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Our Audiophile Scorecard - Winners and Losers

Audio Commentary  >  Audiophile  >  Our Audiophile Scorecard - Winners and Losers

Our Audiophile Vinyl Scorecard -- Winners and Losers

Click here to sort the section alphabetically by manufacturer.

We have a section specifically devoted to our favorite pastime here at Better Records, a little something we like to call
Debunking The Pseudo-Audiophile LP. The Audiophile's Choice -- the record that will do the best job of communicating the music through its superior sound quality -- is almost never going to be the one marketed to him as an Audiophile Pressing. If you find this in any way hard to believe, we encourage you to read on.

This section contains ratings and reviews of some of the Audiophile records that have come our way over the years. The most recent reviews are at the top. Records that have been given poor grades can also be found in our Hall of Shame, in the company of other audiophile pressings we found wanting.

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George Benson - Breezin’

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: bensobreez_mfsl) 



Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi reviewed, and surprisingly this one doesn't belong in our Hall of Shame the way most of them do.

It has an excellent side two backed with a pretty good side one. Side two has excellent bass -- for a MoFi -- and lots of energy -- for a MoFi. It’s slightly smooth but overall it’s very musical. The best domestic copies are going to eat its lunch, but try to find one! Most of them are awful.

This MoFi copy, though lacking in many ways, is MUCH BETTER sounding than the other MoFis we played it against, which were really muddy and compressed.

See all of our George Benson albums in stock


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Supertramp - Crisis? What Crisis?

The Exception that Probes the Rule

  (Item #: supercrisi_review) 



This Hot Stamper A&M Half Speed today joins a VERY ELITE GROUP: Half-Speeds that hold their own in a head to head shootout against some of the BEST Hot Stamper Non-Audiophile pressings we can find. There are presently a total of three titles that fit the description: Dark Side of the Moon on MoFi, Crime of the Century on MoFi, and this title on A&M.

Most half-speed mastered records we throw on our table have us scratching our heads and asking, What the hell were they thinking? They SUCK! Tubby bass, recessed mids, phony highs, compression -- the list of bad qualities they almost all have in common is a long one. Playing these kinds of records on a properly set-up modern system is positively painful.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock Supertramp albums


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Supertramp - Crime of the Century on MoFi

We Was Wrong - It Can Sound Great

  (Item #: supercrime_wrong) 



This MoFi Crime of the Century has two superb sounding sides. I have to admit I was DEAD WRONG about MoFi’s Crime of the Century -- on this pressing, anyway. But I can tell you that this is one of the few I have ever played that sounded right to me.

It's not that MoFi couldn't cut a record that's tonally correct. It's just that most of they time they didn't. This time they did.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock Supertramp albums


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The Three - The Three (45 RPM)

  (Item #: threethree_fame) 



A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

Folks, you are looking at the BEST SOUNDING RECORD we have ever played here at Better Records, and the good news for you dear reader, whether you're a true believer, a skeptic, or fall somewhere in between, is that it can be yours. There was a time when a record like this would go directly into my collection. If I wanted to impress someone, audiophile or otherwise, with the You-Are-There illusion that only Big Speakers in a dedicated room playing a LIVE recording can create, this would be the clear choice, possibly the only choice. There is simply nothing like it on vinyl in my experience.

See all pressings of The Three in stock


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The Doobie Brothers - Minute By Minute

Nautilus Debunked

  (Item #: doobiminut_debunk) 




Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful -- veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

See all of our Doobie Brothers albums in stock


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The Beatles - With the Beatles

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: beatlwith_mofi) 



Sonic Grade: C+


Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The Mobile Fidelity pressing of this album has so many problems it would take an hour to describe them all. Suffice it to say, it’s thinner and brighter, with voices that are grittier and grainier. The overall effect is the sinking feeling that you are listening to a cheap reissue and not the real thing. Don’t the Beatles sound better than this? To be fair, some tracks are okay, others a disaster.

See all pressings of With the Beatles in stock


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Crosby, Stills & Nash on Nautilus

THE Most Bloated Bass in Half Speed History

  (Item #: crosbcrosb_nr_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

An audiophile record dealer (of course; who else?) once raved to me about Crosby Stills and Nash on Nautilus. I said "What are you talking about? That version sucks!" He replied "No, it’s great. Helplessly Hoping sounds amazing."

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's albums


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The Beatles - Let It Be

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: beatlletit_mfsl) 



Sonic Grade: B or B-

Although I haven't played my copy in quite a while -- it might have been as far back as 2007 or 2008 if memory serves -- I recall that it struck me as one of their better titles.

All things considered, it's actually pretty good, assuming your copy sounds like mine (an assumption we really can't make of course -- no two records sound the same -- but for the purposes of this review we're going to assume it anyway). I would give it a "B" or "B-". It can't hold a candle to the real thing, but at least MoFi didn't ruin it like they did with so many of the other Beatles albums. For more on that subject, please read the commentaries for the Hot Stamper pressings on the site.

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Genesis - A Trick Of The Tail

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: genesatric_mfsl_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

The last time I played the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously COMPRESSED it was. On top of that, the midrange is badly sucked out (as is the case with most MoFi's) making the sound as dead as dead can be. You think 180 gram records are lifeless? Play this piece of crap and see just how bad an audiophile record can sound.

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The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: moodydayso_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: C

The MoFi pressing has a boosted top end, making everything sparkle and causing the string tone for the orchestral parts to become exceedingly hi-fi-ish. In our Hot Stamper commentary we noted:

The sound is fundamental to the experience. The strings of the orchestra sound as sweet as any Decca, the soundstage wide and deep as any symphonic recording. For those of you who still think Mobile Fidelity is the king on this one, here’s a record that demonstrates what truly natural highs really are. The Moodies used Decca’s classical engineers, not their pop ones, and those guys know what orchestral instruments actually sound like.

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Hall and Oates - Abandoned Luncheonette

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: hallaaband_debunk_) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Those of you who have had the misfortune to play the MoFi LP know that they absolutely ruined this album. They boosted the hell out of the top end, the last thing in the world this recording needed.

Actually, that’s probably not true. People who collect MoFi records tend to like the kind of phony sound found on the MOFI of this title. To the extent that a MoFi collector is not happy with the sound, my guess is he would more than likely place the blame on the recording, not the mastering.

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Barbra Streisand - Guilty

CBS Half-Speed Debunked

  (Item #: streiguilt_cbs_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

We had two copies of the CBS Half-Speed in stock, and having just done a big shootout for the album, we decided to play them to see how they stood up against The Real Thing, the real thing in this case being a pretty common pressing: a plain old Columbia original.

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Andre Previn & His Pals - West Side Story

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: previwests) 



Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

I played this record a while back -- it's one of the Mobile Fidelity's I remember liking from the old days -- and sure enough it still sounds good. It does not have the phony boosted bottom and top that most MoFis do. Since it's such a well recorded album, the sound is very impressive. Also the music is great. This is one of Previn's best piano trio records. And Shelly Manne drums up a storm here.

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Little Feat - Time Loves A Hero

Nautilus Debunked

  (Item #: littltimel_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

We played a Hot Stamper pressing against a Nautilus Half-Speed and it was not even close. Just listen to how punchy the drums are on the best domestic copies, a perfect example of what proper mastering does right and Half-Speed mastering does wrong. When you listen to the Hot Stamper pressing, you feel that you are hearing this music EXACTLY the way the band wanted it to be heard.

See all of our Little Feat albums in stock


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Santana - Abraxas

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: santaabrax_mofi_debunked) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile LP debunked.

The remastered Abraxas never got past the first elimination round; it had to have been one of the worst half-speeds I have ever heard. Dead dead dead as a doornail.

See all pressings of Santana's music in stock


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Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: jethrthick_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile LP debunked.

The MoFi is super TRANSPARENT and OPEN, and the top end sounds lush and extended. If you prize clarity, this is the one!

But if you prize clarity at the expense of everything else, you are seriously missing the boat on Thick As A Brick. The MoFi is all mids and highs with almost nothing going on below.

See all pressings of Thick as a Brick in stock


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George Benson - Tell It Like It Is

A&M Half-Speed Debunked

  (Item #: bensotellit_debunk_) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty -- pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.

See all of our George Benson albums in stock


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Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: mann_bache_mofi_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I had never actually played the LP when I reviewed the MoFi CD (my bad, apologies to all), noting that the CD sounded great and that I expected the vinyl to be even better. Was I ever wrong, sorry! The vinyl has a bad case of sucked-out half-speed MoFi mids. It’s far too polite and lifeless to be taken seriously.

The comments about the music of course still apply -- it's brilliant -- but I recommend the Gold or regular CD over this audiophile Heavy Vinyl pressing.

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Heart - Little Queen

CBS Half-Speed Debunked

  (Item #: heartlittl_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

No slam, no real weight and no deep deep bass, just that 30-plus-cycles stuff and barely any of that, mostly 40 and up if you're lucky, and BLUBBERY. Another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

Our good customer Roger wrote to tell me how much better he liked our $100 Hot Stamper of Little Queen compared to his CBS Mastersound Half-Speed Mastered LP. As you can see from our old commentary I used to actually think the ...

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Supertramp - Breakfast In America

Nimbus Debunked

  (Item #: superbreak_nimbus) 



Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

We were a bit generous with our sonic grades for this record in the past. It’s not hard to do quite a bit better with an original domestic pressing.

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Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: borodroman_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a '70s London, which means it's opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic. The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has quite decent bass.

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The Band - Music From Big Pink

Thoughts on MoFi's Midrange Suckout

  (Item #: band_music_mofi_midrange_suckout) 



I was a big Mobile Fidelity fan in 1982 when they released this album, which, for some strange reason, I knew practically nothing about. I was 15 when the second album came out and I played that album all the time, but the first album had eluded me. How it managed to do that I cannot understand, not at this late date anyway. A major malfunction on my part to be sure.

At some point in the early '90s I got hold of an early British pressing of the album. Comparing it to my MoFi I was shocked to hear the singers in the band so present and clear. Having only played MoFi's remastered LP I had never heard them sound like that. The MoFi had them standing ten feet back; the Brit put them front and center. There was no question in my mind which presentation was right. Around that time I was noticing that many Mobile Fidelity pressings seemed to be finding that same distant-midrange sound, and finding it on wildly different recordings.

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Emmylou Harris - Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: harriquart_debunk) 



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that's exactly the approach they ended up taking.

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Al Stewart - Year Of The Cat

MoFi Debunked

  (Item #: stewayearo_debunk) 




Sonic Grade: D to B-

If you own the typical MoFi version of this album you happen to own one of the All Time Mastering Disasters of the modern era. Ridiculously boosted at both ends, their version is all but unlistenable on a high end stereo.

Some copies are worse than others, so we are conservatively giving MoFi's pressing a sonic grade of D. We've played some in the past that clearly deserved an F (F as in Failing), but we also once played one that sounded pretty good, which we describe below. If you've played half a dozen MoFi copies and plucked out the best one, yours might be good too. If you haven't heard a bunch, chances are slim that yours is any better than awful. There's only one way to tell of course, and that's to pull it off the shelf and give it a spin. You may be shocked at just how hyped-up it has gotten since the last time you heard it.

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