by Joyce Greenholdt
A team of engineers at EMI Music’s Abbey Road Studios in London have spent more than four years digitally remastering The Beatles’ original catalog for the first time. The results will be released by Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI on individual CDs and CD box sets Sept. 9, simultaneously with “The Beatles: Rock Band” video game.
According to EMI, the engineers used state-of-the-art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment to maintain the integrity of the original analog recordings. “The result of this painstaking process is the highest fidelity the catalog has seen since its original release,” a company spokesman said.
The remastering process started with an extensive testing period before the analog master tapes were copied to digital format. The digital transfer used a high-resolution format: 24 bit, 192 kHz — standard CDs use 16-bit, 44.1 kHz (for more information about digital formats, see the High Fidelity column in this issue). The transfer was done one track at a time, allowing technicians to clean dust from the tape-machine heads between each title.
Once all the albums had been transferred, each song was played several times to locate imperfections that the team planned to address using audio restoration methods. The restoration engineers decided that electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance and bad edits should be removed or improved where possible, as long as it did not undercut the songs’ original integrity. In addition, de-noising technology was used sparingly. Less than five minutes of the 525 minutes of music underwent this process. As a final step, overall limiting — to increase the CDs’ volume level — was used on the stereo versions only and in moderation, to retain the recordings’ original dynamics.
The earliest vinyl pressings and the existing CDs were both used for comparisons with the original master tapes during the equalization process as each album was mastered. Once an album was completed it was “auditioned” the following day in the studio and sent back to the mastering room if additional EQ changes were needed. Other team members listened to each new remaster in yet another location, until all the albums in the catalog were completed to the entire team’s satisfaction.
The remastered stereo albums will be released on 14 individual CDs:
- Please Please Me
- With The Beatles
- A Hard Day’s Night
- Beatles For Sale
- Rubber Soul
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Magical Mystery Tour
- The Beatles
- Yellow Submarine
- Abbey Road
- Let It Be
- Past Masters (Vols. I and II combined on a single disc)
Each CD replicates the original U.K. album art and track listings and contains expanded booklets containing original liner notes along with new material and rare photos. For a limited time, each CD will also include a brief documentary film about the album. All 14 albums will also be available in a stereo box set, along with a DVD collection of the documentaries.
A second box set aimed at collectors, The Beatles In Mono, gathers all of The Beatles’ recordings that were mixed for mono release. It will contain 10 of the albums with their original mono mixes, plus two additional discs of mono masters. As a bonus, the mono Help! and Rubber Soul discs also include the original 1965 stereo mixes, which have not previously been released on CD. The albums will be packaged in mini-vinyl CD replicas of the original sleeves, including replicas of all original inserts and label designs.
No announcement has been made as yet regarding digital distribution of the catalog.
by Joyce Greenholdt