Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Cars: S/T MFSL 180 gram vinyl

In 1978, with new acts like Blondie and Elvis Costello already tasting some success, The Cars burst onto the new wave scene with their self-titled debut album. The band went on to release five more albums over the next ten years, including the massively successful 1984 release, Heartbeat City, which netted four top 15 hits.

Despite this commercial success, fans of the band almost universally agree that the band never again reached the heights they acheived with their debut, which is considered by many to be one of the finest debut rock albums ever. The Cars not only plays like a greatest hits album, but has aged quite well and doesn't have the dated sound that plagues so many synth-based records of the era.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has a reputation for releasing ultra-high quality vinyl pressings and this title was no exception. The flawlessly pressed 180 gram disc arrived clean, flat, and was exceptionally quiet during playback. The vinyl is packaged in a gatefold cover made of premium heavy card stock with an anti-static Mofi rice paper inner sleeve. And on this release, Mofi took obvious care in using high quality sources for the front and rear cover art, as well as the inner gatefold, which replicates the original inner paper sleeve.

I compared the Mofi reissue, which was half-speed mastered by Shawn Britton, to the original red label Elektra vinyl, which was mastered at Sterling Sound. When I originally heard that Mofi was remastering this title, I must admit I was a bit surprised as I always thought of it as a good sounding title that wasn't particularly difficult to find. And while I still think the original Sterling vinyl sounds good, the Mofi bests it in a number of areas.

The first thing I realized upon listening to this album in preparation for this review, is that it really is a great album, that flows extremely well--especially on side two. The second thing I noticed, is that the original Sterling mastered vinyl, which has a brighter overall sound than the reissue, sounds like I remember it sounding when I had it in heavy rotation on my compact stereo system some thirty years ago.

The Mofi, from the moment you drop the needle on Good Times Roll, has more weight than the original, especially in the drums. The overall tonality on the reissue is also darker than on the original vinyl, and songs like the opener rock a bit more, and others, like Moving in Stereo, sound more mysterious and eerie. This reissue has excellent stereo separation and dynamics and has an overall volume level slightly lower than the original.

If I were a first time listener of this album, there would be little doubt as to which of these was the better sounding record--the Mofi. However, having listened so many times to the original vinyl and hearing years of radio play, I also have an affinity for the somewhat lower fidelity original. Like Beatles fans who grew up with the U.S. vinyl and later acquired the better sounding U.K. versions, I'll be keeping both.



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