Jethro Tull – Aqualung – A MoFi Disaster (But Don’t Tell This Guy)

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Sonic Grade: D

We noted in our Hot Stamper review for Aqualung that the MoFi is a disaster, with the murky bloated DCC even worse. (We didn’t like the Classic either.) 

But we used to like the MoFi and DCC just fine. What could possibly have changed?

It’s a long story, and a pretty long commentary, which we have excerpted from a customer’s letter, along with our reply.

We have edited our original commentary and his letter for the sake of brevity.

Now the letter:

To: Tom Port,

As far as “Aqualung” is concerned, I have a Mobile Fidelity issue of this album which sounds great and being pressed on some of the best vinyl in the world by people who are known for their meticulous care with records, I don’t think that there would be much difference at all in the quality of different Mo-Fi pressings of this or any of their records.

The key phrase here is “I don’t think that there would be much difference at all…”. You see, this is not something to think about, this is something to test. Thinking got this gentleman nowhere; testing might have had the opposite effect.

How About Abbey Road?

And speaking of MoFis all sounding the same, we had a MoFi that we called “the Killer MFSL Abbey Road of All Time” which sold for $500. Our average copy is about $75. Which one do you think sounded better? And how can there be that big of a difference in the sound of one MoFi relative to another?

Don’t ask me; we just play them and price them according to the sound. Those big questions I defer to Joe. He thinks he has the answers.

Old Hot Stampers

There were no Hot Stampers ten years ago. This is a process that has been evolving over the course of many years, more than ten certainly, but for all practical purposes Hot Stampers as much more than a concept didn’t exist back then.

With continual improvements in our equipment, room acoustics, electrical quality, cleaning techniques and last but not least, listening skills, our audio world has turned completely upside down. 180 gram? Half-Speed Masters? Don’t make me laugh. We can beat that junk with one arm tied behind our back. It’s like taking candy from a baby.

Twenty Five Years Is a Lifetime in Audio

As for the MoFi being better than a record he used to have, ouch. Does Joe ever upgrade his equipment? Does anything ever change? I never liked the original domestic Aqualungs either, but as my stereo got better my views changed one hundred and eighty degrees. The site is full of commentary to that effect for records too numerous to mention.

The MoFi is a twenty five year old record. If you’re using a twenty five year old system to play it, you might not notice all its faults. A stereo like that is so antiquated it can actually succeed in hiding them. But any decent modern system should make the shortcomings of that pressing woefully obvious and unbearable. Joe, buddy, time for some new equipment. Toss that Technics and start hearing what’s really on your records. (On second thought, considering his approach to record collecting, that may not be such a good idea. Not to worry. Read below; Joe is totally on board with not doing anything.)

I’ve spent many years and good money obtaining the records in my collection. I don’t need to spend lots more replacing them with “hot stampers.”

Joe, you don’t need to replace your Aqualung or any other record you own with another copy. You don’t need to do anything, especially if you think it’s impossible for any pressing to sound better than the one you have. That seems to be the proposition you are putting forth — you have the best, and that’s all there is to it. You “think” nothing can be better, therefore nothing can be better.

We, on the other hand, learn new things about records and equipment all the time; it’s what makes the hobby fun. The site is devoted to the idea that what we thought yesterday may not be true today.

Doing the Work

I may come across as a Know-It-All, but Know-It-Alls can’t learn anything, and I learn new things about records with every shootout. I can’t say I learn much from other audiophiles; a bit here and there. Mainly I learn what I learn by doing the work that nobody else seems to want to do: playing scores of records against each other until the winners show their true colors. It’s a lot of work but how else can it be done? By thinking about which one should sound the best? Now do you see how silly that sounds?


The Mother Goose Test

For those of you who have the MoFi, here’s a little “challenge”. I’m not sure if that’s really the right word. It’s actually more of a test, truth be told. But I’m guessing most people don’t like being tested by their record dealers so we’ll call it a “challenge”.

Play Mother Goose. If you don’t find anything seriously objectionable about the sound, if you don’t find the kind of MoFi EQ I decry at every turn, then something is very very wrong with your stereo, your room, your hearing or some combination of the three. In my humble opinion.


More on Aqualung

There are a number of Letters, Testimonials and Commentaries associated with Aqualung which may be of interest to you.

Unfortunately we almost never have any Hot Stamper copies in stock that can back up our claims. They are getting awfully hard to find these days and sell as fast as we can shoot them out and list them.