05 Feb MOFI Labels, Catalog Numbers & The Deadwax
Spine Matrix Numbering
Mobile Fidelity’s album jacket spines all have a numbering system which is relatively easy to decipher and has kept its continuity since its beginnings as an audiophile label back in 1977. Each format (CD, Vinyl, Cassettes) all have their own acronym to kick of the number sequence.
Original Master Recording vinyl titles all begin with…
MFSL – Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
The Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Silver Series titles all have…
MOFI – Mobile Fidelity
In the eighties there were a couple of other variations to note:
MFQR or UHQR – Mobile Fidelity Quality Record/Ultra High Quality Record for the eight titles released of this type.
BC-1 – Beatles Collection 1
SC-1 – Sinatra Collection 1
RC-1 – Rolling Stones Collection 1
The next number indicates the number of records in the package (i.e. 1 = 1 album, 2 = double album set, 3 = triple album set, etc.)
This is followed by a three-digit number indicating the release sequencing in the Mobile Fidelity catalog.
So putting it all together:
MFSL-2-066 = Cream’s Wheels of Fire double album set. Mofi’s 66th vinyl release.
Or MFSL-1-373 = Miles Davis’ ‘Round About Midnight. Mofi’s 373 vinyl release.
Or MOFI-2-001 = Dead Can Dance’s Into The Labyrinth. Mofi’s 1st Silver Label release on a two record set and pressed on standard weight vinyl. 180-gram vinyl is used for the most recent MFSL titles beginning with the ANADISQ series from the late nineties.
What is unknown is what Mofi will do with its current number sequence after it reaches its 500th release since 33 of these numbers were already used in the mid-eighties for classical and handful of jazz releases. One can only assume they will jump to MFSL-*-534 after MFSL-*-500 to honor the numbering legacy but time will tell.
Compact Disc Issues changed their catalog acronyms as the mastering chain was upgraded or the SACD format was phased in.
MFCD = Mobile Fidelity Compact Disc
UDCD = Ultra Disc Compact Disc
UDSACD = Ultra Disc Super Audio Compact Disc
Album Jacket Variations
Mobile Fidelity has always branded its reissues with a band stating Original Master Recording or Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab at the top of the album jacket. This helps to make them immediately recognizable in a sea of original and reissued audiophile variants. There is one minor variation to note on the banding. After 1979, Mobile Fidelity adopted an italicized font which is still in use today. Collectors of early Mofi pressings can tell if they have an early pressing if the font is not italicized.
Unlike the other audiophile labels, Mobile Fidelity has always taken the tact of not making a full up reproduction of the original label. On most of the records, post 1979, it is common to find a small nod to the original label by putting the original company logo as a black and white icon to the right of the spindle hole.
Before 1979, Mobile Fidelity used a mix of two labels. The first is what I shall refer to as the ‘Mystic Moods’ label, featuring a photograph of a freshly passed storm, close to sunset or secondly, their white Original Master Recording label that was used all the way through the ANADISQ series in the nineties and first dozen or so issues in the new millennia. Post 1979, the classic white label was used exclusively until the acquisition of Mofi’s assets by Music Direct. The ‘Mystic Moods’ label does not have a replica or the owning label’s logo. For example, the Emmylou Harris label shown below does not feature a ‘WB’ for Warner Brothers.
Mobile Fidelity made a change to the black on white label around 2007 and switched to a silver and black theme for its Original Master Recording and Silver Label Series issues.
Mastering Engineers & Deadwax Inscriptions
Likely due to the size of the company and its focus on producing high quality sound reproductions, Mobile Fidelity has only had a handful of mastering engineers in its lifetime. The mastering of the master tapes is critical as it can be very subjective art. Only those with lots of experience really know how to extract the most detail and get it transferred to the lacquer or glass master in the case of a CD/SACD.
The most recognized mastering engineer for the Mobile Fidelity Label has been Stan Ricker which was with the company from the very beginning and continued lend his mentoring support when the company was picked up by Music Direct. Mr. Ricker was one of the individuals that perfected the half speed mastering process and worked for a multitude of labels, including his own SRM Label, over the years. Sadly, Mr. Ricker passed away this past year and Mobile Fidelity likely owes most of its success to the attention he put into the early masters.
Mr. Ricker’s Deadwax inscriptions are easily identifiable with the standard SR/2. One can only assume that the use of a fraction helps to emphasize the point of a half-speed master.
Based on the available documentation, Shawn Britton started mastering for Mobile Fidelity in the 90’s. Mr. Britton has predominately mastered much of Mobile Fidelity’s CD and SACD catalog with the handover to Music Direct but has mastered a few vinyl titles in the past.
Shawn Britton’s Deadwax inscription can be found as SBB/2. Again, one can only guess the ‘over two’ is in reference to the half-speed master or an ode to his mentor Stan Ricker
Rob LoVerde joined Mobile Fidelity less than a decade ago and has done a mix of CD and LP masters for the company. His Deadwax inscription is simply RML.
The individual doing most of the vinyl mastering for Mobile Fidelity these past several years has been Krieg Wunderlich. Mr. Wunderlich did master a few CD’s for Mobile Fidelity in the 90’s but the bulk of his work has been with the slew of vinyl releases these past several years. His Deadwax inscription is found as KW or KW@MOFI.
An industry veteran, Paul Stubbline was also brought in less than a decade ago and has mastered some CD and Original Master Recording titles but the bulk of his mastering work has been on the Silver Label Series. His Deadwax inscription is PS@MOFI.