Let me begin by stating I haven’t heard the new Beatles vinyl. And that’s the point. I love vinyl. I’ve got loads of Beatles pressings–some British, American, MoFi’s, a bunch. I thought I’d be one of the first in line ready to take the plunge one more time. But something happened along the way to cutting these discs and that reality has kind of taken the stuffing out my excitement. Fact is, the vinyl was cut from 24-bit/44.1kHz digital masters. Not 24-bit/192kHz or even 96kHz or even 48kHz. This isn’t to say they can’t or don’t sound fine. I read Michael Fremer’s astute comments on his Analog Planet site and he seems to have concluded a split decision, some titles markedly better than others but the disappointment in his overall tone was fairly palpable.
A little back-story:
It goes back to a press conference and listening session that I attended at Capitol Records in Hollywood when members of the audio press were invited to listen in A?B fashion to tracks from the Beatles remastered CDs just prior to their release. It was at that informal gathering that I chimed in and asked about the possibility vinyl reissues. The EMI execs were obviously a step ahead of me and admitted it was being contemplated but no decision had yet been made. They did ask our assembled group about the state of the vinyl market and how a possible vinyl release should be presented. I suggested that record companies really don’t want to screw around with audiophiles and their vinyl reissues. We’re not an easy crowd. This will likely be the last time the entire Beatles catalog will be released for the foreseeable future, perhaps the very last, period. These recordings may not be the Dead Sea Scrolls but for fans of a certain generation, the Beatles recordings are held aloft like few others. Anything that smacks of cost cutting or compromise will perceivably undermine the experience and that will be reflected in sales. So do it right or go home.
And doing it right I pointed out, was if this was truly to be the last remastering-go-round, take the time and expense to cut from the original analog masters rather than the recently archived digital masters. This innocent suggestion was made with absolutely no sense of whether that was even practical. Maybe the original masters were too fragile. Maybe there were further legal issues, estate issues, I have no idea. I'm just a fan who saw an opportunity to get a little closer to the music I love. But fans didn’t get an AAA reissue–not even vinyl sourced from high resolution digital masters. We got some weird down-rez hybrid–ADDA? Whatever. But the point I was making that morning at Capitol was don’t try to merely take advantage of the upswing in vinyl interest and Baby Boomer nostalgia for the quick buck.
So here I am, about to order a couple titles to listen for myself. Probably Abbey Road and Revolver. The White Album, perhaps. Maybe I’ll pick up a couple of the monos when they’re released next year. Heck maybe I’ll even buy the damn Box set. Maybe I’m just being cranky. I was just hoping for so much more.