Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Rickie Lee Jones – MoFi Reviewed, Positively

More of the Music of Rickie Lee Jones

Reviews and Commentaries for Rickie Lee Jones’ First Album

Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed, and this one’s pretty good for a change

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album can actually be pretty decent.

If you get a good one, that is. Records are records and limited editions have dramatic pressing variations just like all the other records out there in Record Land.

Audio perfection it ain’t, but all in all it’s a very enjoyable record. Its strengths are many and its faults are few. Let’s give credit where credit is due; the MoFi is dynamic, transparent, sweet, and open, and you won’t hear us saying that about very many MOFI pressings.

It belongs in their Top Ten (a list we have yet to make, for some reason we never find the time!), toward the bottom I would guess, due to its own sloppy bottom, but that’s half-speed mastering for you. Like most new audio technologies it was a giant step in the wrong direction.

We suppose you could live with the blubbery MoFi bass found on their remastered LP — most audiophiles seem more than happy to, right? — but instead, we’re happy to report that it will no longer be necessary. All our Hot Stamper copies are guaranteed to trounce it.

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King Crimson – A Very Good Pressing from Mobile Fidelity

More of the Music of King Crimson

Hot Stamper Pressings of Progressive Rock Albums Available Now

Sonic Grade: B

The MoFi pressing shown here is surely one of their best.

Unfortunately, these days we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. Including this one.

One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it will probably beat most of what you can find to throw at it. A quick survey:

If you have the Atlantic pressing, from any era, you have never begun to hear this record at its best.

UK Polydor reissue? Passable, not really worth the labor to put them in a shootout and have them earn mediocre grades.

The same can be said for some of the early UK Pink Label Island pressings. None of them has ever won a shootout and none probably ever will. We don’t buy them as a rule, for two related reasons: one, they are expensive, and two, their sound quality does not justify paying the premium price sellers typically are asking.

We leave them to the record collectors who like to collect originals.

We and our customers are audiophiles. We like to collect records with good sound. If we have our heads on straight, we don’t care what pressing we buy as long as it’s the one with the best sound. (Of course, not everybody agrees with us about that, but enough of you out there do, such that our business is sure to proper in the years to come. 

Back to the MoFi

It’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing, any audiophile pressing, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size, power and passion is missing from the record you own?

There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album.  (more…)

Are All MoFis Created Equal? A Pair of Pink Floyd LPs Proved They Aren’t

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

[This commentary was written more than ten years ago. Still true though.]

Many audiophiles are still 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 false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears.

With all four the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The discussion below of a Hot Stamper Pair of Dark Sides may shed light on some of the issues involved.

Remember Classic Records Comparison Packages?

This is our first Hot Stamper Comparison Package.

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Van Morrison / Moondance – Our Half-Speed Shootout Winner from Way Way Back

More Van Morrison

Reviews and Commentaries for Moondance

[This review was written more than ten years ago, so take it for what it is worth and with more than a grain of salt.]

We’ve combined our two best half-speed mastered SuperDisk pressings to give you Super Hot sound for both sides. Of all the half-speed versions we had here, two of them each had one amazing side. 

“But Tom,” you might say, “I thought you hated audiophile versions of rock records!” Well, we sure don’t hate ’em when they sound like this! The best Green Label copies are going to be a step up in class, but you’re going to have a hard time finding sound this good for Moondance no matter what kind of pressings you’re playing.

It took us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout rockin’, a fact that anyone who has ever sought out a copy of this album will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t hanging around in the bins, and when you do find one it usually costs a pretty penny. Add on the fact that most copies just don’t sound all that hot and you can forgive us for thinking that we might never list a Hot Stamper copy again. (more…)

John Klemmer – Touch

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of the best MoFi title to ever hit the site – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Musically and sonically this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz – we know of none better
  • The best sounding Smooth – But Real – Jazz Album ever made, and the only vintage MoFi we know of that deserves a place in your collection
  • “Klemmer sets up the mellow grooves that we have come to associate with smooth jazz. But there are no cliche blues licks, none of the crap that players in this genre try to foist upon as “hip.””

This wonderful copy of Touch is probably the best sounding record Mobile Fidelity ever made, and the only record of theirs I know of that can’t be beaten by a standard real-time mastered pressing.

We’re talking Demo Disc quality sound here. The spaciousness of the studio and the three-dimensional placement of the myriad percussion instruments and bells within its walls make this something of an audiophile spectacular of a different kind — dreamy and intensely emotional.

Shocking as it may be, Mobile Fidelity, maker of some of the worst sounding records in the history of audio, is truly the king on this title.

Klemmer says pure emotion is what inspired the album’s creation. Whatever he tapped into to find the source of that inspiration he really hit paydirt with Touch. It’s the heaviest smooth jazz ever recorded. Musically and sonically, this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz body of work. I know of none better. (If you want to hear him play more straight-ahead jazz try Straight from the Heart on Nautilus.) (more…)

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

More Electric Light Orchestra

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

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.

If you want a dramatically better sounding pressing of the album, we would love to find you one, but they are very hard to come by these days.


Some Relevant Commentaries

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

More of the Music of Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

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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Crisis? What Crisis? The Exception that Probes the Rule

More Supertramp

[This commentary is from more than fifteen years ago, so please take it with an oversized grain of salt. The best domestic pressings kill this audiophile record. That said, the better half-speed copies are actually surprisingly good.]

This Hot Stamper A&M Half Speed of Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis? today joins a VERY ELITE GROUP: Half-Speeds that hold their own in a head to head shootout against some of the BEST Hot Stamper Non-Audiophile pressings we can find. There are presently a total of three titles that fit the description: Dark Side of the Moon on MoFi, Crime of the Century on MoFi, and this title on A&M.

Most half-speed mastered records we throw on our table have us scratching our heads and asking, What the hell were they thinking? They SUCK! Tubby bass, recessed mids, phony highs, compression — the list of bad qualities they almost all have in common is a long one. Playing these kinds of records on a properly set-up modern system is positively painful.
(You have to wonder how bad a stereo system has to be to disguise the shortcomings of records that sound as wrong as these. Then again, is Heavy Vinyl any better?) (more…)

John Klemmer / Touch – A Great Test for Your Tweeters

More of the Music of John Klemmer

Mobile Fidelity, maker of some of the worst sounding records in the history of the medium, is the KING on this title.

Klemmer says pure emotion is what inspired the album’s creation. Whatever he tapped into to find the source of that inspiration he really hit pay dirt with Touch. It’s the heaviest smooth jazz ever recorded. Musically and sonically, this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz body of work. I know of none better. (If you want to hear him play more straight-ahead jazz try Straight from the Heart on Nautilus.)

High Frequency Testing

MoFi was famous for demonstrating on an actual scope that the standard domestic ABC pressing had nothing above about 8 or 10 thousand cycles up top, which is why they all sound insufferably dull and dead. Some MoFi copies have no real top end either, which is the reason to we do these shootouts — to find the copies that are actually mastered and pressed right, not just the ones that should have been.

There’s plenty of information above 15K I would guess on this record — all those delicate percussion instruments ring so sweetly, the highs have to be extending way up there. (This album would probably make a good test to see how well your tweeters work, as well as for turntable setup. The right tracking weight and VTA are crucial to getting all the harmonics of a record like this right.) (more…)