Sonic Grade: D
Santana is a record we admit to having liked a bit when it first came out. Since then we have changed our minds. As embarrassing as it may be, clearly We Was Wrong.
It’s just too damn compressed and lifeless. The Whomp Factor on this pressing is Zero. Since whomp is critical to the sound of Santana’s music, it’s Game Over for us. The review below is exactly what we wrote at the time the record came in.
We tried to like it, but it’s clear to us now that we tried to like it too hard. Please accept our apologies.
I noted in my [now discontinued] blog: “But now I would have to say that the MoFi LP is far too lifeless to be acceptable to anyone, even those with the worst kinds of Audiophile BS systems.”
And I noted that the Abraxas they remastered never got past the first elimination round; it had to have been one of the worst half-speeds I have ever heard. Dead dead dead as a doornail.
We also mentioned a while back (4/29/08) on our blog how bad the latest crop of MoFi vinyl was, with the heading: “Mobile Fidelity, Ouch.
On another note, we played some godawful sounding MOFI pressings over the last few weeks: Linda Ronstadt (which appears to be out of phase, more on that down the road); Metallica (with blobby bass at 45 RPM no less; only half-speed mastering can guarantee muddy bass under any and all circumstances!); and Rush (nothing even resembling a top end. How do these things happen?). These three albums have to be some of the worst sounding vinyl I have ever heard in my life. I won’t waste any more of your time or mine talking about them. Buy them if you feel the need, and if you like what you hear, drop us a line. Maybe the copy we cracked open was a “bad” one, unrepresentative of the general pressing run in the same way that the latest Crisis half-speed was. Well, maybe so, but we are going to have to leave that conundrum unsolved for the time being. To crack open more copies to see if they are all as bad as the first one we played is not something we are particularly inclined to do. We call that throwing good money after bad around here at Better Records.
This is a label making some seriously bad records these days.
But why single them out? They all are.
Our Original Santana Review
This is a Factory Sealed Mobile Fidelity Ultra Analog 180g LP with — all things considered — fairly good sound. The first of those things to consider is what the average domestic pressing sounds like. The short answer is: not good. The red label reissues are pretty consistently smeary and compressed. The only pressings that have much potential are the 360 Label originals, and those are a decidedly mixed bag. The good ones will murder this half-speed. The bad ones will be bettered in most ways by it. Nothing new there. It’s the Same Old Audiophile Pressing Story we all know. Good Audiophile LPs have better sound than bad non-audiophile LPs, and vice-versa.
The MOFI has a nice extended top end, without any noticeable phony boost, the kind we heard in practically every pressing released by the old MoFi (i.e., the Japanese pressed ones).
The midrange is sweet and surprisingly transparent. I would have to say that the new MoFi is making some of the most transparent pressings around, much superior to what Cisco, Rhino, Sundazed and the like are doing these days.
Of course, MoFi can’t fix their bass problems; poor definition and lack of deep bass are problems inherent in half-speed mastering that have yet to be overcome, and probably can’t be.
Typical for most audiophile pressings, Santana has another quality we find unattractive: politeness. This album lacks the life and energy of the good originals. It doesn’tbegin to rock like they do. On polite sounding stereos, this difference will be minimized. I have never owned a stereo like that — heard a million of them but never felt the desire to join in the “fun” — so the difference in sound between the good originals and this pressing on our playback system is quite dramatic, the kind of difference that can be heard from another room. Probably even from the backyard.
Don’t have access to good sounding originals and top quality equipment? This record will give you quiet vinyl and respectable sound. Want the real thing and are willing to pay ten times the price or more? Stick with me kid. I got just the ticket. (You will need to be on our mailing list I’m guessing to get a killer copy; they tend to sell pretty fast out of the weekly emailings we do.)
If you’re in the market for a Hot Stamper pressing, you may be in luck. Click here to see what we currently have on hand.