Brothers In Arms as a double album with 45 RPM is supposed to bring out the very best sound from the well-known recordings. Does it really sound even better than the LP from 1985?
How did Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits come about?
Unlike the previous albums Dire Straits, Communiqué, Making Movies and Love Over Gold, which were recorded in analogue, Brothers In Arms was produced completely digitally (DDD). The CD version was about seven minutes longer than the LP version released at the same time. The reason for this was that five of the nine album tracks were played out longer on the CD than on LP. The biggest differences in running time are found with 3:08 minutes for Why Worry and still a proud 1:47 minutes for Your Latest Trick. Only Walk Of Life, The Man’s Too Strong, One World and Brothers In Arms have identical lengths on CD and LP.
Which versions of Brothers In Arms are we comparing?
Here, an LP from the year of release 1985 comes up for comparison. Without German label code (LC), pressed and printed in the Netherlands by PRS Baarn, it was sold in various European countries. The thin vinyl disc weighs just 120g and comes in a single sleeve. A printed inner sleeve in pink cloud design is included with the song lyrics and some album credits. The running time of this LP is 47:21 minutes in total.
Back to the MoFi: It was pressed on 202g heavy vinyl and, as always, put into a fold out cover made of extra heavy cardboard. The records received antistatic MoFi inner sleeves and were additionally protected by stiffeners. Inside the gatefold you will find the song lyrics on the familiar rosawolk design.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s Brothers In Arms runs 54:20 minutes in total for the four sides. It was released as an original master recording, which normally means that the original master tape was used. But with a completely digital production there is no “master tape” at all, the attentive reader now asks? In 1985, digital data was also recorded on tapes. Moreover, it was not yet possible to cut an analogue record directly from a digital file. So analogue recordings were also made from digital tape, which were apparently at least partially used in the recent Abbey Road pressing of Brothers In Arms.
How do the 1985 and Mobile Fidelity pressings differ in the listening test?
First impression: There is definitely an audible difference between the 1985 and the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab edition. Without being able to name it at first, the MoFi plays with more authority, everything seems bigger and more clearly defined. With So Far Away, a firmer foundation in the bass can also be discerned.
The gap becomes clearer with Money for Nothing. The guitar riff comes out of the speakers with much more muscle. In direct comparison, the 1985 version seems downright thin, but Mobile Fidelity obviously plays louder than the early Dutch pressing of Brothers In Arms.
Even Walk Of Life appears minimally less fat on the 85 than on the MoFi. However, the difference is much smaller than in Money For Nothing, for example. And in The Man’s Too Strong, none of the aforementioned differences can be detected. Here it is only Mark Knopfler’s voice that sounds a little more nasal on the 85 edition than on the MoFi.
How do the levels and dynamics of the 1985 and Mobile Fidelity pressings differ?
In the waveform for So Far Away, the auditory impression of the greater authority cannot be reproduced. Both waves have a very similar level and the level peaks also result in an irregular line, which indicates moderate use of compressors. On the other hand, the difference in running time between the original LP version (above) and the CD version pressed on vinyl (below) is striking.
Money For Nothing, on the other hand, gets down to the nitty gritty: the MoFi not only plays longer, it has obviously been compressed more to achieve greater loudness. Significantly more level peaks have been cut off and the spaces between these transients are also smaller than on the 1985. From experience, Mobile Fidelity uses no or only minimal additional sum compression. Therefore, the suspicion is that the stronger limiting and compression was already included in the source material. For example, in order to master the first single from the album especially radio-friendly loud. However, the single from 1985 only has a playing time of 4:38 minutes and is therefore even shorter than the LP version from 1985 and even shorter than the version on the MoFi. It remains a mystery…
And here it comes: The waveform for The Man’s Too Strong has hardly anything in common with the waves considered so far. The three previous waves show heavily truncated level peaks, as is usually done with digital CD masters to avoid digital distortion. It seems that an analogue master tape was used for The Man’s Too Strong. Firstly, it has much greater dynamic range, which is usually limited away in CD masters for fear of distortion. Secondly, the level peaks are so irregular that no limiting is noticeable at all. And the maximum level is also much higher than in the tracks considered so far.
How do the frequency spectra of the Mobile Fidelity and the 1985 pressing differ?
The frequency spectrogram for So Far Away shows that the 1985 has two red “stripes” in the regions around 10,000 and 12,000 hertz. These are also found on the MoFi, but not quite as pronounced and dark red. On the other hand, above 16,000 hertz there is not much going on with the 85. Only a few and relatively quiet peaks can be found in the overtone range. The MoFi remains relatively present up to about 20,000 hertz.
The situation is similar in the spectrogram for Money For Nothing – but without the “stripes”. The MoFi plays up to higher frequency ranges and then is apparently cut off hard at about 20,000 hertz. Only a few peaks rise above the 20,000 hertz mark.
Like the waveform diagrams, the spectrograms for The Man’s Too Strong of both pressings are similar. Both play equally loud up to about 20,000 hertz and both stop hard at 20,000. Our attempt at an explanation: The song was recorded digitally just like all the others, hence the limitation to 20 kHz. The analogue-digital converter simply couldn’t handle higher frequencies in 1985. In order to capture the dynamic range of the track during mastering, it was mastered to analogue tape without any major limit. The spectrograms of the Back-To-Black version and the Abbey Road version of Brothers in Arms showed a similar picture in our analysis. There, too, this track of all tracks stands out with a particularly broad frequency spectrum.
Spectrograms with linear scaling clarify the differences in the high frequency ranges. For the differences in bass and fundamental, the logarithmic scale is recommended. The larger purple areas in the spectrogram for So Far Away show the stronger bass range of Mobile Fidelity’s Brothers In Arms. This is not only louder overall, but also plays into deeper regions than with the 1985.
How does the loudness of the MoFi and the 1985 pressing differ?
With the Youlean Loudness Meter, sound engineers measure the loudness of the stereo signal during mastering. Since the Mobile Fidelity runs at 45 RPM and the longer CD versions of the tracks were used, the loudness can only be roughly compared. For the comparison, we have cut the 5 songs that are on side 1 of the 85 pressing, one after the other. On the MoFi these would be sides 1 and 2 as well as the track Why Worry from side 3. Altogether the loudness meter shows a value of -21.8 LUFS integrated (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale) for the 1985, for the same tracks of the MoFi it is -20.4 LUFS integrated. The MoFi is therefore about 1.4 dB louder than the LP from 1985. Two tracks in particular are responsible for this. The second (Money For Nothing) and third (Walk Of Life) tracks can be seen in the diagram. Walk of Life (-19.2 LUFS vs. -16.7 LUFS) is 2.5 dB louder on the MoFi, Money For Nothing (-23.2 LUFS vs. -19.3 LUFS) even 3.9 dB.
For side 2 of the 1985 LP we determined a loudness of -21.2 LUFS integrated, for sides 3 & 4 of the MoFi (without Why Worry) it was -21.0 LUFS integrated. This difference is hardly significant.
How good does the Dutch 1985 pressing of Brothers In Arms sound?
With a running time of 47 minutes, the 1985 is simply jam-packed. Side 1 in particular, with more than 25 minutes, is beyond what still sounds good on an LP. Because with such tightly cut grooves, cutbacks have to be made in the bass. But as a reminder: Brothers In Arms as an album should emphasise the advantages of a CD. That’s exactly how the LP sounds. A bit thin, a bit weak in the bass and with much shorter running times.Andererseits wurde das Album mit größter Sorgfalt aufgenommen und viel Wert auf guten Klang gelegt. Deshalb klingt auch die LP-Version aus dem Jahr 1985 nicht richtig schlecht. Aber auch nicht richtig gut.
How good does the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab pressing of Brothers In Arms sound?
The double album by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab does not have such problems with the running time. Here, only two or three tracks can be accommodated on one album side. So even at the higher playback speed of 45 RPM, there is always room for enough space between the grooves.
Accordingly, it also sounds good. In the bass as well as in the treble, everything is there that the digital recording offers. Everything sounds bigger and fatter than on the 85. What is noticeable, however, is the great loudness on the first half of the album. With loudness values of 16.7 (Walk Of Life) or 19.3 LUFS (Money For Nothing), both tracks are still far below what is usual nowadays. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the MoFi master was considerably louder than that of the LP original from 1985.
This does not dampen the listening pleasure. The double album by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab thus fulfils all expectations.
- So Far Away
- Money For Nothing
- Walk Of Life
- Your Latest Trick
- Why Worry
- Ride Across The River
- The Man’s Too Strong
- One World
- Brothers In Arms
|Title||Brothers In Arms|
|Label||Vertigo||Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab|
|Catalogue number||824 499-1||MFSL 2-441|
|Add-ons||Printed inner cover||Stiffener|
|Lacquer cut by||PRS Baarn||Krieg Wunderlich|
|Pressing plant||PRS Baarn||RTI|
|Matrix-Runout||824 499 1 2Y 5 ℗ 1985 670 03 1413 824 499 1 1Y 5 ℗ 1985 670 03 1 17||MFSL 2-441 A1 22677.1(3)… kw@MoFi MFSL 2-441 B2 22754.2(3)… kw@MoFi MFSL 2-441 C1 22677.3(3)… kw@MoFi MFSL 2-441 D1 22677.4(3)… kw@MoFi|
|Country of manufacture||Netherlands||USA|