Sgt. Pepper’s to get new Atmos mix because current version ‘doesn’t sound quite right’

Photo credit should read JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

The Beatles seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is set to receive another Dolby Atmos mix, after producer Giles Martin, son of the album’s original producer George Martin, admitted that the current version “doesn’t sound quite right.” The current mix, produced by the younger Martin in 2017, was made with Dolby Atmos theaters in mind, rather than personal listening via services like Apple Music. “I’m gonna replace it,” the said the two time Grammy winner to Rolling Stone. “It’s good. But it’s not right.”

The current Atmos mix of the album was created to coincide with its 50th anniversary in 2017. At the time, it was designed to be played in Dolby Atmos cinemas at a series of live listening events. But now that it is available via streaming services like Amazon Music HD and more recently Apple Music, people are listening to it in smaller rooms or with headphones.

Sgt. Pepper’s was, I think, the first album ever mixed in Dolby Atmos. And we did that as a theatrical presentation,” Martin explains. “So Sgt. Pepper’s is a theatrical mix that’s then being converted into a smaller medium. Therefore, it’s not quite right. I’m gonna go back to the theatrical mix and make it into what’s called near-field Dolby Atmos, as opposed to the cinema Dolby Atmos. It’s a bit bright. It’s a bit digital. But again, I’m gonna replace it, so that’s cool.”

According to Martin, the spatial mix of Sgt. Pepper’s “seems to lack a bit of bass and a little bit of weight behind it.” In comparison, the Atmos mix of Abbey Road, which was produced for its 50th anniversary in 2019 is “a much better-functioning Atmos mix because it’s much closer to the stereo mix, sonically.”

What’s particularly fascinating about Sgt. Pepper’s, is that the album was released at a time when mono recordings were the primary focus for most producers, according to NPR. George Martin reportedly spent three weeks mixing the original mono version of the album, before spending just three days on the stereo release. The album has effectively lasted through three eras of music: first mono, then stereo, and now spatial audio.

With spatial audio in its infancy, there are plenty of examples out there of well known albums that don’t sound quite right in the new format. My colleague Chris Welch outlines a few of these in his review of Apple Music’s spatial audio, where songs like “Buddy Holly” by Weezer and “What’s My Age Again?” by Blink 182 suffer from problems like muffled vocals and lifeless guitars. But hopefully these are just growing pains associated with a relatively new format, and we’ll one day look back on these tracks like we look back on early stereo recordings from the 60s.

Giles Martin’s full interview with Rolling Stone is well worth a read for the producer’s insights on the potential for spatial audio.

Comments

Or here’s an idea, how about we just leave classic works of art alone?

If you’ve spent your life listening to the stereo mix of this album (or any Beatles album before the White Album), which most people have, you’ve spent your life not hearing the album the way the Beatles originally intended, so updating it for Atmos doesn’t seem particularly egregious

so are you also against conservation of classic physical artwork like paintings?

What you’re referring to is restoring works of art, like painting, which have degraded over time. Not quite the same thing.

What would be terrible is the great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of Da Vinci saying "You know, the Mona Lisa isn’t quite right. I’m gonna give her a hat and sunglasses!"

Are we sure we need to remix things without any of the original artists or engineers involved?

Given that everything offered on digital services is "remastered," AKA destroyed with dynamic compression to make it "louder," there’s not much more harm to be done.

Relax people. I assume the title was intentionally click-baity. He is not remixing the mono or stereo mixes, just the Atmos mix that he already created. Further, "he" is the son of the original producer and worked side-by-side with his father doing remixes of Beatles songs for ‘Love’ with permission from all living members and family of deceased, so he has deep insight into the original process.

So, if anyone in the history of remixes can be trusted to do right by the original, it is Giles Martin which is shown by the fact that he cares SO much that he is remixing his own work because it doesn’t do right any more based on the change in listening method.

All that said, hoping his new mix sounds good in large rooms and headphones because one of the main selling points of Atmos is that the mix is supposed to translate well without the additional work due to the metadata. I assume this just doesn’t hold true here because it was one of the first albums mixed in the format and a lot of technique has been learned since then.

You put too much faith in his work. Even taking surround and Atmos out of the equation, the latest round of Beatles (stereo) remixes they’ve done for the 50th anniversaries have not been very good. I realize this is subjective but in some cases they’ve taken a step too far, and in other cases – perhaps a step not far enough. I’m not against remixes in general and I think they do have the potential to surpass the originals (they are not perfect either) but these just ain’t doing it for me. There are some fairly blatant and egregious flaws only due to decisions in making, not a matter of source material or anything like that.

Pepper may have been the worst of them, IMO. So it’s probably a good thing it’s getting a re-do. I wish the stereo mix would get one too! I strongly suspect the remix was completed several years before it was released, and then kept in the can until the 50th anniversary. It seems like they’ve learned a lot since then.

The highlights of the Deluxe Anniversary sets for me are the high quality outtakes and alternates featured as bonus tracks. And the high resolution transfers of the original mono mix as presented on the Pepper set. The original mono and stereo mixes still reign supreme though, and that’s what I go to when I want to hear those albums. Specifically mono, in the case of pepper.

I’ve only heard the 50th anniversary Pepper remix but I found it an improvement over the original stereo mix, though not perfect. Then again I’ve always found the stereo mixes of everything from Rubber Soul to Magical Mystery Tour to be basically unlistenable on headphones, which is how I do most of my listening. Most early to mid Beatles is better in mono, I do prefer Beatles for Sale and Help in stereo over mono though.

Glad they are revisiting some of these tracks in Apple Music. ‘Renegade’ by Styx sounds like a cover band version of the song. And not in a good way.

I wish more bands/producers/labels would take Atmos mixes seriously. As a listener of metal,
I haven’t found a single Atmos mix that I like. People recommend songs but I’m not going to listen to music I don’t like just because it’s mixed well. I’ve turned off Atmos and lossless since I mainly listen to music in my car (where lossless is absolutely wasted) and on my Bluetooth headphones and earbuds (where lossless is also wasted).

I’ll turn on Atmos when genres I listen to have good mixes, most sound like crap though.

I’m not entirely convinced heavy music really benefits from Atmos. At least not based on the examples I’ve heard so far.

The Gojira album sounds fine to me but it’s not a massive change over the pre-Atmos version. Likewise with the Guns’n’Roses example.

Whereas pop, jazz and other types of music where the instruments are more distinguishable from one another sound really amazing. "Blinding Light" by The Weeknd is pretty phenomenal sounding, as is the entire Atmos "jazz" playlist on Apple Music.

New? yes.
Different? yes.
Better? probably not.

The real mix is a mono mix, and it sounds way better than any of the stereo mixes which has been released over the years.

Most of the music from the 60s was mono … and most of the stereo mixes are horrible.

I’m not fundamentally opposed to re-re-working music as long as the originals are still made available. I’d rather see three listings of the same album, each labeled with the date in which they were mixed, and then I can decide what I want to listen to.

Although I can’t help but think we’re approaching the "George Lucas"-style of music mastering …where every couple of years there’s a new tweak or adjustment and you can’t even find the original recordings you fell in love with.

Also Kanye West set a bad precedent with one of his albums, I forget which, where he kept tinkering with it in the days and weeks after it was "final"…I mean c’mon, either delay the release or give it some time to simmer before deciding what needs fixing.

While the record companies were busily ripping off consumers and artists while whining about piracy, they had a solution: DVD-Audio. Everybody has had a surround-capable system on hand for the last couple of decades: in their cars. But record companies were more interested in suing customers than producing product.

It’s sad that it has taken decades for a surround music format to resurface. Let’s see if these morons are any smarter this time around.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑