Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Joan Baez / Diamonds and Rust – The Half-Speed that Beats Most Pressings

More Folk Rock

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joan Baez

Sonic Grade: B+

This review is from many years ago, at least ten I would think, so take it for what it’s worth.

One of the best Half Speed Mastered Records we have ever played.

In our recent shootout we were shocked — shocked — to hear how good our old copy of Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus sounded head to head against some of the best pressings we could find.

If I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears, I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem. (more…)

John Klemmer – Touch

  • This copy of the best MoFi title to ever hit the site is close to the best we’ve heard, with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – remarkably 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
  • “This is music straight from the heart, smooth but with a few twists and turns to make it interesting. But there are no cliche blues licks, none of the crap that players in this genre try to foist upon as ‘hip.’ Indeed, Klemmer has more in common with the late 60’s mantra playing of Coltrane or Sanders than those other guys (whose names will not be mentioned.)”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy amazing audiophile-quality recordings like this one can bring to your life. Touch is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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 Direct to Disc.) (more…)

Grateful Dead / American Beauty – An Honest-to-Goodness Killer MoFi LP

More of the Music of The Grateful Dead

Hot Stamper Pressings of Stephen Barncard’s Recordings

Sonic Grade: B+

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND. The transparency and presence in the midrange is outstanding for a MoFi. This copy does not have the usual midrange suckout that ruins so many of their records.

The bass actually sounds mostly in control on this copy — there’s much less of the typically bloated MoFi bass to be found here.

This is the best sounding Mobile Fidelity American Beauty we have ever heard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s hugely better than we expected.

Any original Green Label domestic pressing is sure to be better, but sure to be noisier too, so if you must have quiet vinyl, you can do a lot worse than this MoFi.

Which means it belongs on our list of The Best Sounding Mobile Fidelity Records We’ve Ever Played.

FURTHER READING on the subject of Half-Speed Mastering

People sometimes ask us:

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

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Kōtèkan – Percussion And…

More Kōtèkan

More Percussion Recordings of Interest

  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this original Reference LP
  • So transparent, dynamic and REAL, this copy raises the bar for the sound of percussive music on vinyl
  • Includes an extraordinary interpretation of Ravel’s La Flute Enchantee that must be heard to be believed
  • “… heady, explosive, weird, bizarre and brilliant playing…” – S.F. Chronicle

This Reference LP, mastered by Stan Ricker might just be the best sounding record this sorry excuse for an audiophile label ever made.

Any label that would release Audiophile BS records such as this one and this one has a lot of explaining to do.

I hadn’t played this Kōtèkan title in probably twenty years, but I remembered it sure sounded good to me back in the day, so we decided to get some in and do a shootout for them. This copy was an impressive reminder of just how good the recording can be.

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Fleetwood Mac – A MoFi Winner

Another MoFi LP reviewed, and this one is actually pretty good

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album can actually sound quite good (if you get hold of a decent copy that is). 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 rich, transparent, sweet, and natural, and you won’t hear us saying that about very many MoFi pressings.

It belongs in their Top Ten, 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: backwards. (more…)

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 Super Disk 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…)

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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