Its supposed to be better (virgin) vinyl, heavier vinyl, half speed mastering, scarcity, and of course, don't forget fleabay mania. The quality of the mastering varied from LP to LP in general in the Mobile Fidelity series in general. I have not heard the Beatles Mo Fis to comment on the sound of that actual set.
What is "different" with a Mobil Fidelity Sound Labs Half Speed mastered LP pressing, or "MFSL" is:
-- the original master tape, not a copy or duplicate, is used to master the pressing.
-- the tape is run on high quality equipment at half-speed, which gives you the following: greater dynamic range, lower distortion esp. on peaks, a little more detail and sparkle in the treble, more detailed soundscape.
-- LP is then pressed on "virgin" japanese vinyl, a little heavier weight (poss. 140-160 grams)this gives you a very quiet, low noise background.
-- pressing cycle is usually longer to get a better print, also fewer pressings per stamper - limited editions.
-- LP is packaged in heavier cardboard album with rice paper sleeve and loose plastic wrap to avoid warpage.
Do they sound better? In many cases my opinion is yes, but it varies from title to title, who was working the mastering and equalization of said title. Some folks don't like the Beatles MFSL versions... I don't have them so I can't say...
I have MFSL vinyl recordings of Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. Xiekitchen describes them well.
Yes, they sound better in general than standard issue vinyl. Do they sound better than the CD versions? Maybe. Both sound quite good but different. I would describe the sound as very dynamic yet smooth, clear and involving.
Lets just hope the rumor of the entire Beatles catalog being remastered at a high bit rate are true and that it gets releases in vinyl.
Its amazing to me that the Beatles catalog has gone through few relatively few re-masterings on CD.
Many lesser acts have had their catalogs re-mastered umpteen times already.
I suspect the audio buff market that is the natural target for remastered works is a pittance compared to the overall market for Beatles material.
Even in the BEatles case, more re-mastering is bound to happen.
Beatle fans/audophiles take note:
I've noticed the "Beatles-a-rama" internet radio station (which I think is just superb in every way) generally plays the rarer (and very crude) U.S. stereo versions of the older Beatles tunes rather than the mono-versions that have been the mainstay of the Beatles CD catalog for the most part.
Have you checked out the Capitol "remasters" of the early releases? Granted its on CD but each disc includes mono and stereo versions. Not bad. But we await the upcoming remaster and hope for vinyl!
I've seen the Capital remasters box sets but haven't heard them...I haven't jumped yet because the standard CD issue mono versions aren't bad.
I thinking maybe at least some of the stereo versions from the Capital remasters CD sets are what they play on Beatles-a-Rama, because many sound pretty darn good for an internet radio source that is surely not lossless , but it's possible they could also be playing from original Capital vinyl stereo releases in some cases.
If you like Rubber Soul, the only mono version is in the Capital box set. THe stereo versions are quite annoying with the voice on one speaker only - thanks to "Sir" George on that one!
Back in the days of Rubber Soul, stereo was still in its relative early stages in terms of market penetration. I guess Sir George thought that the voice in on speaker mix helped make the songs more ear catching and appealing to the newby stereo masses.
I think perhaps he earned his knighthood not just because of his skills as a technician and his ear for music, but also for his willingness (along with the Beatles) to explore new ground. In the case of the early stereo masters, lets just say from an audophiles perspective that he went too far at first in regards to stereo separation.
Things did improve in terms of stereo mixing though after Rubber Soul, I would say. Abbey Road is one of the best ever in my opinion, but I think Alan Parsons had a hand or two in that.
As I understand it, the Rubber Soul stereo mix was an odd experiment gone awry. A Hard Days Night, Beatles For Sale and Help! -- all of which preceded Rubber Soul -- have more conventional stereo mixes with the lead vocals in the center and the instruments panned left and right. So it wasn't simply a matter of inexperienced primitive stereo mixing, but rather was a conscious decision.
The thought process behind the hard left/right mix of Rubber Soul with nothing in the middle was apparently an experiment such that when folks with mono eqpt played the stereo LP, the mix would folddown to mono with the levels still balanced (any l/r info in a folddown becomes 3db quieter in comparison with center channel info). In addition, many stereo consoles back then had the speakers close together so this may have been to accomodate that eqpt as well.
I guess they were worried about stereo/mono compatibility or something and they were trying out a different approach. However it makes little sense that someone with mono eqpt would have paid the extra money for the stereo LP. But not every experiment is done based upon sound logic, I suppose.
Has anyone heard anything about the on going remaster that is supposedly taking place? It was anounced by N. Aspinall (sp?) in court during the Apple vs. Apple case so it must be true!
BTW, I have near mint copies of MFSL White Album and MMT and they really are not much better than my early 70's NM versions.
Late post! I've only heard the Abbey Road MFSL LP and it was a crime. The high treble range is boosted to the point of thinning out the whole mix and all the magic is lost. I would have been extremely angry at having paid $60.00 for this (or worse, whatever the whole box listed for), getting home, and hearing this.
At least for Abbey Road, the UK Blue Box is actually a much better listen. That whole set was around $99 back in the 80s, and can still be had on eBay for around twice that or less.
Also, a common opinion that I second completely is that the German Magical Mystery Tour is the best version of that record.
I have been able to acquire both the MFSL set and the Blue boxed set from England. I like the early lps from the MFSL set better and the later lps sound better to me from the blue set.
Its so hard to get quite playing lps of the originals at a fair price and even harder to roll the dice and believe sellers on very expensive originals. I bought several and was burned. I have been lucky with buying low priced early pressing and believe these sound the best.
The advantage of the boxed set is good sound and most likely better and quite vinyl.
Interesting! I am now very curious about the earlier records as interpreted by MFSL. I love the quiet vinyl and the half-speed mastering theory, anyway.
In the early 90's when everyone here in NY was getting rid of LP's amongs the thousands of LP's I bought from a local store (St. MArks Sounds) was an entire collection of Japanese OBI pressings, maybe 14 titles in all.
I should compare them to the MFSL's I own.
I can imagine the guy who got rid of them wishes he hadn't.
Theirs A good thread on this over on Hoffmans site