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)

"The first one was too scrunched together," Soloway said. "The second one was dull. I've always loved Ringo's drumming on that track, and (on) the third one it was there."

The minority opinion came from Alexander, who correctly identified the third one as having come from the 2009 mixes. "The problem I have with the 2009 one is it sounds too clean," he said. "I liked the second one best."


Round 5: "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" ("The Beatles" aka The White Album, 1968)

Lennon's sinister, scene-shifting closer to the White Album's first side presents a wide range of dynamics, but they felt lacking in the new version, which sounded almost as if there was a pillow over the speakers.

"I immediately think this is the 2009 mix," said Alexander, demonstrating why he is the Professor Moptop. "It sounds too clean."

Rodriguez and Buskin used the word "veiled" to describe it, and Purse observed, "It felt like all of the harsh edges had been sanded off."

"No juice," concluded Soloway.

The second version was the old one, and as the more prominent vocals kicked in, Buskin declared, "That's more like it."

"Yeah," Shanoff said, air drumming. "It's night and day is what it is."

"This had the edge I was missing on the other one," Purse said.

The third version, from Mobile Fidelity, sounded more muted than the second one, "like somebody put a curtain in front of the band," Purse said.

But Alexander preferred this version. "I liked the fact that it sounded even," he said.

"The second one felt the best because it sounded like what I remember," Soloway said.

That made sense because the second one is what he remembers, but again the panel was surprised to have found the old version superior to the new one.

"It's like they've regressed," Buskin said.


Round 6: "All My Loving" ("With the Beatles," 1963)

This early chiming McCartney song presented an instructive exercise in matching memory to reality. In all three versions the listeners were lamenting that McCartney's bass line was buried, but that's how it sounds in the version we've heard hundreds of times. Bass guitar wasn't being recorded back then as it was a few years later on "Revolver."

"That jumps because it has a very toppy sound," Baskin said of the first version, the very bright old one.

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