Portrait: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MoFi)

For many collectors Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and its Original Masters Recordings is the first address when it comes to high-quality LP reissues from the world of rock and jazz. We took a look at the history of the label.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is an audiophile music label from Chicago in the USA with a long history dating back to the 1950s. Today, the label is best known for its high quality CD, SACD and LP re-releases of popular rock, pop and jazz albums, all of which are elaborately produced with high quality standards. The aim is to create the best sounding version of well-known and popular albums.

Today the company also sells hifi equipment and accessories under the name Mofi.

The history of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

As early as the 1950s, Brad Miller (1939 – 1998) published recordings of natural sounds on his label Mobile Fidelity Records. For this purpose, he recorded the sounds of steam engines on his father’s Ampex 601-2 mono tape recorder and published them on today’s extremely sought-after records with the catalog number MF-1.

But it wasn’t until 1977 that Miller finally founded Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and began producing music. MFSL quickly made a name for itself with high-quality re-releases of rock classics such as Supertramps Crime Of The Century (1978, MF-5) or Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1979, MF-17). Other milestones include the box sets of the 13 Beatles albums from the early 1980s, which are quickly followed by further extensive box sets with albums by Frank Sinatra or the Rolling Stones. A release history of the early Original Masters Series can be found here.

Half Speed Mastering at MFSL

From the very beginning, the company’s trademark has been the so-called Half Speed Mastering process, in which the master tape is played back at half speed while the laquerof an LP is being cut. Moreover, MFSL’s Original Masters Recordings always uses the original master tape, while other re-releases usually have to rely on copies of the second, third or even digital files of the master tapes.

In addition, MFSL-LPs are usually characterized by particularly low background noise during playback. This is due to the “Super Vinyl” invented by JVC, which consists of a special mixture of materials.

For the sleeves, typically gatefold sleeves, MFSL uses extra heavy cardboard. The sheets themselves are placed in high-quality inner sleeves, around which in turn are placed in sleeves made of thick paper, so-called “stiffeners”.

Limited editions and numbering

MFSL usually receives the licenses for the Reissues for a limited time and a limited number of copies. For many releases, the edition is stated and the individual copies receive a unique serial number.

The latest LP series by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab

  • Original Master Recordings mit 33 oder 45 RPM
  • Silver Label
  • Ultradisc One-Step

Earlier series by MFSL

  • Original Master Recording LP
  • Original Master Recording UHQR Vinyl
  • Original Master Recording Anadisq Vinyl
  • Original Master Recording Vinyl Box Sets
  • Original Master Recording Cassettes
  • Original Master Recording Classical Cassettes & LP
  • Cafe Records (LP, Cassette, CD)
  • Original Master Recording Aluminum CD
  • Ultradisc II Gold CD ArchiveBBC CD

Media

  • At the beginning of the 1980s MFSL released recorded compact cassettes, before CDs were added to the repertoire in 1984.
  • Sonny Rollins’ Way Out West is the first of these. In CD releases, too, special emphasis is placed on always mastering from the original master tapes.
  • From 1987 the first 24 carat gold CDs are released under the name Ultradiscs, from 1992 also as Ultradisc II with a stronger gold coating.
  • In 1998 the first audio DVDs with a digital resolution of 24bit/96kHz are released, followed one year later by the first hybrid SACD.

Bankruptcy and sale to Music Direct

When MFSL’s main operating partner went bankrupt in 1999, MFSL finally closed its doors.

2001 MFSL is acquired by Music Direct, the world’s largest hifi dealer and distributor. A team of experienced ex-MFSL employees supports the new company team in the development of the new business activities, which will continue with largely the same quality standards as before.

Important mastering engineers at MFSL

  • Stan Ricker, 1935 – 2015, mastered most of the releases in the early days of the label. His pressings are recognizable by the deadwax signature “SR/2”.
  • Jack Hunt, responsible for many releases in the 70s and 80s, signature: JH/2
  • John LeMay
  • Paul Stubblebine
  • Shawn R. Britton
  • Rob LeVerde
  • Krieg Wunderlich

A visit to the record warehouse of Music Direct (Mofi)

17 comments

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