Dead Can Dance – Spiritchaser and Into the Labyrinth

Mobile Fidelity handled the SACD remastering of these albums a few years ago with excellent results. If you are a Dead Can Dance fan and into vinyl, these records are guaranteed to please. For those not completely familiar with MoFi’s new Silver Label, its LPs are still pressed at RTI in California and under the same conditions as the imprint’s 180g Original Master Recordings—with the same skilled people at both ends of the process. However, there are two main differences between the two product lines.

According to Mobile Fidelity’s John Wood, Silver Label titles will use “the best tape available” instead of only the original master, as they do with all Original Master Recordings. This qualification opens the field and maintains MoFi’s impeccable dedication to getting all the detail from the original tape. In addition, the mastering process for Silver Label LPs is performed in real time; ORM titles are half-speed mastered. Finally, Silver Label records are pressed on 140-gram vinyl instead of the 180-gram vinyl format used for ORM albums. The good news for vinyl lovers is that the lower price of Silver Label pressings ($22.99 vs. $29.99 for single records, $34.99 vs. $39.99 for double album sets) makes them easier on the wallet as well.

Technology and economics aside, these Dead Can Dance releases represent an unqualified success. Having extensively listened to the SACDs, I can’t imagine these records sounding any better, even if they were mastered at half-speed. The backgrounds are perfectly silent, and the high end exquisitely smooth. The nod goes to MoFi when comparing the new pressings against my original vinyl copies. But when pitting the analog against the SACDs (which MoFi actually mastered), digital wins out.

Both Dead Can Dance albums feature ultra-wide dynamic ranges and subterranean bass groove; the LPs are fantastic, but this is clearly a case of high-resolution digital having an edge. The minute I pushed the “play” button to begin Spiritchaser, the extra air on the SACD grabbed me. The new pressing does an admirable job reproducing the bass line in “Song of the Stars,” yet switching to the SACD is akin to adding a subwoofer to my system and yielded genuine room-shaking grunt.

Completists should grab both versions. But if you have a great digital front end, you may find yourself just slightly a bit disappointed with the presentation on the analog records, especially if you possess a system capable of reproducing that last octave of bass. —Jeff Dorgay

Mobile Fidelity Silver Label, 140g LPs