Labels With Shortcomings – Mobile Fidelity

Letter of the Week – – Kind of Blue

Kind of Blue

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

Hey Tom,   

Holy F*CK. Just arrived. Absolutely fantastic! All I can say is wow.

I replied:

Can you believe people take that mediocre MoFi seriously? It’s a joke next to the real thing, as you now know first hand.

And how much better is the +++ version (when they appear)?

Brian E.

Brian,

We just sold a top copy last month, pricey (!) but hearing the record go to another level is a thrill that’s hard to put a price on.

Best, TP

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…)

A Fun and Easy Test for Abbey Road: MoFi Versus Apple

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Abbey Road

There is a relatively simple test you can use to find out if you have a good Mobile Fidelity pressing of Abbey Road. Yes, as shocking as it may seem, they actually do exist, we’ve played them, but they are few and far between (and never as good as the best Brits).

The test involves doing a little shootout of the song Golden Slumbers between whatever MoFi pressing you have and whatever British Parlophone pressing you have. If you don’t have both LPs this shootout will be difficult to do. The idea is to compare aspects of the sound of both pressings head to head, which should shed light on which one of them is more natural and which is more hi-fi-ish sounding.

The Golden Slumbers Test

I’ve come to realize that this is a Key Track for side two, because what it shows you is whether the midrange of your pressing — or your system — is correct. At the beginning Paul’s voice is naked, front and center, before the strings come in. Most Mobile Fidelity pressings, as good as they can be, are not tonally correct in the middle of the midrange. The middle of the voice is a little sucked out and the top of the voice is a little boosted. It’s really hard to notice this fact unless one plays a good British pressing side by side with the MoFi. Then the typical MoFi EQ anomaly become obvious. It may add some texture to the strings, but the song is not about the strings. (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.

Letter of the Week – Kind of Blue on MoFi – “Closed, muffled and flat as a pancake.”

Our good customer Bennett bought very expensive, top quality pressings of two killer Miles Davis albums from us recently. His letter reads:

Hi Tom,

Last night I listened to my 2015 Mobile Fidelity 45 RPM pressing. I couldn’t get through the first cut. Closed, muffled and flat as a pancake. No life or energy whatsoever.

Agreed. My notes for their pressing read:

Thick, dark, flat. Lacks air, space, presence.

Not a bad sound but it’s not right. (A real understatement, that.)


Kind of Blue

Someday My Prince Will Come

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. 

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.
(more…)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Disastrous Remasters from MoFi and Direct Disk Labs

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Sonic Grade: F (DD Labs) / D (MoFi)

2 Hall of Shame entries and two more Half Speeds debunked.

If you have the Direct Disc Labs half-speed you have one truly awful record in your collection, so sucked out in the midrange, so compressed everywhere, what the hell were they thinking making this rockin’ album sound like that? It’s positively disgraceful. It makes MoFi look like they knew what they doing, and we know that sure isn’t true.

In truth we did not actually have a copy of the MoFi handy for this shootout, but in our defense let us just say that we’ve heard their pressing many times over the course of the last twenty years. It’s better than the DD Labs version but not good enough for me to want to play it — compressed and sucked-out like practically every record they ever made, just not as badly as the DD Labs version.

The most obvious problems with the sound of this album are ones common to many if not most rock records of the era: lack of presence, too much compression, smear, lack of weight from the lower mids on down — we hear lots of Classic Rock records with this litany of shortcomings. But it’s not the fault of the master tape, it’s probably not even the fault of the mastering engineer most of the time. It’s just plain bad pressing quality. The sound simply doesn’t get stamped onto the vinyl right and the result is one or more of the problems above. And if you don’t know how to clean your records properly, forget it, you have virtually no chance of hearing good sound on GYBR.

The Average Copy (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus – We Was Wrong in 2009

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We used to think that:

This German import pressing of Waiting for Columbus is much better sounding than the typical Mastering Lab-mastered copy.

This German pressing is similar to one that came from my own personal collection, accidentally discovered way back in the early ’80s as I recall. It KILLED my domestic original, and got some things right that even my treasured Mobile Fidelity pressing couldn’t. We have been meaning to do a shootout for this album for at least the last five years, 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.

That same laundry list continued to pay big dividends, and right around 2017 or so the best original domestic Mastering Lab copies started to sound much more right to us than the German ones.  The German pressings can be good, but the TML pressings are the only ones we expect to win shootouts from now on.

But who knows? We could find something even better down the road. That’s what shootouts are for. (more…)

How Exactly Is This an Audiophile Record?

 

Linda-Ronstadt-Whats-New-419854

 

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

Not having played this record in more than a decade, it’s interesting to hear this Mobile Fidelity pressing with much better equipment than was previous available to me. The first thing I noticed was the amazing transparency of the recording, no doubt the reason audiophiles have always liked it.

Next on the list, and a bit of a surprise, is the correct tonality — this record is tonally right on the money, something Mobile Fidelity rarely achieves. This MoFi was mastered by Jack Hunt, not Stan Ricker, which may explain why the top end is more correct than usual.

Third and last is George Massenburg’s approach to this recording, which, to be charitable, is not to my liking. Let’s just say he prefers a certain artificiality to his sound that does little for me.

Of course, not all audiophiles will agree with me about this. Some audiophiles actually like this kind of sound. They like the sound of Graceland. They like the sound of The Well. They like the sound of Patricia Barber’s albums. They like a lot of recordings I don’t like.

When I speak highly of a recording or pressing, my prejudices and preferences are spelled out for all to see. There should be little doubt that the sound of this album is not to my taste, but for those of you who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will probably like.