I listened to every album in chronological order over the course of two days, and let me tell you, this is the way to listen to these albums! Never before have they sounded so crisp and so clear, and never have they been mixed to such perfection. The 1988 CD releases pale in comparison to the new ones. For over 20 years, those releases were the only way these albums could be heard on CD, but now they sound muddy and bland compared to the 2009 editions. I've been waiting for something this amazing literally all my life, and I am very pleased indeed.
I found that the biggest improvements could be heard on songs that were heavy in acoustic guitar or piano. There was a freshness and a cleanness to those tracks that I've never heard before. Songs like "Yesterday," "Blackbird," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and "Till There Was You" sounded especially crisp. "Yesterday" brought me to the verge of tears; I really felt as though Paul and the string quartet were in the room with me. I could hear every breath, every strike of a pick against a guitar string. Some of the better-sounding piano songs included "The Fool on the Hill," "Golden Slumbers," and "Martha My Dear."
Of course, the louder songs sound amazing, too. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "She's So Heavy" blew me away, as did "Helter Skelter" and the end of "Hey Jude." More complex selections like "A Day In The Life," "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Because," and the Abbey Road closing medley ("Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight," "The End") were brought up to a whole new level, chiefly because of the excellent use of the stereo field. The rich sound and presence of those songs is more enjoyable than ever.
There were several instances where I noticed small details that had previously been buried, especially on the earlier albums. On the Please Please Me album, for example, I noticed John half-laughing as he sang, Ringo's voice cracking, and on two or three occasions, a little bit of background noise in the studio. There were occasions on other albums where I could hear someone (presumably John) tapping on his guitar to keep time, and once I even heard Paul whispering as he counted the beats. These imperfections don't detract from the music at all. In fact, they make it more real. Listening in the best headphones I own, I really felt the music surround me physically. This speaks to the brilliance of the remixes and shows how much was missing from the 1988 versions.
Perhaps what helped me to enjoy this re-issue so much is the fact that I imported it into my iTunes library in Apple Lossless format instead of the usual MP3 or AAC. The best music demands to be heard in the best quality, so I turned to lossless to preserve the remastered edge. I've never really considered myself an audiophile, but I had to give this particular collection the Red Carpet treatment. Put simply, Apple Lossless is software that compresses audio files without sacrificing the sound quality. The files are about four times larger than MP3s, but the audio quality is exponentially better. I'm really glad I made that decision, because it enhanced the experience more than I can put into words.
So at the end of the day, I'd call the 2009 Beatles Stereo Box Set a necessary part of any music collector's library. Apart from vinyl, which will always be special to me, this is the only way anyone should ever experience the Beatles from now on. You haven't heard these songs until you've heard them as they are presented in this set.