Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mono vs. Stereo - #182

Mono vs. Stereo

I'm not enough of a Beatles fan to shell out for the Mono box set that came along recently. But I did buy myself the "Mono Remasters" stand-alone triple LP, as it claims on the sticker, that it is a mono release only, with no digital input whatsoever. Sorry, forgot to mention, I'm talking about the vinyl releases. I still have to listen to the aforementioned LP, but I did realise, that I know close to nothing about mono playback. My set-up was always stereo, but I've been reading a few forums with this topic recently and I'm surprised at the level some enthusiasts will go to have a hardcore mono sound.

Apparently, forget about your stereo with two speakers. If you're serious about it, then you need a mono cartridge with the proper needle on your turntable, a mono block amplifier and one speaker only (not even for "fattening" the sound, would you use two of them). Everything else will not do. Some seem to use a cheap solution by connecting everything with a y-cable, but this is like watching a 50's black and white flick that's been handcoloured. Of course, the erstwhile chain of equipment will set you back a couple of thousand EUROs, just for the pleasure to listen to this stuff the way it was intented. I don't think there's a lot more in the way of mono recordings to be found in an average collection.

A good mono block amplifier (and you need two of them if you want to go back to stereo every now and then) will empty your pocket to the tune of a couple of thousand EUROs (per unit). So, there you are! Plus, a good mono cartridge, so I'm being told, is another 1'000 EUROs of your family income. Assuming that the turntable itself, the cables and the one loudspeaker required are already in place, you're done. That might be overdoing it a bit, but it seems to be very worthwhile. I'm afraid, I'll have to do with my stereo set-up, but reading all about the depth one can go to, in the search for the best imaginary sound, is fun in itself.

Some of these Beatles releases were actually made with the mono set-up in mind and the real fiddling seems to have been on these. The stereo versions were later mixed with no involvement of the band. If I got everything in the correct order, those LPs are not folded down mono versions, but are the real McCoy. The last chronologically regular albums by the Beatles were released in stereo only.

The funny thing is, around 50 years after the fact, the world is still talking about the Beatles and getting hysterical at the same time. Even I'm doing it, with no Beatles collection to speak of. One thing is certain, the Beatles catalogue is being milked and there are, for at least some time to come, always takers that will shell out for recycled stuff. And it comes at a premium price. I can't remember when a box set, broken down to single LPs (including the book) had that kind of price tagged to it. This is expensive stuff, but I should think, the Beatles fan of yesteryear has come into money by now and can well afford the asking prices. It might have been rebellion 50 odd years ago, it's now your chair at the fireside with some 25 year old cognac sniffing and "Love Me Do" playing in the background. You earned your place, enjoy it.



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