Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (Comparison: MoFi 45 vs. Columbia/Legacy)

MoFi has reissued Bob Dylan’s double album Blonde On Blonde on three 45 rpm discs. We compared it with a Sony Legacy pressing and are still shocked.

Blonde on Blonde was Bob Dylan’s seventh studio album and is one of the outstanding releases of the incredible music year 1966. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys was released that year, as was Revolver by the Beatles. And also Blonde on Blonde.

More than enough has already been written about the songs. Therefore, just a personal bold hypothesis about the whole album: If Blonde on Blonde were released today by a young indie artist, it would again be celebrated as a masterpiece.

Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde by Columbia/Legacy
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde by Columbia/Legacy

Which versions of Blonde On Blonde are we comparing?

The Columbia from Sony Music’s Legacy series sets the bar high with 190g heavy vinyl. The pressing has pleasingly little extraneous noise, is flat and correctly centred. The fold out cover closely follows the original and the (blurred) cover motif of Blonde On Bl54

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has distributed Bob Dylan’s double album Blonde On Blonde on three LPs running at 45 RPM. The cover speaks of “180g High Definition Vinyl”. Weighed in, it actually weighs 195g. It belongs to the series of Original Master Recordings, which are usually cut from the original analogue master tape. The MoFi was also very carefully produced at RTI, flat and neatly centred. The records are in a cardboard box set, in which the records are securely padded by two foam pads. The vinyl itself is in the popular MoFi inner sleeves and last but not least there is a twelve-page insert with great photos, apparently taken during the recording sessions for Blonde On Blonde.

How good do the MoFi and Legacy pressings of Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde sound?

MoFi master craftsman Krieg Wunderlich has the audiophile touch when it comes to making Bob Dylan’s voice more pleasant via equaliser without completely discolouring it. This is also the case with this stereo mix. Here, especially the voice on the MoFi version stands out positively from the comparative pressing. There are also differences in the drums. On Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, for example, the hihat fits into the overall picture in the MoFi version, whereas on the mono mix of Legacy it is quite annoyingly in the foreground.

The harmonica is similarly affected on Pledging My Time, for example: on the Legacy, it dominates its passages and some mid frequencies create a harsh, intrusive sound. In contrast, the harmonica on the MoFi is embedded, not imposing itself on the listener.

Overall, this applies to the entire sound characteristics of both pressings. The Legacy is mastered much hotter (see below) and sounds like it: namely loud. In contrast, the MoFi creates a harmonic image, and works out the intermediate tones. The instruments also separate better from each other. For example, the bass drum and bass guitar act with greater clarity.

How do the levels and dynamics of the Legacy and MoFi pressings differ?

Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

The waveform for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 left us speechless: With levels peaking at 0.7, the Legacy Blonde On Blonde surpasses all the Lps analysed so far. The Legacy pressing (blue wave) is not only very high, it has also been heavily processed by compressor/limiter to make it even louder. The level peaks here very often come up against the limiter’s limit. The result is almost a straight line along the peaks. There is little room left for intermediate tones and dynamics.

In contrast, the MoFi leaves plenty of room for the dynamics of the voice and the instruments to unfold. The compressor almost does not intervene at all. For comparison: The maximum level here is about 0.5.

Fun fact: MoFi takes almost six seconds longer for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 than Columbia. When editing, the Columbia people apparently let the master tape run a tad faster. This trick is often used to make a recording seem more sweeping. Or to make the musicians’ playing sound more precise than it actually was. Both are actually unnecessary here.

Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan - Pledging My Time
Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan – Pledging My Time

The chart for Pledging My Time is also not good news for fans of the affordable Legacy. Once again, the Legacy reproduces everything loudly, while the MoFi has all the dynamic details in its programme.

Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan - Visions Of Johanna
Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan – Visions Of Johanna

The comparison of the waves for Visions Of Johanna shows even more clearly how much dynamic the Legacy gives away. The MoFi starts relatively quietly and gets louder briefly at around 2:30. After that, the intensity goes down again before it increases again towards the end. The Legacy wave is silent about all this.

Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan - Just Like A Woman
Waveform diagram for Bob Dylan – Just Like A Woman

At least the pauses between the verses of Just Like A Woman are played a little quieter on the Legacy. Otherwise, the familiar picture emerges: the Legacy usually pushes the maximum level, while the MoFi takes care of even the smallest dynamic details in an exemplary manner.

How do the frequency spectra of the Legacy and MoFi pressings differ?

Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

The frequency spectrogram for Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 shows what everyone hears immediately: The Legacy is so much louder that all frequencies in the diagram are also much louder (red and purple areas). But the frequencies between 4,000 and 6,000 hertz, the so-called presence range, seem to be particularly loud. The Legacy’s annoying, exhausting sound can be found here in the diagram. But apart from a few spikes in the second half of the song, everything on the Legacy actually takes place in the frequency ranges below 13,000 hertz.

The MoFi does this better, too. It plays for the entire duration of the piece up to the highest heights.

Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan - Pledging My Time
Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan – Pledging My Time

The spectrogram for Pledging My Time doesn’t look quite as blatant, but if you look closely, you can see that the Legacy rarely exceeds 13,000 Hertz. At least much less often than the MoFi, which obviously reproduces a broader frequency spectrum. Also noticeable: how dark red the mids and lower mids are reproduced by the Legacy. The music here is mainly below 7,000 hertz. The MoFi reproduces the frequency ranges more evenly.

Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan - Visions Of Johanna
Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan – Visions Of Johanna

In the spectrogram for Visions Of Johanna, there are again somewhat fewer differences. However, the tendency is correct here as well: The Legacy concentrates on the mids, the MoFi plays more balanced.

Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan - Just Like A Woman
Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan – Just Like A Woman

The spectrogram for Just Like A Woman also shows the Legacy’s tremendous midrange focus.

Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan - Rainy Day Women #12 6 35
Frequency spectrogram (linear scaling) for Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Spectrograms with a linear scale show differences in the high frequency range particularly clearly. On the other hand, a logarithmic scale clarifies the ratios in the lower registers. Up to about 8000 hertz, everything in the Legacy is roughly equally loud. But some frequencies – for example, the fundamental range around 120 hertz – are even louder!

How does the loudness of the Legacy and MoFi pressings differ?

Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 1
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 1
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 1 & 2
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 1 & 2

Sound engineers use the Youlean Loudness Meter to measure the loudness of sound signals. However, it is doubtful whether anyone has measured the Legacy. For side 1 of the Legacy, we measured -12.4 LUFS integrated (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale), one of the highest values ever. To put this into perspective: If you listen to music with a loudness value higher than -16 LUFS on Apple Music, it is automatically played at a lower volume. The Legacy is therefore 3.6 dB (equivalent to LUFS) above this limit. The MoFi remains easily below this threshold with -17.4 LUFS integrated.

Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 2
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 2
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 3 & 4
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 3 & 4

Side 2 would also receive a so-called “loudness penalty” with Spotify or Apple Music with -12.7 LUFS integrated. The graphic below illustrates this quite clearly. The narrower the “tube”, the less dynamic differences can be reproduced. The MoFi reaches -17.2 LUFS integrated and therefore has sufficient room for dynamics – 4.5 dB more to be precise. That’s worlds apart.

Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 3
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 3
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 4 & 5
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, sides 4 & 5

Side 3 of the Legacy also remains true to itself as far as extreme loudness is concerned: With –12.2 LUFS integrated, the third is even the loudest record side of this loud album. For the MoFi, the measurement showed -15.4 LUFS integrated. Also more than we measured for the other record sides.

Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 4
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Sony Music Legacy, side 4
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, side 6
Loudness measurement for Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, side 6

With -14.2 LUFS integrated, side 4 of the Legacy could at least be discontinued with impunity on Spotify. There, the limit is only -14 LUFS. The MoFi only has only -17.1 LUFS integrated.

Which pressing of Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde is better?

In the 60s, when mastering records, you had to assume that they would be played back in most cases on lousy turntables with even lousier amplifiers and speakers. Therefore, we can well imagine that the Legacy would have cut a fine figure on our first prehistoric Dual turntable. On our current system, it sounds simply atrocious.

Especially gruesome when you hear it directly in comparison with the audiophile MoFi. As on Bringing It All Back Home and John Wesley Harding, the MoFi people bring out everything that is in a Dylan classic. You hear Blonde On Blonde almost like the first time.

Title list

Side 1

  • Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
  • Pledging My Time
  • Visions Of Johanna
  • One Of Us Must Know

Side 2

  • I Want You
  • Memphis Blues Again
  • Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat
  • Just Like A Woman

Side 3

  • Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine
  • Temporary Like Achilles
  • Absolutely Sweet Marie
  • 4th Time Around
  • Obviously 5 Believers

Side 4

  • Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde by MoFi
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde by MoFi
The back of the MoFi box with the numbering
The back of the MoFi box with the numbering
Since the MoFi version plays with 45 revolutions…
Since the MoFi version plays with 45 revolutions…
... the tracks of the double album were recorded on ...
… the tracks of the double album were recorded on …
... spread over six panel sides.
… spread over six panel sides.
In terms of sound, this has the advantage, among other things, that …
In terms of sound, this has the advantage, among other things, that …
that less music in the inner area of the ...
that less music in the inner area of the …
record must be played.
record must be played.
The first and last pages of the twelve-page insert ...
The first and last pages of the twelve-page insert …
… of the MoFi shows the cover of the original edition.
… of the MoFi shows the cover of the original edition.
Furthermore, pictures of the recording sessions ...
Furthermore, pictures of the recording sessions …
... for Blonde On Blonde can be seen.
… for Blonde On Blonde can be seen.
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert side 5
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert side 5
The images from the gatefold cover of the ...
The images from the gatefold cover of the …
… original are also pictured here.
… original are also pictured here.
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 8
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 8
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 9
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 9
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 10
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 10
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 11
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 11
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 12
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde MoFi insert page 12
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde by Columbia/Legacy
Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde by Columbia/Legacy
The back of the iconic cover.
The back of the iconic cover.
The deadwax section of the Legacy is …
The deadwax section of the Legacy is …
… also in the edition with 33 revolutions …
… also in the edition with 33 revolutions …
... not particularly tight.
… not particularly tight.
Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands steht die gesamte Seite 4 zur Verfügung.
Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands has the entire side 4 available.
Inside the gatefold cover are photos ...
Inside the gatefold cover are photos …
… of the same series as found in the MoFi insert (left)
… of the same series as found in the MoFi insert (left)
ArtistBob Dylan
TitleBlonde on Blonde
LabelMobile Fidelity Sound LabColumbia/Legacy
Released20132015
Catalogue numberMFSL 3-45009C2L 41 (88875146311)
Format3×12“2x 12“
Revolutions/minute4533 1/3
TypeBoxsetDoppelalbum
CoverBoxsetGatefold
Add-ons12 page insert
Laquer cutKrieg WunderlichNot specified
Pressing plantNot specifiedNot specified
Matrix-RunoutMFSL 3-45009 A2 KW@MoFi 20704.1(3)… MFSL 3-45009 B2 KW@MoFi 20704.2(3)…  MFSL 3-45009 C2 KW@MoFi 20704.3(3)… MFSL 3-45009 D2 KW@MoFi 20704.4(3)… MFSL 3-45009 E2 KW@MoFi 20704.5(3)… MFSL 3-45009 E̶̷2̶̷ F2 KW@MoFi 20704.6(3)…88697761051-LP7-A RKS 88020 1A MOVLP 245 STERLING 88697761051-LP7-B RKS 88020 1B MOVLP 245 STERLING 88697761051-LP7-C RKS 88020 1C MOVLP 245 STERLING 88697761051-LP7-D RKS 88020 1D MOVLP 245 STERLING
Edition/Limitation
Consecutive number01778
Country of manufactureUSAE.U.

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