LA Audio Show 2017: MoFi masters the art of audiophile pressings

A glimpse into the deep catalog of Mobile Fidelity Master Recordings.
Glancing at the deep stacks of vinyl albums in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab room at the Los Angeles Audio Show, I could only think of two things: When do these guys go on lunch break, and how fast could I get a dolly up here? laas9Indeed, seeing all those LPs adorned with their “Original Master Recording” labels across the top can easily bring out an uncharacteristic larcenous streak. I’ve been collecting MoFi recordings for years – actually buying them, of course – so I’m always excited to see what’s in production.

As usual, MoFi’s current featured titles on wax and SACD are a varied lot, ranging from Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder to Burt Bacharach (with Elvis Costello) and the Knack.

Jonathan Derda at the helm.
The most anticipated title as I visited the MoFi exhibit was the company’s third one-step pressing, this one of Donald Fagen’s 1983 solo LP, The Nightfly. One-step is a process that takes a more direct route to the stamper, but it’s limited in how many pressings can be made.

MoFi sold out quickly with recent one-step releases of Santana’s Abraxas and Bills Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard. It appears demand is going to be similar for The Nightfly, as a quick online check after I got home showed the MoFi version of the album already is difficult to find still available on pre-order, and the record won’t even ship until Sept. 22.

Oh. Harry.
In its room in Los Angeles, MoFi created a playful vibe, spinning its own releases and other ultra-cool selections such as the Record Store Day white-vinyl release (on Sony/Legacy) of Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson.

To play these treasures, MoFi assembled a formidable primary system built around gear from TAD Laboratories, including the M2500 amplifier ($24,000 USD), C2000 preamp ($29,000 USD), D1000 SACD player/DAC ($15,000 USD) and Micro Evolution One speakers ($12,495 USD, plus $1,795 for ST-4 stands). The rig also boasted a couple of turntables.

One was Spiral Groove’s The Revolution ($18,000 USD) with a Spiral Groove Centroid tonearm ($6,000 USD) and a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum cartridge ($7,495 USD). The phono stage was the Balanced Audio Technology VK-P12-SE ($9,995 USD).

The other ‘table was a Dr. Feickert Analogue Blackbird Deluxe 12 ($8,490 USD) with Mobile Fidelity’s own MasterTracker MM cartridge ($699 USD) and MoFi’s UltraPhono preamp ($499 USD).

The Spiral Groove Revolution will not be televised.
Additional gear included an Aurender A10 digital source ($5,500 USD), and Valhalla 2 wire by Nordost (interconnects, $7,599 USD, and speaker cable, $13,359 USD).

AC conditioning and power cords were by IsoTek, and included the Mosaic Genesis AC regenerator ($9,995 USD), Titan High-Current Power Conditioner ($4,495 USD), Synchro C19 DC-cancelling power cable ($995 USD) and Premier power cord ($149 USD). The rack was Solidsteel’s Hyperspike HF-3 ($2,799 USD).

While I was there, MoFi Distribution’s Jonathan Derda cued up Nilsson’s “Coconut.” The goofy, tropical-flavored tune was a left-field hit in 1971. On the Spiral Groove table, Nilsson’s vocals were focused and the band members — many of whom had backed Elton John on Tumbleweed Connection the previous year — were portrayed in a deep, cohesive soundstage.

laas-2017-triode-banner6Next, Derda played an obscure Prince track called “Avalanche,” a spare, beautiful soul/gospel composition that featured the Purple One at the piano.

Then, it was on to a handful of MoFi titles that showed the lower distortion and higher resolution that is common in its work.

Overall, the demo was an impressive display for both the recorded music and the TAD-based system. Now, if I can just find a way to nab one of those Nightfly pressings….