Half-Speed Mastered Records – Reviews and Commentaries

Bernard Herrmann The Fantasy Film World of… on MoFi Anadisq

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Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: F

Obviously our customers know by now that a Hot Stamper London pressing is going to be far better than the Anadisq MoFi cut in the mid ’90s. How much better?

Words fail me. (more…)

Electric Light Orchestra / A New World Record – Listen for Enthusiastic Female Background Vocals

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This review for our Shootout Winner was written in 2008.

Let’s start with side two, which is As Good As It Gets, the best we have ever heard. So many great songs, with So Fine getting things off to a lively start, and Do Ya rockin’ out toward the end.

This copy has it all from top to bottom, with the punchy bass and fully weighted sound that this music demands. The energy level coming from these grooves is off the scale — we’ve never heard it sound like this.

Side one is almost as good, with A Double Plus (and maybe a little better); only one other copy in our shootout was better, and not by much. The sound is rich and full, yet transparent, the ideal combination in our experience.

Love those female background singers — their voices are clear and individually separated, but even more importantly, on the best copies like this one they are ENTHUSIASTIC. This is the very definition of a Hot Stamper: ELO on this copy is full of life and energy. The average copy is just another ELO record, like most of them Dead On Arrival.

Even though I am not the world’s biggest ELO fan, I am a HUGE fan of this album, which is why I’m so happy to have finally found one with AMAZING SOUND, on both sides! The British originals are the only ones that can convey the sweet TUBEY MAGIC of the British Master Tapes. The string tone on the average domestic copy is shrill and smeary; too little of the critically important texture remains after the master tapes have been dubbed and the copies sent to America for mastering. 

As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included. (more…)

Andre Previn & His Pals – West Side Story on MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi LP reviewed and this one’s pretty good!

I played this record a while back — it’s one of the Mobile Fidelity’s I remember liking from the old days — and sure enough it still sounds good. It does not have the phony boosted bottom and top that most MoFis do. Since it’s such a well recorded album, the sound is very impressive. Also the music is great. This is one of Previn’s best piano trio records. And Shelly Manne drums up a storm here. 


Some Relevant Commentaries

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Strauss / Also Sprach Zarathustra – The Sound of this MoFi Pressing Makes My Head Hurt

More of the music of Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

Richard Strauss Recordings We’ve Reviewed

Is the painting on the cover that of a man whose head is hurting from the ridiculously bright string tone of this MoFi?

Doubtful. Impossible actually. But that’s exactly how my head feels when I play one of these awful MoFi classical releases.

Their rock, pop and jazz remasters were hit and miss in the old days, with some real winners hidden amongst the junk, but every one of their classical releases that I ever played was a dog.

One way you know you dealing with bad records and collector mentality? When you find one of these records in your local used record store, it is almost guaranteed to be pristine.

Good records get played. MoFi’s classical releases got collected and sat on a shelf.

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found to be yet another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

Can you believe this bright and phony sounding piece of junk was once on the TAS Super Disc List? Sad, isn’t it? At least Harry had the good sense to delete it way back in the ’80s, along with all the rest of the awful MoFi’s that were on it at the time.  

Hey, I sure liked a lot of my MoFi’s in the ’80s too. Thank god I didn’t have my own Super Disc list at the time. It would be every bit as embarrassing as Harry’s list is these days, although it’s really not Harry’s list these days anymore, or at least not exclusively his list. It now has lots of new stuff on there and much of it appears to be of dubious quality, but that’s pure prejudice on my part of course. I have never played most of the records and have no intention of finding out what they sound like. Much of it is music that does not appeal to me, and some of the new additions are on Heavy Vinyl, so why bother?


David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust – MoFi Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for Ziggy Stardust

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Sonic Grade: C-

The MoFi pressing is decent, probably better than the average domestic copy I suppose. The colorations and the limitations of their cutting system make it painful for me to listen to it though, especially the sloppy bass and dynamic compression.

You can do worse but you sure can do a lot better.

MoFi did two of the greatest Bowie albums of all time, Ziggy and Let’s Dance, and neither one can hold a candle to the real thing. If you want to settle for a pretty poor imitation of either or both of those albums, stick with your MoFi. If you want to hear the kind of Demo Disc sound that Bowie’s records are capable of, try a Hot Stamper. (more…)

Dires Straits / Brothers In Arms – Our Take on the MoFi 45

We have never bothered to play their remaster. You can find the reasons for our position laid out in great detail below.

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

A good customer asks: “How would you compare the Brothers in Arms SHS to the Mobile Fidelity 45 rpm copy?”

Dear Sir,

We have never bothered to play their remaster, and why would we? Every MoFi pressing made by the current regime has had major sound problems when compared head to head with the “real” records we sell, and it’s simply not worth our time to find out exactly what is wrong with the sound of any of these new reissues, theirs included.

However, we have been known to make an exception to that rule from time to time. Recently we did so in the case of the Tea for the Tillerman George Marino cut at 45 RPM for Analogue Productions.

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile records in the history of the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but, to be fair, they are not so bad that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds. (To the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released by him. In our defense let me say that that small fraction was all we could take.)

Why not give the new Brothers in Arms a listen to see how it stacks up to your Hot Stampers?

Because Half-Speed Mastering is a bad idea and virtually never produces good sound.

Even when it’s done right, it results in sloppy bass. This is very obvious to us but it seems most audiophiles and reviewers don’t notice this shortcoming. (I try not to reflect too much on systems that hide from their owners the problems in the low end that MoFi records are prone to, practically without exception. I once borrowed a $5000 Dynavector cartridge to hear in my system. Although it had a wonderfully extended and sweet top end, clearly better than my 17D3, the bass was so sloppy I could not wait to take it out and get it back to its owner. I never said a word about it and he never complained about the sound.)

You don’t have to make the mistake of mastering your records at Half-Speed to end up with sloppy bass. You just have to be bad at mastering records, like this label, Music Matters.

We find listening to the sound of these veiled, compressed, strangely-eq’d remastered records painful, so we avoid playing them unless one comes our way for free, which does happen from time to time. (more…)

Emmylou Harris / Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – MoFi Thought This Recording Needed More “Sparkle”

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More Country and Country Rock

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MoFi Delivers Another Record Perfectly Suited to the Stone Age Stereos of My Formative Years in Audio

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found wanting.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing of this album.

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. (more…)

Yes / Close To The Edge – A MoFi Winner, Or Was It? I Don’t Think We’ll Ever Really Know

Hot Stamper Pressings of Close to the Edge Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Close to the Edge

Sonic Grade: Side One: B to B+ / Side Two: C

Many, many years ago (2005?) we wrote the commentary you see below. We can’t say if we would still agree with the sentiments expressed, so take what you read with a grain of salt, and remember that no two records sound the same. If your copy is better or worse on either side it will not come as a surprise to us here at Better Records!

This is a great MOFI! (On side one anyway.) I have to admit I was partly wrong about this pressing. I used to think it was mud. Either the copy I have here is much better than the copy I played years ago, or my stereo has changed. I’m going to guess that it’s the stereo that has changed. I used to like the original American copies of this album and now I hear that they are upper midrangy and aggressive. So my stereo must have been too forgiving in that area, which in turn would have made this MOFI sound too dull.

Side one is as good as I’ve ever heard it outside of the best British originals. [We don’t even buy those anymore. Maybe that’s the problem with this comparison.] Since almost none of those have survived in clean enough condition to be played on modern audiophile turntables, there isn’t much of an alternative to this pressing.

And it should be noted that there is distortion on the tape. It’s on every LP copy and it’s on the CD too. There are cacophonous passages that have what sounds like board overload, mike preamp overload, tape saturation or something of the kind.

Eddie Offord, the recording engineer, is famous for complaining that the boys in the band were totally out of control when it came to adding layer upon layer and track upon track to their recordings, running the risk of such a dense mix that nothing would be heard above the din. He was always fighting a losing battle trying to rein them in. Although he did his best, it appears his efforts failed in some of the musical passages on this album.

So here’s a MOFI I like, but I only really like side one. Side two, although it’s decent enough, errs a little on the smooth, dull side. I have copies in which the guitars have wonderfully extended harmonics and sweeter tone. Some of them are even domestic pressings! On the MOFI there is a “blunting” of the acoustic guitar transients. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel / Bridge Over Troubled Water – CBS Half-Speed Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Sonic Grade: B?

Another Half Speed reviewed and this one’s not bad!

The CBS Half-Speed is actually quite good. It’s been twenty years since I played one but I used to like it. Of course, once you hear the real thing you can never go back, but it blows the doors off the muddy MoFi.


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?

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:

More Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.

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Crosby, Stills & Nash on Nautilus – The Most Bloated, Ill-Defined, Overblown Bass in the Sad, Sordid History of Half-Speed Mastering

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More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

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Sonic Grade: F

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

An audiophile record dealer (of course; who else?) once raved to me about Crosby Stills and Nash on Nautilus. I said “What are you talking about? That version sucks!” He replied “No, it’s great. Helplessly Hoping sounds amazing.” 

Now one thing I know about the Nautilus is that although it is wonderfully transparent in the midrange, it may very well take the cake for the most bloated, out of control bass in the history of Half Speed mastering. What song on that album has almost no bass, just lovely voices in the midrange? You guessed it. Helplessly Hoping.

The Nautilus got one track right, and ruined the rest. Using that track for comparison will fool you, and when it comes time to play a side of the album, you will quickly hear what a disaster it is.

Or maybe you won’t. Who else harps on bad Half-Speed Mastered bass outside of those of us who write for this blog? I don’t recall ever reading a word about it. This does not reflect well on the bass response of the modern audiophile stereo.


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem (more…)