I read the news today, oh boy…
…yet I greeted it with a mixture of excitement and dread. Following the 2009 release of remastered CDs, EMI is releasing a 16LP box set of the Beatles UK albums on November 15. As with everything Beatles, such announcements are fraught with a heightened level of controversy and hand-wringing. And such is the case here. I recall that just prior to the release of the remastered catalog on compact disc I was chatting with EMI PR folks at a press-only preview at Capitol Records and they asked about a possible LP set–what I thought of the idea. I told them that with vinyl and turntable sales on the upswing and a built in Beatles-adoring, baby-boomer audience the timing over the next couple years wouldn’t be better .
I also added that it’s a trickier equation because audiophiles and collectors as well as the larger vinyl audience are a fussy lot and a new, perhaps final box set had better be done right. By this I meant it required a level of authenticity that was true to expectations of vinyl aficionados–prone to be comprised of originalists with long memories and deep collections to back up those memories. They know what these discs should sound like. It was one thing to tweak the remastered CD box set with bits of compression and EQ to garner the attention of a wider multi-generational market. It was digital after all. But it is quite another thing messing with a pricey analog LP box set ($449). This was all a long way of saying that the set needed to be all analog, which meant a return to the original master tapes one more time. Evidently this wasn’t done. Why? An industry colleague suggested the complications of getting the Beatles and their respective estates to agree and sign off on the project might have been the cause? We may never know.
So this prospective release asks more questions than it answers. The source of this set is reportedly the 24-bit/192kHz digital masters, the same source that the remastered CD set used.. Likely they will sound better than the remastered CD set. After all this will be the first time we’ve heard this level of digital resolution from the Beatles catalog including the limited edition USB “Apple” set that was a mere 24-bit/48kHz. But this still isn’t what many fans were hoping for. And the same sonic issues that dogged the CD remasters will likely remain. Perhaps this set will close the gap between what we got in 2009 and what we wanted all along. Now all the naysayers could be dead wrong, but as of this writing analog fans are not going to be buying a true all-analog box with the treasured “AAA” attached to its production notes. And in spite of what this sounds like–am I excited to hear these LPs??? Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.