I'll at least listen to an A/B of one-speaker digital vs. D-A-D. To check for that generational loss. I'm guessing that it will still sound pretty good.

    My other choices are to buy a new PC, or to give up on digital source singles and start buying 1st pressing 45s off Ebay. And I'm a real cheapskate.

    Cheers,
    Doug Piero Carey
     
  15. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    The new PC would be cheaper than the 1st pressing 45s, that's for sure! But seriously, does your PC have a CD-ROM drive? If so, you may be able to get the necessary software without spending a lot of $$$. I'm a Mac guy myself, so I can't point you in the right direction. But there are many members here who can.

    Grant, are you listening? ;)
     
  16. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member

    Location:
    ....
    Doug,

    If you want some help finding decent free audio software, just shoot me a PM.
     
  17. JWB

    JWB New Member

    Your findings match mine. I used the CD singles box, with one channel copied/pasted into the other to achieve true mono. I used Dr. Ebbetts for the first 2 singles.
     
  18. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    Great minds think alike! :)
     
  19. Captain Groovy

    Captain Groovy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Freedonia, USA
    I still need a CD copy (or digital audio file) of the mono version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to do that comparison that Steve suggested.

    :help:

    Thanks!

    JEFF!
     
  20. Russ

    Russ Outlaw

    Location:
    Anglesea, NJ
    I've done something similar in the past with one exception. Instead of copying one channel and pasting it into the other, I copied one channel and pasted it into an actual new mono .wav file. I have a lot of stuff archived in lossless formats and it saves a little space (half).

    If you are creating CDR's of your work you can get approximately twice the amount (half the data, of course) of music on a CDR. In the case of the EP collection, I burned the entire collection (except stereo MMT) on one CD.

    The turntable that I have hooked up to my computer is an inexpensive (rudimentary) Sony the has a built in Pre-Amp. It works really well for needle drops excpet some occasional phase problems with mono. I record mono vinyl in mono .wav files also and eliminated the problem.

    Am I missing something? Why are mono recording's using dual channels to play the same data? Why are mono CD's made in this manner to begin with? After extensive listening tests there is no difference. Logically speaking there should be no difference either.
     
  21. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    Russ, you are entirely right. In fact, I am also using mono files for most of the Beatles singles tracks. I have no idea why commercial mono CDs use "dual mono". Of course, in the case of the singles box, it's a good thing they did! If they had folded the OOP tracks to mono, the sound would have been fouled up beyond repair.
     
  22. leeanndevi

    leeanndevi Active Member

    Location:
    San Antone
    Of all the topics I've followed since I joined the forum, the feedback from Steve and others re: mastering the fabs, especially the Singles and EP sets, has always been the most interesting and important to me. It's this level of inquiry that sets this site above all the rest.

    Just want to say thanks to RZangpo2 for the excellent analysis and for taking the time to summarize the recent threads. Well done.

    Michael
     
  23. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    You're welcome! :)
     
  24. John Simpson

    John Simpson Well-Known Member

    Location:
    St Albans, England
    My wave software allows me to "Karaoke" the file, and sure enough, each of the singles tracks leaves sound . When I try the EP tracks there is silence, I've also tried the 87 Hard Days Night mono CD, and this leaves silence :( Ao we cant improve that one!

    So this trick may only work on the Single box, but its worth knowing about :)
    Now if only my wave editor let me delete one channel :shake:
     
  25. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    Location:
    New York
    Can you export each channel as a mono file? Then you could use just one of them.
     
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