Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List

Steely Dan ‎/ Gaucho – MCA Masterphile

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A pale shadow of the real MASTERDISK pressings. We’ve played at least a hundred of them, and I would be surprised if every one of them did not sound better than this compressed and desiccated audiophile piece of trash.

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Alison Krauss & Union Station ‎/ So Long So Wrong – Wrong in the Vocal Department

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We audiophiles have a soft spot for female vocals. It’s a sound that a high end stereo — practically any high end stereo — reproduces very well.

But why do some audiophiles listen to poorly recorded junk like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall? Their recordings are DRENCHED in digital reverb. Who is his right mind wants to hear the sound of digital reverb?

Rickie Lee Jones may not be my favorite female vocal of all time, but at least you can make the case for it as a Well Recorded Vocal Album. It’s worlds better than anything either of the above-mentioned artists have ever done.

The MoFi pressing of Alison Krauss (5276) is a disaster in the vocal department too.

Audiophiles for some reason never seem to notice how bad she sounds on that record. Can’t make sense of it. Any of the good Sergio Mendes records will show you female vocals that practically have no equal. Our best Hot Stampers bring the exquisite vocal harmonies of Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert) and Janis Hansen right into your living room. Why bother with trash like this Mobile Fidelity?

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This is the record you bothered to take a photo of and post next to your front end? Something is wrong somewhere.

We Don’t Need an Analog Revival If It Means Sound As Wrong As This

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Acoustic Sounds had Stan Ricker remaster this record a number of years ago, and of course they (he) ruined it. A twinkly top end and flabby bass were just two of the major shortcomings of their version.

Nothing surprising there, as Stan Ricker is famous for his “smile” curve, boosting both ends of the audio spectrum whether they need boosting or not. 

And half-speed mastered bass is almost always bloated and ill-defined.

If you add too much top end to a guitar record and ruin the sound of the guitar, how can anyone take you seriously?

Please note that not a single title from the Analog Revival series is any good, to the best of my knowledge, and all should be avoided. The same is true for all the 180 gram jazz titles on Analogue Productions mastered by Doug Sax, as you may have read elsewhere on the site.

Those records received rave reviews in the audiophile press when they came out, but you won’t find too many audiophile reviewers sticking up for them now, as they are, without exception, murky, compressed disasters of the worst kind.

I guess these reviewers eventually acquired equipment accurate enough to notice how bad those pressings are, which I guess goes to show there is hope for practically anyone!

Bob Seger – Night Moves – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

We’ve been trying to find killer copies of Night Moves for ages but it is not easy. Most copies out there are thin and dry, which is no way to hear these classic ’70s tracks. We brought in copy after copy that made us think, “I swear this sounds better on the radio!”

Finally, after pulling together a ton of copies from different eras, we started to realize that there were indeed vinyl pressings of Night Moves that sounded right… but they are few and far between, the exception and not the rule so to speak. Here’s a copy with an excellent side one and a killer side two — the first Hot copy of a Bob Seger album to EVER hit the site.

Mobile Fidelity did a version of this album that was so bright we found it not just hard to enjoy but actually hard to listen to. The typical domestic pressing ain’t much better but I’ll take boring, dry sound over the aggressive MoFi approach any day. (more…)

Tom Petty / Damn The Torpedoes – Is This LP Bright Enough For You?

“Masterphile Series”

Mastered at Half-Speed

 

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On this pressing it sure is. If your stereo is dull, dull, deadly dull, this company’s remastering approach, like many of the CBS Half-Speeds, will fix your lack of high end.

A perfect example of Stone Age Audio Thinking – a bright record to fix a dark system.

The only problem is, what happens when you put together a better system, one that’s tonally correct?

Then you will have to get rid of your old record collection and start over, right?

So get your stereo right before you go wasting lots of money on phony sounding records.

And most Heavy Vinyl today is every bit as bad, with boosted bass and overly smooth upper mids. Tune your system to that crap and you will find yourself in the same predicament down the road, assuming you ever get your stereo working right.

Kansas – Leftoverture – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Way too bright and thin. What were they thinking?

It’s the sound that most audiophiles are fooled by to this day! Brighter and more detailed is rarely better. Most of the time it’s just brighter. Not many half-speed mastered audiophile records are dull. They’re bright because the audiophiles who bought them preferred that sound. I did. Hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson, expensive and painful as it may have been. 

If your speakers are dull, dull, deadly dull, the way Old School speakers tend to be, this record has the juice to bring them to life!

Unmusicality

The best real-time mastered copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain “squawky, pinched” sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are very prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.

These mastering and pressing problems make the overall sound simply UNMUSICAL. The way we found that out was simple. We cleaned and played lots of copies, and every once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, make sense even.

Those copies showed us a Leftoverture we didn’t know existed and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played. After hearing such a truly killer copy we often go back and downgrade the ratings for the copies we thought were the best. Such is the way with these shootouts. (more…)

Blondie / Parallel Lines on EMI, Simply Vinyl and Mobile Fidelity – Three Strikes and You’re Out

Sonic Grade: D or worse

EMI and Simply Vinyl both released Heavy Vinyl versions of the album with little sonic success. I remember being underwhelmed by the Simply Vinyl version, the perfect example of the smeary sub-gen sound you get when a record is made from a dub tape. The EMI 180 was brighter and thinner and every bit as wrong in its own way. Choosing among them would have been difficult. The best choice: none of the above. 

As is so often the case, the Heavy Vinyl Reissues are simply a disgrace.

MOBILE FIDELITY

Two words: compressed muck (like most domestic pressings, to be fair).

I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it, but I always felt that the sound of my old original left something to be desired. So many copies are thick and lifeless; the music wants to cook but the sound seems to be holding it back.

And like an idiot I’m sure I had traded my original domestic pressing in for the MoFi when it came out in the early ’80s, the kind of dumbass audiophile move I discuss in the commentary Audiophilia 101: What Kind of Fool Was I?

As previously noted, the MoFi, one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ultimate in murky MoFi sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clean, clear, oh-so-radio-friendly pop rock sound that Mike Chapman and the band were aiming for.

The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous.

Grateful Dead – American Beauty – An Honest-to-Goodness Hot Stamper MoFi

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND. The transparency and presence in the midrange is outstanding. The bass actually sounds in control on this copy — there’s no 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. 

George Benson – Tell It Like It Is – A&M Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty — pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.

Traveling Back in Time with Cat Stevens on Mobile Fidelity…

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to Hear It on Vintage Equipment

Our good customer Roger wrote us a letter years ago about his MoFi TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN, 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 systems 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 going all the way back to the ’50s.

With this stuff you could in effect travel back in time, virtually erasing all the audio progress of the last 30 years. Then you could hear your MoFi Tea for the Tillerman sound the way it used to when you could actually stand to be in the same room with it.
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