MoFi Faces Fraud Lawsuit for Digitally Mastering ‘All-Analog’ LPs
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MoFi), a record label that specializes in high-quality vinyl reissues, is the subject of a proposed class action lawsuit seeking damages and restitution following the revelation that the company has been using digital mastering to make its “all-analog” reissues for more than a decade, Billboard reports. For years, MoFi records — labeled either “Original Master Recording” or “Ultradisc One-Step” — have been the envy of audiophiles, as they were purportedly sourced exclusively from the original master tapes.
But earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that MoFi had been secretly using Direct Stream Digital technology in its production chain since 2011. By the end of that year, 60% of the company’s vinyl releases incorporated digital technology.
Now, Adam Stiles, a MoFi customer from Charlotte, N.C., is accusing the company of legal wrongdoing for charging premium prices under the pretense that its vinyl is sourced completely from analog recordings.
“MoFi never disclosed this fact, nor did it change its representations to reflect the fact that its records were using DSD,” reads a complaint filed last week in Chicago federal court. “Instead, MoFi intentionally hid this fact from consumers.”
Sourcing vinyl reissues exclusively from the original master tapes would also age the tapes, resulting in a finite number of records that could be produced. The lawsuit further argues that incorporating digital technology into the process makes MoFi’s records less rare, and thus, less valuable.
“Original recording tapes age, so only a limited number of analog recordings can be produced,” the complaint continues. “When defendant began using a digital mastering process in its records as opposed to purely analog, it inherently produced less valuable records – because the records were no longer of limited quantity and were not as close to the studio recording – yet still charged the higher price.”
Mobile Fidelity attorney Joseph J. Madonia said in a statement that the company “cannot comment on pending litigation matters at this time.”
The MoFi scandal became public in July after Mike Esposito, owner of the ‘In’ Groove record store in Phoenix, published a YouTube video on July 14 in which he claimed that “pretty reliable sources” told him the company had been using digital files since 2011. MoFi executive vice president John Wood subsequently invited Esposito to tour the company’s California facility. During that tour, MoFi engineers confirmed to Esposito on camera that his digital technology claims were correct. Esposito published this confirmation in a July 20 video.
“We apologize for using vague language, allowing false narratives to propagate and for taking for granted the goodwill and trust our customers place in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab brand,” MoFi president Jim Davis said in a statement following the damning revelation. “Moving forward, we are adopting a policy of 100% transparency regarding the provenance of our audio products.”
Attorneys, however, say this apology will not shield MoFi from liability, writing, “Although MoFi moved quickly to rectify its misleading advertising and disclose the use of digital remastering in the records, MoFi’s corrections demonstrated the breadth of MoFi’s representations and omissions.”