I was aware of the MoFi pressing being in mono. Not owning any mono LPs yet, I assume the record was still cut with a stereo groove with both channels being identical? This way the sound comes from the center on a stereo system as opposed to just one speaker. I've had Kind of Blue pre-ordered for a couple months now, hope they release it soon.
Grand Ghosts sounded very much to my liking. I believe I'll be getting the vinyl as well.
Currently listening to:
Yes - The Yes Album
Here is a write-up about the mastering process by mastering engineer Rob LoVerde who was responsible for this gold CD release by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. It is always interesting to hear this kind of stories and this text has some wisdom regarding evaluating audio that I wish more audiophiles took to heart. This was posted on the official MFSL Facebook page a few days ago.
Full Facebook post (Click to show)
Since its release a few years ago, the MFSL Gold CD of “The Yes Album” seems to have created a rather polarized set of opinions among our customers. Some have said that it’s the best version of the album they’ve ever heard, some say they prefer previous versions of the album – and some said they loved our version…that is, until they saw waveform graphics of the audio contained on the disc. This message is being written mainly for them in the hope that I can clarify what seems to be some misunderstanding.
When I heard that we had secured the license for “The Yes Album”, I was absolutely thrilled because not only is it an incredibly good album, but one that I grew up listening to quite often. As with all MFSL projects that I work on, I became obsessed with mastering this album correctly. Once the masters had been obtained, I set about auditioning them as I would with any other master tapes. These were in absolutely perfect condition. Everything about them was just as I would hope except one thing: no calibration tones. This is very common in recordings up to the mid-1970s and usually doesn’t represent a serious issue. Unless, that master is Dolby-encoded. Unfortunately, “The Yes Album” was one such instance. As many of you probably know, the interaction between the tape machine’s reproducing amplifier and the Dolby decoder is especially important. Both the output of the tape machine and the input of the Dolby are ideally set to unity gain (zero in = zero out) or “neutral” in order to mimic how the tape was encoded to achieve accurate decoding and playback.
“The Yes Album” master tapes were mixed at Advision Sound Studios in the UK and utilize the CCIR playback EQ curve. Given the absence of calibration tones, the puzzle became figuring out what level these mixes were recorded onto the tape at. Enter critical, time-consuming, analysis mode. Rather than bore you, the reader, with a long story of that analysis, I will simply jump to the conclusion. After many hours spent getting (nearly) nowhere, I called MoFi’s analog guru, Tim de Paravicini. To use the typical phrase of saying that Tim has forgotten more about analog than I’ll ever know is flattering, but inaccurate – he hasn’t forgotten a thing. He is the greatest source for knowledge on the subject that I know and is always there to help. Tim informed me that, back then, the UK reference fluxivity standard for recording onto magnetic tape was 320 nWb/m (nanowebers per meter). This standard was actually invented in Germany, but the UK adopted it, as well. However, though they thought they were recording at 320, it was later discovered (by Magnetic Reference Laboratories) that the calibration tapes used in Germany and the UK at that time were actually 290 nWb/m…a difference of about a dB. To help its customers needing CCIR alignment at the true standard reference fluxivity of the day, MRL manufactures a tape they label G320, or German 320. As you can probably figure out, the tones on this calibration tape are recorded at 290 nWb/m. So, now I’ve got the tape machine output level puzzle solved. But, what about the input on the Dolby? Once again, Tim to the rescue. He told me the proper input level setting required for Dolby input when playing back CCIR at 290. Hanging up from my transAtlantic telephone call with Tim, I stepped back into the mastering suite to see what his expert instructions would yield.
Unsurprisingly, everything fell into place. After a frustratingly long amount of time, I finally was hearing “The Yes Album” master tapes played back properly, which is immediately apparent if you know what mis-calibrated Dolby decoding sounds like. Once I heard a full playback of the correctly-decoded masters, I determined that the tapes needed nothing more on my part to create a wonderful ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDING. Just straight wire playback of the incredible sounds that Yes and producer/engineer Eddy Offord had put onto tape in 1971.
I will now address the main concerns that I’ve heard voiced since our version became available to the public. One concern has been bass content. Some listeners feel that there is simply too much bass on our version. Of course, they have a right to this opinion. I will simply state that the bass quality and quantity on the MFSL Gold CD of this album is a verbatim of the master tape. Nothing added,nothing removed. I liked what I heard and left it the way it is. The other primary concern that has been brought to my attention a number of times over the years is compression. Once consumers began seeing waveform graphics on the Internet, they either changed their previously positive opinions to negative or voiced their opinions based solely on the graphics, never having actually heard the product. I have never, nor will I ever be inclined to apply compression to a MoFi product. The practice of mastering music with full dynamic range intact has been an MFSL cornerstone since the company’s inception in 1977. We have maintained that practice, always. There would be no reason for me to stray from that practice now, and certainly not for a recording like “The Yes Album”. Unfortunately, some consumers believe that waveform graphics tell the whole sonic story. They can be highly informative, if they are understood. Waveform graphics use level to illustrate the basic information of the audio. Since equalization is basically frequency-selective level control, EQ plays a part in waveform graphics, as well. In other words, some have seen waveforms for “The Yes Album” and feel that compression has been applied due to their “thick”, “dense” or “plump” characteristics. That is actually a representation of the extended bass content. In fact, if I had added high-end to the transfer during the mastering process, the peaks in the high-end section of the frequency spectrum would have been exaggerated, causing the treble peaks to rise higher in level and actually causing the waveform to appear more dynamic. I hope by now I’ve explained how waveforms surely don’t replace ears for true audio analysis.
I also hope that I have sufficiently explained how this great album was mastered here at MFSL. Of course, I don’t expect to change the minds among our customers that are already made up. But, if I cause even one person to re-evauate how they perceive audio – and how they perceive audio in these modern times using video – then that’s good enough for me.
With sincerity and respect,
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Yes, you are correct on that part. It really isn't a bad thing though. Of course the original recordings were made in Mono, but it is much better than the CD pressings I have (which are horribly panned to recreate the "stereo" effect. Leaving it Mono makes you enjoy Miles Davis' groovy trumpet and Coltrane's enigmatic saxophone, so I'm really happy on that part.
I'm glad to see you like it. Kacey sure is a great artist, and her Grand Ghosts album is just a jewel that deserves attention.
Very interesting process. I had no idea the release had so much polarity of reactions from those who invested in it. Mind me asking, what would your comments be on it? I am not a huge fan of MFSL, though I do enjoy some of their pressings (especially for those recorded directly onto tapes). I do like that he tries to retain much of the original master from records instead of manipulating it heavily. It really provides this real "analogue" sound, which I can't argue against.