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 1: "I Saw Her Standing There" ("Please Please Me," 1963)

We started with the rousing opener to the Beatles' first album, with the new version first, which prompted Rodriguez to call the bass "boomy" and Buskin to say, "It sounded very flat to me," though Purse countered, "I was thinking, wow, this sounds really good."

I played the old one next, which was brighter and had less bass. "That sounded thinner to me," Buskin said.

"George sounded like he was in the next room," Purse said in reference to Harrison's guitar playing.

Finally came the Mobile Fidelity version, which also boasted more high end than the new one and offered more dimension and punch than the old one.

"It's the fullest sounding, the best balance," Buskin said.

"Everything was well-defined," Rodriguez said.

But Shanoff said he thought the first one had the best mix of the three. "George's solo with the first one gave me chills, and that's the only one that did," he said.

WINNER: Mobile Fidelity.

Round 2: "Here Comes the Sun" ("Abbey Road," 1969)

George Harrison's shimmering opener to my favorite side of music ever (Side 2 of "Abbey Road") came next, with its glistening acoustic playing, Moog synthesizer accents and prominent McCartney bass line. I played the old version first, and Purse and Shanoff thought it sounded the way it always has sounded, while Buskin deemed it "a bit muted," and Alexander considered the synth wash to be a bit washed out.

The new one, played second, received better feedback, with Purse calling it "punchier" and Buskin praising the "fuller sound" and overall balance.

"It sounded like a curtain had been removed," Soloway said.

Shanoff said it lacked "the clarity of the '09 master," which is funny given that this was the '09 master.

Last came the Mobile Fidelity one.

"This is like the first way I ever heard it," Rodriguez said.

Buskin said it had "better separation of the instruments, but where was the kick drum? The bass sounded the least overpowering, but it had less guts."

"I kind of liked the third one the best of the three," Alexander said.

But after I played the new one again, it got Shanoff's and Buskin's votes.


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