Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vintage Vinyl Spotlight: The Beatles "Blue Box" Collection BC-13

NEW: Click here to read the Review of the 2009 Remastered cd of Abbey Road

NEW:First Listen: The Beatles MONO Box Set (The White Album) Review and Comparison to U.K. Vinyl

Featured today in the Vintage Vinyl Spotlight is a collection that is essential for any fan of the Beatles who spins vinyl. Whether you're a long-suffering vinylphile, getting back into the hobby after a long layoff, or a exploring vinyl for the first time, you'll likely to want a good sounding Beatles collection.

What pressings sound the best? U.S.? U.K.? Japanese? Stereo or mono? For the Beatles fan wanting an easy, one-box solution, there is no better source than The Beatles Collection BC-13, also known as The Blue Box.

The Beatles catalog was originally released in the United States and the United Kingdom with slightly different track listings, covers, and packaging. A much more striking difference, however, was the sound. The U.K. releases used minimal processing and offered superior sound, both in the mono and stereo versions of each release. The U.S. versions on the other hand often used second or third generation tapes, and processed the recordings with excessive echo and reverb, particularly on the stereo versions, in an effort to make the records sound more modern--the result was simply inferior sound quality.

The Beatles Collection, catalog number BC-13, was first released as a U.K. import in 1978. A numbered U.S. edition, limited to 3,000 copies was also released. Also known as The Blue Box, this collection contained the stereo versions of all of the proper studio releases, as well as Rarities. The records are housed in a flip-top textured blue cardboard box, which has each of the band member's signatures embossed in gold on the front.

The following titles are included:

1 - Please Please Me
2 - With The Beatles
3 - A Hard Day's Night
4 - Beatles For Sale
5 - Help!
6 - Rubber Soul
7 - Revolver
8 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
9 - The Beatles (White Album)
10 - Yellow Submarine
11 - Abbey Road
12 - Let It Be
13 - Rarities

Sound quality is universally excellent throughout this set. Although the deadwax information contained on most of the records in the collection represents later cuts of each title, the original analog tapes were used throughout and sound quality never suffers. These boxes were produced well into the early eighties and many are still out there and available for purchase, primarily on online auction sites such as Ebay. Many boxes were originally given as gifts, but have sat around unplayed for many years.

The going rate for a box in excellent conditon is around $200, which at less than $20 per record is still quite a bargain. Blue Boxes contain the last pressings of truly all-analog Beatles vinyl, as anything released during the past twenty years or so has been from the same digital sources as the 1987 compact discs.

Original U.K. Beatles pressings are now expensive, extremely difficult to come by in excellent condition, and often suffer from groove distortion caused by the heavy tracking forces employed by cartridges in the 1960s. If you haven't yet heard the U.K. vinyl versions of your Beatles favorites, you'll be in for a very pleasant surprise when you do. This box is the easiest and fastest way to have them all.

Highly Recommended.


Anonymous said...

Is paying $600 US Dollars for a Sealed Blue Box a crazy purchase?


Santiago Hossni

My Vinyl Review said...

If you plan on actually playing the records (rather than keeping the box sealed), then I think $600 is way too much to pay. Many people barely played their Blue Boxes, if at all. You should be able to find an opened set in very nice shape for half of what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Recent sealed US Blue Box set had a serial # greater than 3000; and the seller stated that the series was limited to 3300, not to 3000. No other reference mentions this edition going up to 3300 copies. Could it be counterfeit?


Anonymous said...

I recently purchased a near-mint Blue Box at a record store for $200; all records except Abbey Road and Please Please me were UNPLAYED and didn't even have a smudge on them. They sound great. I too recommend the Blue Box!

Ryan said...

Where can I find it? I really want one, but I don't know where to get it from. Help?

My Vinyl Review said...

Ryan: To the left of these comments is an Ebay search box containing Beatles Blue Boxes currently available for auction or immediate purchase from Ebay sellers. No matter what review you are reading, this search box will always be located to the bottom left of the page. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I just picked this gem up at a local shop for $150 in excellent condition. Other than some marks on Abbey Road they all look brand new. Glad I found this review to push myself over the edge to finally buy it.

Anonymous said...

Is $2000 too much for a unplayed uk set in pristine condition?

My Vinyl Review said...

Yes, $2000 is way too much to pay. I can't imagine paying over $500--even for a sealed box!

Anonymous said...

I have a Blue box collection that i bought while i was in the military in Germany. This was like 1981 or 1982 - how can i tell whether i have the UK or US version?

Anonymous said...

I previously asked how to determine if my blue box collection was an US or UK version. I found out mine is the UK version. The way to tell is on the Rarities album the US replaced Sie Liebt Dich and Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand with She loves you and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Also on the UK version Rarities album they put Sampler album not for sale on the cover. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi Does the American blue Box sound the same as The UK version? (Except for Rarities) I hope so i just bought one for 289.00 near meant.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I have a U.K. version(based on the Rarities album containing the two German tracks and the "sampler album not for sale"). It is numbered on the spine with a gold foil sticker that says "serial number 3780". Could it be there were more than 3000 printed? I bought it in the early 80's at a local record store for around $100.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me I have the UK version of the blue box collection. The box has a couple of tears but the albums are intact. They have never been played. How much can I sell them for?

Thom Osburn said...

I have owned a couple copies of this box and every time i trip over a UK 'White Album' from 1978, it has distorted bass (as though badly cut or the stampers were worn out). When buying a blue box I recommend giving this one record a careful listen

Anonymous said...

I had a small Beatles buy/sell business in the 1980s/90s & I have had many Blue Box sets pass through my hands. The White Album in maybe 20-25% of the U.K. sets had vinyl pressing issues/defects. It is a very hard LP to press, w/its LONG running time of over 90 minutes (!!) so bass distortion and irritating surface noise (sounding like a worn out LP) were somewhat common on the White Album. The Japan-pressed Blue Box sets were generally 100% free of vinyl defects or pressing problems on ALL the LPs, White Album included. A few SERIOUS audiophiles have claimed the Japan LPs do not sound as good as the UK LPs, but I think 99% of listeners would be thrilled with the sound of the Japanese Blue Box. If you are not a BIG-time audiophile and just want defect-free, really pretty great sounding Beatles LPs, get the individually numbered Japan Blue box on the Apple label from February 1979. A 2nd pressing of the Japan box from 1982 is on Odeon label and is not as good.

Anonymous said...

--continued-- Prices have JUMPED on Near Mint UK-pressed Blue Box sets since mid 2011; $325 is LOW now and $475 is common (early 2012) The Blue Box was also pressed in Holland, Germany, Australia, and a few other countries. Most are so rare they won't often be seen for sale, but the Holland box is pretty nice; the vinyl is almost as good as the Japan box sets w/decent sound too. IMHO, AVOID the Australian blue box for its inferior vinyl and sound quality. Finally, Mobile Fidelity (MFSL) issued a DELUXE Beatles Collection box w/ special pressings of all the Beatles British LPs, plus Magical Mystery Tour,in a deluxe black hinged box, with unique covers and 1/2 speed mastering (MFSL's special technique for achieving what they claim is the best possible sound) 25,000 were pressed and it cost $325 in 1982; more than 3X the cost of UK box! The MFSL box has INCREDIBLY good vinyl and pressing quality (the vinyl is as quiet as a CD if you take care of it) NICE MFSL sets run $750 to $900 on eBay in early 2012, about double what the UK blue box costs. In general, tho, the MFSL LPs have a kinda strange sound; like the bass and treble were boosted to make the sound more "punchy". For the most "natural" sound get the UK Blue Box... "Recorded in Great Britain, made in Great Britain."

Da Lone Groover said...

Just picked up a copy of the Australian '79 edition of this beautiful boxed set for AU$100. The front box was a little tattered around the edges but the albums are in NM condition (may never have been played or played only once). Lovely to have the whole collection in one neat package.

Doccus Rockus Maximus said...

I have a UK cassette blue box , but the ink on the tapes varies in color.. rarities has blue, Yellow Sub has brown ink, most have black and the first three are pink.. the covers, however match precisely with another box I compared it to..
Could this happen naturally? Or were some tapes replaced?
As I said the covers match exactly someone else's blue box i compared it to..

Blue Cactus John said...

I bought a Dutch pressed set with the 1A prefix catalog numbers about 4 years ago. Some titles in that set in my humble opinion are unbeatable. Those honors go to "With The Beatles" "Help!" and "Revolver." many of the others such as "A Hard Day's Night" "Beatles For Sale" Sgt. Pepper" and "Abbey Road" stand up as some of the better Beatles pressings. Some of the vinyl is a bit thin but for the most part they play very clean especially after a spin on the VPI record cleaner.

Tracy Woodward said...

I see it has been a long time since anyone commented, but if anyone is watching this board, I am trying to figure out what I have and what it is worth.

The Rarities album does not have the sampler thing in the corner, but it does have the two German songs on it. I think they were done in the Phillippines and none of the albums has been opened. (They are still wrapped in plastic.) This set has the white album. Any help?

Tracy Woodward said...

I should add that on the side it says BC-13 then below OC and in a box 162-53163/53178. The blue box is a bit shabby in the corners but in otherwise good condition. There are 12 albums in the box.

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Pete Stergakos said...

A local record store near me just put out the individual albums from the Australian Blue Box. Of course, I began scoping up the ones that were left. I was wondering on your thoughts on the sound quality of these particular pressings. While certainly far from "horrible", they seem to be lacking a bit of "punch" and brightness.

Dawn said...

I have the Beatles Blue box collection from the UK 1978 .. 13 albums unplayed with posters and photos. Can announce comment on its value today in 2016 and thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have The Beatles collection blue box set of 14 albums. Made in Great Britain serial number 5084 (BC-13). My husband gave them to me for Valentine's Day when we first dated in early 1982. He drove 200 miles to find this set as not many places sold vinyl at that time. I don't remember playing the albums so they are in near mint condition as is my box. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

I have a unopened box The Beatles collection BC 13
Limited Edition #1369 of 3000
What would you say it is worth ?

Jian Tan said...

If I only buy them to listen, would I be better off searching individual LPs or looking for a blue box in good condition? Furthermore, if I already have all the mono reissued LPs, would the blue box LPs be much different?


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