Abbey Road Super Deluxe Edition at 96kHz/24bit Sounds Fresh and New
Fifty years ago, The Beatles returned to EMI Recording Studios (later renamed Abbey Road) and made their last album together. ‘Let it Be’ was actually their last album but it wasn’t recorded as a band. Originally released on September 26, 1969, this release has been remixed and presented in a box set, with alternate cuts, demo recordings, a new 96kHz/24bit mastering along with 5.1 channel and Dolby Atmos mixes. There is a vinyl release as well but for this review I am focused on the Digital Release which contains 3CD and a Blu-ray. George Martin’s son Giles takes over the reins as producer and Grammy and Emmy award winner Sam Okell engineered this re-issue.
I own the 2009 44.1kHz/24bit remastering so I will use this version for comparison to the Stereo 96kHz/24bit “super deluxe” release. This 2009 version was remastered by Guy Massey and Steve Rooke, engineered by Geoff Emerick and Phillip McDonald and overseen by the original producer “Sir” George Martin along with Chris Thomas.
The first thing that literally jumps out at me during a comparison is the pronounced drum levels on the 2009 release. Some tracks are almost jarring to listen too. I could imagine Ringo sneaking into the studio in the middle of the night cranking up the drum levels as any good mod would do.
I compared the more upfront drums on “The End”; that drum heavy riff after “Carry that Weight”. I suspected that if any track would sound better on the 2009 release that would. I WAS WRONG. The new (2019) version is a tighter instrumental display with better imaging and a wider sound stage that is much less fatiguing and more enjoyable.
I next noticed that on most tracks on the 2009 release the engineer would bring forward what seemed to be the predominant instrument on any track or passage. That twangy guitar intro at the beginning of “Octopus’s Garden” slams your head back and tends to drown out the layered background guitars throughout the song.
Track after track the new 2019 release is superior in almost every way. The new release presents the album as a loving tribute to a band that defined their time and can teach today’s kids a thing or two. Instruments, harmony and lead vocals are presented with clean distinct placement within the sound stage with levels set at near perfection.
Now for the alternate versions. I normally hate this part of an album’s re-issue. The track wasn’t good enough to make it on the original so slap it on a re-issue to make it easier to convince us to buy yet another version of the same album. While some of the tracks can be skipped I was pleasantly (shockingly) surprised how much I enjoyed some of these gems. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window (Take 27)” is a must listen. I also found myself grinning while listening to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Take 12)” as Paul directed/collaborated with Ringo through the opening drum lines.
I know we have all been here before. That 10 year old CD that you haven’t played for years still works, but this new box set looks so tempting. I’d say if money isn’t an issue and you love the Beatles as I do then take a stroll back across…..(I’m not going to say it). Enjoy.
This Review was conducted using JRiver Software played through a Cary Audio DAC.