Mobile Fidelity’s Digital Vinyl Debacle: Are your records really analog?

gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Mobile Fidelity has been caught in a lie. After years of falsely claiming to produce pure analog vinyl, the audiophile record label must face the music. It has recently been revealed that the company regularly uses digital DSD transfers in the production of its acclaimed remasters. Ironically, many analog audiophile purists praised the sound of these digital records without ever knowing any better. Now that the cat is out of the bag, will this devalue the MoFi records or will audiophiles continue to embrace them?

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Read: Mobile Fidelity’s Digital Vinyl Debacle: Are your records really analog?
 
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Trell

Trell

Audioholic Ninja
I've read about this earlier and thought that MoFi deserved a smack-down. On the other hand good sounding records are still good sounding records.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.
I've read about this earlier and thought that MoFi deserved a smack-down. On the other hand good sounding records are still good sounding records.
Yes, but what a waste of time, effort and expense, when they could have just issued a digital disc. That is why I have no new vinyl in my collection. It is pointless.

You can really guess this, as there are now so few tape machines in top condition, and fewer and fewer people left who no how to keep them in perfect condition and alignment. That is quickly becoming a lost art. There really is only one source of master tape, and it is very costly. In addition they made their tapes very high bias for some reason, and many machines can not provide that degree of record bias, as the record amps do not have the output voltage from the bias oscillator.

This ship sailed long ago, and the audiophools have to face it. Turntables are fine for legacy collections pre nineties, and for that odd LP you just have to have for collectable reasons and it is not available in digital format. I have not bought any new vinyl since the digital era.
 
WookieGR

WookieGR

Full Audioholic
I basically went through all this already in several forum topics. Bottom line for me is always go with the 24Bit/96kHz or better file formats and forgo the vinyl because there's no way to know what you're buying. The majority of records are pressed from digital and a tiny handful are analog. Neil Young's Harvest on 180gm should have been an audiophile's dream but it had excessive amounts of crackling and pops that no washing or hours in the ultrasonic cleaner could get rid of so why even bother with records anymore. Granted, some are incredible but I've compared them to the HD digital files and I still prefer the digital by a fair margin on most and small margin on the rest.

I shared a video from Acoustic Sounds a while back about their analog vinyl pressing process and it seems legit but the ultra HQ records they release happen to also have SACD versions so there has to be some kind of digital involved.

Who's to say the definition of an analog record isn't based on a some technological loophole.

The funny thing about vinyl purists is, they think vinyl is the ultimate sound quality when in fact, it's not able to reproduce the frequency or dynamic range of the most basic HD audio format let alone sound anything close to the DS128 source file. Reel to Reel master tapes are the ultimate and those are what analog purists should be obsessed with.

Listening to vinyl today is a huge scam and for people like me that are just getting into for the physicality of it need to seriously rethink that choice since most of the enjoyment will come from opening the records packaging and seeing what's inside more so than the listening experience. At close to $35 a pop or worse it's simply not a valid format for what you get from it. A 24Bit/96kHz album is in some cases $20 cheaper and offers a superior listening experience with the proper DAC.
 
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lc6

Junior Audioholic
In addition they made their tapes very high bias for some reason, and many machines can not provide that degree of record bias, as the record amps do not have the output voltage from the bias oscillator.
Bias is used only during recording, not playback. Your other points are valid.
 
j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
"We heard you like the analog sound so we digitally added your analog to your vinyl."
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.
Bias is used only during recording, not playback. Your other points are valid.
I know that. I have four reel to reel tape decks in my racks. I am one of those fossils who still knows how to calibrate reel to reel recorders. If you want to make an analog recording, then you need a machine with record bias properly calibrated for the brand of tape you are using for the analog recording to sound correct.
 
M

mns3dhm

Enthusiast
It's not a secret that vinyl records almost always cost more than the CD versions of the same recording. You have to justify that somehow and the marketing sizzle usually is 'vinyl sounds better'. That is a purely subjective notion that is argued back and forth endlessly by analog and digital adherents. What is amazing about this story is MoFi knew all along that some of their claims regarding production methods were bogus and did pretty much nothing until they were forced to. That is dumb ass corporate stewardship of the first order. If they have any brains at all, they should, at a minimum, offer to refund or otherwise compensate any purchasers who unknowingly bought records from MoFi whose production processes were different than that which was claimed in the original sales promotions associated with them. That would be good corporate stewardship.
 

lc6

Junior Audioholic
I know that. I have four reel to reel tape decks in my racks. I am one of those fossils who still knows how to calibrate reel to reel recorders. If you want to make an analog recording, then you need a machine with record bias properly calibrated for the brand of tape you are using for the analog recording to sound correct.
Right, but we are not talking about making new tape recordings here (where the proper bias would come into play), but rather about playing back the existing master tapes.
 
Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
I basically went through all this already in several forum topics. Bottom line for me is always go with the 24Bit/96kHz or better file formats and forgo the vinyl because there's no way to know what you're buying. The majority of records are pressed from digital and a tiny handful are analog. Neil Young's Harvest on 180gm should have been an audiophile's dream but it had excessive amounts of crackling and pops that no washing or hours in the ultrasonic cleaner could get rid of so why even bother with records anymore. Granted, some are incredible but I've compared them to the HD digital files and I still prefer the digital by a fair margin on most and small margin on the rest.

I shared a video from Acoustic Sounds a while back about their analog vinyl pressing process and it seems legit but the ultra HQ records they release happen to also have SACD versions so there has to be some kind of digital involved.

Who's to say the definition of an analog record isn't based on a some technological loophole.

The funny thing about vinyl purists is, they think vinyl is the ultimate sound quality when in fact, it's not able to reproduce the frequency or dynamic range of the most basic HD audio format let alone sound anything close to the DS128 source file. Reel to Reel master tapes are the ultimate and those are what analog purists should be obsessed with.

Listening to vinyl today is a huge scam and for people like me that are just getting into for the physicality of it need to seriously rethink that choice since most of the enjoyment will come from opening the records packaging and seeing what's inside more so than the listening experience. At close to $35 a pop or worse it's simply not a valid format for what you get from it. A 24Bit/96kHz album is in some cases $20 cheaper and offers a superior listening experience with the proper DAC.
The sound of a 24-Bit/96 kHz is not any better than the sound of the CD taken from the same original master recording.
 

lc6

Junior Audioholic
The facts of the MoFi decable so far are:
(a) Since 2011, MoFi used DSD4x / 11.2 Mbps (per interview of their engineers) of master tapes in all but one of its vinyl editions;
(b) MoFi vinyl records are generally accepted to be the best sounding in the industry;
(c) No claims have been yet made that transferring said DSD to vinyl, even through the simplified record making process, actually made said DSD sound better by virtue of reproduction through an analog medium, e.g. by "smoothing the rough digital sound" or some such imaginary means.
In fact, it is well known that vinyl degrades performance according to the many objective measurable criteria (narrower bandwidth, poorer channel separation, smaller dynamic range, higher noise floor, frequency inaccuracy due to rotational speed mismatch as well as wow and flutter, mechanical cracks and pops, wear and tear due to repeated playback, etc.).

The implication of the above is that MoFi DSD is actually even better sounding than its vinyl, provided that an adequate quality DAC is used for reproduction. So, as compensation to existing owners of its vinyl, MoFi should make the source DSD available free of charge. And going forward, start to offer DSDs of master tapes for sale to those who would like to enjoy the pristine quality. But that, of course, would change their business model and largely defeat vinyl, would it not?
 
L

lejack

Enthusiast
No doubt, that some who have been claiming the LP's in question, were of the very highest vinyl quality ever, will now be claiming, these LP's really don't sound as good, as they originally claimed. "I was always able to tell," is what they will say. This is also proof, that although top quality vinyl, sounds great, digital sounds better.
 
WookieGR

WookieGR

Full Audioholic
I doubt anyone listening to vinyl on purpose will be swayed to switch to digital when the option and the facts of digital superiority have been known for a long time. It's not just the culture of how music is listened to but also the routines and habits of the listeners. Many of which can't just flip a switch and reprogram themselves to listen to digital. Having DSD source content available for everything would be ideal but it's like giving everyone the records for free since piracy is so easy.

Not to mention... and this will come off as insulting to some but hearing everything the artists recorded can be jarring to older listeners so use to the trimmed down dynamics of their sound. I find it ironic that someone will spend $30,000 on the most amazing speakers and possibly another $5,000 on the turntable just to hate the crispness of what the artists actually recorded when hearing it digitally.

It wasn't until the last few years that when I listened to Michael Jackson's Thriller on DSD that I discovered some of the sounds in the songs were actually his voice and not synthetic.
 
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TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.
Right, but we are not talking about making new tape recordings here (where the proper bias would come into play), but rather about playing back the existing master tapes.
It is still a crapshoot, because the master must have test tones at the recording header, so the playback machine can be properly equalized. Many won't.

If it is a recent recording chances are that there is only a digital master. Don't forget that DASH tapes proceeded the CD by quite a few years, and in that era many LPs were mastered from Digital DASH recordings.

There is another issue also. From the early seventies analog tapes were mastered using the Dolby A noise reduction system. Some used dbx 1 and some even the Telefunken system. Unless the Dolby calibration tones from the session are preserved, the tapes are pretty useless. The dbx 1 is easier to work with. I doubt there is a functional Telefunken decoder left in the world. So at this time it is heavy lift to make an LP from an analog master. I bet apart from the majors of the day like EMI, Decca, DGG, and Philips there was a lot of sloppy practice. RCA had their proprietary record playback equalization. The details were dumped in the Delaware river when they folded. So to master from the RCA archive you have to make an educated guess as to how to equalize for playback.

So I'm not surprised that if there is a reliable digital copy from the original master, that is what they use. They know they are basically operating a swindle, so that might as well complete the fraud and short cut a lot of headaches, and also end up with a superior product.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
I find it amusing mostly. The analog only crowd gets a bit silly at times....
 
CreoleDC

CreoleDC

Junior Audioholic
Yes, but what a waste of time, effort and expense, when they could have just issued a digital disc. That is why I have no new vinyl in my collection. It is pointless.

You can really guess this, as there are now so few tape machines in top condition, and fewer and fewer people left who no how to keep them in perfect condition and alignment. That is quickly becoming a lost art. There really is only one source of master tape, and it is very costly. In addition they made their tapes very high bias for some reason, and many machines can not provide that degree of record bias, as the record amps do not have the output voltage from the bias oscillator.

This ship sailed long ago, and the audiophools have to face it. Turntables are fine for legacy collections pre nineties, and for that odd LP you just have to have for collectable reasons and it is not available in digital format. I have not bought any new vinyl since the digital era.
Umm Doc, WTH man! ;) I still buy Vinyl. All though not much very little at least not like I did in the 70's and 80's.

Most recent was Jimi Hendrix, led Zeppelin. The Zeppelin album supposedly remastered by Jimmy Page himself, in Germany I believe I may stand corrected though.

Here's my thoughts on source. Master tape is very expensive. Keeping that in a isolated sealed vault to keep it from degrading.

CD quality is the undisputed source of material choice critical of listening. Try buying the 1st press off of the Master press see how that'll cost you.

I have some CD disc that are also old but drop one and watch it's shattered like broken glass. Drop a old 70's final LP yes it can break chances are won't shatter into pieces.

And no I did not read the article yet, that's Gene posted up on the home page. I'm out. Doc, didn't You stated once here on AH that Vinyl when done up right can be exquisitely delicious sound quality. Now off to read that very fine very well thought out article interest, Leave my vinyl alone!!
 
CreoleDC

CreoleDC

Junior Audioholic
I find it amusing mostly. The analog only crowd gets a bit silly at times....
I find it amusing DC amps guys get a little silly at times also comparing decent amps to a very fine AB class amp. :D
 

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