Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been the undisputed pioneer and leader in audiophile recordings since the company's inception in 1977. Established by dedicated audiophiles, Mobile Fidelity's first and foremost goal was to offer faithfully reproduced high fidelity recordings that would compliment the numerous advances occurring in audio delivery systems. Throughout its history, Mobile Fidelity has remained true to this goal, pioneering state-of-the-art technologies and setting audiophile standards that remain in place today.
In response to rapid advancements in both recording formats and audio delivery systems over the past several years, Mobile Fidelity has maintained its ongoing commitment to improving industry standards. This has resulted in the introduction of numerous innovations in the audiophile arena: half-speed mastered Original Master Recording™ LPs, Ultra High Quality Records™ (UHQRs), high fidelity cassettes, consumer alignment devices for phono cartridges and audio cassette decks, Original Master Recording™ compact discs, the 24-karat gold plated Ultradisc™ CD and the Ultradisc™ Ultra High Resolution™ (UHR). To this day the independently owned firm continues its commitment to exceeding industry standards.
A history of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab would be incomplete without tribute and credence to its founding father Brad Miller.
As a producer and recording engineer Mr. Miller changed the music industry for the better. Brad Miller had two driving passions - sound and quality. If you count yourself as an audiophile, you probably owe Brad Miller some measure of gratitude.
Brad Miller (1939-1998), was an acknowledged master of recording outdoor environmental and man-made machine sounds. He began his career by recording the sounds of steam engine railroad trains as a teenager during the 1950's, releasing LP's on his own Mobile Fidelity Records. In 1965, he founded the Mystic Moods Orchestra (a.k.a. Nature's Mystic Moods), which mixed the sounds of machines and/or the environment with orchestral music. In 1977, he founded the renowned audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. He produced music projects through the companies Mobile Fidelity Productions and Mobile Fidelity International Productions. Brad Miller died September 9, 1998. In 1955, Brad recorded the sounds of one of a steam locomotives for the first time. He borrowed his father's Ampro monaural tape recorder along with a crystal microphone, and recorded passing steam trains from the Burbank tower, and at Surf, California where he vacationed with a telegrapher friend. A kind Los Angeles round-house foreman installed a power converter (32 volts DC to 110 AC) so that Brad could make his first cab recording aboard a Southern Pacific #4455 engine.
In the fall of 1957, Brad and a friend named Jim Connella decided to record and release a record album of Southern Pacific steam locomotive sounds. In March, 1958, Mobile Fidelity released album MF-1. They released two more monaural albums before the end of 1958. In September, 1958, Brad traveled through Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, recording locomotives while living on hamburgers and sleeping in his car. He had purchased an Ampex 601-2 tape recorder and a pair of Electro-Voice microphones, a battery and an ATR converter. The trip resulted in Highball, MF-4, Mobile Fidelity Record's first stereo album. High Fidelity Magazine praised the album.
While recording the sounds of steam locomotives, Brad had on occasion captured other outdoor sounds. This inspired Brad's idea of expanding the soundstage to give the listener a more panoramic environmental scene. Mobile Fidelity's MF-8, released in September of 1961, was entitled Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies. As the title implies, the record featured the sounds of locomotives combined with rainstorms. The album was recognized in Billboard Magazine as their "specialty pick of the week".
One night in 1964, a San Francisco disc jockey - Ernie McDaniel of KFOG-FM - played Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies on one turntable and some music on his other turntable, and broadcast both simultaneously. Listeners responded very favorably, as the station's phones lit up and hundreds of requests to hear the combination flooded the radio station. McDaniel relayed his actions to Brad Miller, and Miller spent three months creating One Stormy Night, the first album of the Mystic Moods Orchestra. Among many other productions with the highly successful Mystic Moods Orchestra, Brad Miller also made two solo "sound-effects" albums in the late 70's and early 80's. The Power and the Majesty and The Power and the Majesty Volume 2 which were both released on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. A history of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab would be incomplete without tribute and credence to its founding father Brad Miller.
Mobile Fidelity's significant contributions to the world of high-end audio software are grounded in the art of Original Master Recording, significantly advanced by the company with the introduction of the half-speed mastered Original Master Recording™ LP. As part of the company's resolve to provide the most accurate sonic reproductions possible, all Mobile Fidelity product is mastered directly from the original master tape as opposed to production copies often used for mass reproduction. This ensures a more complete and exacting transfer of the original musical data. In the case of the Original Master Recording™ (OMR) LP, the use of the master tape is combined with a unique procedure known as "half-speed" mastering, which literally slows down the cutting system involved in mastering vinyl so that musical information can be transferred from the source tape to the lacquer with greater precision. To this advanced mastering technique, Mobile Fidelity adds substantial refinements in the vinyl compound itself and improves methods of plating the lacquer. The result is a significant improvement in overall performance from the vinyl medium.
In February, Mobile Fidelity ships its first OMR LPs to a select group of audio dealers in the United States. The high-end audiophile community's response is overwhelming, encouraging the company to expand further into the audiophile market. In the Spring , Mobile Fidelity begins soliciting major conventional record companies for the right to license and remaster commercial recordings.
In June, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab releases what is to become the benchmark phonograph for the audiophile LP industry for years to come -- Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The response is astounding as sales exceed all expectations. Mobile Fidelity is now at the helm of a newly emerging market for audiophile recordings featuring popular music.
Mobile Fidelity expands on this initial licensing of the Pink Floyd release by securing additional titles of significant commercial recordings from all musical genres including pop, rock, and jazz -- genres sorely missing from the current repertoire of available audiophile recordings. The Mobile Fidelity catalog begins to expand as does its marketplace, branching out from the audiophile community and into the hi-fi arena in general.
The company continues its aggressive commitment to the refinement of existing audio technologies. Further research and development results in the introduction of two new formats: the first high fidelity Original Master Recording cassette in and the Ultra High Quality Record™ (UHQR). OMR cassettes are developed in response to the increasing sophistication of car stereo systems. Mastered from first generation master tapes, the OMR cassettes are among the first commercial tapes to be duplicated at "real time"-- the speed at which the tape is actually played -- as opposed to the high speed bin-loop duplication utilized in traditional mass production. The cassettes are recorded on superior quality audio tape and custom-loaded into proprietary shells. Titles highlight popular rock and jazz releases.
The success of these limited edition vinyl releases are culminated with the issue of a limited edition, boxed collection of 13 Original Master Recording™ LPs by The Beatles entitled The Beatles - The Collection. The Collection is lauded by critics and fans worldwide and sold-out completely within the first year.
Based on the Collection's enormous success, Mobile Fidelity follows with the release of a second boxed collection in 1983, Sinatra, which includes 16 of Frank Sinatra's most popular recordings, and in 1984 with The Rolling Stones, a collection of 11 OMR LPs which includes an art book with original album cover graphics and exclusive interviews with the original producers and recording engineers. All three collections meet with critical acclaim and are destined to increase in value as collectors' items.
During this time, Mobile Fidelity also introduces related products into the marketplace, most notably, alignment devises for consumer use: "Geo-Disc" for phono cartridges and "Geo-Tape" for audio cassette decks. These products allow consumers to make user-friendly precision adjustments to home stereo components at a fraction of the cost of the existing technologies. Both the Geo-Disc and Geo-Tape are instrumental in making consumers aware of the importance of stereo maintenance and the potential for permanently losing musical data via an improperly aligned component.
1983 and the Digital Revolution
The entire recording community undergoes a profound change as the digital revolution begins to take hold. In response to the industry's new-found commitment to the compact disc, Mobile Fidelity immediately begins exploring ways to refine existing digital technology. The company considers the standard CD mastering process itself; utilization of production copies as source tapes, thereby degenerating the transfer process. Mobile Fidelity continues its reliance on original master tapes, which are carefully scrutinized by engineers who reject those which do not respond to proprietary restoration techniques so that only the most pristine tapes are retained for mastering.
1984 OMR Comes To CD
As a result of a time-intensive process which incorporates advanced mastering techniques and custom-designed equipment, the Original Master Recording™ compact disc -- the first limited edition, audiophile quality CD -- is introduced by Mobile Fidelity with the release of Sonny Rollins' Way Out West.
Further refinements to the OMR compact disc results in the launch of the Ultradisc™ -- a limited edition, collectible, 24-karat gold plated, audiophile CD which quickly becomes the audiophile standard among industry leaders. Responding to a growing unrest with traditionally produced CDs, the Ultradisc™ is developed after years of research which yields the most advanced, sonically accurate CD available on the market. In addition to proprietary mastering techniques, perfected through thousands of hours of listening evaluations, and custom-designed equipment, Mobile Fidelity engineers add perhaps the most essential ingredient of all -- time. engineers work solely on one project at a time, paying meticulous attention to every phase of the mastering process, beginning with a careful inspection of the original master tape. Custom-designed equipment includes a playback machine which is aligned to mirror the recording-heads of the equipment used in the original mastering process. Other refinements involve the use of music itself as a test signal to adjust the reproducing machine, as opposed to commonly used test tones which are incapable of revealing the delicate spectral balance required for exact reproductions. Advanced manufacturing methods involve custom-pressing discs in a carefully controlled, limited output CD ROM pressing plant which adhere to Mobile Fidelity's exacting standards of production. The use of 24-karat gold as a CD coating is the result of extensive research which revealed that gold naturally resisted the oxidation sometimes associated with aluminum discs, thereby ensuring that the Ultradisc™ virtually lasts forever. Gold coating also eliminates the pinholes common to aluminum discs, which require error-correction on the part of compact disc players.
The first Ultradisc™, a Jazz Sampler containing a variety of selections from Mobile Fidelity's OMR CD collection, is released to significant critical acclaim. This is followed with a Classical sampler and popular titles licensed from major recording companies for limited periods of time.
1986-1989 Historic Finds in the Soviet Union
As the company flourishes, making innovative strides in the technical arena, innovations of a cultural and business nature began to take shape. In 1986, following extensive negotiations, Herbert A. Belkin, as president and owner of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, makes the first of three separate agreements with the Soviet Union, contracting with Melodiya -- the official State-owned recording label and the world's largest record producer -- to name Mobile Fidelity as the exclusive distributor of Melodiya recordings in North America. In return, Mobile Fidelity would provide the Soviets with audiophile quality digital remasters for their vaults. Boasting a vast treasure trove of Soviet classical recordings numbering well into the tens of thousands, the Melodiya label also housed a remarkable, yet lesser-known collection of Soviet jazz recordings. Upon this intriguing discovery, Mobile Fidelity immediately launches the USSR Jazz Showcase Series, for the first time exposing American jazz audiences to an entirely new realm of Soviet music, one that has proven both musically and historically significant.
A second agreement soon follows, this time with the Soviet broadcasting authority, Gosteleradio, to distribute their extensive recorded library. These cross-cultural partnerships culminated in 1989 with the establishment of Art and Electronics (A&E), a joint venture between Mobile Fidelity, the Union of Composers of the USSR, "Soyuzconcert"(the Soviet domestic concert-booking agency), and "Electronica"(the Soviet manufacturer and retailer of consumer electronic goods). The result is a recording company that comprises the first independent, Russian-based alternative to Melodiya. Moscow-based, with branch offices in Vilnius, Lithuania and a state-of-the-art recording studio maintained by Mobile Fidelity in the Moscow Conservatory of Music, A&E recorded Soviet classical and jazz artists for both Soviet and U.S. distribution via an arrangement with MCA Music Entertainment Group.
Throughout Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's history, the company has maintained a high profile in the professional audiophile world as well as in the world of the selective audio consumer. As an outgrowth of its groundbreaking partnerships with Soviet concerns, the firm has contributed substantially to other aspects of the cultural arena, namely as sponsor of the first North American exhibit of Lithuanian photographers, which debuted in Los Angeles in January of 1990.
Mobile Fidelity has also assumed a leadership role in generating funds for a variety of causes including generous donations to the Armenian Relief Society in 1989 for aid to the Armenian earthquake victims, to the Special Olympics for the handicapped in 1987, to the Hurricane Hugo Relief Fund for 1989 hurricane victims in the Eastern U.S., to the study of Auto Immune Deficiency in 1990 and again in 1992 with the Mercury-Phoenix Trust for the study of AIDS.
As a natural outgrowth of ongoing research, in September of 1992 the company launched Ultradisc II™, a new and improved Ultradisc™ formulation which boasts an advanced bonding process as well as a thicker gold coating.
1993: Mobile Fidelity continues to test the limits of existing audio technologies with the development of the new GAIN™ System of mastering equipment. This technology affects both analog and digital products from Mobile Fidelity, and has led to startling advancements in the impact of recorded sound. 1994: The company returns to vinyl production with the introduction of the ANADISQ™ 200 LP series, which features half-speed mastering with the GAIN System technology, numbered limited editions, 200 gram super quality virgin vinyl and special heavy-duty jackets with rice paper inner sleeves.
1997: Mobile Fidelity engineers actively investigate several emerging -and competing - audio technologies. Theta Digital upgrades the GAIN™ A/D converter to 24/96 and further research and experimentation is conducted regarding this technology.
1998: Mobile Fidelity creates one of the first 24bit/96kHz DVD's based on audio under the DVD video specification as a showcase technology piece for the CES Show in Las Vegas. During this same period MFSL engineers start research, experiments and testing with the Sony/Philips Direct Stream Digital (DSD) system
Mobile Fidelity prepares for the future and introduces the GAIN 2™ system developed by an international team of engineers. This system consists of a custom tape head and hand made reproducer electronics achieving unprecedented bandwidth. Synergistically matched to a 2.8 MHz DSD A/D converter and precision down-converted to PCM for Ultradisc II releases.
1999: Mobile Fidelity releases its first GAIN 2™ Hybrid SACD, Duke Ellington's, Blues in Orbit. Mobile Fidelity's main distributor declares bankruptcy and MFSL Inc. closes it's doors.
2001-Present: The New Millennium
2001: Jim Davis of Music Direct in Chicago purchases the proprietary mastering chain and all intellectual property associated with the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab name. A team of MFSL veterans is assembled to helm technical and engineering departments. Emphasis is placed upon research and development of the mastering chain in both the analog and digital domains.
2002: The Tim de Paravacini designed GAIN 2 Ultra Analog LP cutting system is installed later that year. Extensive system tweaking and testing is conducted throughout the fall.
Three critically acclaimed Patricia Barber titles are released on the company's new Ultradisc UHR™ (Ultra High Resolution) hybrid SACD format. Cafe Blue wins Best High-Resolution Recording of 2002 in Sound Stage! magazine.
MFSL signs a distribution agreement with Koch Entertainment.
2003: The highly successful Ultradisc UHR™ SACD series is expanded with releases by the Kinks, Aimee Mann, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Isaac Hayes, Dave Alvin, and Sonny Rollins.
The legendary Ultradisc II 24 KT. Gold CD line is reintroduced by nothing less than John Lennon's Imagine, featuring remixes and mastering personally approved by Yoko Ono herself.
The new GAIN 2™ Ultra Analog vinyl mastering system is unveiled and MFSL will begin issuing records featuring Alison Krauss, the Kinks, John Lennon, Aimee Mann, Patricia Barber, Isaac Hayes, Dave Alvin, and Sonny Rollins among other artists to be announced.
At Home Entertainment 2003 in San Francisco, MFSL announces it's entrance in the surround channel market with the release of Ravel's Bolero and Assorted Orchestral Works on Ultradisc UHR™ SACD.
2004: MFSL aggressively expands its catalog with ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDING releases by Blood Sweat and Tears, RL Burnside, the Chieftains, Jim Hall, Holst, John Lennon, Los Lobos, Aimee Mann, Mike Marshall, and Mussorgsky. The incredible OML-1 & OML-2 loudspeakers are introduced providing an astonishing price/performance value to discerning audiophiles. The 24 karat Gold Ultradisc CD-R is introduced to the consumer media market and distributed nationally by Guitar Center.
2005: A diverse array of ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDINGs by Patricia Barber, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Earth, Wind and Fire, Bela Fleck Gershwin, Smetana, the Edgar Winter Group, and Ravel further strengthen and expand MFSL's position as the world's leading audiophile label.
2006: MFSL reissues a diverse array of ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDING releases by the Byrds, Coleman Hawkins, Alison Krauss, John Lennon, Little Richard, Pat Martino, Megadeth, Natalie Merchant, Gerry Mulligan, Prokofiev, Madelaine Peyroux, and Yes among others. The 24 karat gold Ultradisc DVD-R is released.
Mobile Fidelity remains committed to the original goals of the company -- making music sound its absolute best, regardless of the time and cost involved. With this philosophy as its cornerstone, Mobile Fidelity will no doubt maintain its role as pioneer and world industry leader, constantly striving to improve the sonic integrity of new and existing audio technologies.