Commentaries on Half-Speed Mastering

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

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

We have never bothered to play their remaster, along with some other Heavy Vinyl reissues we think have very little chance of actually sounding good to us.

I found out recently that the MoFi is now on the TAS Super Disc list. You can find it along with the domestic — yes, you read that right — domestic pressing of the first album.

Now just how hard of hearing do you have to be to think that the domestic pressing of Dire Straits’ first album is a Super Disc? A nice record, sure, but nice records aren’t really Super Discs, are they?

Not when there are UK pressings that trounce it. We should know, we’ve played them by the dozens. How the writers for The Absolute Sound can be this far off the mark is a question we cannot begin to answer.

The most obvious answer — and therefore the most likely one — is reviewer malpractice? What else could it be?

What We Think We Know

We have written quite a number of reviews and commentaries for the first album and we encourage you to read some of them.

Speaking of Super Discs, the good British pressings are so good we put them on our Top Ten Most Tubey Magical Rock and Pop Recordings List. No domestic pressing we have ever played would qualify as anything other than a minimally-acceptable Hot Stamper.

We would never bother to put such a pressing in a shootout, when even the average run-of-the-mill UK copy is better.


We Get Letters

A few years ago we received this email from a customer.

“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.

[I will be reviewing their unbelievably awful Dire Straits first album on 45 one of these days. Rarely have I heard such a good recording, a brilliant recording, turned into such a piece of crap. Robert Brook didn’t like it either.]

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 approach to mastering, one that almost never produces good sounding records.

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 audition. 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 unmount it and get it back to its owner. I never said a word about it and he never complained about the bass.)

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.

We played their Sinatra at the Sands record a few years back after someone gave us a free copy.

And it was pretty good. It might earn a sonic grade of “B.” That’s about the most you can hope for. We’ve reviewed a lot of their albums over the years, and you can read about them here.

Keep in mind that we are not saying their version is bad.

We do not judge records we have never played.

However, we would be very surprised if it were better than mediocre.

So that’s why we cannot answer your question!

Best, TP

PS

The version Chris Bellman cut for Rhino at 45 RPM in 2021 is actually quite good. I will be writing a review for it one of these days.


Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.

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Getting the Wife On Board Is Key to Audiophile Happiness

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

More Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hi Tom,

My wife and I had a sort of meditative / semi-religious experience the other night when we were a bit woozy just from a long day and we sat and listened to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. It was almost transcendent.

I was playing her the record for the first time to show her the money wasn’t wasted. That convinced her.

Andrew

Dear Andrew,

A very good strategy. You have to hear the record to know what the value of it is. I Got the Blues would have been my first choice, but being woozy is a big help too no matter what track you play.

Best, TP

Andrew had earlier noted to my main man Fred (who runs the business now) how bad the MoFi Sticky Fingers sounded.

Anyway, I told [Fred] how worthwhile it was to finally have a good copy of Sticky Fingers. I have three other copies, including the MFSL (it’s embarrassing they even released the record to begin with.)

I was checking out the MFSL copy again and I think the thing that really caught my ears in the past was the bass on Can’t You Hear My Knocking during the last three minutes when they do the Santana breakdown. Then you kinda notice it as a dull thud on other songs also. But I think that was the worst offender, especially since everything drops out.

I was rereading the articles about your business to see what I could gleam about how you clean the vinyl. I still can’t believe the criticism since A) they’ve never actually heard one of your records and B) you offer a no questions asked money back guarantee. That just screams legitimacy. A con man who offers a 100% refund. I don’t think so.

I think these remasters and half speed remasters are bullshit and cashing in. That’s the con. Those people wouldn’t be so pissed off if you didn’t win people over who actually take the time to listen. To me it’s like hearing the perfect balance and placement of a great remastered CD but with all the depth of vinyl.

You are a good arbiter of what’s a good pressing by most any definition, at least from the two albums I have. And the Sticky Fingers really impressed me as I have 3 other copies.

They did a really nice job of remastering Joni Mitchell’s 70’s albums on CD and if you have a good CD player with good D to A conversion, it sounds pretty damn good. But it will never have the depth and 3-D space of a record. Not even close.

You capture the best of both worlds is how I think of it. Spending $200-$400 for some of these records is a no brainer. And Sticky Fingers was well worth the money. It’s kind of amazing people calling you out without listening.

Andrew,

It is indeed shocking how bad the bass is on MoFi’s records, and yet it is the rare audiophile that seems to notice. I cannot for the life of me understand it.

I appreciate the fact that you took the time to do your own shootout. That’s when a record like MoFi’s Sticky Fingers really shows just how awful it is.

As for our records being judged by people who have never heard them, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, we’ve given up reasoning those folks out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

Of course that doesn’t keep us from writing about it.

If you are able to judge records by their sound, not whatever hype may surround them, you are well on your way to putting together an audiophile quality record collection.

If, however, you believe you are able to judge the sound of records you’ve never played, then it’s more than likely that things will not work out well for you.

We have a number of sections devoted to thinking about records critically, the best of which is probably this one:


Further Reading

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“Ultra High Quality Records” or “Lipstick on a Pig”?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Audiophile Records Available Now

More on the Subject of Collecting Better Sounding Records

Today’s vinyl-loving audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making more than forty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just audiophile fads, each with a track record of underperformance that seems to worsen with each passing year? Would you really want to defend this piece of junk in 2023?

uhqrb

In my formative years in audio, starting in the mid-’70s, it would never have occurred to me to buy more than one copy of a record. I didn’t need to do a head to head comparison in order to find out which one sounded better. I approached the subject Platonically, not scientifically: the record that should sound better, would sound better.

Later on in the decade a label by the name of Mobile Fidelity would come along claiming to actually make better sounding pressings than the ones the major labels put out, and cluelessly I bought into that nonsense too. (To be fair, sometimes they did — Waiting for Columbus and American Beauty come to mind if you don’t have properly-pressed, properly-mastered originals, but my god, Katy Lied, Year of the Cat and Sundown have to be three of the worst sounding records I’ve ever played in my life.)

And isn’t it every bit as true today as it was in the past that the audiophiles who buy these “special” pressings, like the ones I bought back in the 70s and 80s, rarely seem to notice that many of them don’t actually sound very good? (Some of the worst can be found here, the worst of the worst here.)

CofAEasy Answers and Quick Fixes

Turns out there are no easy answers. There are no quick fixes. In audio there’s only hard work and more hard work. That’s what gives the learning curve its curvature — the more you do it, the better you can do it.

And if doing all that work is also your idea of fun, you just might get really good at it.

If you actually enjoy playing five or ten or even fifteen copies of the same album to find the few that really sound good, and the one that sounds amazing — because hearing your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard is a positive thrill — then you just might end up with one helluva record collection, worlds better than one filled with audiophile pressings from any era, most especially the present.


Further Reading

Mobile Fidelity’s Approach to Mastering – I Have a Theory

Reviews and Commentaries for Mobile Fidelity Records

Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

Yes, We Have No Hot Stampers of Little Feat’s Albums

I have a theory about why MoFi’s mastering approach tended to work for Waiting for Columbus album when it failed so miserably for so many others. It goes a little something like this. 

Back in their early days, MoFi tended to add bass and treble to practically every record they mastered, regardless of whether or not the master tape they were using needed any such boost. A little extra sparkle up top and a little extra kick down low was what the audiophile public seemed to want.

Truth be told, I was a member of that group and I know I did.

Fortunately for them, Waiting for Columbus is an album that can really use a little at both ends. Rarely did The Mastering Lab supply it, making the original domestic pressings somewhat bass-shy and dull on the extreme top. The MoFi clearly corrected the poor EQ choices The Mastering Lab had often made. [1] 

The Bottom

But at what cost? At a very high one, revealed to us during our shootout by the killer pressings we uncovered. On the MoFi the bass, although there is more of it, just the right amount in fact, is BLUBBER. The lack of definition is positively painful, once you’ve heard how well-recorded it is, which is what the best copies can show you.

The Cowbell Test

And the top isn’t quite as good as I always thought — you can hear their standard 10k boost on the cowbell at the opening of Fat Man in a Bathtub. That cowbell just does not sound right. The typical original gets the cowbell even more wrong, but that’s a good reason not to settle for the typical copy and to find yourself a Hot Stamper. Or let us find one for you.

Top Sound

Many of Little Feat’s earlier albums are difficult to find with good sound. (I won’t say they were badly recorded; I was nowhere near the studio at the time and have no idea what the real master tapes sound like. All I know is their records usually don’t sound very good.)

But this is a BEAUTIFULLY recorded concert, and the versions they do of their old material are MUCH BETTER than the studio album versions for the most part. Fat Man In A Bathtub on this album is out of this world. You will have a hard time listening to the studio versions of these songs once you have heard them performed with this kind of energy, enthusiasm and technical virtuosity. This is some of the best sounding live rock and roll sound you will ever hear outside of a concert venue.

Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.

We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience.

All I can hear is what it does wrong.

I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better.

Notes:

[1] Poor EQ choices or one or more of the following:

  • Or the cause of the records lacking extension on both ends comes from some other factors that cannot be known.
  • Or the band liked it better that way.
  • Or The Mastering Lab found it easier to cut that way.
  • Or, if you don’t like those three, just make up some other reasons that sound plausible, or fit in with other ideas you may have, even though there is probably not an iota of evidence to support any of it. This is The Way of the Audiophile — theories galore, but not much experimental evidence to back them up (or falsify them as the case may be). We are more inclined to the No Theory approach to finding good records, which you can read about here. We believe it has served us very well and can do the same for you.

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Thoughts on MoFi’s Midrange Suckout

More of the Music of The Band

Roots Rock LPs with Hot Stampers Available Now

I was already a huge Mobile Fidelity fan in 1982 when they released Music from Big Pink, which, for some strange reason, was an album I knew practically nothing about.

I was 15 when the second album came out and I played that album all the time, but the first album had eluded me. How it managed to do that I cannot understand, not at this late date anyway. A major malfunction on my part to be sure.

At some point in the early ’90s I got hold of an early British pressing of the album.

Comparing it to my MoFi, I was shocked to hear the singers in the band so present and clear. Having only played MoFi’s remastered LP, I had never heard them sound like that.

The MoFi had them standing ten feet back.

The Brit put them front and center.

There was no question in my mind which presentation was right.

Around that time I was noticing that many Mobile Fidelity pressings seemed to be finding that same distant-midrange sound, and finding it on wildly different recordings. Recordings from different studios, by different engineers, in different eras.

The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you own. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 40 years.

Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, Not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.

And note also that when you play your records too quietly, it creates an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth. That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear the pressings that have real presence and immediacy, because they’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts.

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Traveling Back in Time with Cat Stevens on Mobile Fidelity

In order to Hear It on Vintage Equipment

Our good customer Roger wrote us a letter years ago about his Tea for the Tillerman on Mobile Fidelity, in which he remarked, “Sometimes I wish I kept my old crappy stereo to see if I could now tell what it was that made these audiophile pressings so attractive then.”

It got me to thinking. Yes, that would be fun, and better yet, it could be done. There are actually plenty of those Old School Audio Systems of the ’60s and ’70s still around. Just look at what many of the forum posters — god bless ’em — are running. They’ve got some awesome ’70s Japanese turntables, some Monster Cable and some vintage tube gear and speakers designed in the ’50s.

With this stuff you could virtually travel back in time, in effect erasing all the audio progress made possible by the new technologies adopted by some of us over the last 30 years or so.

Then you could hear your Mobile Fidelity Tea for the Tillerman sound the way it used to when you could actually stand to be in the same room with it.

My question to Roger was “What on earth were we hearing that made us want to play these awful half-speed mastered records? What was our stereo doing that made these awful records sound good to us at the time?”

In Search of a Bad Stereo

I know how you can find out. You go to someone’s house who has a large collection of audiophile pressings and have him play you some of them. Chances are that his stereo will do pretty much what your old stereo and my old stereo used to do — be so wrong that really wrong records actually start to sound right! It seems crazy but it just might be true.

Think about it. If your stereo has no real top end extension, then a boosted top end like the kind found on practically every record MoFi ever made is a positive boon.

Down low, if you don’t have good bass reproduction, the bad bass that pretty much all half-speeds evince won’t bother you, it’ll sound bad the way the bass on all your records sounds: bad. And the boosted bass you get on so many MoFi pressings works to your benefit too.

How about those sparkling guitars? For systems that are incredibly opaque and low-resolution, the kind we all used to have, the kind that sound like we added three or four grilles to the front of the speaker, the MoFi guitars actually might start to cut through the veils and may sound — gulp! — right.

Homey Don’t Play That

But we don’t own stereos like the ones we used to have. I’m on record as saying that the more audiophile pressings you own, the worse your stereo must be. When you get your collection to the point that practically no audiophile records are playable without their faults staring you in the face, you will no doubt have made an awful lot of positive changes to your playback system.

It happened that way for me, it happened that way for Roger, and it can happen for you (and may have already). We sell the stuff that can help your stereo reveal the shortcomings of audiophile pressings, and we have lots of advice on how to get the most from your system in order to do the same. Which means that all your best regular records will sound dramatically better too.

This is a good thing, since you already own them. And you can sell your audiophile pressings for big bucks to some poor shmuck whose stereo is from the stone age. It’s a Win Win all around!

Roger’s Letter

Hi Tom,

Just a note on another hot stamper shootout I recently did, this time on Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. It was interesting comparing it to the regular MFSL half-speed, the MFSL UHQR pressing, and a UK Pink Island 3U pressing, which was my all-time champ.

The regular MFSL was up first and I now remember why I don’t like this pressing: the guitars are entirely too bright, forward, and stand too proud of the rest of the mix, completely overwhelming the other instruments and voices.

When I had a detail-challenged stereo 25 years ago, I recall thinking that MFSL really improved the detail on the guitars and the highs were more crystalline, but with a vastly improved stereo I can see what MFSL was doing in artificially hyping the details.

After taking this ear-bleeding pressing off my turntable and replacing it with the UHQR, I was actually relieved that the UHQR was not as annoying as the regular half-speed, although the UHQR had its faults also. The tonal balance was weird, thin and bright, and dynamics were suppressed, the worst of the four pressings I had. Also, the bass on both MFSL versions, as you often say, was an amorphous blob with little dynamics, speed, and extension.

Sometimes I wish I kept my old crappy stereo to see if I could now tell what it was that made these audiophile pressings so attractive then.

So anyway, I tried the UK Pink Island next and its tonal balance was much more natural and the recording no longer sounded like Cat Stevens and his Zither Band. Instruments and voices were weightier and had good texture, and the bass was quicker and more extended, making the recording a lot less lightweight than the MoFi versions. I sometimes wondered how much better this pressing could be since my Pink copy had quite a bit of surface noise.

Well, I found out why another of your customers proclaimed Tea to be his new reference recording when I heard the US A&M hot stamper pressing. Wow! I was astonished at how much better this version was. I have never heard this pressing sound quite like this. There was a huge wall of sound and instruments and voices had real body, bass was absolutely titanic, and dynamics made me wonder whether my speakers would be damaged. This thing is a monster, one of the best recordings in my 10,000 LP collection.

So as usual, back on the shelf go the expensive MFSL versions, hopefully gaining value but never to be played again. Yes, the Tea hot stamper is a new reference, definitely. And a US pressing, go figure.

Thanks.

Roger, thanks for your letter.

The domestic pressings can indeed sound amazing, something we have been saying for decades and that we took the time to write about back when we first started doing shootouts for the album.

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Joe Sample / Rainbow Seeker – Live and Learn

More of the Music of Joe Sample

Reviews and Commentaries for Mobile Fidelity Records

A classic case of Live and Learn

[This commentary is at least fifteen years old. We mention Disc Doctor below, and once we had discovered the Walker System in 2007, we stopped using it to clean our records.]

Hot Stampers discovered! It took years, decades even, but it FINALLY happened. This copy has a side one with all the sound I always knew must be on the tape but somehow never seemed to make it to the vinyl. This copy has that sound!

Let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been recommending the MOFI for as long as I can remember, because it has always been the only copy that didn’t sound like a bad cassette.

The domestic pressings and imports I had run into over the years had no top end whatsoever, no bass below 50 or 60 cycles, and enough veils over the midrange to cover an entire harem. (No top and no bottom is our definition of boxy sound.)

The sound was also Pure Compressed Cardboard.

The best MOFI copies had an actual top end; a real bottom too. (Not a tight or deep one but that’s MOFI for you.) I’ve always loved the music, so even though the sound was somewhat washed out and lifeless, you could listen to the MOFI and enjoy it for what it was: not perfect, but a whole lot better than the alternatives. (The CD was hopeless by the way, no surprise there.)

Ah, but all that changed this week. We finally broke through.

I had just picked up a sealed original copy at a local store and was considering putting it up on the site, sealed of course. Then a thought went through my mind. I’ve always loved this record. What if this copy is The One? So I did the unthinkable. I cracked it open, and soon enough the needle was in the groove on my favorite track, Fly With Wings of Love.

To my surprise it had the BEST SOUND I had EVER heard for that song. When all was said and done, when all the copies in the backroom had been disc doctored, along with my three MOFI copies, and each carefully evaluated, sure enough this is the side two that turned out to be the King. I give it an A with Two Pluses. The typical domestic copy gets an F.

Wait, there’s more.

So with all our copies cleaned and ready to play, it was now time to play all the side ones. Even more shocking and surprising, one copy had a side one that was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Master tape sound, As Good As It Gets, perfection.

That’s this copy. Side two is pretty good, maybe a B+ or so. Better than average, but no Hot Stamper.

Since this is one of my favorite pop-jazz albums, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. It may not be deep — for real piano trio jazz check out Sample’s The Three — but it’s not trying to be. It is what it is — sophisticated, melodic, well-crafted piano-based easy-going jazz. With the awesome Eric Gale on guitar too.


Further Reading on Half-Speeds

The best place to start is here:

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

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“There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

We review the newly remixed Revolver.

As I was reading the newspaper today, I chanced upon Mark Twain’s famous quote and immediately recognized a way to put it to good use. I had been searching my brain for a good way to start a commentary detailing the multitudinous problems with the remixed, half-speed mastered Revolver LP. Kicked in the head was exactly what I needed.

In 2020 I had reviewed the Abbey Road remix and was astonished that anyone would release a record of such utter sonic worthlessness. A few choice lines:

The half-speed mastered remixed Abbey Road has to be one of the worst sounding Beatles records we have ever had the displeasure to play.

Hard to imagine you could make Abbey Road sound any worse. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

I will be writing more about its specific shortcomings down the road, but for now let this serve as a warning that you are throwing your money away if you buy this newly remixed LP.

Of course I never did write more about it. The thought of listening critically to the album in order to detail its manifold shortcomings was more than I could bear and onto the back burner the idea went, where it remains to this day.

In 2020 I warned the audiophile community not to go down this foolish half-speed mastered road, and now that they have been kicked in the head a second time, perhaps when they wake up they will come to their senses, although I doubt very much that they will.

Giles Martin is the guilty party here, and I hope it is clear by now that he simply has no clue as to how a Beatles record should sound. If he did have such a clue, this new Revolver would never have seen the light of day.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Here are the notes our crack listening panel (our very own Wrecking Crew) made as they listened to the new Revolver.

Note that they listened to side two first, playing a Super Hot stamper ’70s UK pressing head to head with the new release, so we have listed our notes for side two above those for side one.

They listened to the first two tracks on side two in this order:

Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing.

On side one they played the first three tracks and listened to them in this order:

I’m Only Sleeping, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby.


Some of the highlights from side two:

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Letter of the Week – “…I am surprised at how muddy the bass sounds on the new one.”

More of the Music of Sting and The Police

Reviews and Commentaries for Ghost in the Machine

One of our good customers had this to say about a record he read about on the blog, the Nautilus pressing of Ghost in the Machine.

Hey Tom,   

Did you write something about the Nautilus record… I thought so, but I couldn’t find it.

[This Ghost in the Machine link will take you to it.]

This is one of my favorites from my teenage years and so I decided to do my own little test… Sterling vs. Nautilus vs. half speed abbey road reissue… it feels pretty clear the Sterling is tops with Nautilus close but I am surprised at how muddy the bass sounds on the new one. And just how tamped down the record sounds. Which is I guess your point.

Geoff

Geoff,

You now know a great deal more about this album than most of the audiophiles expressing their opinions on audiophile forums.

You conducted a shootout, something most of them can’t be bothered to do.

You should not be surprised about muddy bass on half-speed mastered records, they all have it.

And tamped down? Tell me about it. Compressed and lifeless are two qualities the audiophile record can be guaranteed to deliver. How these companies get away with producing one shitty remaster after another is beyond me. They’ve been making this junk for more than forty years and they’re apparently haven’t learned a thing in all that time.

Welcome to the upside-down world of the modern audiophile record. The worse they sound, the more audiophiles seem to like them.

Your shootout provided you with a good lesson to learn right from the start. It has set you on a better path.

Try this experiment: Take four or five UK pressings, clean them up and then compare them to any of the ones you played — the sound should be night and day better. And, after doing that shootout, one of the four or five would be a truly Hot Stamper pressing.

Those are what we sell. We save you all that work and expense and give you a better record than you could probably find on your own, but if you want to do your own shootouts, we have lots of advice on this very blog to help you do that. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing – The Answer Is No

More on the So-Called Ultra High Quality Record

Can you take the guesswork out of buying brand new high quality records?

The answer is no and it must forever remain no.

Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity (or any other label you care to name), 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 mistaken 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. (A good example of a test we ran with some sealed Heavy Vinyl pressings can be found here.)

The fact that this is a controversial viewpoint in 2023 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 mistaken 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

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, found here: