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Sound Reports & Views

Half-cut Records

Article from Sound International, June 1979

It is an unfortunate fact of life that whereas record buyers regard records as music, companies regard them as 'product' and would like to produce as many of them in as short a time as possible. The result, of course, is all those clicks, pops, rustles, warps and other more insidious faults which make it hard to enjoy the music. The situation isn't helped by the fact that record pressing factories like to work at full capacity and therefore don't have any spare to cope with bestsellers; Saturday Night Fever, for instance, ended up being pressed, I believe, at 27 different factories, from Czechoslovakia to the US. The chances of two pressings sounding alike, let alone having a minimum quota of faults, are small and any cutting engineer will tell you how the whole business can completely change the sound from what the producer and the band wanted to what you, forking out your £4, actually get.

A small American company, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, have decided to do something about this and release records that have had care lavished on them all through the production process. The master lacquer is cut from the original master tape at the JVC centre in California, with the lathe (a Neumann VMS70 with a JVC quartz-lock motor revolving at half speed, a technique developed for CD-4 records in order to get information up to 40kHz on the disc) and without the normal eq used to make the music sound good on a tranny (or those awful Auratones). The records themselves are pressed on CD-4 vinyl by JVC in Japan and come in super static-free sleeves. A number of companies specialising in direct-cut discs also take such care, but the difference is that Mobile Fidelity are releasing music, not hi-fi masturbation material. Their first two batches of limited edition releases include: Crime of the Century — Supertramp; Katy Lied — Steely Dan; Breezin' - George Benson; Year of the Cat - Al Stewart; Waiting for Columbus - Little Feat; and Star Wars — Zubin Mehta and the LAPO, and records on the way include titles from the Who, Moody blues (remember them?), Alan Parsons and Jimmy Buffett.

There is a catch though. As the full royalty has to be paid to the copyright owner (the original record company) and as Mobile Fidelity, although sound enthusiasts, do have to make a living, the records are rather pricy — UK prices are £15 for a single and £23 a double. Sound quality is stunning, however, with transients impeccably preserved, silent surfaces and all those subtleties us journalists love to write about not obscured behind the usual crud. Full details and catalogue from Lentek Audio Ltd, (Contact Details). Incidentally, for the classical enthusiast, King Records in Japan are half-speed cutting selected items from the Decca and Argo catalogue, and selling them as their 'Stereo Laboratory' series only slightly above the normal price. As far as I know, however, no one is bringing them into the UK but we have a catalogue in the SI office and if you know someone going to Japan, give us a ring.

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Klark-Teknik DN34

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Giant waits

Publisher: Sound International - Link House Publications

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Sound International - Jun 1979

Donated & scanned by: David Thompson

Sound Reports & Views

Previous article in this issue:

> Klark-Teknik DN34

Next article in this issue:

> Giant waits

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