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MFSL Waste of Money

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Back in the LP days, I had the two disk set of Little Feat's "Waiting for Columbus" on a half speed mastered MFSL pressing. It sounded great. When I shifted my collection to CD, I bought the album in the regular Warner Bros CD release and it sounded good, but they cut a few songs to fit two LPs onto a single CD. That always irked me, and after getting the "Hotcakes and Outtakes" 4 CD compilation of Little Feat, I decided to see if I could find a two disk set of "Waiting for Columbus". I found that Warner/Rhino have it on a 2 disk set now, but then I stumbled across the MFSL gold CD for $35, which was steep, but I figured it would sound better than Rhino's remaster.

 

Well, today I compared "Fat Man in the Bathtub" and "All That You Dream" from the MFSL release to the exact same tracks on the Warners/Rhino "Hotcakes and Outtakes" best of set... They sounded almost identical. A tiny bit more upper mid in the MFSL, but no really significant audio quality difference. I googled up reviews and found audiophile reviewers falling all over themselves talking about how much better the MFSL disk was than the regular release... better soundstage, micro-detail, etc... 10 on a scale of 1 to 10... all the glittering generalities people use to describe overpriced equipment.

 

Well, it's a bunch of hogwash. I spent almost $40 with shipping to buy the same thing I could have gotten in the regular 2 CD release for $15. Lesson learned.

post #2 of 13

I don't think they're a significant improvement either.

 

I own Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon and Derek & The Dominos - Layla.  I own nearly every CD mastering of Dark Side Of The Moon that has ever been put out, and I don't think the MFSL was worth the cost.  I bought mine while it was still in print, so good thing I didn't pay big bucks for it on eBay.  1983 BT is still the best sounding one in my opinion.  The 1992/3 Sax remaster and 2011 remaster are both good too, so don't hesitate to buy them.  As for Layla, it sounds worlds better than the newest (2010 I think?) remaster; but it's not any better than my original 1990 Polydor CD.


Edited by hogger129 - 9/29/13 at 10:49am
post #3 of 13

I think it all depends on the mastering. Try this one:

 

 

Elton John - Rock Of The Westies (1975) (2012)

 

I must admit, I don't have any other digital version. I had the LP in '75. I can't say if this digital version is better than others. All I can say is that it sounds really good. It sounds so good that I don't think I'll ever be trying to find a better digital version.

 

I think this is the end game for digital versions of this album for me.


Edited by StratocasterMan - 10/6/13 at 3:06am
post #4 of 13

I mostly like MFSL, AF and AP work. How much of that is placebo effect is another question entirely.

post #5 of 13
I only own three MFSL CD's and have mixed reviews for the three I own.

I have Nirvana "Nevermind, Nirvana "In Utero", and Beck "Sea Change".

Nevermind and Sea Change were worth the money without a doubt. Both of these are superior to their original DGC counterparts, and (of course) Nevermind blows away the horrid 20th Anniversary re-issue.

Nevermind was the first MFSL release that I bought, and I was blown away by it. Better separation of all instruments, and the bass/low end was greatly improved. Gone was the slightly mushy/blurred sound of the DGC release, and now there was compleate deliniation in the low end. Nice!

Sea Change, while being a mellow/laid back record, is arguably a more musically complex/textured record than Nevermind. Once again, the MFSL was a nice upgrade over the DGC release of this same record. Better deliniation/separation across the board, a bit more laid back mastering job, and everything sounds more palpable on the MFSL release. Also, of important things to note, I find the MFSL release almost has a bit different "tone" or "timbre" to it...perhaps it's just me. Either way, I cannot reccomend this CD enough.

In Utero, on the other hand, doesn't sound that much different than the original DGC release IMO. Word around the campfire is that Albini detests the loudness wars, and refused to allow In Utero to be crushed to death. Perhaps this could account for the MFSL release not varying that much from the DGC?
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

I bet the improvement, if any has more to do with how badly the current release is, rather than how good the MFSL is. It might make a difference with albums released during the years of the loudness wars, but with older titles and older CD releases, it might not make any difference at all. In any case, it seems silly to spend all that money for something to simply be "proper". The labels should get it right in the first place.

post #7 of 13
Their LPs are what I invest in. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with classic MFSL stuff (ie. DSOTM MFSL LP), but their more recent vinyl is excellent.

Regardless of the mastering being better or not (certainly isn't worse), the pressings are fantastic. Quiet and flat. That's more than I can say for a lot of records being produced nowadays.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

I had the MFSL boxed hand made LP of Dark Side of the Moon. I got the SACD and both the redbook and SACD layer sounded better. I sold the custom LP and got a hatload of money for it. Laughed all the way to the bank.

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

I had the MFSL boxed hand made LP of Dark Side of the Moon. I got the SACD and both the redbook and SACD layer sounded better. I sold the custom LP and got a hatload of money for it. Laughed all the way to the bank.

I agree. Classic MFSL is WAY over rated.
post #10 of 13
I agree with most here. From my experience. They don't sound any better than the initial releases.
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by robm321 View Post

I agree with most here. From my experience. They don't sound any better than the initial releases.

Supposedly, most of them ARE the original masters. IIRC only silver label is remastered.
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

I had the MFSL boxed hand made LP of Dark Side of the Moon. I got the SACD and both the redbook and SACD layer sounded better. I sold the custom LP and got a hatload of money for it. Laughed all the way to the bank.

 

Should have bought yourself a Black Triangle CD with the money you got for the LP. 

 

What I don't get is why CD's are not mastered the way that Black Triangle Dark Side Of the Moon CD was.  Honest.  It sounds better than the 24/96 PCM mastering on my Blu Ray Immersion copy.


Edited by hogger129 - 10/10/13 at 7:23pm
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post

Supposedly, most of them ARE the original masters. IIRC only silver label is remastered.

 

What Morbid said. It is MoFi's MO to stay as faithful to the original master as possible without any additional trickery. This approach may not appeal to all listeners, who might appreciate more tweaks to be used to 'enhance' the sound – something that is a highly subjective thing to say the least. So that there is no misconception, of the audiophile labels whose products I buy on a regular basis, MFSL is probably my least favorite company. I find their products to very hit-or-miss, but a lot of that has more to do with the sonic qualities of their chosen albums than poor mastering work. That being said, I feel that there are better mastering engineers working in the field than the ones MoFi employs, and were an album releases simultaneously on MoFi and one of the labels I've had more positive experiences with, mastered by one of my favorite mastering engineer, I would choose the other label if I had nothing more to go on.

 

To give some insight into how albums are mastered at MFSL, here's a write-up by mastering engineer Rob LoVerde on how he mastered the MoFi gold CD release of The Yes Album – an album that has received very polarized response from audiophiles. It was posted a couple days ago on Mobile Fidelity's Facebook page. I hope you find it informative.

 

Full Facebook post (Click to show)
A write up on The Yes Album by Rob LoVerde:

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,

Rob LoVerde
Mastering Engineer
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
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