For years the most anticipated vinyl reissues have been from the one, the only Beatles catalog. Finally, after a delay due to the meticulousness of the remastering process and assorted other hurdles, that day has come.
For its Beatles' Stereo Albums series on LP, Capitol/Apple turned to a crack team of engineers to remaster the entire studio catalog from the original sources. The team, including Guy Massey, Steve Rooke and Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee undertook a four-year restoration process for the LP versions, combining state-of-the-art equipment, vintage studio gear and rigorous testing to meet the highest fidelity standards and produce authentic unsurpassed sound rivaling the original LPs. There is no longer any need to pay hundreds of dollars for Japanese pressings!
The soundtrack to the Beatles' animated film of the same name, Yellow Submarine presents four new Beatles tracks recorded between 1967 and early 1968. In addition, George Martin's score for the film rounds out the effort. While not considered a "proper" album, Yellow Submarine contains many memorable moments-George Harrison's psychedelic "Only a Northern Song," peppered with organ and candid sentiments, and "It's All Too Much," carried on the shoulders of a mesmerizing Mellotron, gigantic percussion, and titanic guitar feedback.
Extensive testing was done before engineers copied the analog master tapes into digital files using 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and a Prism A-D converter. Dust build-ups were removed from tape machine heads after the completion of each title. Artifacts such as electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and poor edits were improved upon as long as they were judged not to damage the integrity of the songs. The 24/192 transfers were done to produce an archival copy of the tapes and then those files were reduced to 24/44.1 kHz files for final mastering. De-noising technology was applied in only a few necessary spots and on a sum total of less than five of the entire 525 minutes of Beatles music. Compression was used sparingly and only on the stereo versions to preserve the sanctity of the dynamics.
The digital files were cut to lacquers at Abbey Road Studios. Engineer Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that were required for CD production. It was decided to use the remasters that had not undergone "limiting," a procedure to increase the sound level.
Steps to eliminate vocal distortions and inner-groove distortions were addressed. The latter can affect high-middle frequencies, producing a "mushy" sound noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as "surgical EQ," problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.
Lastly, the first batches of test pressings made from the master lacquers that had been sent to two pressing plants were judged. Records with any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place were rejected, on the grounds that undesired sound had been introduced either during the cutting or pressing stage. The remasters have the absolute best sound quality, producing the quietest vinyl lacquers.
For producer Rick Rubin, The Beatles' recorded achievements are akin to a miracle. The most popular bands in the world today typically produce an album every four years, Rubin told a 2009 radio audience. That's two albums as an eight-year cycle. "And think of the growth or change between those two albums. The idea that The Beatles made thirteen albums in seven years and went through that arc of change ... it can't be done. Truthfully, I think of it as proof of God, because it's beyond man's ability."