Labels With Shortcomings – Mobile Fidelity (UHQR)

Back to the Stone Age with The Pines of Rome on Mobile Fidelity

More Records Perfectly Suited for the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Respighi

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found wanting.

MoFi’s version of this recording (#507) is one of the worst sounding classical records they ever made, and that’s saying something, because most of their classical catalog is awful. Thin, bright, with sloppy bass and completely unnatural string tone — the MoFi makes the typical Classic Record sound good! And that’s REALLY saying something.

The UHQR is somewhat better, especially in the lower octaves, but it’s maybe a D+ or C-, not a Better Record by any means.

How dull and opaque does a stereo have to be to make this record listenable? The answer is VERY dull and VERY opaque. Stone Age Audio Systems are the only ones that can play junk like this and get away with it.            (more…)

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

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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Sonic Grade: D

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. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

More on the so-called Ultra High Quality Record

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Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what 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:

  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 2021 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 (81)

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The Purveyors of Ultra High Quality Records Want to Know: How Much of an Audio Fool Are You?

Record Collecting for Audiophiles

A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

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Today’s record-loving audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making more than forty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just audiophile fads, each with a track record of mediocre sound progressively worse than the next?

An Unscientific Approach

In my formative years in audio, starting in the mid-’70s, it would never have occurred to me to buy more than one copy of a record and do a head to head comparison to see which one sounded better. I approached the subject Platonically, not scientifically: the record that should sound better would sound better.

Later on in the decade a label by the name of Mobile Fidelity would come along claiming to actually make better sounding pressings than the ones the major labels put out, and cluelessly I bought into that nonsense too. (To be fair, sometimes they did — Touch, Waiting for Columbus and American Beauty come to mind, but my god, Katy Lied, Year of the Cat and Sundown have to be three of the worst sounding records I’ve ever played in my life.) (more…)

Cat Stevens Testimonial – One of the Best Recordings in My 10K LP Collection

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Roger is up to his old tricks again, doing shootouts with our Hot Stampers and all the great pressings he already owns, in this case putting our humble Brown Label A&M domestic LP up against the legendary Pink Label Island British Import and a couple of MoFis. We’ll let Roger tell his own story, since by now we all know he does it as well as anyone.

Hi Tom,

Just a note on another hot stamper shootout I recently did, this time on Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. It was interesting comparing it to the regular MFSL half-speed, the MFSL UHQR pressing, and a UK Pink Island 3U pressing, which was my all-time champ.

The regular MFSL was up first and I now remember why I don’t like this pressing: the guitars are entirely too bright, forward, and stand too proud of the rest of the mix, completely overwhelming the other instruments and voices.

When I had a detail-challenged stereo 25 years ago I recall thinking that MFSL really improved the detail on the guitars and the highs were more crystalline, but with a vastly improved stereo I can see what MFSL was doing in artificially hyping the details.

After taking this ear-bleeding pressing off my turntable and replacing it with the UHQR, I was actually relieved that the UHQR was not as annoying as the regular half-speed, although the UHQR had its faults also. The tonal balance was weird, thin and bright, and dynamics were suppressed, the worst of the four pressings I had. Also, the bass on both MFSL versions, as you often say, was an amorphous blob with little dynamics, speed, and extension.

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. (more…)

Holst / The Planets / Solti / LPO – MoFi (and UHQR) Debunked

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Sonic Grade: Regular MoFi LP: F / UHQR: D

Both Hall of Shame pressings.

We recently auditioned an excellent sounding Decca Purple Label British import LP, the same performance, the same recording that Mobile Fidelity remastered (#510), but, thankfully, it sounded A WHOLE LOT BETTER!

I just listened to both and a catalog of the faults of the MFSL pressing would be quite lengthy. I won’t waste your time listing them. Although this recording is not perfect, the Decca pressing shows it in its proper light.

It finds the right balance between the multi-miked sound of the Super Disc List Mehta and a vintage recording from the Golden Age such as the famous Boult. The sound is very dynamic and the brass has tremendous weight. The MoFi is thin and bright.

Their UHQR is somewhat better, not quite as thin and phony up top, but not really very good either. Avoid them both.

Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman – MoFi (UHQR too) Debunked

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Sonic Grade: MoFi Regular LP: D / UHQR: F 

This is, I hope it goes without saying, one of the greatest rock records of all time, music that belongs in any collection. I’ve been playing this album for 30 years and I can honestly say I’ve never once been tired of hearing it. I do get tired of hearing bad copies. I become absolutely incensed when I have to play the Mobile Fidelity version of this album, because what they did to this record is a travesty. If you want to know what the guitars on this album are NOT supposed to sound like, play the MOFI. And if you want to hear an even worse version, play the UHQR.

Alan Parsons Project – I Robot – A MoFi Disaster, on UHQR too

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Sonic Grade: MoFi Regular LP: F / UHQR: D 

Hall of Shame pressings and two more MoFi Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile LPs debunked.

The MoFi is a textbook example of their ridiculous affinity for boosted top end, not to mention the extra kick they put in the kick drum, great for mid-fi but a serious distraction on a high end system with good low end reproduction.

If you like the album –and that’s a big if — try the Simply Vinyl or the Classic LP. Even the UHQR sucks. Don’t kid yourself. They’re still mastered by SR, and he likes plenty of high end. Like the old saying goes, if it’s worth doing it’s worth overdoing.

Classic Records Has an Epiphany – UHQRs Actually DO Sound Good!

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[This commentary is from 2007 and admittedly a bit long in the tooth for the brave new world of Heavy Vinyl we currently find ourselves in. Classic Records has been gone for quite a while and when that happened we said good riddance to their bad records.]

Mike Hobson finally figured out why his pressings often don’t sound good and/or are noisy. We’ll let him explain it. If you want the whole story (which goes on for days) you can find it on the Classic Records web site. While you’re there, remember the sound.

One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980’s pressed for Herb Belkin’s Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it’s [sic] profile – NOT FLAT.

So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! [italics added]

There was no need to saw up a record; Mofi actually explained in the booklet for every UHQR how its shape differed from a conventional disc. Here is one of the images they used in the technical specs booklet that came with most UHQRs. Yes, it’s flat. (The later ones didn’t have the booklet because the whole project was such a disaster that they didn’t want to spend the money to print them for records they were selling below their cost. When I first got in the audiophile record biz in the late ’80s I was buying boxfuls of sealed UHQRs for $9 each.)

Let’s Get Real

UHQRs were junk then and they are junk now. They are plain and simply bad sounding records. The UHQR pressings may have been revered in their day, may even be revered now, but they are truly awful sounding records, Tea for the Tillerman probably being the worst among them. Do UHQRs sound better than the standard weight pressings MoFi was pressing at the time? Some do and some don’t, but what difference does that make? Bad sound is bad sound; whether one bad record is slightly better than another bad record is not particularly helpful to know.

With One Exception

Crime of the Century. Yes, the right UHQR pressing of this album can truly sound amazing. The “right” pressing is also very hard to find.

Back to Our Story

But the second false conclusion drawn from this experiment is the statement I added italics to : “So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings!”

Is that really the reason? The only reason? Couldn’t it have something to do with the mastering? Does Mr. Hobson not know that most of the UHQR pressings are different masterings than the non-UHQR MoFi pressings? That he’s comparing apples to oranges?

This is the rest of this part of his story. (As I say, it goes on for days.)

But, there is a difference in the original Blue Note Mono flat profile and the JVC UHQR profile. While both are flat across the groove area, the JVC pressing had a groove guard! I sent half of the JVC UHQR pressing to our Super Vinyl Profile die maker and had a new set of dies made with a variant of the JVC UHQR groove guard. In mid 2007, RTI installed the new dies and immediately had success with the groove guard Flat Profile producing records which did not sound any different than non-groove guard Flat Profile pressings! We immediately changed over to pressing on what we are now calling Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile II (SV-P II) at RTI. Problems with stitching and non-fill were dramatically reduced and the reject rate at RTI also declined to below normal levels. Finally, we had found our way to greater consistency in terms of pressing quality!

Anyway, it seems he’s found a new way to press his records that makes them sound better. I sure don’t hear much improvement. Classic Records always sound like Classic Records to me. We’ve discussed the sound of quite a few of them on the site.