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Buyer's guide to the latest Beatles remasters

Buyer’s guide to the latest Beatles remasters — What you should know if you’re thinking of upgrading

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1. THEY’RE COST-EFFECTIVE (SERIOUSLY!)
Yes, you’ll shell out upwards of $200 for the stereo boxed set, which includes remasters of 14 albums. But that works out to around $15 a pop. (The limited-edition mono set — which includes 11 albums — costs more.) And you’ve been saving up since the crapola previous editions came out 22 years ago…right?

2. NOT JUST FOR AUDIOPHILES
Will the iPod generation even recognize a sonic upgrade when listening through $20 earbuds? Absolutely, even if they’re tin-eared and rocking a Zune on a busy airfield. A trickier question is whether audiophiles will approve of the new sound, since the stereo remasters employ compression, which makes CDs louder but sacrifices dynamics. Somehow, though, these discs achieve both volume and subtlety.

3. PRETTY PACKAGING
The glossy stereo sets have nice (if controversy-avoidant) liner notes, abundant photos, and quickie video documentaries. And the mono set’s lovingly exact duplication of original LP packaging will thrill the true buffs.

4. STEREO OR MONO?
Arguing over whether ”Paperback Writer” and Sgt. Pepper improve in mono is a great time-waster. (Yes and no, respectively, by the way.) Prepare to spend days on the Web looking up minuscule stereo-/mono-mix differences. Sure, only anal-retentives could care that ”Help!” has different mono and stereo vocal tracks, or that different ”Piggies” have different pig snorts. But the Beatles’ catalog has a way of turning everyone anal-retentive.