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First listen: SDE on the 5.1 surround sound mix of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

Is the new 5.1 mix any good?


Apple Corps and Universal kindly supplied SDE with super deluxe edition of The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band a week or so before release date. There’s a lot of content in the six-disc box set, but we couldn’t resist heading first to the 5.1 mix – created by Giles Martin and Sam Okell. Martin had already promised an audience at Abbey Road that the Pepper 5.1 would be “much more immersive” than any of his surround work on the ‘number ones’ video package. So let’s examine the mix, track-by-track…

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band


Interestingly, the title track from the album is one of the least impressive of the 5.1 mixes. Of course, the ferocious sound of Paul’s vocal never fails to impress but Giles Martin has chosen not to isolate it on the centre channel. In fact, the vocal is largely limited to the centre and right speaker, with not much in the front left channel, which seems a bit strange considering the lengths Giles has gone to ‘correct’ the imbalance of the old stereo mix.

The two rear speakers are largely reserved for crowd noise and general ambiance. At this point I’m thinking perhaps we need to adjust our expectations somewhat. Pepper is a landmark album, but not every track is going to be transformed by the 5.1 experience.

SDE Verdict: Good.


With A Little Help From My Friends


Rear speakers used to good effect for third-line chorus backing vocals and call-and-response element “What do you see when you turn out the light?…“, although they’re strong on the front left and right channels too. The chorus piano also comes to life in the rear channels.

SDE Verdict: Good.


Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds


Next to nothing happening in rear channels during the verses, although Paul’s harmonies are very clear at the back during the chorus.  The lead vocal comes through strongly on the centre speaker although it’s also present on front left and right channels.

SDE Verdict: Good


Getting Better


It’s clear that Giles Martin has tackled the Pepper 5.1 on a song-by-song basis and hasn’t used a one-size-fits all technique. Thus Getting Better is the first song on the album that more-or-less isolates Paul’s lead vocal (and the harmony) to the centre speaker. This sounds fabulous – when you hear it you wish the other tracks were more like this.

Good use of rear channels for backing vocals and those chiming guitars. SDE also noted that some harmonies go from front-to-back (“Better… better… better“). The best so far.

SDE Verdict: Very Good


Fixing A Hole


Vocals back to being balanced across the front three channels, hi-hat far left and bass quite central. Those “dang, dang, dang, dang-ooh” guitars at the end of the verse pop up at the rear, as does the funky fuzz guitar during the “they never win, then wonder why they don’t get in my door” bit. The guitar solo is slap bang in the centre speaker.

SDE Verdict: Good


She’s Leaving Home


The vocals here are mainly fed through the left and right speakers with solid support from the centre. Selective – but effective – use of rear channels with string elements and Lennon’s chorus lines.

SDE Verdict: Good


Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite


Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite is the second track on the 5.1 of Pepper (after Getting Better) to focus the vocal efforts (in this instance of John Lennon) largely to the centre speaker. For much of this song drums and percussion are chugging along at low levels in the rear channels.

The famous part of Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite – created with random fairground tape loops – is effective in 5.1 but while it swirls around a bit, there’s not loads of action at the rear. The ‘da da da da da da’ piano that signifies the end of this passage is heard via the centre speaker. Overall, it sounds very good but doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor you might expect. ‘Spinning’ some of those effects 360º in a circular fashion might have been fun.

Compared to the 5.1 on Love, John’s vocal isn’t quite as soft, it has a bit more grit. Although the ‘drone’ of the organ during the verses was mixed to the rears on Love, which I quite liked, and that’s missing here.

SDE Verdict: Good


Within You Without You


Wow. Within You Without You sounds magical in 5.1. Counterpoint strings in rear and George’s vocal sounding great at the front. A truly excellent surround sound experience and the only time I was really moved by the new mix, if I’m honest.

Verdict: Stunning


When I’m Sixty Four


I wasn’t expecting too much from When I’m Sixty Four in 5.1, but it’s a lot of fun. For the first verse and chorus there’s little from the rears, save for some perky piano.
The “you’ll be older too / cottage in the Isle of Wight” section has more piano and harmonies in the rears (along with bells).

Verdict: Very good


Lovely Rita


The ‘aahh’ and intro chorus vocals are present in the rears from the off, although there’s not too much going on behind until “…made her look a little like a military man” when we get some percussion. The piano solo is played across the front two speakers. The jazzy outro sounds excellent.

SDE Verdict: Good


Good Morning, Good Morning


The vocal quite strongly favouring the centre speaker with some low level horns at rears.
Guitar solo plays in centre. The animal noises at the end stay at the front except for the galloping horses and which go front to back and the chicken which is at the rear.

Verdict: Good


Sgt Pepper reprise


Some guitar at rears. Not too much to say about this. Not bad.

Verdict: Good


Day In The Life


John’s vocal quite isolated in centre, although still present on both front speakers.
Supporting acoustic guitar and piano comes through gently in rears. The crescendo is played across all speakers. You’d think Giles might have put the alarm clock in one of the rears, but no, it’s front left. Like John’s, Paul’s vocal is most prominent in the front centre channel. Piano chord at the end rings out magnificently across all speakers. The ‘space’ in this track makes the 5.1 experience work well, compared to say, the very ‘dense’ Good Morning.

Verdict: Very good.


Strawberry Fields Forever


Vocals very much front, left and right. A bit of a 5.1 tour-de-force. .
Sounds superb, with strings working very well in rear. Guitar phrase at end plays in centre; I preferred the rear left placement of the Love version.

Verdict: Stunning


Penny Lane


Quite a lot of vocal in the centre, although not exclusive.
Not much in the rears except trumpets at end of choruses.

Verdict: Good


SDE summary


I’m glad Apple/Universal commissioned a 5.1 version of Sgt. Pepper, but this isn’t a mix to invite your friends around to blow them away with the sounds-flying-around-the-room experience of surround sound. Neither is it a mix that reveals hitherto unheard instrumentation or makes you love the album more than you already do. It isn’t particularly ‘immersive’ I have to say, but neither is it boring. It’s somewhere in between.

The tracks that really stand out are the truly exceptional, experimental or unusual; in this instance, A Day In The Life, Strawberry Fields Forever and Within You Without You. With the guitars, bass, drums at the core of the title track or a song like Fixing A Hole, there’s only so much they can do in 5.1 surround sound.

The freedom and creativity of the Love mash-up has probably raised our expectations, but that was something of a one-off, which allowed for some wild and wonderful experimentation (almost entirely successful). Giles Martin’s job here was really to maintain the integrity of the original vision, while taking advantage the extra aural dimensions of 5.1.

Has he played it safe? Perhaps. It’s worth remembering that Giles had his dad with him for Love, to encourage a bit of reckless abandon and ‘anything goes’ creativity, just like the Fabs in their day. George Martin is sadly no longer with us, and whether Giles likes it or not, he’s inherited the responsibility of being the custodian of The Beatle’s audio recordings. That burden must weigh heavy at times.

So while he clearly hasn’t approached the task with a remit to create a demonstration disc for your local hi-fi shop, that’s probably not a bad thing, on reflection. Pepper isn’t that album.

Given that Strawberry Fields Forever isn’t on the long-player, the final conclusion is that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band isn’t quite as exciting as we might have hoped, when mixed for 5.1 surround sound. It’s not bad in any way, and has the highlights stated, but unlike say, Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side Of The Moon, it’s unlikely to be the disc you automatically gravitate towards when you want to listen to the album. That will more than likely be the new stereo mix or the original mono.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band super deluxe edition is released on 26 May 2017. More coverage on other aspects of the box set in the coming days.

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Sgt. Pepper - 6-disc super deluxe box set

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band super deluxe edition box set

CD 1 / New Stereo Remix
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

CD 2 / Sgt. Pepper Sessions
1 Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 1
2 Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 4
3 Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 7
4 Strawberry Fields Forever – Take 26
5 Strawberry Fields Forever – Stereo/Giles Martin Mix 2015
6 When I’m Sixty-Four
7 Penny Lane – Take 6
8 Penny Lane – Vocal Overdubs and Speech
9 Penny Lane – Stereo / Giles Martin Mix 2017
10 A Day In The Lif e- Take 1
11 A Day In The Life – Take 2
12 A Day In The Life – Orchestra Overdub
13 A Day In The Life – Hummed Last Chord
14 A Day In The Life – The Last Chord
15 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Take 1
16 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Take 9
17 Good Morning Good Morning – Take 1
18 Good Morning Good Morning – Take 8

CD 3 / Sgt. Pepper Sessions
1 Fixing A Hole – Take 1
2 Fixing A Hole – Speech And Take 3
3 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
4 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! – Take 7
5 Lively Rita – Speech and Take 9
6 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Take 1 And Speech
7 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Speech
8 Getting Better – Take 1
9 Getting Better – Take 12
10 Within You Without You – Take 1
11 Within You Without You – George Coaching The Musicians
12 She’s Leaving Home – Take 1
13 She’s Leaving Home – Take 6
14 With A Little Help From My Friends – Take 1
15 Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) Speech and Take 8

CD 4 – Sgt. Pepper in Mono
1. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

Bonus tracks

14 Strawberry Fields Forever
15 Penny Lane
16 A Day In The Live – First Mono Mix
17 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – Original Mono Mix
18 She’s Leaving Home – First Mono Mix
19 Penny Lane – Capitol Records Mono Mix

Disc: 5 / Blu-ray: Sgt. Pepper in 5.1 surround sound and hi-res stereo
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Fields Forever
15. Penny Lane
16. The Making Of Sgt. Pepper
17. A Day In The Life
18. Strawberry Fields Forever
19. Penny Lane
20. Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
21. Audio Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
22. Sgt. Pepper’s Audio Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
23. Strawberry Field Forever/ Penny Lane Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
24. Video Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
25. Making of Chapter 1 Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
26. Making of Chapter 2 Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
27. Video Setup Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Disc: 6 / DVD: Sgt. Pepper in 5.1 surround sound and hi-res stereo
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Fields Forever
15. Penny Lane
16. The Making Of Sgt. Pepper
17. A Day In The Life
18. Strawberry Fields Forever
19. Penny Lane
20. Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
21. Audio Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
22. Sgt. Pepper’s Audio Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
23. Strawberry Field Forever/ Penny Lane Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
24. Video Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
25. Making of Chapter 1 Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
26. Making of Chapter 2 Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
27. Video Setup Menu / The Beatles / Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2LP vinyl

LP 1 – Sgt. Pepper – new stereo mix

Side 1

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

Side 2

1. Within You Without You
2. When I’m Sixty-Four
3. Lovely Rita
4. Good Morning Good Morning
5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
6. A Day In The Life

LP 2 – ‘Alternative’ Sgt. Pepper (all previously unreleased)

Side 3

1 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Take 9 And Speech]
2 With A Little Help From My Friends [Take 1 – False Start And Take 2 – Instrumental]
3 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds [Take 1]
4 Getting Better [Take 1 – Instrumental And Speech At The End]
5 Fixing A Hole [Speech And Take 3]
6 She’s Leaving Home [Take 1 – Instrumental]
7 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! [Take 4]

Side 4

1 Within You Without You [Take 1 – Indian Instruments]
2 When I’m Sixty-Four [Take 2]
3 Lovely Rita [Speech And Take 9]
4 Good Morning Good Morning [Take 8]
5 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) [Take 8]
6 A Day In The Life [Take 1 With Hummed Last Chord]



Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2CD edition

CD 1 – Sgt Pepper – new stereo mix
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She’s Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I’m Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

CD 2 – Previously unreleased session takes
1 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Take 9 And Speech)
2 With A Little Help From My Friends (Take 1 / False Start And Take 2 / Instrumental)
3 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Take 1)
4 Getting Better (Take 1 / Instrumental And Speech At The End)
5 Fixing A Hole (Speech And Take 3)
6 She’s Leaving Home (Take 1 / Instrumental)
7 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! (Take 4)
8 Within You Without You (Take 1 / Indian Instruments)
9 When I’m Sixty-Four (Take 2)
10 Lovely Rita (Speech And Take 9)
11 Good Morning Good Morning (Take 8)
12 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (Speech And Take 8)
13 A Day In The Life (Take 1 With Hums)
14 Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 7)
15 Strawberry Fields Forever (Take 26)
16 Strawberry Fields Forever (Stereo Mix 2015)
17 Penny Lane (Take 6 / Instrumental)
18 Penny Lane (Stereo Mix 2017)

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.

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