Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Dires Straits / Brothers In Arms – Our Take on the MoFi 45

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

We have never bothered to play their remaster, along with some other Heavy Vinyl reissues we think have very little chance of actually sounding good to us.

NEWSFLASH: I just found out today that the MoFi is now on the TAS Super Disc list. You can find it along with the domestic — yes, you read that right — domestic pressing of the first album.

Now just how hard of hearing do you have to be to think that the domestic pressing of Dire Straits’ first album is a Super Disc? A nice record, sure, but nice records aren’t really Super Discs, are they?

Not when there are UK pressings that trounce it. We should know, we’ve played them by the dozens. How the writers for The Absolute Sound can be this far off the mark is a question we cannot begin to answer. More Reviewer Malpractice? What else could it be?

We have written quite a number of reviews and commentaries for the first album and we encourage you to read some of them.

Speaking of Super Discs, the good British pressings are so good we put them on our Top Ten Most Tubey Magical Rock and Pop Recordings List. No domestic pressing we have ever played would qualify as a Hot Stamper, not when even the average British copy is better.


A few years ago we received this email from a customer.

“How would you compare the Brothers in Arms SHS to the Mobile Fidelity 45 rpm copy?”

Dear Sir,

We have never bothered to play their remaster, and why would we? Every MoFi pressing made by the current regime has had major sound problems when compared head to head with the “real” records we sell, and it’s simply not worth our time to find out exactly what is wrong with the sound of any of these new reissues, theirs included.

[I will be reviewing their unbelievably awful Dire Straits first album on 45 one of these days. Rarely have I heard such a good recording, a brilliant recording, turned into such a piece of crap.]

However, we have been known to make an exception to that rule from time to time. Recently we did so in the case of the Tea for the Tillerman George Marino cut at 45 RPM for Analogue Productions.

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile records in the history of the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but, to be fair, they are not so bad that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds. (To the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released by him. In our defense let me say that that small fraction was all we could take.)

Why not give the new Brothers in Arms a listen to see how it stacks up to your Hot Stampers?

Because Half-Speed Mastering is a bad approach to mastering, one that almost never produces good sounding records.

Even when it’s done right, it results in sloppy bass. This is very obvious to us but it seems most audiophiles and reviewers don’t notice this shortcoming. (I try not to reflect too much on systems that hide from their owners the problems in the low end that MoFi records are prone to, practically without exception. I once borrowed a $5000 Dynavector cartridge to audition. Although it had a wonderfully extended and sweet top end, clearly better than my 17D3, the bass was so sloppy I could not wait to take it out and get it back to its owner. I never said a word about it and he never complained about the bass.)

You don’t have to make the mistake of mastering your records at Half-Speed to end up with sloppy bass. You just have to be bad at mastering records, like this label, Music Matters.

We find listening to the sound of these veiled, compressed, strangely-eq’d remastered records painful, so we avoid playing them unless one comes our way for free, which does happen from time to time.

We played their Sinatra at the Sands record a few years back after someone gave us a free copy.

And it was pretty good. That’s about the most you can hope for. We’ve reviewed a lot of their albums over the years, and you can read about them here: Mobile Fidelity

Keep in mind that we are not saying their version is bad.

We do not judge records we have never played.

However, we would be very surprised if it were better than mediocre.

So that’s why we cannot answer your question!

Best, TP

PS

The version Chris Bellman cut for Rhino at 45 RPM in 2021 is actually quite good. I will be writing a review for it one of these days.


Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List

New to the site? Start here.

Kenny Burrell – “After returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…”

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Kenny Burrell

Reviews and Commentaries for Midnight Blue

A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout:

By the way, side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note AP reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something.

When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…

I know what you mean about these modern reissues “missing something”. No matter how well mastered they may be, they’re almost always missing whatever it is that makes the analog record such a special listening experience. I hear that “analog” sound practically nowhere else outside of the live event (and, of course, the vintage LP). 

Thanks for your letter. 
TP

Our Classic Records Review

Pretty flat and lifeless. You would never understand why audiophiles rave about this recording by listening to the Classic Records pressing.

We played it up against our best, and as expected it was nothing to write home about. Since Rudy has remastered and ruined practically all the Blue Note CDs by now, you will have your work cut out for you if you want to find a good sounding version of Midnight Blue. This sure ain’t one.

Of course we would be more than happy to get you an amazing sounding copy — it’s what we do — but the price will be five to ten times (or more) what the Classic costs. In our opinion it’s money well spent.

Since the Classic conveys very little of what the musicians were up to whilst recording the album, our advice is to cross it off your list of records of interest. It’s thirty bucks down the drain.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to Their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album offers excellent music, performed with feeling, and recorded properly, the best of all possible worlds for us audiophiles.

A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this. Or plays this quietly.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of the piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Discs.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Metallica / Ride The Lightning (45 RPM) – MoFi Debunked

Sonic Grade: F

This review is for the 2008 Warner Brothers 45 RPM 180g Double LP Half-Speed Mastered by Mobile Fidelity from the original analog master tapes.

Compressed, sucked-out mids, no deep bass and muddy mid-bass, the mastering of this album is an absolute disaster on every level. If you want to know how clueless the average audiophile is, a quick Google search will bring up plenty of positive comments from listeners and reviewers alike. 

Here are some other records that are good for testing the faults of this awful sounding release.

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass Definition 

Records that Are Good for Testing Compression 

Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Presence 


FURTHER READING

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

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An RCA Direct Disc with Bad Music & Bad Sound, Like Most Audiophile Albums from the ’70s

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

More of the Music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Hey, the records being marketed to audiophiles these days may have second- and third-rate sound, but at least now they have good music

That’s progress, right?

This is just an awful Direct to Disc recording with bad sound and pointless music.

The Beatles Medley is particularly misguided. These guys have no idea what to do with The Beatles

This is the kind of crap we newbie audiophiles used to have to put up with back in the ’70s before we had anything resembling a clue.

It clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame,

Actually, it also belongs on our complete list of Bad Sounding Audiophile Records

What Kind of Audio Fool Was I? The kind that would buy a record like this and expect it to have good music or good sound. Of course it had neither. Practically none of these kinds of records ever did. As clueless as I was, even back in the day I could tell that much.

But over the course of the last forty years I have been wrong about a great deal when it comes to records and audio.

You can read more about many of the things we got wrong under the heading: Live and Learn.

Because Audio Progress is real and anyone can achieve it.


FURTHER READING

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

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The Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM)

More Shelly Manne

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), our 33 RPM pressings are your best bet.

If you want absolutely amazing, mind-blowing, you-are-there sound, a Hot Stamper 45 is the only way to go.

The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

L.A. 4 – Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte (45 RPM)

More L.A. 4

More Audiophile Records

  • An INSANELY GOOD East Wind 45 RPM Japanese import pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Lee Herschberg recorded these sessions direct to disc — he’s the guy behind the most amazing piano trio recording I have ever heard, a little album called The Three
  • Transparency: absolute freedom from smear and distortion; clarity; presence; frequency extension high and low; correct tonality — everything you want in an audiophile recording is here!
  • This 45 RPM version is shorter than the original album, with five of the original’s seven tracks, and of course is not technically a direct disc – these 45s are made from the session tapes
  • And it sounded better than any of the Direct to Disc pressings we had on hand, which is exactly what happened when they mastered The Three at 45 RPM from the backup tapes — pretty wild, don’t you think?

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Curtis Counce LP Testimonial – Wow, It Beat the Fantasy 45!

More Contemporary Label Jazz

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

Many years ago, our good customer Victor sent us this note to tell us how much better his real Contemporary jazz album sounded compared to the Fantasy 45 180g pressing he owns.

We should point out that we sold him a sealed ’70s reissue, something (selling sealed records) we stopped doing a decade or so ago, and that we really have no way of knowing what the record actually sounded like. Given our experience with anything released on the consistently dreadful Analogue Productions label, what were the chances that they could actually beat the real thing? As a practical matter, the answer should be obvious: none, of course.

None? Too harsh you say? Here are two of their worst crimes against jazz-loving audiophiles, crimes they committed using 2 Heavy Vinyl discs mastered at 45 RPM for all the world to hear:

  1. Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  2. Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Yes, they had the temerity to charge money for their crappy, pointless reissues. The key takeaway here is that any label that would release records that sound as bad as these cannot be trusted to do anything right.

Having played many of their remastered releases, we are still waiting for the record on AP that is not either a disaster or, at the very least, clearly worse sounding than many other pressings which are widely available.

And I will never tire of pointing out how bad the two albums linked below are, so bad that I wrote many hundreds of words about their astonishing awfulness.

  1. Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great Hits
  2. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

After playing the above four, what would possess us to ever play another?

Now to the letter.

Hi Tom,

Wanted to let you know I did a comparison between the yellow label Contemporary label Curtis Counce, Counceltation Vol. 2 (which I bought sealed from you) and a Fantasy 45 rpm from Analogue productions: Curtis Counce – You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce – which is in fact the same album but with a different title and cover. 

Well I was very anxious to try this comparison, but was not expecting the results. The yellow label was so transparent and tonal weight to the Fantasy 45 rpm there was no contest. The 45 rpm sounded like someone turned on a high bypass filter. The yellow label was balanced throughout. Clean.

I am a subscriber of the Fantasy 45s and own all of them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice sounding ones in the series, but this is a prime example that not all records are as well mastered.

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Cat Stevens on 2 Heavy Vinyl 45 RPM Discs, Part 2 – Is This the Truest Tillerman of Them All?

More Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman on Two 200 Gram Discs Cut at 45 RPM

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this story, please click here.

Back to our real story. I listened to my good original pressing. I call it White Hot at least!

Then I put the new pressing on the table, set the SDS for 45 RPM, and got the volume just right. I proceeded to carefully adjust the VTA by ear, going up and down with the arm until the sound was right, which is simply standard operating procedure for every record we audition.

These are my actual notes for But I Might Die Tonight.

This is what I heard as the song worked its way through the various sections, in real time.  The first thing I heard at the start was Zero Tubey Magic for the first verse. One of the last things I heard at the end was No Real Space. Space is what you hear at the end for the big piano and drums finish.

Let’s take it line by line. First up:

Zero Tubey Magic

I didn’t hear much Tubey Magic on the new pressing. The best early pressings — domestic A&M Browns, Pink or Sunray UK Islands — often have simply phenomenal amounts of the stuff. It’s a hallmark of the recording.

If a new pressing comes along without it, that’s a problem. I guess that George Marino‘s cutting system at Sterling could probably do some things well, but it sure doesn’t seem to be able get the sound of tubes right. His 33 RPM cutting had no Tubey Magic, and this one has no Tubey Magic. If I had hired him to cut a record for me and it came out sounding like this, I would find somebody else to cut records for me.

He’s dead now, rest in peace. I would doubt that anyone at Sterling has a better cutting system, and therefore no one should expect any records that have been mastered there to sound very good.

Vocal Is Clear, Clean and Dry

This is the sound you sometimes get with modern, super-clean transistor cutting equipment. It’s low distortion, like a CD is low distortion. We don’t think we should have to put up with dry vocals on records when the good pressings we have been playing all our lives have noticeably richer vocals.

Not rich like Dream With Dean, nothing is that rich, but rich and full-bodied the way the good pressings of this album always make them sound.

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Cat Stevens on 2 Heavy Vinyl 45 RPM Discs, Part 1 – Is This the Truest Tillerman of Them All?

About ten years ago we auditioned and reviewed the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions, the one that came on a single Heavy Vinyl 33 RPM LP.

I wrote a very long commentary about the sound of that record, taking it to task for its manifold shortcomings, at the end of which I came to the conclusion that the proper sonic grade for such a record is F as in Fail. My exhaustive review can be found under the not-very-subtle title This Is Your Idea of Analog?

Our intro gave this short overview:

Yes, we know, the folks over at Acoustic Sounds, in consultation with the late George Marino at Sterling Sound, supposedly with the real master tape in hand, and supposedly with access to the best mastering equipment money can buy, labored mightily, doing their level best to master and press the Definitive Audiophile Tea for the Tillerman of All Time.

It just didn’t come out very well, no matter what anybody tells you.

Recently I was able to borrow a copy of the new 45 cutting from a customer who had rather liked it. I would have never spent my own money to hear a record put out on the Analogue Productions label, a label that has an unmitigated string of failures to its name. But for free? Count me in!

The offer of the new 45 could not have been more fortuitous. I had just spent a number of weeks playing a White Hot Stamper Pink Label original UK pressing in an attempt to get our new Playback Studio sounding right.

We had a lot of problems. We needed to work on electrical issues. We needed to work on our room treatments. We needed to work on speaker placement.

We initially thought the room was doing everything right, because our Go To setup disc, Bob and Ray, sounded super spacious and clear, bigger and more lively than we’d ever heard it. That’s what a 12 foot high ceiling can do for a large group of musicians playing live in a huge studio, in 1959, on an All Tube Chain Living Stereo recording. The sound just soared.

But Cat Stevens wasn’t sounding right, and if Cat Stevens isn’t sounding right, we knew we had a Very Big Problem. Some stereos play some kinds of records well and others not so well. Our stereo has to play every kind of record well because we sell every kind of record there is. You name the kind of music, we probably sell it. And if we offer it for sale, we had to have played it and liked the sound, because no record makes it to our site without being auditioned and found to have excellent sound.

But I Might Die Tonight

The one song we played over and over again, easily a hundred times or more, was But I Might Die Tonight, the leadoff track for side two. It’s short, less than two minutes long, but a lot happens in those two minutes. More importantly, getting everything that happens in those two minutes to sound not just right, but as good as you have ever heard it, turned out to be a tall order indeed.

I could write for days about what to listen for in the song, but for now let me just point the reader to one of the most difficult parts to reproduce correctly.

At about 50 seconds into the track, Cat repeats the first verse:

I don’t want to work away
Doing just what they all say
Work hard boy and you’ll find
One day you’ll have a job like mine, job like mine, a job like mine

Only this time he now has a multi-tracked harmony vocal singing along with him, his own of course, and he himself is also singing the lead part louder and more passionately. Getting the regular vocal, call it the “lower part,” to be in balance with the multi-tracked backing vocal, call it the “higher part,” turned out to be the key to getting the bottom, middle and top of the midrange right.

When doing this kind of critical listening we play our records very loud. Live Performance level loud. As loud as Cat could sing, that’s how loud it should be when he is singing his loudest toward the end of the song for the final “But I might die tonight!” If he is going to sing loudly, I want my stereo to be able to reproduce him singing as loud as he is actually singing on the record. No compression. No distortion. All the energy. That’s what I want to hear.

The last fifteen seconds or so of the song has the pianist (Cat himself) banging out some heavy chords on the piano. If you have your levels right it should sound like there is a real piano at the back of the room and that someone is really banging on it. It’s a powerful coda to the song. (more…)