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The Doors / Self-Titled – MoFi Reviewed

More of the Music of The Doors

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Doors

Sonic Grade: D 

If anyone still thinks that this pressing is anything but a bad joke played on the audiophile public — so sucked out in the midrange, bass-shy and compressed to death — that person still has a way to go in this hobby. A very long way.

You can hear that something is off with this pressing from another room. The sound is bad enough to have earned a place in our Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame.

But wait just a gosh darn minute.

I liked the MoFi just fine when it came out. I guess I had a way to go in this hobby too.

That was back in the early ’80s. I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last forty years.

Some reviewers may be stuck in the ’80s but I sure as hell don’t think I am one of them.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Reviews and Commentaries for The Doors’ Debut

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Pink Floyd – “…never heard the details in the guitars and cymbals and keyboards like this.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

One of our best customers, Roger, received his $150 Hot Stamper [those were the days!] ’Wish You Were Here’ and went straight to work comparing it with the various other pressings he owned: two different CBS Half Speeds. The not-so-shocking results are presented in detail below.

Hi Tom,

I received your Pink Floyd ‘Wish You Were Here’ Hot Stamper and compared it to my CBS Half-Speed (I found a bunch of these Half-Speeds in a bargain bin years ago and did a shootout to select the best one) and the pressing that I considered the best, the Japanese Mastersound Half-Speed, for which I paid dearly.

Drum roll, please while Vanna hands me the sealed envelope………… and the winner is: Surprise — the Hot Stamper!

And it wasn’t even close.

Once I heard the center-of-the-earth bass on the Hot Stamper ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, it was all over. I was amazed at how bright the CBS was, transparent yes, but bright and no bass and no body to the saxophones and voices. The Mastersound was better-balanced in that the highs were tamed, but no real dynamics and the bass was flabby.

I have heard this record hundreds of times, but never heard the details in the guitars and cymbals and keyboards like this.

And did I mention the huge, huge soundstage with a wall of sound like that of other Pink Floyd records? Nice job as usual.

Roger,

Thanks for verifying the accuracy of our Hot Stamper claims once again. The decent sounding Half Speed Mastered records, CBS and otherwise, can be counted pretty easily on one’s fingers. We could debunk them all day long if we wanted to (and had ten times the staff). It doesn’t take long to hear how anemic the sound is compared to The Real Thing, the real thing being, of course, a vintage pressing.

The copy you bought was rated A Plus on both sides, two full sonic grades below the best, so you can imagine how good those copies sound. But since neither you nor I are made out of money, for $150 you now own a copy that will trounce anything you throw at it, especially if what you throw at it is an audiophile pressing.

Those moribund LPs belong on Ebay where all the Technics turntable owners of the world can find them in order to complete their — let’s be honest — silly and ultimately pointless audiophile collections.

Modern equipment shows half-speed foolishness for what it is. You heard it, we heard it, and slowly but surely we are spreading the word to the rest of the audiophile community.

Thanks again; it’s a big job and we need all the help we can get.

Best 
TP


Benny Carter / Swingin’ the ’20s – Skip the OJC

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

This album is fairly common on the OJC pressing from 1988, but more recently we’ve found the sound of the OJC pressings we’ve played seriously wanting. They have the kind of bad reissue sound that that plays right into the prejudices of record collectors and audiophiles alike, the kind for whom nothing but an original will do.

They were dramatically smaller, flatter, more recessed and more lifeless than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we played. (We tend to like those by the way.)

The lesson? Not all reissues are created equal. Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their biases and reliance on inadequate sample sizes.

You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. The methods they have adopted do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them, they will never have to worry about discovering that inconvenient truth.

DCC

This is one of the all time great Contemporary recordings. DCC was going to do this on CD at one time; I loaned Steve Hoffman an OJC LP back in the ’90s which he promptly fell in love with.

In the ’90s there were a great many more OJC titles I liked the sound of then than I do now, a classic case of Live and Learn.

To quote a very wise man named Ronny Lane, formerly with The Faces:

I wish that I knew what I know now / When I was younger

Unfortunately DCC went out of business, and Analogue Productions, the people doing the new jazz reissue series on 45 RPM heavy vinyl, wouldn’t recognize a top title like this one if it bit them in the ass.

And if they did remaster it, their version probably wouldn’t sound good anyway. How could I possibly know that?

Easy. None of their stuff ever does, which is why you can find all of their reissues in our Hall of Shame.

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The Doobie Brothers / The Captain and Me – A Nautilus Disaster

More of the Music of The Doobie Brothers

More of The Captain and Me

Sonic Grade: D

We actually recommended the Nautilus Half-Speed in the old days, but the last time we played one (mid-2007) the sound was Pure Audiophile BS — compressed to death and totally whomp-free.

The average domestic copy is terrible too, but that’s no reason to recommend this crappy remaster.


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem

How to Make All Your Records Sound Like Mobile Fidelity Pressings – For Free! (more…)

Heavy Vinyl – Is This the Best Sounding Sgt. Pepper?

beatlessgtMore of the Music of The Beatles

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

You might agree with some reviewers that EMI’s engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there’s a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Of course he is! We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Chrissakes.

When I read the reviews by writers such as these I often get the sense that I must’ve fallen through some sort of Audio Time Warp and landed back in 1982. How is it that our so-called experts evince so little understanding of how records are made, how variable the pressings can be, and, more importantly, how absolutely crucial it is to understand and implement rigorous protocols when attempting to carry out comparisons among pressings.

Critically comparing LPs is difficult and time-consuming. It requires highly developed listening skills. I didn’t know how to do it in 1982. I see no evidence that the audiophile reviewers of today are much better at it now than I was in 1982.

Just to take one example: They all seem to be operating under the same evidence-free conceit: that the original is the benchmark against which all other pressings should be compared.

To those of us who have played Beatles pressings by the hundreds, this is patent nonsense. To cite just one instance, a recent Hot Stamper listing notes:

We defy any original to step into the ring with it. One thing we can tell you, it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record of this quality did not exist in 1967, not at EMI anyway.

We had the opportunity not long ago to audition a very clean original early pressing of the album and were frankly taken aback by how AWFUL it was in virtually every respect. No top end above 8k or so, flabby bass, murky mids — this was as far from Hot Stamper sound as one could imagine. If it were a Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile pressing we would surely have graded it F and put it in our Hall of Shame.

To be fair we have played exactly one early copy of the record on our current system. (Played a copy or two long ago but on much different equipment, so any judgments we might have made must be considered highly suspect.) Perhaps there are good ones. We have no way of knowing whether there are, and we are certainly not motivated to find out given the price that original Sgt. Pepper’s are fetching these days.

We can tell you this much: no original British pressing of any Beatles album up through Pepper has ever impressed us sonically. We’ve played plenty and have yet to hear one that’s not congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and full of tube smear. (The monos suffer from all of these problems and more of course, which is only natural; they too are made with the Old School cutting equipment of the day.)

If that’s your sound more power to you. It’s definitely not ours. The hotter the stamper, the less congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and smeary it will be. (Or your money back.)

The Best Pepper Pressings

How did we come to find the best Sgt. Peppers pressings? Our recent commentary about a wonderful Benny Carter record on the original Contemporary Black Label may serve to shed some light on the process.

We noted how Tubey Magical Benny’s trumpet sounded on the original, adding that it unfortunately comes at the expense of all the other instruments — drums, bass and piano — which are simply harder to hear — less immediate, less real, less “live in your listening room.” We went on to say:

Yet this is precisely the sound that many, even most, audiophiles would find perfectly acceptable. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones has to be that they have never heard a truly amazing reissue, the kind we sell all day long. Had they heard such a pressing they would be in a much better position to weigh the pros and cons of both. This is why we do shootouts. Every pressing has the potential to show you some quality you can’t hear any other way, some aspect of the sound you would not even know was possible. Super Hot and especially White Hot pressings — on the right equipment — can put you in the presence of a recording you had no idea existed. It would be no exaggeration to say that it happens to us every week.

Not to put too fine a point on it, comparing an original pressing of Sgt. Pepper with the new Heavy Vinyl reissue is simply comparing one badly flawed pressing with another badly flawed pressing. Pace Mr Dudley and his confreres, we’re not exactly sure how their efforts in this regard are of much benefit to audiophiles who take their record collecting seriously, at least to that subset of collectors in search of the best sounding pressings.

If you want to find an LP of Sgt. Pepper that sounds better than the original, that’s one thing. If, on the other hand, you want to find the best sounding pressing there is, that’s quite another.

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony #5 / Monteux / BSO

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Near Demo Quality. This is one of those mid-hall RCA recordings, and if you like that orchestral perspective, a very natural one to my mind, this record is for you. The string tone is superb.

What holds this record back is a lack of orchestral weight. But the strings on this copy are very sweet and the vinyl is exceptionally quiet.

It’s a lovely sounding copy, and dynamic as hell. Monteux’s performance is beyond reproach.

Today’s Half-Speed Mastered Mess Is Meddle on Mobile Fidelity

Reviews and Commentaries for Meddle

Reviews and Commentaries for Pink Floyd

Sonic Grade: D

Same problems as the MoFi Thick As a Brick:

“The MoFi is TRANSPARENT and OPEN, and the top end will be lush and extended. If you prize clarity, this is the one.”

But if you prize clarity at the expense of everything else, you are seriously missing the boat on Meddle (and of course Thick As A Brick too).

The MoFi is all mids and highs with almost nothing going on below.

This is a rock record, but without bass and dynamics the MoFi pressing can’t rock, so what exactly is it good for?

The Doobie Brothers / Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

Sonic Grade: D

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking.

The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

The Rolling Stones / A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All – Now With Video

More of the Music of The Rolling Stones

Reviews and Commentaries for Sticky Fingers

If you click on the video you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl.

When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the right original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made.

It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!) What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

FURTHER READING

The Doors – L.A. Woman Is a Disaster on German Heavy Vinyl

There is [was; it’s out of print now] a German 180 gram pressing of L.A. Woman which [was] so bad, I am calling this commentary The Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing is a sign that, to me at least, The End Is Near, or May Be. If this isn’t a good example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.

[This commentary was written a long time ago and much of our thinking about the recordings of The Doors has evolved since then, having played scores of their records in shootouts and learned something from every one. Click here to read more.]

Dateline: January, 2005

[Note that some of this commentary from the dawn of time (2005 qualifies when it comes to Hot Stampers) falls under the heading of We Was Wrong, especially the part about there not being a good vinyl version of the album. We heard some killer pressings starting around 2011-2012, but boy are they few and far between.]

There is a new 180 gram German pressing of The Doors LA Woman album which is so bad, I am calling this commentary Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing to me is a sign that The End Is Near. There is no hope for audiophiles if they can’t tell a good record from a bad one, and this is clearly a bad one.

When I first played it I thought there must be something wrong with my stereo. There was no deep bass. (This recording has amazing deep bass.) The sound was upper midrangey and distorted. There was no extreme top at all. This surprised me, as I had heard that this was supposed to be a good record. What I heard coming off the copy that I was playing was pure garbage. I was confused. (more…)