The Band – Music From Big Pink
I was a big — huge even — Mobile Fidelity fan in 1982 when they released this album, which, for some strange reason, I knew practically nothing about. I was 15 when the second album came out and I played that album all the time, but the first album had eluded me. How it managed to do that I cannot understand, not at this late date anyway. A major malfunction on my part to be sure.
At some point in the early ’90s I got hold of an early British pressing of the album.
Comparing it to my MoFi I was shocked to hear the singers in the band so present and clear. Having only played MoFi’s remastered LP I had never heard them sound like that. The MoFi had them standing ten feet back; the Brit put them front and center. There was no question in my mind which presentation was right. Around that time I was noticing that many Mobile Fidelity pressings seemed to be finding that same distant-midrange sound, and finding it on wildly different recordings.
Recordings from different studios, by different engineers, in different eras. Can that be right?
That MoFi Sound
The Doors first album was yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for sucked-out mids. Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center.
When the DCC Doors first album was released on vinyl we noted that the vocals were finally back where they belonged: after having lived with the MoFi for so many years we’d almost forgotten. And now of course we can’t tolerate the smear and opacity of the DCC. We like to think we’re simply setting higher standards these days. We expect that you are too or you wouldn’t be on our site reading all this.
The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you play. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 30 years. Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.
And note also that when you play your records too quietly it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth. That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear the pressings with real presence and immediacy, because they’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts. If you have any of our White Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.
Yeah, But What Kind of Bass?
In 2012 the new MoFi put out another remastered Big Pink. Since their track record at this point is, to be honest, abysmal, we have not felt the need to audition it.
It’s very possible, even likely, that they restored some of the bass that’s missing from the originals. But bad half-speed mastered bass — poorly defined, never deep and never punchy — is that the kind of bass that would even be desirable? To us, it is very much a problem. Bad bass is just plain annoying. Fortunately for us it is a problem we have to deal with much less often now that we’ve all but stopped playing half-speed mastered records.
Visit our Hall of Shame to see what are in our opinion some of the worst sounding records ever made. Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings. When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious.