Marc Cohn - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Reissue

Ron Resnick

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On Marc Cohn's self-titled album the song "Walking in Memphis" is one of my favorite pop songs of all time. But the 1980s-era recording quality makes the sound so unappealing that I literally cannot stand to listen to this album on a big stereo. I can listen to it pretty much only in the car.

Who here has the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab re-issue of this title?

Is the MFSL version materially better sonically
than the standard record?
 

Down Under

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Jun 26, 2014
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On Marc Cohn's self-titled album the song "Walking in Memphis" is one of my favorite pop songs of all time. But the 1980s-era recording quality makes the sound so unappealing that I literally cannot stand to listen to this album on a big stereo. I can listen to it pretty much only in the car.

Who here has the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab re-issue of this title?

Is the MFSL version materially better sonically
than the standard record?
I have a copy and it sounds better than the original,but is still quite opaque/”thick “ and lacking in dynamics.
First time I played it I was disappointed and my opinion has not changed.
 

Ron Resnick

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Thank you!
 

thedudeabides

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Maybe they choose it because they thought it was musically significant. Isn't that a good enough reason?
 

Barry2013

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Yes it's a great track Ron.
For whatever reason it prompted me to dig out a Mark Germino cd I have and to listen again for the first time for ages to "Rex Bob Lowenstein" First heard it courtesy of Whispering Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test fame.
Such a lovely reminder of the price of progress.
 
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audioquest4life

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I can’t compare the MFSL version of this particular record to the original as I have not heard the original. But, the MFSL version sounds fantastic on my system. I can hear such minute details such as his breaths, lips parting, and vocal Embouchure. He is predominately centered in the recording venue with the backup Singers slightly off center in some songs and farther out in others. The soundstage reveals itself when called for. For example, I can detect more decay or ambience in the song “Dig Down Deep”, while “Walking in Memphis” sounds more like a stage setup without much ambience…intimate, but not reverberant.


The last song on the first side, “Walk on Water”, has great ambiance as well. The piano just gently playing along with his voicing, ”Waiting on a miracle, what else is he going to do”, just incredible. The piano sounds great, when he sings the part “just Can’t wait for you” it seems somewhat enchanting.


The second side starts up with a little more get up and go with the song “Miles Away”. Kind of funky sounding. Although Marc Cohn is American His voice sounds to me like Englishman Peter Gabriel, or at least his style reminds me of some songs from the Peter Gabriel So album. Very nice indeed. The song “29 Ways” seems more closed mike with less reverberation but exquisite backup singers and instrumentality adding some added sensation to this song. One part of the song a backup singer can be clearly on the right close mike but panning towards you. The song Perfect Love adds somewhat more ambience back into the mix, but not much. It’s a style of his that i suppose hat he does not introduce lots of reverberation, or these songs are recorded in different studios, or rooms in the same studio. I can detect this on my system, but it is not a detractor, just an artifact of the recording venue. The album is still great to listen to. The last song on the second size, “True Companion”, is a mellow song, with deep bass overtones. Much more pronounced bass in this song compared to the entire album.


Overall, I very much like this MFSL album of Marc Cohn. I don’t have anything to complain about it. It is great music and a great recording. Thanks for reminding me to pull this out of the library and take a listen.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Thank you for your detailed review of these tracks!

I, personally, only care about "Walking in Memphis."

Respectfully, I just cannot agree that it is a "great" recording. I think the recording sounds like typically bad 1980s digital.

I am just trying to get a sense if the sonic improvement of the MFSL vinyl re-issue over the original is worth the cost of the re-issue.
 
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audioquest4life

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Thank you for your detailed review of these tracks!

I, personally, only care about "Walking in Memphis."

Respectfully, I just cannot agree that it is a "great" recording. I think the recording sounds like typically bad 1980s digital.

I am just trying to get a sense if the sonic improvement of the MFSL vinyl re-issue over the original is worth the cost of the re-issue.

Your welcome. Regarding direct comparison to the original recording, again, I cannot comment because I don’t have the original to compare it with on my system…which would be the only way I would provide a true comparative analysis.

But, my sentiment about this half speed mastered from the original master tapes recording sounding Good to me on my system is pretty much endorsed by the second paragraph from Neil Gader, at The Absolute Sound in 2008.

“Filled with delicate piano-based arrangements and blue-eyed soul vocals, Marc Cohn is tailor-made to be savored on hi-fi equipment. Mastered from the original analog master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s exquisite remaster coaxes every last detail from the source material, and literally brings Cohn into your listening room. Nuanced, warm, clear, and a touch velvety, the new pressing turns the debut into an instant audiophile classic. Acoustic-based music has seldom sounded better, while every inflection of Cohn’s baritone comes to the fore with unsurpassed realism.

“…Mobile Fidelity has done a workmanlike job adding sonic improvements—particularly the striking piano dynamics, more tuneful and resonant bass extension, and highly focused central image. Cohn’s vocals no longer carry a sandpapery upper-frequency EQ, either.” –Neil Gader, The Absolute Sound, October 2008

It looks like it is out of print too. Going to see if I can find an original to follow-up with a direct comparison impression. Been enjoying playing any record on the system since my slew of upgrades at the end of last year.
 

Ron Resnick

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. . . endorsed by the second paragraph from Neil Gader, at The Absolute Sound in 2008.

“Filled with delicate piano-based arrangements and blue-eyed soul vocals, Marc Cohn is tailor-made to be savored on hi-fi equipment. Mastered from the original analog master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s exquisite remaster coaxes every last detail from the source material, and literally brings Cohn into your listening room. Nuanced, warm, clear, and a touch velvety, the new pressing turns the debut into an instant audiophile classic. Acoustic-based music has seldom sounded better, while every inflection of Cohn’s baritone comes to the fore with unsurpassed realism. . . .

Thank you very much for your post and for quoting Neil's review!

Forgive me for being skeptical, but I am not sure what Neil was smoking when he listened to the record for his review,. Not even Doug Sax himself, reincarnated from Audiophile Heaven, could achieve the sound which Neil is attributing to this digital-sounding 1991 release. I am just skeptical that the Mobile Fidelity process could transform entirely the crappy sound of the original recording.
 
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microstrip

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Thank you very much for your post and for quoting Neil's review!

Forgive me for being skeptical, but I am not sure what Neil was smoking when he listened to the record for his review,. Not even Doug Sax himself, reincarnated from Audiophile Heaven, could achieve the sound which Neil is attributing to this digital-sounding 1991 release. I am just skeptical that the Mobile Fidelity process could transform entirely the crappy sound of the original recording.
Ron,

Why are you asking if you already made your mind? Googling around in other forums we see people with relevant activity in audio forums saying this re-master is a great recording, why they think so and even comparing it with the originals. IMHO in this hobby nothing we read can change our subjective ideas, we will always weight more those agreeing with us. Besides the google search engine is clever and will look preferably for opinions that please our preferences ... In order to change our ideas we need listening with an open mind!

Long ago I had the pleasure of listening to what Mark Levinson could achieve with his Cello Audio Pallette equalizer on lousy CD recordings, bringing them to life with a few strokes in the six large dials. If I had similar expertise I would surely own a system built around the Audio Pallette. FIY, I bough it, but sold it later when I found I was spending ten times more time adjusting it than listening to music.
 

Ron Resnick

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Ron,

Why are you asking if you already made your mind?

Skeptical means exactly that -- skeptical. Skeptical means I have not made up my mind, because I have no basis on which to make up my mind until I hear the Mo-Fi re-issue.

I listened to "Walking in Memphis" on KeithR's system (which I love). And Keith has the MSB Reference DAC. As much as I love that song, I literally could not even get through it to the end -- the underlying recording quality is that bad (to my ears).
 

mtemur

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Maybe it’s not the quality of the original recording but mastering or vinyl cutting process of MOFI. I personally don’t like MOFI sound. For me new MOFI reissues sound thick because of a midbass hump and lacking dynamics. Old ones sound thin and bright.
Of course there may be some exceptions.
MOFI can not be compared with sterling sound, bernie grundman mastering, acoustech, cohearant audio, pauler acoustics etc. IMHO.
 
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Ron Resnick

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From Discogs I ordered a UK pressing and a German pressing of a 45 RPM single of "Walking in Memphis." Hopefully both of the singles had small spindle holes in at the usual large spindle holes requiring an adapter.

The German pressing had much quieter vinyl than the UK pressing. Otherwise my friend and I could not really tell any difference in sound quality or brightness.

The biggest improvement was made when we raised the cartridge loading from 47K ohms to 1000 ohms. That made the sound a little bit richer and reduced by a little bit the overall brightness of the sound.
 

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