Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Holst / The Planets / Solti / LPO – MoFi (and UHQR) Debunked

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Sonic Grade: Regular MoFi LP: F / UHQR: D

Both Hall of Shame pressings.

We recently auditioned an excellent sounding Decca Purple Label British import LP, the same performance, the same recording that Mobile Fidelity remastered (#510), but, thankfully, it sounded A WHOLE LOT BETTER!

I just listened to both and a catalog of the faults of the MFSL pressing would be quite lengthy. I won’t waste your time listing them. Although this recording is not perfect, the Decca pressing shows it in its proper light.

It finds the right balance between the multi-miked sound of the Super Disc List Mehta and a vintage recording from the Golden Age such as the famous Boult. The sound is very dynamic and the brass has tremendous weight. The MoFi is thin and bright.

Their UHQR is somewhat better, not quite as thin and phony up top, but not really very good either. Avoid them both.

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Nautilus Debunked

More The Doobie Brothers

More The Captain and Me

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked and another We Was Wrong listing to boot.   

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free. The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no excuse now is it?

Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

This is a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played an early Riverside LP I can see how their mastering approach was — as is so often the case — misguided to say the least.

First off, the guitar and the drums on the original are tonally right on the money. They sound like bass and drums should. They sound, in a word, correct. Mobile Fidelity felt it necessary to brighten up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and phony sounding drums, with tizzy cymbals thrown in for good measure.

(The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one. We’ve had Hot Stamper copies of the originals so we know they can sound superb, some of RVG’s best work.)

The old Mobile Fidelity — the pre-RTI Mobile Fidelity — rarely met a master tape they didn’t think needed a healthy dose of top end boost. They also never understood what an acoustic guitar sounds like. They blew it on every last one of the Cat Stevens albums, brightening up the guitars, which, as we all know from playing with the treble controls on our receivers way back when, emphasizes the “picking” of the strings at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics. What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record, for audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. (Chesky anyone?)

Another reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect. Bad guitars, bad drums and bad bass — that pretty much covers everybody in the trio. Resulting score: 0 for 3.

AMG Review

This is a listening pleasure to the first degree. Unlike any other, Charlie Byrd sincerely knows how to make his instrument speak, sending graceful chords and melodies to this attentive audience… Cheers to the Charlie Byrd Trio for a dynamic effort during this May 1963 gig. Applause, applause.

Gerry Rafferty – City To City – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s fat, muddy and compressed. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts throughout their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Michael McDonald (149) and Blondie (050), you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

More The Doobie Brothers

More Minute By Minute

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

Blind Faith – Blind Faith – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: C-

Our latest shootout this time around (07/09) left us with a fairly large serving of egg on our face concerning the commentary we had written for the MoFi pressing of Blind Faith, a textbook example of We Was Wrong.

It’s rich and sweet with SHOCKINGLY GOOD SOUND. MFSL did a masterful job with this one, I’d put it in the top 10 MOFIs of all-time!

I regret to say none of that is true.

Blind Faith has many of the same problems as the later Japanese pressed MoFis like Thick As A Brick and Meddle which we discuss in more detail below.

About Thick As A Brick we wrote:

As we noted last time we listed the MOFI LP:

“This MOFI is super TRANSPARENT and OPEN, and the top end should sound lush and extended. If you prize clarity, this is the one!”

But if you prize clarity at the expense of everything else, you are seriously missing the boat on Thick As A Brick. The MOFI is all mids and highs with almost nothing going on below. This is a rock record, but without bass and dynamics the MOFI can’t rock, so what exactly is it good for?

Like Meddle, one of the last of the MOFI titles to be pressed in Japan, it’s a pale shadow of the real thing. It has no business in the collection of any audiophile worth his salt. If you want to hear this music right, let us get you a Hot Stamper pressing. It’s guaranteed to blow your mind. We’ll even take your MOFI in trade and sell it to some unsuspecting audiophile who still buys into that Half-Speed Mastered Nonsense.

Barbra Streisand – Guilty – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

We had two copies of the CBS Half-Speed in stock, and having just done a big shootout for the album, we decided to play them to see how they stood up against The Real Thing, the real thing in this case being a pretty common pressing: a plain old Columbia original.

One copy was dead as a doornail, so smooth, opaque and lifeless it would put you to sleep.

The other literally sounded like a CD, and not a very good one at that! Grungy, gritty, hard and cold, it was everything we analog lovers hate about digital.

We grade both copies F for Failing. If you want a good sounding one steer clear of the CBS Half Speed. (more…)

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing.

More phony MoFi EQ on the top and sloppy bass. You can do a whole lot better and you sure won’t have to try very hard to do it.

Yet another Mobile Fidelity Pressing Debunked. Our Audiophile Scorecard has plenty more where this one came from.

Blondie – Parallel Lines – MoFi Debunked

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Audiophile Versions of This Album Suck (The Life Right Out of the Music)  

As previously noted, the MoFi, one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ulitimate in murky MOFI sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clear, radio-friendly pop rock sound that Chris Thomas and the band were aiming for. The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – MoFi Debunked

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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! (more…)