The Return of Mofi

rlj.jpg

In the beginning.... the LP record was pressed on heavy, new, "virgin" vinyl. The economic downturn and oil crisis of the 1970's were blamed for increasing the cost of record production, forcing manufacturers to resort to the pressing of lightweight LP's on recycled vinyl. Such claims may be viewed with increased scepticism, now that CD and SACD have suffered the same quality demise. It seems that once any given format's "superiority" has been established, manufacturers will get on with the business of acquiring maximal cash for minimal expenditure. Thus they inadvertently carved a niche for premium LP and CD manufacturers Mobile Fidelity, Sheffield Labs, et alia.

 The Neumann Cutting Lathe.

The Neumann Cutting Lathe.

The half speed mastering process (first used by Decca Records in 1958) was adopted and refined by Mobile Fidelity (now abbreviated, KFC style, to "Mofi"). Mofi produced some excellent pressings, (on JVC "Supervinyl") with little or no compression, limiting or EQ....until their demise in 1999. In 2001 Mofi's IP and assets were acquired by Music Direct and once again we could buy LP's sourced from the original master tapes on 180g vinyl.

If you would like an impartial view of how all this tender loving care does or does not translate to better sound quality, you should head over to the Music Pages now. Curiously, while records produced locally are often lighter than air, (resulting in the invention of the record clamp to stop them floating away) the Japanese don't need to buy Mofi to get 180-200g vinyl; it's the standard. If you find a Japanese pressing of one of your favorite LP's, buy it. Here is one of mine:    

a childs adventure.jpg

Ten years ago I worked on one or two turntables a month. Now I'm resurrecting five or six a week. Fortunately, it seems a lot of turntables were mothballed rather than binned, preserving them for discovery by a new generation and rediscovery by older ones.

200715.jpg

Vinyl sales in the UK grew from 205000 in 2007 to 4.1 million 2017. In the USA, sales shot from 1 million to 14.3 million over the same period, resulting in impressive looking sales graphs like this one:

Well, impressive if we only look at the tail end of the graph. We're a long way from the glory days of the vinyl LP, days that wont return (if we can avoid WWIII). The graph below tells the real story: 

millions.jpg

Yet vinyl sales do continue to grow. Turntables continue to be retrieved from garden sheds, packing crates and the odd chicken coop. The few turntable manufacturers that survived the long drought (I'm thinking of you, Rega) are now working at maximum capacity. Many of the marques that didn't survive have since been dug up, thawed out and resuscitated and sales (often of devices much inferior to the originals, eh Thorens?) are booming. As our erudite contributor, Dr Kudrycz, has erstwhile opined, vinyl has become something it never was, even in it's heyday: truly alternative. Vinyl, that not so long ago literally could not be given away, is now very cool, very desirable and increasingly expensive.   

verse.jpeg

Obviously, a Mobile Fidelity release will command a price commensurate with its quality and limited availability. This should be viewed in the context of the rapidly rising prices, dubious pedigree and hit-and-miss condition/quality of used vinyl. Given the quality of Mofi discs, the care with which they are mastered and their appreciation potential, I'm surprised they aren't more expensive.

In 1982, with the advent of the Compact Disc, the future of vinyl was uncertain. By 1988 its demise seemed inevitable. Now, thirty years on, the vinyl LP is clearly here to stay. And so, I suspect, is Mofi.

William Crampton 

mofidb.jpg