Thursday, December 27, 2007

My first MFSL (MoFi) CD's!

The Steve Hoffman Forums are a cool place. I had been "lurking" there for about a year and a half, and finally joined a couple of months ago. It's a great resource with tons of very knowledgeable people. It is a place to discuss sound quality issues. I won't go as far as saying that it is a place for audiophiles because I am not one and I'm there and haven't been kicked out or anything. I don't want to generalize, but it appears that some prevalent opinions are:

  • Mono is better than stereo
  • Vinyl is the way to go
  • Original issues of CD's are better than remasters
  • Japanese pressings sound better
  • Discs made in West Germany sound better
  • "Target" CD's sound better
  • MFSL and DCC gold discs sound better

I don't necessarily agree with all of the above (particularly the first three with which I am somewhat familiar), but I recognize I've had some of those tendencies, even as a kid, for example, I just totally loved the sound of my records (vinyl LP's) played on my old Fisher stereo through my big Koss headphones. I loved the warm, full sound and perhaps the imaginary drone of the needle going through the surface. I never really liked cassette tapes and didn't start getting CD's until the early 90's. I didn't jump on the MP3 bandwagon until fairly recently. I had been a pretty big fan of Mini Disc, and I liked the way my vinyl and cassette transfers sounded in it. I knew there was compression, but I figured the format was specifically created for music, so I was happy. Too bad Sony ruined the format's chances for success here. Anytime I mentioned MD to my friends, they would just come back with the argument that CD's were cheap, CD-R's were cheap and nothing would take the place of CD's. I never thought MD's were designed to take the place of CD's, but were a digital answer to cassette tapes, except much cooler and better. Anyway... I finally embraced MP3's and even got an iPod.

I could write extensively on my audio preferences, and perhaps I will when I don't feel so lazy! One of the results of reading the posts in the forums is that now I look for all sorts of "better sounding" versions of stuff I like. Most of the time, the stuff is super hard to find and/or super expensive. I don't have a lot of extra income to indulge in seeking this stuff out (none, as a matter of fact!), so whatever I get is by pure luck really.

Two CD's I like and had never owned on CD are Def Leppard's Pyromania and Hysteria. Because I'm cheap, I had always looked for used copies under, say $7.00, but those two, particularly Pyromania, hold up their value really well. One day I spotted a copy of Hysteria for like $3.95. I debated for a minute because I had been thinking about getting the deluxe version with a bonus disc, but hey, the price was right, so I bought it. When I got to my car, I opened the case and to my surpirse, the disc inside was a gold, Mobile Fidelity Sounds Lab one! The Steve Hoffman Forums have taught me that MFSL discs sound better, so I was happy. I played it at home and it sounds pretty good... It has to, since I have nothing to compare it too! I went to the forums to share the good fortune, and was told that the one to really have was the Pyromania one because it was significantly better sounding than any other version. I put the information in the brain for future reference, and there it stayed.

On one of my other forays into the used bins, I came across a copy of Pyromania, at the right price of $6.99. To my surprise it was one of the aforementioned made in West Germany discs! I picked it up and was very happy to finally have this favorite of mine (I like it better than Hysteria) on CD, and a good sounding one (according to some).

Then came the moment of weakness. There was a mint condition MFSL Pyromania, made in Japan up for auction, and I ended up winning it. It wasn't cheap, but I've seen others pay more for "lesser" copies. It looks great, and it comes in the original packaging (some weird CD holding arm inside the jewel case. Sometime between now and going back to work, I will do a sound comparison between the MFSL and the West Germany discs.

All in all, I think I managed to get some pretty cool items and not pay an arm and a leg for them. The Steve Hoffman Forums are a great place for information and reference, but join at your own wallet's risk! (for those devoid of a sense of humor, I do like the forums a lot).


Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear that you embarked on a quest for finding better sounding music. Like me, I was led to believe that, for instance, MFSL (or DCC) discs are superior. Well, I discovered it is not necessarily true. Case in point is an MFSL CD of Queen's A Night At The Opera, which sounds "thin" and lacking depth, if you compare it with remasters made in the last three years.

Also, I think a better sounding material depends on who "did" the remastering. Steve Hoffman remastered some classics, but some of his works are awfully, terribly sounding trash. Yes, very trashy. Try listening to Hoffman's remaster of the Mamas And The Papas (DCC) and compare it with the remaster made by 20th Century Masters (Millennium Collection). The difference is night and day! Hoffman's work pales in comparison versus 20th Century Masters! You can demonstrate this stark difference in sonic quality even in your own stereo setup.

The only Hoffman remaster I liked is "Hotel California" but the rest are just awfully, terribly done.

You may also find it interesting that some older albums are now remastered in 24-bit digital process. They are usually better sounding than the MFSL or DCC releases.

monkeybagel said...

Very old post I know - but I own the two MFSL CDs that you have and find they both sound good, however depending on the audio system they are played on they are mastered at such a low volume that the audio system sometimes plays them back with different equalization than it otherwise would due to the increased volume (this is particularly the case with OEM car audio systems).

I recall all of the German CDs due to their smooth edges and reflective inner ring - CD's have changed over the years for sure.

Did you make a determination of the MFSL CD compared to the German pressed disc?