Thursday, January 20, 2011

1962, November 26: Sources: ASK ME WHY

“ASK ME WHY”

Versions. There is only one version.

Foundational Variations. UPDATE February 3, 2011: A “Foundational Variation” is any preceding base for a released recording which (with some exceptions) has no extra material. For this song, the original twin-track Take 6 is not available for inspection. On the released Stereo recording, it is possible to isolate the guitar, bass, and drums (with bleed) in the Left channel, but this does not constitute a Foundational Variation, only a karaoke opportunity. Thus, we can go no further back than the released mixes.

Variations. There are two Mono mixes.

The first Mono mix, designated Variation 1.0, was created on November 30, 1962, and was originally released on the UK 45, January 11, 1963. This is commonly called the “dry mix” or “single version.” Variation 1.0 also resides on various Vee-Jay releases (more details below).

The second Mono mix, designated Variation 2.0, was done on February 25, 1963, and was first released on the Mono Please Please Me LP. This mix received extra processing which added some modicum of reverberation, and the result is aptly known as the “wet mix.”

There is also only one Stereo mix, but several Variations.

The first Variation, 3.0, is designated to the first (“-1”) lacquer for the UK Please Please Me LP and various other releases. On this lacquer, the Left channel has no deviation.

The second Variation, 3.0.1, is on The Early Beatles Stereo LP, and is a derivative of 3.0. Here, “Ask Me Why” has more reverberation, possibly by use of compression. It basically sounds cavernous, and earns that new Variation.

The third Variation, 3.1, is on the second (“-2”) lacquer for the UK LP. On this Variation, the Left (instrumental) channel has movement (details below). This is a mastering difference worthy, I think, of Variation.

The fourth Variation, 3.2, is the so-called “Dick James Stereo Remix from Rare US Promo.” On this Variation, the Right (vocal) channel is nearly Center. I think this is a mix difference, but I have no further information, including date of creation.

Not Variations.

(1) In testing* “Ask Me Why” on the German Stereo Die Beatles LP, considered to have less processing than all other Stereo Please Please Me pressings (details: here), I heard a tiny (if any!) discrepancy in the reverberation quality on the vocal (Right) channel, but not enough to earn any new Variation.

* I tested using both vinyl (German Please Please Me) and needle-drop FLAC (Die Beatles), performing A-B tests against several other sources, including UK Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), Blue Box Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), MFSL Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), and the 2009 Please Please Me remaster.

(2) Discrepancies in channel loudness generally do not earn any new Variation.

(3) Concerning the “Mono Fold-Down” (Mono-from-Stereo) track on The Early Beatles Mono LP, it’s interesting from the standpoint that it proves this album to be filled with such fold-downs, but it can be replicated by simply summing to Mono while playing the Stereo track, and therefore earns no new Variation.

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AUDIO SOURCES

Sonic Ratings. All recommended sources will receive a subjective sonic rating, either Excellent, Very Good, or Good. This subjective rating is based on various factors, including (1) clarity vs. murkiness, (2) smoothness vs. distortion (including harshness) or peaking, (3) balance vs. over-loud elements (for example, too much emphasis on bass), and (4) comparison to other sources under a particular category (for example, Mono). Any source not given a rating of at least Good will at least be provided explanatory notes (including whether or not I’ve heard that source).

Price Tags. Vinyl sources will include an estimated 2010 price tag in US dollars, taken mainly from completed eBay auctions.

Terminology. "Analog" refers only to vinyl. No tapes were tested.

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MONO

Mix Information. There are two separate Mono mixes.

Mastering Issue. By design, the Mono mixes were light on bass, and therefore I don’t include bass response as part of the Sonic Rating. However, I will note mastering boosts to the low end.

Imbalance. “Ask Me Why” Mono has mastering imbalances of several varieties, differing from source to source. In cases where I was able to test for such imbalance, I provide details.

Terminology. "FLAC signature" and "Channel Duplication Solution" are terms under the subject of imbalance, discussed: here.

End of Song. UPDATE February 2, 2011. During the fade, beginning about 3 seconds after the final guitar chord is strummed, there are two clicks, possibly console switching. The entirety, fade and clicks, lasts between 3.5 and 4 seconds. Ebbetts' UK Singles Collection gives the whole thing. Other sources, such as Introducing the Beatles, the CD 45 and CD LP, fade entirely after the first click. The 2009 Remaster seems to have thwarted the clicks by wizardry.

DRY MIX (Variation 1.0): ANALOG

UK 7-inch 45 (1963-1967)

$50 up

General. There were apparently four pressings of this single (Parlophone R-4983), first on a red label and subsequently on a black label, manufactured until probably 1967. Photos and information: here and here. Lacquer “-1N.” Possibly three mothers.

According to expert Steve Hoffman, on the original master was applied "Altec limiter" compression 2:1, 5000 Hz +4 mid-range boost, filtered 50 Hz bass, and filtered 10,000 Hz top end.

My Source: Dr. Ebbetts’ UK Singles Collection needle-drop FLAC (an exact copy is found on Purple Chick's bootleg Please Please Me Deluxe, disc 1, track 31).

Imbalance. Dr. Ebbetts, none.

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, pending.

Dr Ebbetts, EXCELLENT. Good: Vocals and guitar stand out, as Ebbetts focuses on mid-range. Bad: Gained just a tad high.

US 7-inch 45 (1963)

$150 up (VJ 498)

General. The UK 45 master.

Spizer has at various times noted (for example, in The Beatles Are Coming!: The Birth of Beatlemania in America, p.227) that Vee-Jay Records issued “Ask Me Why” (VJ 498) on February 7, 1963 (not February 25, as often reported), well before the UK Mono LP master was created. Beyond any doubt, therefore, the UK 45 master was the basis for VJ 498.

More information and photos for Vee-Jay masters, mothers, and stampers are: here. More information on Vee-Jay releases and chart: here.

There is an ultra-rare misprint of VJ 498, which displays the band name as “Beattles.” Needless to say, this collector’s item is worth beaucoup bucks.

My Source: Dr. Ebbetts’ US Singles Collection needle-drop FLAC (which claims to have used VJ 498, pictured: here). Under spectrum analysis, this should look similar to (nearly the same as) that on Ebbetts' UK Singles Collection.

Imbalance. None.

Bass Response. A tad more than usual.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: A nice mixture of elements. Bad: A little dull on the high end.

US LP Introducing the Beatles (1964) - Mono, "Version 2"

$100+ (Introducing the Beatles, if genuine)

General. The UK 45 master.

It has been reported that Vee-Jay EP The Beatles - Souvenir of Their US Visit (VJEP 1-903) and the rare promo (details: here) “Anna/Ask Me Why” (Spec. DJ No. 8) both use the dry mix. I’m not sure about the derivative albums (The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons; Songs, Pictures, and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles; Jolly What! The Beatles and Frank Ifield on Stage).

Note that Dr. Ebbetts' "Introducing the Beatles, V.2" does not contain the correct dry mix. I don't know why.

My Source: Vinyl.

Imbalance. Vinyl, untested.

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Full-bodied in the elements. Bad: Gained a bit low. Small issues with speed constancy.

UK 7-inch 45 (1976)

$5-10 single; $110-200 box set



General. This 45 (Parlophone R-4983) was also part of the "Green Sleeve" box set (aka "The Black Box"), released by World Records in 1977. The lacquer ("-2") was cut on a Neumann lathe.

UPDATE February 2, 2011. According to Steve Hoffman, this was a flat transfer (no compression or EQ tampering), and should conceivably be drier than any other source for this Variation. However, unlike the A-side, "Ask Me Why" does not seem to have any significant difference in reverberation in comparison to any other Mono source (for example, Introducing the Beatres).

My Source. Vinyl box set.

Imbalance. Untested.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: About as good as it's gonna get. Bad: Not much.

UK 7-inch 45 (1982)

$5 or so single; $200-250 box set

General. This (Parlophone 45-R-4983) was a 20th-Anniversary issue , and also part of The Beatles Singles Collection (EMI BSCP1), released 1982. This is apparently the third lacquer.

Imbalance. Untested.

Sonic Rating. Pending.

Dry Mix, Analog, Notes

(1) The dry mix is probably on the Capitol of Canada single (catalog number 72090).

(2) There has been no authorized digital dry mix release.

WET MIX (Variation 2.0): ANALOG

UK LP Please Please Me (1963) - Mono

$20-1000.

General. Details for various incarnations of this album are: here.

My Sources:

Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. Ebbetts FLAC hiss: link.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: Good solid mid-range, slightly-textured lows for life. Crisp drums, adequate vocals. Bad: Brighter than most.

Pbthal needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: Similar to Ebbetts, with less gain. Guitar and drums stand out. Bad: A bit dark. Vocals slightly muffled.

Millennium Remasters Red Wax Japan LP needle-drop 320 kbps mp3.

Imbalance. Millennium Remasters mp3 signature: link.

Sonic Rating. I wouldn’t toss it out completely, but it is the most muffled of all sources.

Pbthal Red Wax Japan LP (Toshiba EAS-70130) needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. Just the same as Millennium Remasters.

UK EP All My Loving (1963)

UPDATE February 2, 2011

$5-50, the lower price for the reissue from the vinyl box set

General. This (Parlophone GEP 8891) is also part of The Beatles EP Collection 1981 vinyl box set.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl box set, lacquer -2, mother 1, stamper 4, cut by Harry T. Moss. (2) Pbthal FLAC from vinyl.

Imbalance. Vinyl, unsure. Pbthal, FLAC signature.

The CDEP is reportedly remastered differently (see below).

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, GOOD. Good: Adequate mix of the elements. Bad: Speed constancy issues.

FLAC, GOOD. Good: Adequate. Spectrum analysis show this to be very similar to pbthal UK LP FLAC. Bad: Perhaps a little darker than it needs to be, with the vocals a tad obscured. You might call this “timid.”

Japan LP Beatles No. 5 (1965-1976)

$20 up

General. This LP was first released in 1965 (Odeon OR-7103), reissued in 1967 (Odeon OR-8028) and 1970 (Apple AR-8028), then again in 1976 (Apple EAS 70102).

My Source: Vinyl (EAS 70102).

Imbalance. Untested.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: A better mid-range, resulting in silkier vocals. Good speed. Quiet vinyl. Bad: Not much.

WET MIX (Variation 2.0): DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me (1987)

My Source: CD.

Imbalance. link.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: It's hard to ignore the fine intertwining of the bass and drums here, which seems to have been the goal for this master. Bad: Bright. Collateral damage in some distortion.

CD 45 (1988-89)

General. Also available on The Beatles Singles Collection CD box set (1992).

My Source. CD.

Imbalance. Popping: link.

Sonic Rating. Spectrum analysis shows this to be almost a replica of the CD LP track, but a little louder with boosted high frequencies, causing the drums and guitar to sound especially good, but the vocals pretty bad.

CD EP All My Loving (1992)

General. This is from the CD EP box set, although it can also be found at auction as a separate CD.

My Source. CD box set. Note: Dr. Ebbetts' UK EP Collection (2000 edition) used the CD EP, not vinyl, for this track (checked with Audacity).

Imbalance. None: link.

Bass Response. More than usual.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: Lively mix with standout bass (for a change). Spectrum analysis shows a somewhat elevated higher mid-range, with slightly-cooked low panel. Bad: Not much.

CD Please Please Me - Remaster (2009) - Mono

My Source. FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature. Spectrum analysis of WAV file from CD showed same characteristics as FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: An attempt to massage the bass without muffling the highs is generally achieved. Bad: The mid-range appears to have taken on some of the burden, so that drums and guitar are less in the mix. Thankfully, the highs were not boosted to compensate, and thus the vocals are without distortion. Still, it's tenuous.

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STEREO

Mix Information. The takes were recorded as twin-tracks, two tracks recorded simultaneously, instruments to one side, vocals to the other.

For Stereo mixing, the instrumental side of the twin track was sent hard (wide) to the Left channel, vocals hard to the Right channel, with nothing (except bleed and occasional echo) Center, approximately thus (“I” = instrumental track, “V” = vocals track):

Left _I_________________V_ Right

Deviations from this “benchmark” will be noted below.

Relative Channel Loudness. This is the relation of the Left channel to the Right channel. Each source has its own recipe, affecting the listening experience, especially under headphones.

Relative channel loudness differs from overall loudness. Whereas the former may cause a desire to rebalance the channels (by whatever method), the latter (which I will call “gain”) motivates to adjust the volume knob.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. The deviations to Wide Stereo are limited, those deviations being (1) channel placement (see “Mix Information” above), (2) relative channel loudness (already covered), and (3) equalization. Due to this minimalism, I decided to listen in Mono to determine the sonic rating (this also satisfied any curiosity concerning “how it would sound”). When I double-checked my findings in Stereo, I was pleased that they matched.

Terminology. "Meter" means the Audacity Output Level Meter.

End of Song. UPDATE February 2, 2011. The fade is the same as on Mono. Most sources give only one click, The Early Beatles being a hearty one. But on the 2009 Remaster I think two clicks are audible.

VARIATION 3.0

General. This Variation has a steady Left (instrumental) channel.

UK LP Please Please Me (1963) - Stereo

$50-24,000

General. This Variation apparently applies only to the first (“-1”) lacquer for this particular album.

Details for various incarnations of this album are: here.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl “two-box” label, “2” mother, deep stamper (9th press, ca. 1970). (2) Pbthal “Tube Cut” two-box needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. On both vinyl and FLAC, the channels have good relative loudness.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl and FLAC, VERY GOOD. Good. Drums and vocal stand out. Guitar tinkles along. Bad. Vinyl has light bass, FLAC very light. In fact, the entire cut has a lightweight feel (like linen).

US LP Introducing the Beatles (1964) – Stereo, “Version 2”

$ expensive !

General: Vee-Jay album, catalog SR-1062. This derives from the first UK lacquer, and conforms to the spec for Variation 3.0.

My Source: Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Compared to Blue Box FLAC, the Left channel is somewhat quieter, but the Right (vocal) channel is much louder. It’s not bad.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. VERY GOOD. Good. I’ll give it high marks for guts in swamping with bass, and the dynamics stay pretty natural. Bad. Definitely loses some important harmonics in the process (guitar and drums). Peaks a bit also.

German LP Die Beatles, or Please Please Me (1966-1977) - Stereo

$ 20-100


General. Even though this is the second German lacquer, it derives from the first UK lacquer, and conforms to the spec for this Variation. There is no perceivable difference in reverberation for “Ask Me Why” 3.0 here compared to other sources. Details on the German sources for "Ask Me Why” 3.0 are: here.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl, German Please Please Me (Apple Electrola 1C 062-04219), lacquer “SHZE-117-A2/-B2.” (2) Pbthal Die Beatles needle-drop FLAC. (3) Dr. Ebbetts was used to verify testing.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, compared to Blue Box vinyl, the same. FLAC, about the same as vinyl but gained a little lower. All sound good.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good. Mid-range, the guitar standing out. Bad. Very light on bass.

FLAC, VERY GOOD. Good. Similar to the UK LP. Bad. Light on bass.

Japan (MFSL) LP Please Please Me (1986) - UNSURE

$50 up

General. This release (MFSL 1-101) was also part of a box set (the “Black Box”). It’s hard to say if the Left channel has movement or not, but I don’t think it does.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl, from The Black Box. (2) Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Note that Dr. Ebbetts’ 2008 Upgrade was a remaster, not a needle-drop. I deal with this appropriately.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, compared to Blue Box vinyl, is gained a bit lower. FLAC, compared to Blue Box FLAC, has a louder instrumental channel.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good. Great mid-range. Bad. A bit skinny in the lows.

Ebbetts, GOOD. Good. Adequate, the bass pumped a bit. Bad. Something is missing in terms of sparkle, and spectrum analysis shows such a depression.

Dr. Ebbetts 2008 Upgrade. This is an entirely different animal than Ebbetts' previous MFSL version. It is much like Die Beatles in Relative Channel Loudness and in sonic characteristics. VERY GOOD.

Variation 3.0 Analog, Notes

(1) The Millennium Remasters red wax (320 kbps mp3) is very bright and runs too fast, and will not be reviewed.

VARIATION 3.0: BOOTLEG

Fabulous Sound Labs HDCD Please Please Me

My Source: 320 kbps mp3.

Relative Channel Loudness. Wavelength graph reveals a louder version of the Tube-Cut FLAC, more or less.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. VERY GOOD. Good. Low frequencies and a mounded mid-range makes for an interesting experience. Bad. It’s loud, and the vocals get lost at times.

VARIATION 3.0.1

General. This Variation adds reverberation.

US LP The Early Beatles (1965) – Stereo

$5-10

General: Capitol album, catalog ST-2309. It’s the familiar “American” sound, if you will.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl (orange label; also, Apple label). (2) Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC. (3) The Capitol Versions Vol. 2 FLAC (since this is actually digital, I cheated here).

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, a bit more gain than the Blue Box vinyl. Ebbetts, compared to the Blue Box FLAC, a good 30% louder. The Capitol Versions, even louder than Ebbetts (disqualified from further testing). I am not convinced that Ebbetts did not use the Capitol Versions CD as his foundation.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good. Guitar and drums stand out. Bad. The bass frequencies are softened up, probably by the extra ‘verb.

Ebbetts, VERY GOOD. Good. Close to the vinyl. Bad. It’s pretty loud!

VARIATION 3.1: ANALOG

General. This Variation (not deviation) has “wandering” in the Left (instrumental) channel.

At the start, you can tell that the guitar is a little closer to Center, approximately thus:

Left ____I_______________V_ Right

Then, in the midst of the first lyric (“I love you-woo-woo-woo-woo”), the guitar and (less noticeably) the drums abruptly move back to benchmark wide Stereo. This also occurs on the next line (“and it’s true-woo-woo-woo-woo”). It’s not both channels moving, just the one. This effect is on both the vinyl and FLAC, so it's authentic.

On closer inspection, it is the fault of an inverted channel. In the digital state, through the Audacity program, Variation 3.1 can be rectified back to 3.0 by inverting the Left (instrumental) channel. In case you're wondering, Variation 3.1 can be created, that is, replicated by inverting the Left channel of (for example) the tube-cut UK LP FLAC (3.0).

UK LP Please Please Me (1970-on) – Stereo

$50 up

General. Second lacquer (“-2”) onward uses this Variation.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl UK LP Please Please Me from The Beatles Collection ("Blue Box"), two-box label, -2 lacquer. (2) Dr. Ebbetts “Blue Box” needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, compared to vinyl source for Variation 3.0, has less gain. FLAC, compared to FLAC source for Variation 3.0, has the Left (instrumental) track increased greatly, the Right increased slightly, and the overall gain lowered. This seems to be an unauthorized improvement.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, EXCELLENT. Good. Bass graces us with its presence. Bad. Only the invert.

Ebbetts, VERY GOOD. Good. Nice mix of the elements. Bad. Some luster missing. The invert.

VARIATION 3.1: DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me - Remaster (2009) – Stereo

General. Certainly seems to be this Variation.

My Source. FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Compared to the Blue Box FLAC, both channels gained somewhat more, the Right (vocal) channel more intermittently. Loud, but not obnoxious.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. EXCELLENT. Good. Extra-sharp drums and guitar. Vocals textured, nifty lows. Bad. Instrumental channel is a bit loud, causing some confusion under headphones.

VARIATION 3.2: DICK JAMES REMIX

General. The interest here is channel placement (enough to make it a Variation rather than a deviation), the Left (instrumental) and Right (vocal) channels moved very close to Center, approximately thus:

Left ____I___________V_____ Right

This was accomplished by much bleed into both channels, the vocal more so than the instrumental channel, and thus the greater movement of that Right channel. Of course, such manipulations are hardly exciting if fan-created, but this seems to be authentic.

My Source. Bootleg Rarities 2: We Can Work it Out 320 kbps mp3 (detailed information: here).

Relative Channel Loudness. Not relevant.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. GOOD. Good. Passable master, the promo likely deriving from the first mother. Drums have bop. Bad. Bass is low. Vocals are somewhat ragged.

OUTFAKE

General. An "outfake" is a fan-created mix or recording.

Bootleg, Dr. Ebbetts' Please Please Me "Stereo Remix"

Dr. Ebbetts worked a “Stereo Remix” (details: here), with the Right (vocal) channel very close to Center, approximately thus:

Left _I__________V_______ Right

This was accomplished by mixing the vocal channel into the instrumental channel. In addition, low frequencies were mixed into the vocal channel to give the impression that Paul’s bass is somewhat Center as well. As if that weren’t enough, acoustic guitar is often heard in the Right channel. It’s a mixed bag, as the vocal wanders from Left-of-Center to Right-Center (sometimes beyond), and the bass can’t find it’s bearings.

Naturally, being unauthorized, this is not a Variation.

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MONO FOLD-DOWN: ANALOG & DIGITAL

The 1965 Mono LP The Early Beatles (Capitol T 2309) used a Mono-from-Stereo fold-down, as did the 2006 CD set, The Capitol Albums, Volume 2. This “mix” is not collectible nor a Variation, as you can “make” it yourself by pushing the “Mono” button on your amplifier. For a few more details on the original album, go: here.

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VIDEO SOURCES

None.

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Tom Wise
gengar843@msn.com

Although I use quotes from sources, or cited fact, much of the material on this and other pages of my blog is original, from my own pen. This is not cut-and-paste, it is a work of art. Copyright © 2010-11 Tom Wise.

2 comments:

  1. So no CD for the original "Please Please Me"?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not on CD, as far as I know.
    If you have any further information, please let me know!

    ReplyDelete