From the debut album of the Dire Straits there are some reissues. Now also as an audiophile double album of MoFi with 45 RPM. In the sound duel we compare it to a German first press.
A few thoughts on Dire Straits – Dire Straits
The first album of the Dire Straits was released in the summer of 1978, in the middle of the wedding of Punk and New Wave. The laid-back skirt of the Knopfler brothers Mark and David was so spectacularly unspectacular for the time that it simply had to stand out. The most striking distinguishing feature to other classic rock bands was definitely the lead guitar by Mark Knopfler, which here sounds crystal clear mostly from the left channel. Instead of a plectrum, Knopfler plays with his fingers, which allows him to play a particularly variable game. Sultans of Swing had previously been a minor radio hit in the UK. Songs like Down To The Waterline or In The Gallery are in no way inferior to the most famous title of the first novel.
With her first album Dire Straits achieved a milestone of classic rock. Others like Making Movies or Brothers In Arms should follow.
Which versions are we comparing from Dire Straits’ debut album?
Dire Straits put their first work of the same name on sale in July 1978. Our copy is a German first press, which in the single sleeve received an insert with lyrics and band photo as an encore and was pressed on 132g vinyl.
The version of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab from 2019, on the other hand, weighs a smooth 200g. Here we are dealing with a double album Original Master Recording series, which is played at 45 revolutions per minute. As you might expect from a MoFi, the two 45 plates are in high-quality MoFi cases, protected by a stiffener and a gatefold cover made of really thick cardboard.
How do the Vertigo and MoFi presses differ in the hearing test?
With the Vertigo, it immediately stands out: that sounds really good. The warm and unexcited soundscape fits the relaxed music of the Dire Straits. Everything rests on a stable foundation of the discreetly played but still powerful drums. Above it, silky guitars form the sound carpet on which the crystal clear lead guitar can let off steam. Our German pressing from the year of release 1978 reflects all this very excellently and even looks a little stronger in the bass than the MoFi.
The audiophile MoFi version runs at 45RPM and offers something more than the German first press: more openness, more transparency, more pressure and a slightly more streamlined bass. Especially the restrained numbers like Six Blade Knife, Lions or Wild West End benefit from the MoFi remaster. But I’ve never heard the drum use in Southbound Again so powerfully. The music of the Dire Straits is about the details. Knopfler’s nuanced guitar playing takes a lot of space in the soundscape to be able to unfold. Often he only caresses the strings. The more precisely these nuances are depicted, the better they come to the fore.
How do levels and dynamics of MoFi and Vertigo pressing differ?
The waveform for Down To The Waterline shows that both presses were cut hot. Here you can see that analog master tapes were used in both cases. For one thing, there were no digital files in 1978. On the other hand, bands were usually easily controlled into the red area to get some band saturation. Another indication of the purely analog processing can be seen at the level peaks. These transients are cut off here, but still form an irregular line, as is typical for analog compressors/limiters. Modern Brickwall limiters, as they are used in CD mastering, create a straight line.
In the middle section (green arrows) it shows that the MoFi was even compressed a tick louder. However, since Mobile Fidelity usually dispenses with additional dynamic compression, it must be assumed that the US master band differs in this respect from the master copy with which the German first pressing was cut.
The waveform for Sultan’s Of Swing does not provide any insight in this regard. Both versions look approximately the same throughout and have irregular level peaks.
The waveform for Wild West End shows significant differences. Once again, the MoFi is a bit louder. in the first quarter of the piece (arrows) the MoFi starts just louder, while the 1978s slowly increase the volume.
How do the frequency rates of the MoFi and Vertigo presses differ?
The frequency spectrogram for Down To The Waterline reveals big differences between vertigo and MoFi pressing. Above 16,000 Hertz (line) we recorded only isolated pale rashes for the 1978 pressing. The MoFi, on the other hand, continues to play up well over 20,000 Hertz.
Similarly, only much more starkly, the strength in the heights is shown in the spectrogram for Sultan’s Of Swing. Once again, not much happens above the dotted line at 16 kHz on the German Vertigo, while the MoFi runs up to 20 kHz and above to the highest form.
The pattern runs through all the pieces – sometimes more, sometimes less. That’s why the Wild West End spectrogram shows the same strength in the heights.
Spectrograms with linear scaling illustrate the differences in the high frequencies. Logarithmic scaling indicates differences in bass essays and lower mids. In the range between 120 Hz and 600 Hz we do not detect any large deviations between the spectrograms. But at the lower end of the scale, the MoFi has a few more purple rashes.
What pressing of Dire Straits – Dire Straits is mastered louder?
The Loudness measurement with the Youlean Loudness Meter shows only slight differences in this case. Apparently, only one title stands out: Six Blade Knife, the fourth track in both diagrams, was mastered a little quieter on the press of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. The green areas for low loudness are much larger in the lower diagram. The loudness value of the entire page 1 is -16.0 LUFS integrated (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale) for the German initial pressing, and -16.1 LUFS integrated for the MoFi (pages 1 and 2 measured together). the difference is very small
The second part of the album was also mastered roughly the same loudly in both cases. Sultans of Swing, the first title on page 2 of the 1978s and on page 3 of the MoFi, is by far the loudest title. Our measurement showed a value of -15.2 LUFS integrated for the 1978s, and even -14.5 LUFS for the MoFi. This means that the MoFi plays here about 0.7 dB louder than the German first press. There are no major differences between the other titles. The loudness value for page 2 of the German first press is -16.8 LUFS, for pages 3&4 of the MoFi we measured -16.5 LUFS. The difference of 0.3 dB is no longer significant.
How good does the German first press of Dire Straits – Dire Straits sound?
The German first press from 1978 is still cheap to get second hand. Completely confident and unexcited, she draws her rounds and conveys a pleasant, warm sound. In terms of dynamics and loudness, it even has very slight advantages over the MoFi. However, it is far from being able to keep up with the MoFi in the high swells. It doesn’t sound bad. Just not quite as good as the MoFi.
How good does Dire Straits’ mobile fidelity pressing sound?
If you want the best sounding version, you probably won’t miss the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab with 45 revolutions. The audiophile edition of the debut album of the Dire Straits sounds like more in every dimension. The nuances are depicted more precisely, everything sounds a touch more taut. The fact that she was mastered minimally louder does not matter. Their wider frequency spectrum more than makes up for this. Frequencies above 16 kHz may not be able to hear very well, but he feels them. The MoFi just sounds bigger and airier. The sound duel clearly decides the MoFi-45s for themselves in the end.
- Down To The Waterline
- Water Of Love
- Setting Me Up
- Six Blade Knife
- Southbound Again
- Sultans Of Swing
- In The Gallery
- Wild West End
|Label||Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab||Vertigo/Phonogram|
|Catalogue||MOFI 2-466||Vertigo – 6360 162|
|Add-ons||Designed inner sleeve with lyrics and band photo||Inlay with lyrics and band photo|
|Audio mastering||Half Speed Mastering||not specified|
|Mastered by||War Wonderful, assisted by Shawn R. Britton||not specified|
|Matrix Runout||MFSL 2-466 A8 31551-1 (3)… KW@MoFi MFSL 2-466 B4 31498-2 (3)… KW@MoFi MFSL 2-466 C4 31498.3 (3)… KW@MoFi MFSL 2-466 D4 31498.4 (3)… KW@MoFi||10 AA6360162 1Y 320 10 AA6360162 2Y 320|