Sonic Grade: F
A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.
I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that’s exactly the approach they ended up taking.
The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings, the “hottest stampers”, deliver.
Those of you who have had the opportunity to play the Mobile Fidelity pressing of this record should know what a disaster it is.
Is brighter better? Apparently Mobile Fidelity thinks so. And they did the same thing to Gordon Lightfoot’s album. His voice sounds so phony on the MoFi that you’d swear it’s a bad CD. But it’s not a bad CD. It’s an expensive audiophile record!
If you’ve spent any time on this site, you should know by now that many audiophile records sound WORSE than the typical CD. The typical CD does not have an equalization curve resembling a smile. The classic smile curve starts up high on the left, gets low in the middle, and rises again at the end, resulting in boosted bass, boosted top end, and a sucked out midrange — the Mobile Fidelity formula in a nutshell.
A Key Test — Harmonically Correct Guitars
In the commentary for America’s first album we noted that:
The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. … most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. … on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle.
This kind of sparkle can be heard on practically every record Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of sparkling MoFis would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!
Next time you drop the needle on a Mobile Fidelity record — one of the ones pressed in Japan; the Anadisq series tends to have the opposite problem, no top end at all — listen carefully to the acoustic guitars and tell me if you don’t think they sound a tad sparkly.
We’ve all heard acoustic guitars up close, at parties and coffee shops and what-have-you. Do they really sound like that?
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.
Easy From Now On
Two More Bottles of Wine
Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
I Ain’t Living Long Like This
One Paper Kid
Green Rolling Hills
Burn That Candle
Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town is a transitional effort that bridges the curveballs of Emmylou Harris’ earliest solo work with the more traditional country albums that comprise the bulk of the second phase of her career. For the first time, she covers no Gram Parsons tunes or pop music chestnuts, relying instead on newly exited Hot Band member Rodney Crowell for two songs (“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”) and Dolly Parton for another (the devastating “To Daddy”); the highlight is a gorgeous cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Defying Gravity.”