A proposed class action alleges Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MoFi) has falsely advertised for more than a decade that its vinyl records are sourced directly from analog master recordings and free from any sort of digital mastering.
The 28-page case shares that analog records, as opposed to digital recordings, are coveted for their superior sound quality and collectability. Given that original recording tapes age, only a limited number of analog recordings can be produced, and because analog tapes are used to record songs in a studio, a record cut from an original analog tape is “as close to the studio recording as one can get,” the filing says.
Digital recordings, on the other hand, can be reproduced infinitely, per the suit.
The lawsuit says that although Chicago-based Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab labels its vinyl records as “Original Master Recording” or sold as part of the “Ultradisc One Step” series, the company has used direct stream digital (DSD) technology—a means for mass-producing vinyl records—in its production chain since at least 2011.
According to the suit, the vinyl records made through Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s DSD production process are inherently less valuable given they’re “no longer of limited quantity and were not as close to the studio recording,” despite costing a premium price.
“Had Defendant not misrepresented that the Records were purely analog recordings, or otherwise disclosed that the Records included digital mastering in their production chain, Plaintiff and putative Class Members would not have purchased the records or would have paid less for the records than they did,” the complaint argues.
“Cutting” a record from analog tapes is a time-intensive process that is subject to the reality that analog tapes age and deteriorate over time, the suit relays. To avoid this problem, some vinyl records today are made from digital recordings, meaning an original analog tape has been copied to a digital recording that is then used to press the vinyl, the case explains.
Although this process yields cost and time savings, sound quality can be negatively impacted, and vinyls made from digital records are neither as collectible nor valuable as all-analog records, the lawsuit says.
The DSD technology used by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab captures audio from an analog tape at a higher resolution than other formats via high-rate sampling, the case says. The DSD process, according to the suit, involves the removal of two steps in the vinyl record plating process, which supposedly reveals more musical detail and dramatically reduces surface noise.
Per the lawsuit, the record label defendant notes on its website that it “believes that mastering systems should be neutral and transparent,” and that the “essential idea is to unveil all the detailed musical information on the original master recording without adding deterioration, coloration or other sonic artifacts.” Reasonable consumers who view the defendant’s representations understand them to mean that its records are sourced entirely from analog recordings, with no digital mastering or DSD technology, the suit argues.
Although MoFi’s representations were “largely true” prior to 2011, the label has utilized digital techniques in its remastering chain since then, the filing says, claiming that MoFi’s last non-DSD recording was in 2020.
In July 2022, MoFi’s engineers revealed that the label used “4x DSD” in its manufacturing process, the lawsuit relays. The complaint says that the company then “moved quickly to rectify its misleading advertising and disclose the use of digital remastering in the Records,” and now places its use of DSD front and center on product pages.
“These ‘corrective’ representations demonstrate that not only were MoFi’s misrepresentations and omissions done knowingly, but that MoFi failed to disclose or otherwise misrepresented material information to consumers regarding MoFi’s production process,” the case alleges.
The lawsuit looks to cover all consumers in the United States who purchased a record from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab prior to July 15, 2022.
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