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 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 blog, 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.
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?
Further Reading on Half-Speeds
Here’s a good question:
To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:
Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.
- Half-Speed Mastered Disasters
- Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities
- Half-Speed Mastered Winners
- Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List
New to the site? Start here.