If you are a diehard vinyl-phile, I am sure you have been intrigued by the recent controversy surrounding record label Mobile Fidelity.
Mobile Fidelity is famous for its ultra-high-performance pressings of some of the best vinyl albums of the past six decades. They have returned to the original master tapes and cut new masters, sometimes eliminating some of the steps usually taken in the process. Their albums are relatively expensive, ranging in price from $65 to $300, depending on the pressing method employed on that album – but they arguably represent the pinnacle of the trade. I am not aware of any company that produces a better-sounding LP.
Aside from the superlative performance, part of the charm and mystique surrounding this company revolved around the fact that their finished products were authentic analogue products – from start to finish.
Except they weren’t.
In July this year, allegations surfaced that Mobile Fidelity had been using a digital process – DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology – in producing their albums, a claim they initially denied. However, Mobile Fidelity has since admitted that the claim is correct, that they have used this technology since 2011, and that DSD will be utilised in all future recordings.
This has, understandably, resulted in some very hostile reactions within the audiophile community. Some have suggested that this may signal the company’s end, with others declaring that they would never purchase another of their products. One audiophile, who owns 50+ Mobile Fidelity recordings, has suggested that he would have never purchased a single album if he knew a digital stage was involved in the process.
The furor that has erupted is understandable.
Every LP has ‘Original Master Recording’ stamped across the top. There is also a step-by-step explanation of their One Step process (used in their most expensive releases), which is conveniently missing the DSD stage. To indicate that you are not utilising any digital processing, and worse still, to deny it, is unacceptable and deserving of the adverse publicity they have received.
At the same time, are we overreacting?
I am not excusing Mobile Fidelity for their deception. At the same time, do any of their recordings sound worse today than they did before we knew there was a digital process involved? What would prompt someone to say that they would never buy a Mobile Fidelity record if they had known that a digital stage was involved? That knowledge would not have changed the sound. Irrespective of the processes involved, these are still arguably the best-sounding LPs available. Yes, they have done wrong, but that still does not change the performance, and let’s be honest – isn’t that what it should be all about?
I can understand why someone would refuse to buy their products out of righteous indignation, but I cannot fathom why you would not purchase a product based on the methodology that led to its production.
Jim Davis, the president of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, recently sat down with Robert Harley of the Absolute Sound to address and clarify their position in this controversy. It’s an interesting and inciteful read, click here to read the article.