Half-Speed Mastered Records – Reviews and Commentaries

Blood Sweat and Tears / Self-Titled – Direct Disc Labs Half-Speed Reviewed

More Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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Sonic Grade: C [not sure it would rate that highly today, my guess it would not]

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations.

I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know that although they can be awesome, there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, we have a big advantage over our customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overriding reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself.

It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love.

This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings in order to find a hot one.

Most of this was written way back in 2005.


FURTHER READING

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

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John Williams / Star Wars & Close Encounters / Mehta

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

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This Mobile Fidelity LP contains the music of Star Wars and Close Encounters, conducted by Zubin Mehta. This MoFi pressing is far more TRANSPARENT than the London pressings we have of the same music, even the ones half-speed mastered by Stan Ricker himself. Yes, he cut the original Londons!

It’s still one of the better MoFi remasters, all things considered. The music, to these ears, has always been hi-fi-ish schlock, and the recording itself is way too multi-miked, in the tradition of Phase IV, than I could ever begin to take seriously.

Bottom line, a loser, but the original Londons are even worse!
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An Astoundingly Bad Sound Show – If This Is Your Idea of a Reference Record, You Are in Real Trouble


Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Half-Speed Mastered Disaster if there ever was one.

Mastered by none other than Stan Ricker. RR-7 also appears to still be on Harry Pearson’s TAS List!

My recent notes can be seen below. (The 1 in the upper left hand corner is my abbreviation for side one, which seems to be the worst side of the two here.)

Track two, the Red Norvo selection, is a real mess, highlighting the problems typically caused by Half Speed Mastering, especially at the hands of one of the most notorious “Audiophile” Mastering Engineers of All Time, the late Stan Ricker. Who cut as many bad sounding records as SR/2 himself? No one I can think of comes close.

His records, with few exceptions, suffer from bad bass (probably bloated and poorly defined in this case, my notes don’t say but after playing these records for thirty years I doubt I’m very off with this guess) and phony, boosted highs, which cause the striking of the mallets to be emphasized in an especially unnatural and unpleasant way.

Arthur Lyman had dramatically better sound in the ’50s. How come none of the audiophiles at Reference Records bothered to figure out how he did it?

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Beethoven / Symphony No. 9 – MoFi Debunked

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Records Perfectly Suited for the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP with ridiculously unnatural sound.

Full of the worst kind of bright, phony string tone, MoFi’s trademark sound for classical recordings. Anyone who has ever attended a concert knows that strings in real life simply do not sound anything like they do on these MoFi records.

The London and Decca pressings of this recording are no great shakes either. Any pressing of this performance should be avoided.

Londons and Deccas from this era (1972 in this case) rarely sound very good to us. Here is what we specifically don’t like about their sound.

The Crusaders / Chain Reaction – MoFi Reviewed

More of The Crusaders

More Jazz Fusion

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This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with relatively good sound. We did a mini-shootout many years ago and this copy apparently killed the competition. 

However…

When you play the MoFi against an actual honest-to-goodness properly mastered and pressed vintage LP – we call them Hot Stampers – the audiophile version of the album reeks of phony top end EQ, compression and sloppy bass.

Of course, what half-speed mastered record doesn’t?


FURTHER READING

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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Tea for the Tillerman / Cat Stevens and His Sparkling Acoustic Guitars?

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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 many records 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!

(On a side note, if you want a very different sounding Mobile Fidelity record, try anything mastered by Jack Hunt. They are every bit as wrong, but in the tonally opposite direction: murky, fat and way too smooth.)

Next time you drop the needle on a Mobile Fidelity record — one of the ones pressed in Japan and mastered by Stan Ricker; 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. They don’t really sound like that, do they?

More Records Perfectly Suited for Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s


FURTHER READING on Half-Speed Mastered Records

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

(more…)

Tom Petty / Damn The Torpedoes – Is This Audiophile LP Bright Enough For You?

More Tom Petty

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On this pressing it sure is. If your stereo is dull, dull, deadly dull, this company’s remastering approach, like many of the CBS Half-Speeds, will fix your lack of high end.

A perfect example of Stone Age Audio Thinking – a bright record to fix a dark system.

The only problem is, what happens when you put together a better system, one that’s tonally correct?

Then you will have to get rid of your old record collection and start over, right?

So get your stereo right before you go wasting lots of money on phony sounding records.

And most of the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today are every bit as bad, but the tonality mistakes are simply reversed. The bass is boosted and the top is too smooth.

Why can’t these ridiculous audiophile labels make up their minds? Should records be bright or dull? Pick a lane!

Tune your system to that crap and you will find yourself in the real predicament down the road, assuming you ever get your stereo working right. Having a collection full of modern remasterings will make any progress in audio that much more difficult to achieve.

Or you could just buy one of these to play your bright records. Problem solved.

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Sgt. Pepper’s and Bad Audiophile Thinking (Hint: the UHQR Is Wrong)

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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Sonic Grade: D

We charge hundreds of dollars for a Hot Stamper Sgt. Pepper, which is a lot to pay for a record. But consider this: the UHQR typically sells for more than the price we charge and doesn’t sound as good. 

Of course the people that buy UHQRs would never find themselves in a position to recognize how much better one of our Hot Stampers sounds in a head to head shootout with their precious and oh-so-collectible UHQR. They assume that they’ve already purchased the Ultimate Pressing and see no need to try another.

I was guilty of the same bad audiophile thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper.

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K Boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we put on the site from time to time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

More on the so-called Ultra High Quality Record

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Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site. 

Such is simply not the case, and it’s child’s play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things:

  1. Good cleaning fluids and a machine,
  2. Multiple copies of the same record,
  3. A reasonably revealing stereo, and
  4. Two working ears (I guess that’s actually five things, my bad).

With all five the reality of pressing variations — sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic — for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The fact that this is a controversial viewpoint in 2021 does not speak well of the audiophile community.

The raison d’être of the Limited Edition Audiophile Record is to take the guesswork out of buying the Best Sounding Pressing money can buy.

But it just doesn’t work that way. Not that I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our entire website is based on the proposition that nothing of the sort is true. If paying more money for an audiophile pressing guaranteed the buyer better sound, 80% of what we do around here would be a waste of time. Everybody knows what the audiophile pressings are, and there would be nothing for us to do but find them and throw them up on the website for you to buy. Why even bother to play them if they all sound so good?

I was guilty of the same Bad Audiophile Thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper. Yay for me!

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we have on the site most of the time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head.


FURTHER READING

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters (81)

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Cat Stevens on Mobile Fidelity and Thoughts on the TAS List

More Cat Stevens

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I Ask You: In What Possible Way Is This Awful Record a Super Disc?

We here at Better Records would like to give a shout out to The Man, Harry Pearson, for putting one of the worst MoFis of all time on his so-called Super Disc List.

Many many years ago we wrote:

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, is the Mobile Fidelity Anadisq pressing that came out in the ’90s. If you own that record, you really owe it to yourself to pull it out and play it. It’s just a mess and it should sound like a mess, whether you have anything else to compare it to or not.

More Reviews and Commentaries for
One of the Worst Remastering Houses of All Time

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