Beatles Vinyl Gets A New Spin

Dec 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Matt Hurwitz

ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS' SEAN MAGEE BRINGS REMASTERS TO LPs

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photo of The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

Once the sibilant spots were identified and corrected, and levels set, Magee would then make a test cut on a lacquer and listen back, to see if the problems were indeed corrected, or if he had missed any during his first pass through, repeating the process with two or three cuts until he was satisfied.

As most mastering engineers have done, Magee signed his lacquers in the runout groove area, although not with his name. “I etch in a little ‘i . . . i'. That’s the symbol we have around here for Abbey Road, for the zebra crossing outside,” indicating stripes sandwiched between two light poles, at the famous crosswalk.

Magee worked closely with the two factories tasked with pressing the new LPs— Optimal Media in Germany and Rainbo Records in Los Angeles—to assure the highest quality in pressing.

“One of the most important things we watched for was any noise, particularly during quiet parts of the cuts, at the beginning or in the rills,” he notes. “If there was a noise that happened in the same place on more than one test pressing, we would note its location and see if it was on the master itself or not. On the pressing end, it can be caused by a tiny bit of dust that gets in there when they press, or even a problem in galvanics, when the plant creates the metal parts. It can even be a flaw in the lacquer itself. But either way, it was important that these sounded good and clean.”

photo of The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

For fans who wonder what the advantage is of owning The Beatles’ catalog on vinyl, when the CDs contain the same material, one only has to listen. As the late veteran Capitol Studios mastering engineer Wally Traugott once told this author, “The phonograph needle distorts sound in nearly the same manner your ear does when listening to music,” something that digital reproduction simply can’t do.

“That’s right,” agrees Magee. “There’s a mass, a fatness and a chaos that’s heard in analog that you can’t reproduce digitally,” Magee says. “You can try and make it sound great and fat digitally, but it won’t have that noise, the mass of chaos. That’s unique to vinyl.”

Magee also has some advice for those collectors who plan to simply buy the new LP set and tuck it away, still sealed. “Take it out of the box and listen to it,” he says. “Because if you don’t, you’re missing the experience of hearing the remasters of The Beatles’ music in a way that’s clearer and closer to what the actual masters sound like. And you don’t want to miss that.”






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