180 Gram Virgin Vinyl - Mastered by Shaun McGee at Abbey Road
Comprised of material each member wrote on acoustic guitars while on a spiritual retreat in India, The Beatles—most commonly known as The White Album—remains the band’s most expansive, and, for multiple reasons, famous record. While its double-album sprawl suggests indulgence, there are few (if any) missteps. It stands as the group’s last one-for-all, all-for-one effort, even if most of the songs double as solo material given the singing by individual members on many of the tracks. Forty-plus years on, it’s impossible not to love what’s here. And now, with this 2LP pressing, you’ll worship it.
Part of Capitol/Apple’s quintessential Beatles catalog masters series on LP, The Beatles has been remastered by a dedicated team of engineers that includes Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, and Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee. Proper care and a painstaking series of steps were taken to ensure that music lovers would hear the Fab Four in all their glory with unprecedented clarity and transparency.
Stepping back to the more basic production techniques of its earlier albums in order to distance themselves from the myriad imitators, the Beatles drop the psychedelic effects and focus on the tunes. Not that further recording-studio advancements don’t assist the band in making history. With the arrival of 3M eight-track machines, front skin removed from Ringo’s bass drums, and tea towels placed on the other drums, the sound is deadened and thickened, characteristics that are transparent on this stellar pressing.
So is the group’s shift towards American gear, namely, three Fender basses, which prominently figure into the mix. For the first time, fans can also fully detect the slight increase in room ambience, the intentional leakage that contributes to the sense of space, and the chorusing treatments on “Yer Blues” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (hello, Eric Clapton), songs that mirror the Beatles’ decision to tone down phasing atmospherics. And dig George Martin’s honky-tonk piano on “Rocky Raccoon,” a percussive addition that’s the only half-speed recording on this album. And what sound.
With EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studios providing the backdrop, the four-year restoration process combined veteran expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, vintage studio gear, and rigorous testing to net what is without doubt the highest fidelity possible and authentic, jaw-dropping sound guaranteed to rival the original LPs. There is no longer any need to pay hundreds of dollars for Japanese pressings.
At the start of the restoration process, engineers conducted extensive tests before copying the analog master tapes into the digital realm 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 it was determined that doing so didn’t at all damage the integrity of the songs. Similarly, 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.
In cutting the digital masters to vinyl, stringent safeguards and procedures were employed. After cutting to lacquer, determined to be warmer and consistent than cutting to DMM, the next step was to use the Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe at Abbey Road. Following thorough mechanical and electrical tests to ensure it was operating in peak condition, 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 also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone ‘limiting,' a procedure to increase the sound level.
Having made initial test cuts, Magee pinpointed any sound problems that can occur during playback of vinyl records. To rectify them, changes were made to the remasters with a Digital Audio Workstation. For example, each vinyl album was listened to for any ‘sibilant episodes.' vocal distortion that can occur on consonant sounds such as S and T. These were corrected by reducing the level in the very small portion of sound causing the undesired effect.
Similarly, any likelihood of inner-groove distortion was addressed. As the stylus approaches the center of the record, it is liable to track the groove less accurately. This can affect the high-middle frequencies, producing a ‘mushy’ sound particularly noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as ‘surgical EQ,’ problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.
The last phase of the vinyl mastering process began with the arrival of the first batches of test pressings made from master lacquers that had been sent to the two pressing plant factories. Stringent quality tests identified any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place. If this happened, it was clear that the undesired sounds had been introduced either during the cutting or the pressing stage and so the test records were rejected. In the quest to achieve the highest quality possible, the Abbey Road team worked closely with the pressing factories and the manufacturers of the lacquer and cutting styli.
For this project, there was no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. Yes, it took a village to get it right.
The Beatles The White Album Track Listing:
1. Back in the U.S.S.R
2. Dear Prudence
3. Glass Onion
4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
5. Wild Honey Pie
6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
9. Martha My Dear
10. I'm So Tired
13. Rocky Raccoon
14. Don't Pass Me By
15. Why Don't We Do It In The Road
16. I Will
19. Yer Blues
20. Mother Nature's Son
21. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
22. Sexy Sadie
23. Helter Skelter
24. Long Long Long
25. Revolution 1
26. Honey Pie
27. Savoy Truffle
28. Cry Baby Cry