Commentaries on Half-Speed Mastering

“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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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, 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.

The fact that this is a controversial viewpoint in 2022 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 

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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.

NEWSFLASH: I just found out today 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. More Reviewer Malpractice? What else could it be?

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 a Hot Stamper, not when even the average British copy is better.


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.]

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 take it out 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: Mobile Fidelity

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How to Make All Your Records Sound Like MoFi’s – For Free!

More of the Music of The Doors

Reviews and Commentaries for The Doors’ Debut

More Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Presence

The Doors first album is yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for a sucked-out midrange.

Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center.

When the DCC Doors first album was released on vinyl, we noted that the vocals were finally back where they belonged. After having lived with the MoFi for so many years, we’d almost forgotten.

And now of course we can’t tolerate the smear and opacity of the DCC. We like to think we’re simply setting higher standards these days.

The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room, and also farther apart, and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you play. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for 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 softly it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth.

That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear which pressings have real presence and immediacy. They’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts. If you have any of our killer Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.

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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 creating 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…)

The Most Serious Fault of the Typical Half-Speed Mastered LP? – Dead-as-a-Doornail Sound

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

The most serious fault of the typical Half-Speed Mastered LP is not incorrect tonality or poor bass definition, although you will have a hard time finding one that doesn’t suffer from both.

It’s Dead-As-a-Doornail Sound, plain and simple.

And most Heavy Vinyl pressings coming down the pike these days are as guilty of this sin as their audiophile forerunners from the ’70s. The average Sundazed record I throw on my turntable sounds like it’s playing in another room. What audiophile in his right mind could possibly find that quality appealing?

But Sundazed and other companies just like them keep turning out this crap. Somebody must be buying it.

So how does the famous MoFi pressing of Revolver sound? In a word, clean. Also not as crude as the average British import, and far better than any Japanese or domestic pressing we heard.

But it’s dead, man. It’s just so dead.

The current record holder for Most Compressed Mobile Fidelity Record of All Time? This shockingly bad sounding release, a record I admit to owning and liking back in the ’80s. I had an awful lot of expensive equipment back then, but it sure wasn’t helping me recognize how bad some of my records were.

How many audiophiles are where I used to be? Based on what I read on audiophile forums, and the kinds of audiophile pressings I see discussed on youtube videos, it seems that most of them are.


In practically every Hot Stamper listing on the site you will find some standard boilerplate that looks very much like what you see below. This is what we want our records to do well. I cannot begin to understand what audiophiles are listening for on these new reissues. Most of them do none of these things well.

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Joe Sample / Rainbow Seeker – Live and Learn

A classic case of Live and Learn

Reviews and Commentaries for Mobile Fidelity Records

[This commentary is about fifteen years old.]

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.

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

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

More on the UHQR

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.

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Letter of the Week “Meanwhile I sold out near all my pseudo-audiophile LP’s – they are useless.”

More Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he has been buying lately: 

Hey Tom, 

I want to express my gratitude to your long-lasting efforts with regard to music. It has fully changed my whole life as a listener of music. [emphasis added]

It’s a great pleasure and I reached a complete different level of enjoyment and listening habits. To hear a Hot Stamper it’s also often a physical and emotional experience (sensation of heat, tears in the eyes, palpitations etc.). Thanks to your great Hot Stampers I might experience with so much pleasure.

Meanwhile I sold out near all my pseudo-audiophile LP’s (i.e. MFSL, Nautilus, DCC, Simply Vinyl etc.) – they are useless.

And last but not least it’s very important to buy these hot LPs now and here, before deafness, tinnitus (my greatest fear) and dementia are going to kill us. All LPs are worth their price, because I can imagine how much effort it takes to do the shootouts. (I did some.) (more…)

Half-Speed Mastering – A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem

More of the Music of Joe Jackson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joe Jackson

We do a lot of MoFi bashing here at Better Records, and for good reason: most of their pressings are just plain awful. We are shocked and frankly dismayed to find that the modern day audiophile still flocks to this label with the expectation of a higher quality LP, seemingly unaware that although the vinyl may be quiet, the mastering — the sound of the music as opposed to the sound of the record’s surfaces — typically leaves much to be desired. 

Hence the commentary below, prompted by a letter from our good friend Roger, who owned the MoFi Night and Day and who had also purchased a Hot Stamper from us, which we are happy to say he found much more to his liking.

In my response, after a bit of piling on for the MoFi, I then turned my attention to three Nautilus records which I had previously held in high regard, but now find well-deserving of a critical beating. This one is entitled:

The Sound Is Pretty, All Right — Pretty Boring 

(Note that the underlining below has been added by us.)

Hi, Tom:

Just a quick note to let you know I listened to your Joe Jackson Night and Day hot stamper LP. I don’t think I have listened to this record for at least 15 years and forgot how much Joe Jackson was on top of his game then. Great record. And it is aptly named as there is a night-and-day difference in sound between it and the Mobile Fidelity half-speed version I have. I was surprised at how bland and undynamic the MoFi was compared to the hot stamper version. Did MFSL ever listen to this title? What did they compare it to, an 8-track tape version, maybe?

The hot stamper was far more dynamic, warm, punchy, and detailed than the MoFi. The piano had a lot more weight and stood apart in the mix. In fact, I could hear all the instruments stand out in the mix a lot more with the HS version. The MoFi sounded like many, but not all, typical MFSL pressings. The very low bass was raised in the mix as was the extreme treble, like it was equalized, but there was a lot less bass and the treble was recessed and sounded more like a can of spray mist being actuated.

I was surprised at how the music came alive with the HS pressing instead of the blah MFSL. Great job on picking this one. I will be keeping both pressings of this record: the MFSL for its collectability and my ability to sell it for big bucks to some bozo who won’t know the difference, and the HS version, the one I will actually listen to.

Roger

A Good Record Doesn’t Just Sit Around

Roger, I have to think that eventually there will come a day when audiophiles will catch on to the fact that most Half-Speeds are a crock, with exactly the kind of pretty but lifeless and oh-so-boring sound that you describe. But it hasn’t happened yet, so maybe that MOFI you are keeping will go up in value. But if I were you, I’d sell it while there’s still a market for bad audiophile records.

I can also tell you that it feels good to get bad records out of your collection. It’s so much more satisfying to have a wall full of good records you know to be good rather than just a wall full of records. And as you say, it’s been 15 years since you played that NIght and Day. A good record doesn’t sit around for 15 years; a good record gets played!

But you owned the MOFI, exactly the kind of record that is easily forgotten. (more…)