The first Beatles album to feature all-original material, A Hard Day’s Night affirmed the band’s top-of-the-world-ma status and served as the soundtrack to the film of the same name, a movie that, like the album, helped change the world. Galvanized by the arrival of new gear and methods in the recording studio, the Beatles went for broke and came up aces. This superb LP pressing allows you to hear the magic in stereo like never before.
Part of Capitol/Apple’s quintessential Beatles catalog masters series on LP, A Hard Day’s Night has been remastered by a dedicated team of engineers that includes Guy Massey, Steve Rooke, Sam Okell with Paul Hicks and Sean Magee. Proper care and a painstaking series of steps were taken to ensure that music lovers would hear the Fab Four in all their stereo glory with unprecedented clarity and transparency.
With the addition of a REDD.51 mixing console at their disposal at Abbey Road, a device that increased the level of communication between producer, engineer, and band, the Beatles upped the ante not only in memorable songwriting and joyous emotion, but definitive sonics. And so now you can almost feel the repeat echo on the title track, a cue that regenerates delay and adds to the tune’s spaciousness. Similarly, the harmonica shiver on “I Should’ve Known Better” rings out with amazing purity and expansive reach.
Most significantly, the LP frames the fairly crisp top-end sound of Ringo’s drums. Throughout, his strict orders to hit the snare solidly in the middle (and not on the rims) unfold in the form of involving rhythmic beats that now seem as if they’re happening right in front of you. As for the unique 12-string jangle created by George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 360-12 12-string guitar, employed for the first time on this 1964 effort? It positively sweeps over the soundstage, preceding the likes of the Byrds. And those voices. Mesmerizing. Here’s also why you need this analog pressing:
With EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studios providing the backdrop, the four-year restoration process combined veteran expertise, state-of-the-art equipment, vintage studio gear, and rigorous testing to net what is without doubt the highest fidelity possible and authentic, jaw-dropping sound guaranteed to rival the original LPs. There is no longer any need to pay hundreds of dollars for Japanese pressings.
At the start of the restoration process, engineers conducted extensive tests before copying the analog master tapes into the digital realm using 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and a Prism A-D converter. Dust build-ups were removed from tape machine heads after the completion of each title. Artifacts such as electrical clicks, microphone vocal pops, excessive sibilance, and poor edits were improved upon as long as it was determined that doing so didn’t at all damage the integrity of the songs. Similarly, de-noising technology was applied in only a few necessary spots and on a sum total of less than five of the entire 525 minutes of Beatles music.
In cutting the digital masters to vinyl, stringent safeguards and procedures were employed. After cutting to lacquer, determined to be warmer and consistent than cutting to DMM, the next step was to use the Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe at Abbey Road. Following thorough mechanical and electrical tests to ensure it was operating in peak condition, engineer Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that were required for CD production. It was also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone ‘limiting,' a procedure to increase the sound level.
Having made initial test cuts, Magee pinpointed any sound problems that can occur during playback of vinyl records. To rectify them, changes were made to the remasters with a Digital Audio Workstation. For example, each vinyl album was listened to for any ‘sibilant episodes.' vocal distortion that can occur on consonant sounds such as S and T. These were corrected by reducing the level in the very small portion of sound causing the undesired effect.
Similarly, any likelihood of inner-groove distortion was addressed. As the stylus approaches the center of the record, it is liable to track the groove less accurately. This can affect the high-middle frequencies, producing a ‘mushy’ sound particularly noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as ‘surgical EQ,’ problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.
The last phase of the vinyl mastering process began with the arrival of the first batches of test pressings made from master lacquers that had been sent to the two pressing plant factories. Stringent quality tests identified any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place. If this happened, it was clear that the undesired sounds had been introduced either during the cutting or the pressing stage and so the test records were rejected. In the quest to achieve the highest quality possible, the Abbey Road team worked closely with the pressing factories and the manufacturers of the lacquer and cutting styli.
For this project, there was no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. Yes, it took a village to get it right.
The Beatles A Hard Days Night Track Listing
1. A Hard Day's Night
2. I Should Have Known Better
3. If I Fell
4. I'm Happy Just to Dance With You
5. And I Love Her
6. Tell Me Why
7. Can't Buy Me Love
8. Any Time at All
9. I'll Cry Instead
10. Things We Said Today
11. When I Get Home
12. You Can't Do That
13. I'll Be Back