This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello (MoFI vs. Radar 1978)

This Year’s Model, the second album by Elvis Costello, is the first with the Attractions. We sent the audiophile MoFi reissue to duel with the UK original and discovered big differences.

Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Radar, 1978

Which versions of This Year’s Model are we comparing?

The older pressing is the UK first pressing from 1978 on Stiff/Radar. The Radar edition is in a single sleeve made of ordinary cardboard but this limited first edition has a designed inner sleeve plus bonus single “A Stranger In The House/Neat Neat Neat”. As the price sticker on the cover shows, the record cost me 12 Deutschmarks secondhand. UK first edition with bonus single (limited to 5,000 copies) in VG+!!! Those were the days… The UK version also has the song (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea on side 2, which is not listed on the cover of either album.

This Year’s Model by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab was released in 2010 under the banner of Original Master Recordings and received the usual high-quality packaging: gatefold cover made of high-quality cardboard, anti-static mofi inner sleeve, stiffener.

MFSL doesn’t stick to the US original cover this time, which was released without the alleged “printing errors”, but to the UK variant: The original cover is copied exactly. For the gatefold cover, the graphics of the printed inner sleeve was reused without further ado.

A little background on the music on This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello

This Year’s Model, the second album by Elvis Costello, the first with the Attractions, picks up where the debut left off. Fast, short numbers, very energetic, clever lyrics, classically good songwriting. Even here, Elvis and his new backing band sound like they’ve come from the same mold. Easter Egg in the run-out groove: “RING, MOIRA ON 434 3232 FOR YOUR SPECIAL PRIZE.” Moira was a label employee at the time. The first 1000 callers to the carved number in the Deadwax were sent a small gift (badge).

How well do the MoFi and Radar pressings sound in comparison?

After more than 40 years, the first edition of Radar has a few more background noises than one would like. The sound is optimized for many things, just not for audiophile demands. Lots of punch, lots of biting midrange, Elvis’ voice cuts its way through the band’s sound. Since Costello was mostly found on the punk/new wave shelf, the record had to be able to keep up aesthetically in terms of sound.

On the other hand, there is no noticeable background noise with the MoFi. In addition, you can hear considerably more bass than in the first edition. In return, the voice and organ don’t sound quite as cutting. Overall, the MoFi seems a bit tidier and, as with the debut album My Aim Is True, clearly less loudly mastered than the original. An audiophile masterpiece sounds different – but that was probably not intended.

How do the level and frequency response of the MoFi and Radar pressings compare?

Waveform-chart for Elvis Costello -No Action
Waveform-chart for Elvis Costello –No Action

The first output of Radar (above) shows noticeably louder and much more compressed and limited in the waveform graph for No Action compared to MoFi. The black graph in the top image shows considerably more level peaks that reach the limiter’s stop. Thus, the volume differences are leveled out, quiet passages become louder, the difference to loud passages is smaller. In contrast, the MoFi has a significantly lower level. Here, the level peaks turn out to be of different lengths. This means that more of the actual volume differences of the musical performance are preserved.

Waveform-chart for Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
Waveform-chart for Elvis Costello – Pump It Up

The waveform diagram for Pump It Up shows the same differences. Although the song doesn’t feel like it contains large dynamic jumps and always seems to be about the same volume, the MoFi reproduces the transients at considerable different volumes. In contrast, the transients on the Radar form a straight line because the limiter cuts off the peaks.

Wellenform-Diagramm für Elvis Costello - Living in Paradise
Waveform-chart for Elvis Costello – Living in Paradise

The waveform diagram for Living In Paradise shows no signs of dynamic compression in the MoFi version. Instead, the 78 was again highly compressed and limited to achieve a high average level while maintaining loudness.

How does the loudness of the 78 and MoFi pressings compare?

Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Stiff 1978, Seite 1
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Stiff 1978, Seite 1
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2010, Seite 1
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2010, Seite 1

The loudness measurement with the Youlean Loudness Meter is used by sound engineers to obtain comparable values for loudness and dynamics during mastering and remastering. We are especially interested in the value LUFS integrated (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale, equivalent to about one dB) in the lower left corner of the diagrams. Rule of thumb: The lower the value, the louder the signal. We measured -17.0 LUFS for the 78, and -22.6 LUFS for the MoFi. Accordingly, the 78 is 5.6 dB louder than the MoFi.

Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Stiff 1978, Seite 2
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Stiff 1978, Seite 2
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2010, Seite 2
Loudness-measurement for Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 2010, Seite 2

For side 2, we determined -17.4 LUFS for the 78 and -23.7 LUFS for the MoFi. So even a difference of 6.4 dB and is thus one of the largest loudness differences we have measured so far.

What does the frequency spectrum look like for the 78 and MoFi pressings?

Frequenz-Spektrogramm (lineare Skalierung) für Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
Frequency-chart (linear scaling) for Elvis Costello – Pump It Up

The spectrogram maps the loudness of different frequencies. The loudest frequencies are purple or red, the brighter the yellow, the less loud the frequency. Low frequencies are at the bottom of the image, highs are at the top. The overall higher level of the upper recording is reflected in the entire frequency spectrum.

The spectrogram with linear scaling is particularly suitable for illuminating the high frequency ranges. The Pump It Up example does not show any serious differences here. The upward deflections seem to be longer with the 78 compression. But here we have to consider the higher level of the 78. A high overall level also amplifies “quiet” frequencies. From this point of view, the difference is not very significant.

Frequenz-Spektrogramm (logarithmische Skalierung) für Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
Frequency-chart (logarithmic scaling) for Elvis Costello – Pump It Up

The logarithmic scaling of the spectrogram for Pump It Up illustrates the differences in the bass and lower mids. Here, the larger purple areas of the 78s are spontaneously noticeable, which actually represent a loud bass. But here, too, caution is called for. The level differences have a particularly strong effect in the bass and lower mids. Therefore, we stick to the listening impression that the MoFi even offers a bit more bass at the same level.

Which version of Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model is better?

It strongly appears that Shawn R. Britton did without any additional dynamic compression when mastering for Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. So we hear the master tape as it left the recording studio. And that’s what we audiophiles dream of. Adjusting the level via volume control is no problem for us. But dynamic nuances that have been limited away somewhere along the way from the recording studio to the listener can no longer be recovered. Therefore, thumbs up for the MoFi.

However, the 78 first pressing of This Year’s Model offers not only the single on top but also an extra track – not to mention it’s the original! I’m keeping both.

Titles

Side One

  • No Action
  • This Year’s Girl
  • The Beat
  • Pump It Up
  • Little Triggers
  • You Belong To Me

Side Two

  • Hand in Hand
  • (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea (UK-Version)
  • Lip Service
  • Living in Paradise
  • Lipstick Vogue
  • Radio Radio
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model, Radar, 1978
ArtistElvis Costello
TitleThis Year’s Model
LabelMobile Fidelity Sound LabStiff
Released20101978
Catalogue numberMFSL 1-330RAD 6
Format12“12“
Revolutions/minute33 1/333 1/3
TypeAlbumAlbum
CoverGatefoldSingle Sleeve
Add-onsStiffener
SourceAnalogue, original MastertapeAnalogue, original Mastertape
Mastered by  Shawn R. BrittonNot specified
Pressing plantRTINot specified
Matrix-RunoutB0012750-01 A PUMP IT UP! [drawing] (MFSL 1-330 A1) SRB/2 1̶9̶0̶7̶4̶.̶2̶ 19074.1(3)… B0012750-01 B RADIO² [drawing] (MFSL 1-330 B1) SRB/2 19074.2(3)…SPECIAL PRESSING NO. 003 RING, MOIRA ON 434 3232 FOR YOUR SPECIAL PRIZE Ƨ-18 RAD 3 A1
Edition/LimitationNot specified5000
Consecutive number002947
Country of manufactureUSAUK

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