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These are some bad sounding LPs!

Mobile Fidelity

The Little Label That Couldn’t

MOBILE FIDELITY remastered a large number of classic Rock and Jazz albums. Some of them are good, some not so good, but they all have one thing in common: they sell for a lot more money than most other pressings. (Except ours of course!)

In my opinion the primary reason for this is that audiophiles as a whole still believe that MOFI’s meticulous care with their half-speed mastering approach, as well as the dead quiet Japanese vinyl they originally pressed on, are the Gold Standard of record production.

And their pressings often do sound better than run of the mill domestic product. But are they really the best version ever?

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Not on your record playing life. And the great thing is, as a record dealer I'm in a unique position to prove it to you. I can actually sell you the record that will go head to head with the MOFI and emerge victorious.

Now it should be pointed out that you have many pressings that are superior to the MFSL versions in your collection already. If you have practically ANY version of Aja, Katy Lied, Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat, Night Moves, Year of the Cat, Sticky Fingers, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, and far too many more to list here, you have a copy that beats the MOFI, because the MOFI is about the worst version ever.

Tell It Like It Is

Too harsh? Here at Better Records we like to call a spade a spade. Let the chips fall where they may. As the Consumer Reports of record dealers, we put the needle to the vinyl and tell it like it is. We're on your side. That makes us unique in the world of audiophile record dealers. Most of them are so big they can't be bothered to play and evaluate the records they sell. (Most of their catalogs are hi-fi equipment these days anyway, so what do they care? Everybody knows there's no real money in records. As a record dealer I'm here to tell you it's true.)

But we still care very much about what records sound like -- which ones really do sound good and which ones really don't. That's why we go to the trouble to clean them, play them, review them, and compare them. Our job is to help you make informed choices about pressings of your favorite albums.

Deja Vu

Let's get down to specifics. The Deja Vu on Classic Records is plain and simple a botched remastering job. Shockingly, at the time it appeared prominently on the front page of some audiophile record dealer's websites. It's so bad even the average MoFi pressing will kill it.

But is the MoFi the best version ever? Not even close.

Here is some of our commentary from a recent Hot Stamper:

Just for fun I pulled out the MOFI pressing of this record. I hadn't played one in a long time. I could have gone a lot longer without playing it, because what I heard was pretty disappointing. Playing this record confirmed all my prejudices. The highs sizzled and spit. The heart of the midrange was recessed and sour. You know what it reminded me of? A bad Japanese pressing. (Since most of them are pretty bad I could have just said a typical Japanese pressing, but that's another story.)

And if that's not bad enough, the bass definition disappeared. Bass notes and bass parts that were clearly audible and easily followed on this domestic copy were murky, ill-defined mud on the MOFI. If you own the MOFI you owe it to yourself to hear a better sounding version. You really don't know what you're missing.

And if you own the Classic Record, you REALLY don't know what you're missing. If you bought the Classic Record and you can't tell what's wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It's tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

If you were to buy ten copies of this album, at least one would be better than the MOFI. Sure, three, four, maybe even five or six of them would be much worse than the half speed. Most originals are mud, and many reissues are bleached out, flat and lifeless. There's no "there" there. (Much like the typical CD in that respect.)

And I happen to know what the ultimate version is, because I own one. It has Hot Stampers like you wouldn't believe. (Of course there may be an even better version out there, but I wouldn't bet on it.)

I'm on record as having described the MFSL version as "carmelized" -- the voices sound thick and veiled, as if covered with sticky pancake syrup. Playing a good pressing of the album reveals exactly what's wrong with the MOFI: the midrange.

Many audiophiles haven't bothered to do these shootouts, and their collections are the poorer for it. Once you've heard a "good" one, you know right away when you hear that sound. And the truly Hot Stamper copy has extension at the top and bottom the MOFI misses completely: an octave of deep bass below the bass you know, and a level of airy harmonics above the highs you've heard. And no murky midrange, just voices that are clear, rich, sweet and grain free.

If you think MoFi is the Gold Standard of Audiophile Vinyl, think again. We prove it isn't every day of the week. If you would like that proof to take a spin on your very own turntable in your very own home, try our Hot Stamper section for starters. Any Hot Stamper will beat the pants off any Half-Speed Mastered or Heavy Vinyl pressing. Or your money back.

Badly Mastered LPs

Visit our Hall of Shame to see what are, in our opinion, some of the worst sounding records ever made, and most of them are audiophile pressings of one kind or another.

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