Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab faces lawsuit over mastering process

Photo credit: James Sutton

Audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) is officially facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly making misleading claims about its mastering process.

A man named Adam Stiles, a North Carolina resident who says he has “purchased various records from MoFi over the years,” recently filed a direct lawsuit in federal court in Illinois. MFSL has long reportedly claimed that the recordings labeled “Original Master Recording” on its website (and their packaging) were created “directly from the master recording or the original analog tapes – without any kind of digital mastering process”. , according to the complaint.

However, the plaintiff argues that the company has been using “direct stream digital” (DSD) within its production chain since 2011 – referring to the practice of copying original analog tapes onto digital recordings and then using those digital recordings. for pressing records – for “Original Master Recording”.

By the end of 2011, 60% of the company’s “vinyl releases incorporated DSD, and MoFi’s last non-DSD recording was in 2020,” the stock says. And during the period of more than ten years between the alleged switch to DSD and the filing of the lawsuit, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab was allegedly “falsely” represented on its website, in interviews, in communications with customers and on the aforementioned packaging that the vinyl in question had been pressed directly from the analog masters.

(Needless to say, more than a few audiophiles were obviously unable to identify DSD usage based on the sound quality of the discs, and especially given the continued rise in vinyl sales, most versions of the format come from digital today.)

The company’s allegedly misleading and “fraudulent” use of digital in the pressing of “Original Master Recording” recordings – for which the plaintiff says he and others paid a premium – came into the media spotlight earlier in 2022.

Rumors and customer reviews on the subject later prompted several MFSL engineers to acknowledge their company’s use of DSD during an interview from july (cited in the lawsuit); one of the professionals at the start of the session half-jokingly asked, “Is that under oath?”

As the discussion failed to stem the tide of customer rejection, MFSL President Jim Davis posted a public statement apologizing “for using vague language, allowing false narratives to spread, and taking for granted the goodwill and trust our customers place in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab brand.”

Judging by the responses from social media users as well as the lawsuit described, that apology also failed to end the controversy, and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has since added an up-close interview to its website. of 1,400 words with Davis about it.

The defendant company also reportedly updated diagrams “to reflect the use of DSD in the production line” following public outcry, and the plaintiff estimates that there are a total of around 5,000 members in the proposed class. . Claims for cumulative damages from said class exceed $5 million, according to the lawsuit.

In other vinyl news, the first three weeks or so of August saw an increase of around $4.2 million for elasticStage, which bills itself as “the world’s number one on-demand vinyl maker.” Meanwhile, Rebeat Innovation has suspended its HD vinyl initiative after a series of disappointing sound quality tests.

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