The ultimate Beatles sound test

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Tribune reporter Mark Caro meet with fellow Beatles fans to discuss their opinions on three different vinyl editions from the famed British band. The group congregated at Audio Consultants in Evanston on Nov. 7, 2012. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

Round 3: "Norwegian Wood" ("Rubber Soul," 1965)

It's worth noting that the new records of "Help!" and "Rubber Soul" use the remixes that producer George Martin prepared for the 1987 CDs, not the primitive stereo mix on those earlier records and the Mobile Fidelity version. Mobile Fidelity was played first here, and Purse declared, "That was like being in the room."

But Buskin declared the vocal "muted," Shanoff considered the mix "too separated," and Alexander called the sound "a little too clean."

Then came the new one, which was notably louder, with more bass. Rodriguez and Buskin preferred it to the first one, though Buskin felt the sitar "disappeared." Purse opted for the first one, saying it "sounded different than what I've experienced, but I liked it a lot."

Last came the old one, which was like the just-right porridge for most of these Goldilockses.

Rodriguez: "This is it."

Buskin: "This is the best one. Everything about this is better."

Alexander: "The sitar sounds just right."

Soloway: "There was only one where I felt involved, and that was the third one."

"This is the new one, I think," Shanoff said. "It's gotta be."

Actually, guys, it's the old one.

The news floored our panel.

"There's no consistency," Buskin marveled.


Round 4: "Tomorrow Never Knows" ("Revolver," 1966)

Lennon's psychedelic album-ending game-changer deserves the volume-goes-to-11 treatment no matter the stereo system, with Starr's propulsive drumming powering a sound-effects-laden drone. I played the old one first, and Buskin complained about the "dry sound" and inferior stereo imagining, and Rodriguez noted that "Ringo didn't feel as present in this as I'm used to."

Next came the Mobile Fidelity version, which featured a crisper tambourine and, said Rodriguez, "more wash of the ride cymbal, but the bass drum was not there. We're not there yet."

Finally came the new one, which boasted the best bass sound yet.

"That's the one I wanted to hear," Buskin said. "The whole thing came to life."

"I liked that one best for sure," agreed Rodriguez.

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