Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Half-Speed Mastered Records

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets – MoFi Reviewed

More The Doobie Brothers

More Takin’ It To The Streets

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

This is an IMMACULATE Mobile Fidelity LP with EXCELLENT SOUND. I’m surprised how good this copy is. The mids and highs are close to Right On The Money (ROTM). The bass is not as deep and well defined as it should be, but that’s the fault of Half-Speed mastering, not MOFI. One of their best titles. And quite rare to boot.

Ry Cooder – Jazz – MoFi Debunked

More Ry Cooder

More Jazz

Sonic Grade: D

As you probably know, the MoFi of Jazz goes for big bucks nowadays — $500 and up. Is it worth it? 

Are you kidding? It’s a nice record as far as it goes, but it suffers from the same shortcomings as just about every Mobile Fidelity pressing we take the time to play these days (with some obvious exceptions of course). We have a test pressing, and knowing that the MoFi is the standard against which many audiophiles would prefer to judge our Hot Stampers, we listened to it first before going about our comparison test.

Our MoFi copy is actually tonally correct, which was a bit of a surprise. (Yours of course could very well be otherwise.) Right away we could hear exactly what people like about it, the same thing that audiophiles have always liked about half-speeds: their amazing transparency. Jazz on MoFi has zero-distortion, utterly clear, spacious, see-through sound.

But listen past that and what do you hear. Don’t those guitars seem to have that MoFi Tea-for-the-Tillerman-like quality you hate: all pluck and no body, all detail and no substance? Nothing has any weight. Nothing has any solidity. Nothing has any real life. It’s pretty, but it ain’t right. It’s the kind of sound that shouts out to the world “Hey, look at me, I’m an audiophile record! See how I sound? Clear and sparkling clean.” (more…)

Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take This Kind of Sound Seriously?

xxx

Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

 

Sonic Grade: F

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me. (more…)

Pink Floyd WYWH – … And the winner is: Surprise — The Hot Stamper!

More Pink Floyd

More WYWH

xxxxx

One of our best customers, Roger, received his $150 Hot Stamper ’Wish You Were Here’ and went straight to work comparing it with the various other pressings he owned: two different CBS Half Speeds. The not-so-shocking results follow … 

Hi Tom,

I received your Pink Floyd ‘Wish You Were Here’ Hot Stamper and compared it to my CBS Half-Speed (I found a bunch of these Half-Speeds in a bargain bin years ago and did a shootout to select the best one) and the pressing that I considered the best, the Japanese Mastersound Half-Speed, for which I paid dearly. Drum roll, please while Vanna hands me the sealed envelope………… and the winner is: Surprise — the Hot Stamper! And it wasn’t even close.

Once I heard the center-of-the-earth bass on the Hot Stamper ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, it was all over. I was amazed at how bright the CBS was, transparent yes, but bright and no bass and no body to the saxophones and voices. The Mastersound was better-balanced in that the highs were tamed, but no real dynamics and bass was flabby. I have heard this record hundreds of times, but never heard the details in the guitars and cymbals and keyboards like this. And did I mention the huge, huge soundstage with a wall of sound like that of other Pink Floyd records? Nice job as usual. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Aqualung – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

More Jethro Tull

More Aqualung

xxxxx

This Original Reprise Aqualung has a STUNNING Beyond WHITE HOT side two that just may have the best sound we’ve ever heard for the album. It will absolutely MURDER the British Originals and make mincemeat out of any reissue! Folks, for hard rockin’, Tubey Magical, psychedelic early ’70s analog, it just does not get any better. Here’s a knockout copy that will bring the power of Aqualung to life right in your very own listening room.

Keep in mind that most copies of Aqualung do almost nothing right. In fact, in one of our recent shootouts we didn’t find a single copy worthy of a three-plus grade. This one was so impressive, we felt that A+++ was not enough. No, Three Pluses won’t do for an Aqualung that sounds this good.

We’re calling it A++++. It’s some of the best Jethro Tull sound to grace our listening room in a very, very long time. We’ve missed our old friend and we’re glad to see he’s back and better than ever. (more…)

Carole King – Tapestry – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

More Carole King

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame Pressing

The CBS Half Speed is ridiculously bright — can you imagine a worse way to present this intimate music?   

The chances of there being Hot Stamper CBS Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Tapestry may be vanishingly small, but we can’t say the number is zero. There could be some, but considering how bad an idea Half-Speed Mastering is, would they have much chance of beating our Hot Stampers? As a practical matter I would have to say the chances are zero.

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

More Jethro Tull

More Aqualung

xxxxx

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. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – A Tale of Two MoFi Pressings

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 Masterpiece, Deja Vu

More Deja Vu

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F (or not!)

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Just for fun about 10 years ago I pulled out a MoFi pressing of Deja Vu I had laying around. I hadn’t played their version in a long time. I could have gone a lot longer without playing it, because what I heard was pretty disappointing. Playing their record confirmed all my prejudices. The highs sizzled and spit. The heart of the midrange was recessed and sour.

Know what it reminded me of? A bad Japanese pressing. (Since most of them are pretty bad I could have just said a typical Japanese pressing, but that’s another story for another day.)

And if that’s not bad enough, the bass definition disappeared. Bass notes and bass parts that were clearly audible and easily followed on our Hot Stamper copies were murky, ill-defined mud on the MoFi.

If you own the MoFi you owe it to yourself to hear a better sounding version. You really don’t know what you’re missing. (more…)

With the Beatles – The MoFi Half-Speed Reviewed

More The Beatles

More With the Beatles

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: C+

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album has so many problems it would take an hour to describe them all. Suffice it to say, it’s thinner and brighter, with voices that are grittier and grainier. The overall effect is the sinking feeling that you are listening to a cheap reissue and not the real thing. Don’t the Beatles sound better than this? To be fair, some tracks are okay, others a disaster.

If you own the MoFi, play it. Listen to it carefully. Make notes of which songs sound better than others and why. That’s how we spend our days, evaluating the relative merits of various pressings, and it’s that and that alone that has given us the critical listening skills necessary to recognize and appreciate the differences among the records we play.

One of the biggest problems with the average Parlophone copy is just the reverse of the MOFI. They tend to have rolled off highs, which emphasizes the harshness in the upper midrange and causes a loss of transparency. (The best Hot Stamper copies are of course as smooth, sweet, and transparent as they come.) Even with those shortcomings though, I would still rather listen to a typical Parlophone pressing. I wouldn’t be frustrated by the sound of somebody fooling with the EQ and screwing it up.  (more…)

The Pretenders – Nautilus Debunked

More The Pretenders

More The Pretenders – Pretenders

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked

Completely lifeless. This pressing takes all the rock out of rock and roll. A ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.