Category Archives: News

THE MOFI-SCANDAL – SOME LESSONS

 

Scandal? What Scandal?

On July 14, Mike Esposito, a record dealer form Phoenix, Arizona made public, via his Youtube channel, that Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MoFi), a mainstay of the analogue audiophile world, has been deceiving its customers for years (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtJRis-Ba1Q) … and no one noticed. According to Esposito MoFi has been sourcing many of its most coveted vinyl reissues since at least Sanatana’s Abraxas in 2008 from digital sources (quad DSD files) obtained mainly from Sony/BMG rights holders rather than from the original analogue master tapes. In the passionate world of audiophiles this news exploded like an atom bomb. Even the venerable Washington Post wrote an article about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/music/2022/08/05/mofi-records-analog-digital-scandal/

 

To put this into perspective:

  • MoFi nowhere claimed these records have been sourced without intermediate digital steps. So, MoFi have not violated any legal terms. And as a matter of fact, almost all vinyl issues nowadays are sourced from digital files. So it is absolutely standard procedure. However, given its PR and history, people simply assumed MoFi would cut its reissues directly from the original master tapes (AAA or triple A). So, it is more a question of being highly misleading in their communication than being outright fraudulent.
  • This assumption of the market has in no small part been nurtured by the steep price premia MoFi charges for its LP reissues. Their Ultra Disc One-Step reissues cost about EUR 250,- in Germany. A normal MoFi LP about EUR 90,-. Such steep premia may be justified by the complex process of cutting a high quality vinyl reissue purely in the analogue domain from the original master tapes. For that requires a lot of special equipment, lengthy manual processes and getting access to the original master tape. If MoFi simply used a digital file (from a rights holder) to cut their LPs they are substantially reducing their costs and the prices they charge seem even more inappropriate.
  • Importantly, these digitally sourced vinyl reissues (e.g. Santana’s Abraxas, Miles Davies’ Kind of Blue, Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream or Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks) sound as good as anything that MoFi has ever put out, according to acknowledged audiophile reviewers. So this is not about degraded sound quality. On the contrary, many of these experts thought these albums belong to the best sounding MoFi has ever issued. It is more about frustrated customer expectations, who – rightly or wrongly – expected a pure triple A analogue production. Many of the hard core analogue customers view any digital element as the devils work and cannot be consoled by the good sounding result.
  • Even more: MoFi engineers are recognized industry experts and are credibly focussed on the quality of the end product. They are not dogmatic about the ways to achieve the best possible sound quality. And they have left no one in doubt that MoFi will continue and even extent its use of digital masters for LP production, because they are convinced that by doing so they can produce the best sounding LPs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shg0780YgAE)

 

Some Lessons:

As collateral damage there are a number of famous professional audiophile reviewers (I will not mention names) who have claimed for years if not decades to dislike what they call “digital sound” and that they can always tell the difference. These same reviewers raved about the high quality of the One-Step issues from MoFi for as long as they believed these records were produced triple A. So the revelation that these One-Steps are in fact sourced from digital files embarrasses them to the bone.

It is also most likely that the recent events at MoFi will shake the confidence in the marketing claims and production processes of other vinyl companies and force greater transparency about the provenance of music material.

One part of the scandal is MoFi’s deceptive market communications, which I think is condemnable in and of itself as well as a way to justify inflated prices, but I do not want to go into this. The other part touches on the relationship of analogue vs. digital technologies as a means of faithfully storing and manipulating sound information. The MoFi scandal puts into stark focus some questions that have been lurking in the background for a long time: What really are the qualitative differences, if any, between analogue and digital? And how noticeable are they? And is that passionately drawn borderline between the two technical alternatives really justified nowadays?

One thing seems clear: If some of the best experts in the industry globally – along with all the rest of the consumer world – did not notice any disadvantage in the sound quality of audiophile vinyl LPs produced from digital masters for more than 14 years, but on the contrary time- and-again lauded their analogue sound qualities, than one may conclude, that – properly done – the technology employed is simply not noticeable. Or in other words – if properly done – there are no sonic advantages of analogue music production over digital.

This should be a clear indication for even the diehard analogue disciples to rethink their prejudices and ask themselves whether they want to continue to exclude themselves from some of the best sounding music material for no good reason.

 

Hear for yourself how beautiful and analogue digital music can sound, if done properly: https://www.hifistatement.net/tests/item/2310-digitale-audio-systeme-hd-player-model-2

EXPERIENCE OUR MUCH ACCLAIMED DIGITAL PLAYERS AT THE WORLD’S LARGEST HIFI SHOW IN MUNICH FROM MAY 19-22!

 

After 3 years of CORONA break, we finally can present ourselves to you again. Come, see and hear our much acclaimed digital players at the High End in Munich (19-22 May 2022)! We are exhibiting our Digital Players with the excellent gear of our partners Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur (WLM) and WayCables.

You will find us in the Atrium room A 4.1 E103 (1st floor).

Location:

 

MOC München
Lilienthalallee 40
80939 München
Date: 19. – 22. May 2022
Opening Hours:
Thursday    10:00 bis 18:00 Uhr
Friday         10:00 bis 18:00 Uhr
Saturday     10:00 bis 18:00 Uhr
Sunday       10:00 bis 16:00 Uhr

 

REEL-TO-REEL VS. DIGITAL AUDIO

Reel-to-reel is the gold standard of analogue sound reproduction. Until the mid to late 1980ies all recordings were done on analogue tape. From the mid 80ies the industry switched to digital recording technology first on video tape, later on hard drives.

We love analogue sound and wanted to get a better understanding of the differences between analogue and digital sound reproduction – not from a technical perspective, but to get more details on “what are the sonic differences?”. To this end, we compared the same 1st generation master tape copies on a DAS HD-Player Model 2 and a newly refurbished Revox PR99 MKII.

Not surprisingly, there were clear differences:

  • The tapes sounded a bit fuller, more substantial – very pleasing
  • The digital files sounded lighter, but also with more detail and precision. The digital files had a more airier treble and mid range. They also had more precision in the bass.
  • The tapes had a smaller dynamic range than the digital files, but the background hiss was never a problem, not even in the quietest passages. It was just noticeable, but did not bother anyone. On the contrary, it had a relaxing effect.
  • The tapes had beautifully open sonic space. The instruments were nicely spread out on the sonic stage. The sonic stage of the digital files was not quite as open as that of the tapes, but the spacial precision was better. With the digital files one could precisely pinpoint the location on the sonic stage; with the tapes it was a little less clear.

To sum up: The differences were small and along the lines of the expected. In general, the presentation with digital files sounded lighter, airier, also cleaner and at the same time more detailed and complex. The presentation with the tapes sounded a bit heavier and coarser and at the same time simpler. Both had serene open space.  The differences were not of the kind “better” or “worse”, but rather differences in taste. So depending on the types of music, those characteristics made sometimes the digital files and sometimes the tapes appear preferable.

 

DAS event logo

Presentation: „Living Stereo“ in the Digital Age

With the introduction of stereophonic sound recording in the mid 1950s, RCA Victor produced milestones of recording history with its „Living Stereo“ label. Artists such as Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Rubinstein, Emil Gilels, Gregor Piatigorsky, Fritz Reiner, Charles Münch, Erich Leinsdorf, but also Henry Mancini, Harry Belafonte and Elvis Presley recorded their first stereo records with RCA Victor.

RCA engineers and producers – quality obsessed as they were – have given everything to prove what is possible with the new multi channel recording technology. They have produced exemplary recordings, which have set standards for high end music reproduction to this day.

In 2005 RCA Victor started to produce and publish high resolution copies of their original master tapes. We show you how these milestones in recording history fare in today’s digital music world.

Topics:

  • History of the RCA Victor Living Stereo label
  • Recording methods and technologies
  • The most important artists and recordings

… of course, with lots of audio samples.

 

When:     Friday  September 18, 2020, 18:00h

Where:   Digitale Audio Systeme, Haus der Musik, Seilerstätte 30 / Ecke Annagasse, 1010 Vienna

 

Hosts:

DAS event logo

Impressions from the exclusive Advent Events in our Showroom

Here are some impressions from the exclusive events in our showroom in the Haus der Musik, Vienna, which we organised together with the Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur and the klangBilder Fair in November and December. Our guests enjoyed beautiful music, interesting and entertaining presentations and interviews as well as delicious Austrian wine … and celebrities: amongst others, Claudio Vandelli and Caroline Kreutzberger presented their latest CDs and offered insights into their artistic work.

 

Cover EinsNull Testbericht Model 2

Title Story: The HD-Player Model 2 reviewed by HiFi EinsNull

Quotes:

“The Model 2 reveals the advantages of the technical advancements of the last 30 years. The ladder DAC of the Model 2 sounds unbelievably good: It exudes ease and musicality. The sound stage is wonderfully open, instruments are given  lots of space to unfold, creating beautiful details and definition. The sonically deep background optimizes the presentation. The player reveals so many details.”

“Whoever finds modern music servers lacking in character, will have a lot of fun with the Model 2. The concept of the HD-Player perfectly marries classical and modern qualities and becomes the centre of a sophisticated hifi system.”

Checksum:

“The retro look of the HD-Player Model 2 is more than a design gimmick. Instead, the technically highly sophisticated server becomes a part of a serious hifi system.  Combining its design with fantastic sound quality and excellent user handling, DAS sets a new trend, which will hopefully be picked up and followed by many others.”

You can read th full article here (in German).

Cover HiFi-Statement Magazin Testbericht MPA

Test Review DAS Mono Power Amplifiers in HiFi Statement

We are very happy about the first test review of our new Mono Power Amplifiers in the HiFi Statement Magazine.

Quotes:

“The Viennese manufactory Digital Audio Systems (DAS) caused quite a stir in the high end scene with its HD-Players Model 2 and Model 4. Now they are presenting their interesting new Mono Power Amplifiers.

Over the years I have had many different power amplifiers in my system –some very heavy whoppers. With 10 kg, the beautifully designed DAS monos are lightweights in comparison. But as it turned out, this is not true at all, when it comes to musical capabilities. In this respect, the 500W at 8 ohms DAS monos are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. … The DAS monos did not blink even at extreme volume levels: Drums came effortlessly fast, very deep and really with enormous pressure. Cymbals were brightly transparent, never sharp – a real treat. … Apart from the very beautiful spatial presentation, I just loved the airy, fleet-footed, transparent and lively manner, in which these monos created impressively large sonic stages. … These are real experts at work.”

Summary:

“The Mono Power Amplifiers from Digital Audio Systems really manage to square the circle: Small and beautiful housing, low power consumption, but really amazing sound. They produce speed, musicality, power and dynamics on a par with high end amplifiers many times their price level.”

You can find the complete review here (in German).

High End, München, 2019

Impressions from High End Munich Show 2019

This year again, Munich saw the High End Show from May 09-12. 21.180 visitors came to see the latest in high end audio technology from 551 exhibitors. Digital Audio Systems exhibited with its partners, Wiener Lautsprecher Manufaktur und Way Cables, in the Atrium Room F220 on 70 sqm. The exhibition was a great success with quite a number of visitors claiming to have heard “the best sound of the whole show” in our room (!).

Here we have some impressions for those who could, alas, not see and hear it for themselves: