Best Playback Audio Quality – Ever?

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Audiophiles Will Tell You – It Was Vinyl

Two Formats – Direct-To-Disc and Half-Mastered

Before digital audio came to us – as far as audio lovers were concerned, they already had the perfect playback medium: 33 1/3 speed vinyl albums – but not the kind manufactured for the average buyer.

During the early 1980’s – you could purchase music that “skipped” tape mastering – and put audio, direct-to-disc. There was a whole ddd catalog available through a company called “Telarc.” If you had a good turntable/cartridge, clean amp and great speakers – I’ll tell you – these discs were the best.  And – audiophiles could listen to these recordings with their extra clean sonics, highs and lows – on something called a sub-woofer. The public hadn’t heard of it yet, but – take if from me – high-end audio types – did – and even designed their own low-end filters.

The other high-end way to get the best audio – came to us from an outfit called “Mobile Fidelity.” They specialized in half-speed mastering – slower mastering of the 33 1/3 rpm disc – so as to get it as highest quality possible. Their catalogs included mainstream recordings from the likes of the Beatles and such – and, it did make a difference. Naturally, you paid more for these higher-quality records – but, it made perfect sense to anybody who wanted the best sound.

Make no mistake, when the compact disc came out, the average public believed they were the best audio source, but those who listened to these two analog formats knew better. They didn’t come close. CD’s for one, had a high-end “harshness” probably due to sampling rate.

Here’s a Mobile Fidelity ad from 1980. This is about four years before compact discs became mainstream – and it was truly one of the best music experiences – next to live.

audio history 1980

Gary West


Gary West

Historian Gary West built his first website in 1998 with That addressed now forwards to - an amazing pop culture/news database with 25,000 pages, covering the years 1955-2014. He's also the author of - covering consumer technology from 1952 to the present. West has been a contributor to numerous books, radio-TV shows, CNN & USA Today & the History Channel.

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