Wednesday, March 9, 2011

1963, February 25: Sources: A TASTE OF HONEY

“A TASTE OF HONEY”

Versions. There is only one version.

Foundational Variations. A “Foundational Variation” is any preceding base for a released recording which (with some exceptions) has no extra material. For this song, the true Foundational Variation was Take 5 (the “best” twin-track), which is unavailable. The next Foundational Variation, Take 6, was the first backing vocal overdub, and this is Variation 1.0. The next Foundational Variation, Take 7, was the second and final backing vocal overdub, and this is Variation 2.0. On the released Stereo recording, it is possible to isolate the instruments (with bleed) in or near the Left channel, but this does not constitute a Foundational Variation, only a karaoke opportunity. This is as far back as we can go.

Variations. Since Take 6 is Variation 1.0, and Take 7 is Variation 2.0, we begin in this section with 3.0.

There is only one Mono mix, designated Variation 3.0.

There is only one Stereo mix, but there are two Variations (and at least one “deviation”).

The first Variation, 4.0, is designated to all Stereo releases for “A Taste of Honey” except one.

The second Variation, 4.0.1, is a derivative of 4.0. On The Early Beatles Stereo LP, “A Taste of Honey” has a bit more reverberation than on the Please Please Me album, and earns a new Variation.

Not Variations.

(1) In testing* “A Taste of Honey” 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) Any small differences in Stereo image positioning will not be designated as new Variations, but as deviations. Naturally, judgment has been used to differ between Variation and deviation.

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

(4) 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 2011 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

Imbalance. “A Taste of Honey” in 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.

Clunk. About four seconds after the final chord is struck on guitar, there is a sound approximately like a bottle hitting another object. This is clearly audible in Stereo and barely (if at all) in Mono. It was removed from the 2009 Mono and Stereo Remasters.

End of Song. “A Taste of Honey” Mono fades about the same on each source, the 2009 Mono Remaster perhaps a trifle longer.

Note that Dr. Ebbetts’ Please Please Me FLAC ended with a couple of squeaks (tape capstan?) after the fade. This is not repeated on any other source.

VARIATION 1.0: 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. GOOD. Good: Vocals in front, drum-guitar nicely behind. Bad: Typically bright and peaky, with vocals a bit low and thin bass.

Pbthal needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. GOOD. Good: Very close to Ebbetts except the guitar is a little more aggressive than the drums here. Bad: Kind of bulgy in the highs, and still a meager bass.

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

Imbalance. Millennium Remasters mp3 signature: link.

Sonic Rating. GOOD. Good: Vocals and guitar fight it out for superiority, drums and bass fending for leftovers. Bad: Squashed and molded, the vocals a tad lost.

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

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. GOOD. Good: About the same as Millennium Remasters. Bad: I think the bass is little less prominent here.

US LP Introducing the Beatles, et. al. (1963) - Mono

$100+ (Introducing the Beatles, if genuine)

General. I did not test “A Taste of Honey” on any other Vee-Jay album, but I assume they use the same master as Introducing the Beatles.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl. (2) Dr. Ebbetts’ needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. Vinyl, no. Dr. Ebbetts, none.

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Fuller. Bad: Dynamics a tad cramped.

Ebbetts, a disappointment as it concerns the high end.

UK EP Twist and Shout (1963)

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

General. This (Parlophone GEP 8882) is also part of The Beatles EP Collection 1981 vinyl box set.

My Source: Vinyl box set, “-1N” lacquer.

Imbalance. Untested.

Sonic Rating. Drums make a move, but it’s peaky and a little bright. It’s just trying too hard.

Mono, Analog, Notes

(1) The Mexican EP (EPEM 10039) is about the same as any other bright source, but it’s greatly imbalanced as well.

VARIATION 1.0: DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me (1987)

My Source. CD.

Imbalance. link.

Sonic Rating. GOOD. Good: Looks and sounds much like Ebbetts. Bad: Bright vocal, weak bass.

CD EP Twist and Shout (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.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: A little bolder than most, with some mighty aggressive lows which shine on the growling rhythm guitar, also apparent on bass. Good blend. Bad: Spectral analysis doesn’t show much difference from the LP (but hearing is believing).

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: Guitar is the winner, but moderate bass floats well. Fairly delightful. Bad: Slight peaking.

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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 (“I” in the diagram below) was sent hard (wide) to the Left channel, while vocals (“V” in the diagram below) were sent hard to the Right channel. Rhythm guitar (“R” in the diagram below) bleeds into the Right channel, causing it to seem Left-Center. It sounds approximately thus:

Left _I___R_____________V_ Right

Stereo Image Deviations. There is at least one deviation known which I think does not approach the status of Variation:

(1) The Beatles Box (“crate”), approximately thus:

Left __I__R__________V____ Right

Relative Channel Loudness. Rather than comparative descriptions, I will be assigning a number (from 1 to 10) for each channel, subjectively measuring the amplitude. For digital media, this is based on the waveform in Audacity. For analog media, this is based on channel LED indicators. Note that numbers assigned to analog media do not correlate to digital media. Neither are the numbers perfect, but are approximations. The reader is advised to run similar tests, and make necessary correlations, according to the gear.

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

Fake-Outs. There is at least one digital production for “A Taste of Honey” in Stereo which is not the same as its vinyl counterparts, and I consider it to be an intentional fake: (1) a particular circulating mp3 for The Beatles Box (“crate”).

End of Song. About the same as Mono.

VARIATION 2.0

UK LP Please Please Me (1963) - Stereo

$50-24,000

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

My Sources:

UK LP, Two-box label, "-1" lacquer.

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

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 2, Right 3. FLAC, Left 2, Right 4.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: It’s a nice blend. Bad: It’s not perfect, missing some air, especially on the vocals.

Pbthal, GOOD. Good: Close to the vinyl. Bad: A hair thinner, just enough to drop the rating.

UK LP from The Beatles Collection ("Blue Box"), "-2" lacquer.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl. (2) Dr. Ebbetts’ needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 1, Right 2. FLAC, Left 5, Right 5.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Similar to the first lacquer, with a little more bass. Bad: Vocals again the culprit, being slightly hidden.

Ebbetts, GOOD. Good: Close to the vinyl, but drums a little more aggressive. Bad: Padded, probably due to adjusted channel loudness, noticeable in the erratic Stereo image.

US LP Introducing the Beatles (1963) – Stereo

$ expensive !

General: Vee-Jay album, catalog SR-1062.

My Source: Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 4, Right 6.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. VERY GOOD. Good: The drums are ahead of the vocals, which would cause you to think it bright, but the bass keeps pace. Very clear. Bad: Hey, the vocals are not quite there.

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

$ 20-100

General. There is no perceivable difference in reverberation for “A Taste of Honey” 4.0 here compared to other sources. Details on the German sources for “A Taste of Honey” 4.0 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, Left 1.5, Right 2. FLAC, Left 3, Right 4.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good. Drums and guitar that fight with each other but not with the sweet vocal mix. Bad. Bass frequencies suffer, but not enough to squish it.

Pbthal, VERY GOOD. Good. Not really comparable to the vinyl, but a better master than pbthal’s Tube-Cut FLAC. Bad. Still thin at the bass level.

Japan (MFSL) LP Please Please Me (1986)

$50 up

General. This release (MFSL 1-101) was also part of a box set (the “Black Box”).

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, Left 1, Right 2. FLAC, Left 6, Right 6.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, EXCELLENT. Good: Very nice blend of the instrumental track mixed with a superior vocal mix. Bad: Not much.

Ebbetts, VERY GOOD. Good: Warm. Bad: Close but no cigar, drums a little overpowering.

Dr. Ebbetts 2008 Upgrade. Sibilant and bright.

UK 8-LP The Beatles Box (1980)

$50 or so (a bargain!)

General. This is “The Crate” (its nickname), issued by World Records (SM 701/8), EMI’s mail order division.

My Source. UK Vinyl, first lacquer, cut by Harry T. Moss.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 1, Right 2.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. VERY GOOD. Good: Deviation in Stereo image provides a different perspective in EQ, with guitar and drums before vocal. Bad: Though Stereo sound was superior, Mono summing was mediocre. Bass light.

Fake-out. A certain circulating mp3 has the channels reversed.

Variation 2.0 Analog, Notes

(1) The Millennium Remasters red wax runs fast and is very bright.

VARIATION 2.0: DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me - Remaster (2009) – Stereo

My Source. FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 7, Right 6.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. VERY GOOD. Good. Drums and vocal are the leaders, guitar and bass hooking up on the back end. Bad. A bit loud.

VARIATION 2.0: BOOTLEG

Fabulous Sound Labs HDCD Please Please Me

My Source: 320 kbps mp3.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 8, Right 9.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Some sibilance and somewhat loud.

VARIATION 2.0.1

General. This Variation adds some 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, Left 1.5, Right 2. Ebbetts, Left 8, Right 8. 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. Above average, with slight cave sound on the vocal-drum focus. Bad. Vocals a bit muddied by the reverb.

Ebbetts, very loud.

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 heavy instrumentation Left (“I” in the diagram below), vocals Center (“V” in the diagram below), light (actually, more like bleed) instrumentation Right (“R” in the diagram below), approximately thus:

Left _I________V________ Right

This is not bad at all.

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 © 2011 Tom Wise.

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