Saturday Deluxe / 19 May 2018

Audio Fidelity call it a day

Marshall Blonstein, President of US audiophile label Audio Fidelity has announced that the business will close.

In a message, he told fans that “after much deliberation and much back and forth, I have decided to wind down Audio Fidelity.”

Over the last 17 years the company reissued classic rock/pop titles on ’24 Karat Gold’ CDs (and later SACDs) which boasted unique audiophile remastering often from Steve Hoffman or Kevin Gray. Artists whose output has been issued on Audio Fidelity includes Crosby, Stills & Nash, Phil Collins, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, Kate Bush, Sade, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull, the Doors, Deep Purple, Yes, Cat Stevens, The Grateful Dead, Billy Joel, and The Beach Boys.

No specific reason was given, although Blonstein said “It’s time to move on. There are other passions and projects that have my interest.”

I’ve bought quite a few Audio Fidelity releases over the years, and while the product was normally excellent, the distribution outside the US wasn’t great. Justifying a purchase wasn’t easy, because however excellent the remastering might be, if you were to pay £25-30 for one CD with no bonus material, you have to really love the artist/album.

Arguably, the label have also neglected the burgeoning vinyl market, although they did have some notable successes. Managing to persuade Kate Bush to license two albums and allow them to be remastered by a third party is no mean feat!

Before Audio Fidelity, Blonstein founded DCC Compact Classics in the early 1990s, which similarly offered high quality remastering and thrived in an era of CD dominance. Like many AF releases, these out-of-print titles (including most of Paul McCartney/Wings‘ output from the 1970s) now command big money on the used market.

What are thoughts on this news? Have you bought any Audio Fidelity releases? Leave a comment!

 Paul McCartney’s vinyl packaging downgraded for reissues

Four Paul McCartney vinyl reissues came out yesterday, and while MPL/Capitol have made a point of matching the original packaging of albums like Wings Greatest – which boasts identical design on front/rear covers, facsimile inner sleeves and offers the same poster on the 1978 original – the same isn’t true for the reissue of McCartney’s last album NEW or 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

The original 2013 vinyl edition of NEW was a gatefold presentation, with full lyrics on the inner gatefold panels, a large-format 24-page booklet (with excellent photos and notes on the recording) and a printed inner sleeve. The ‘new’ vinyl of NEW (whether black or coloured) isn’t a gatefold any more and the booklet is missing. Lyrics are now included in a single sheet insert, and the printed inner sleeve is a different design to include album credits and two photos (one of which was used for the cover of the 2013 booklet).

The same is true for Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. Thirteen years ago this was a gatefold album with large inserts, now it comes in a single sleeve and the inserts with Paul’s artwork are now printed on one single inner sheet.

This is quite disappointing and rather contradictory. Why is the apparent goal to reproduce the original vinyl pressings for the 1970s albums, casually discarded for more recent releases? The broader question, is why even reissue NEW (in particular) at all, but regardless, if you are going to do it, as least do it properly.

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is out-of-print, so you have little choice, but with NEW, if you were thinking of picking up the 2018 black vinyl reissue (and not bothering with the pink vinyl), SDE advice would be to go for the still available original and not bother with the 2018 version.

If the Japanese mini-LP CDs (also issued yesterday) correctly replicate the original packaging of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard and NEW, then you will have a bizarre situation where the CD is more ‘authentic’ than the actual vinyl reissue!

Japanese mini-LP CD vinyl replicas from CD Japan

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Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington

Thrillington - black vinyl LP


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Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington

Thrillington - CD


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Wings Greatest - black vinyl LP


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Wings Greatest - CD


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Paul McCartney

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - black vinyl LP


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Paul McCartney

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard - CD


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Paul McCartney

New - black vinyl LP


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Paul McCartney

New - CD


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Record companies are destrying the vinyl market; why you must reissue an album released 1 year ago? What’s its meaning? This ends with shops overstocked, confusion among buyers, and…consider this:they employ vinyl records producers for such an useless press, while there’s a whole world of missing records in the shelves that needs a reissue from ages.
Think about it:ewe have a double McCartney “NEW” right now, while “Introducing the hardline according to Terence Trent D’arby” still have not any kind of reissue. Just to say one. What about the missing Prince discography? (“Batdance”, “Diamonds and pearls”, “Symbol”)? What about classic soundtrack like “Never ending story”? In a 2-3 years like that, the vinyl explosion will end just like the cd market did…with an overstock of useless reissues. And that will be a BIG problem for we, the physical music lovers…and for the record companies, of course.

Leonardo Lotti Marques

I bought two titles from them in the past:
Eric Clapton – Journeyman (1989)
Blade Runner – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1994)
I wasn’t able to distinguish the differences between their masterings from the regular ones, but maybe I still didn’t have the proper equipment!
I just hope that it wasn’t my ears the main problem!

wayne klein

Could be a bit of both particularly if you have some frequency hearing loss. Both sound pretty terrific and, while not the night and day difference as some titles, both have great sound.


For their involvement in the Kate Bush releases alone their work here on earth is done.

Paul Wren

I wonder if McCartney is ever consulted about the reissue packaging? If not, he ought to get on the blower and let them know that they need to do the vinyl reissues properly in future. If he is aware but still approves this then he is denigrating his own reputation.


I love the warm vinyl like sound they project, I agree here in Australia they were not marketed with any enthusiasm thus they often ended up in Recycle type music stores still unopened dumped by the wholesaler.
I bought everyone I ever saw and years ago gave up opening them when I saw they were selling and I mean selling / not buy now for sometimes $300.00 plus.
In Melbourne they sold for approx $25.00 AUS, like some of the other contributors I have a mountain of them and am sad to hear of the companies closure.
They the Co made it really difficult to buy the product as they had little or no Rep in Australia and when you tried to buy in the US sometimes they would sell to you and sometimes they wouldn’t.
I love your work Paul.


They are doing the McCartney vinyl discs this way because they did not sell as well as the 1970’s releases, they know they are naught as good, that they won’t ever sell as well, and with the intention of doing whatever will entice the consumer to buy them yet again because these are lacking. See? :)


With the “cheapo” contents for them, that can only mean a re-release in a few years times with the original artwork, etc.


I hope it’s really just “other passions” that are responsible for this. Being that I just launched a CD reissue label with 7 titles to come through the year (rubellanremasters.com), I hope by next year at this time I’m not kicking myself. I pride myself on highly dynamic remasters with stellar quality, so I hope that will be motivation for people to seek out what my label will be releasing. It would be great if I can carry on with even more titles but it’s really all going to depend on initial sales. Most of my stuff is not on streaming, and many not even available for download, so hopefully that will add to the appeal. But with each story I read about the alleged CD death, it makes me cringe a little more. Let’s prove the streamers incorrect.


I have two of the AF gold issues and 5 of the silver multichannel SACDs. The multichannel’s are wonderful, but can’t say the same about the gold issues. I was quite disappointed when I learned that AF would no longer issue multichannel SACDs as I am a huge surround sound enthusiast. I am not surprised the label is folding. I only wish surround sound mixes were available on-line for streaming or even for purchase via download.

Jeff Rougvie

DCC was originally a schlocky label with licensed jazz / MOR vocalists. They lucked into the Gold CD thing much later in their existence. Blonstein took on MoFi after the previous owners gave up trying to fight bankruptcy. Surprised it took him this long to bail – recouping the mastering costs on top of licensing for SACDs (were they still doing gold, too?) is an unsustainable biz model.

Chris S

I have around 50 AF releases, many of them re-mastered by Steve Hoffman.

My 10 most played are:
10. The Tubes – The Tubes
9. Days Of Future Passed – Moody Blues
8. The First Songs – Laura Nyro
7. Goodbye – Cream
6. No Dice – Badfinger
5. Super Session – Al Kooper Mike Bloomfield Steven Stills
4. Child is the Father to Man – Blood Sweat & Tears
3. Straight – Up Badfinger
2. Cheap Thrills – Big Brother & The Holding Company
1. Crown of Creation – Jefferson Airplane

Chris S

I am never sure which are AF and which ones are MF (problem with typing from memory). I just listen and enjoy.

Rett Russell

First the news of oppo (high-end disc players, etc.) dissolving their business and now AF is going away.
Can the fairly soon-to-be implemented 5g streaming be a factor in these decisions and is physical media destined for extinction in our lifetime?

I don’t think vinyl will save the day and would love to hear some opinions on the 5g development.

Tom of FIN

Very observing point there, Rett. Upcoming 5G might have been a factor. Lossless high-end streaming in larger scale is on the way for sure!


Speaking from the U.S. perspective, I don’t think 5G has anything to do with anything as lesser connections are fully capable of streaming audio and 5G is years away from being fully implemented. The fact is that streaming is already dominant and all physical media is in severe decline.

In 2017, according to RIAA numbers, U.S. physical units were just 17.6% of industry revenue. Even digital downloads are in severe decline (down 25.5% from 2016) and are just 15.7% of industry revenue. Streaming is already dominant with 66.7% of industry revenue.

In 2017, only 87.6 million CDs were sold, down from a peak of 942.5 million in 2000. Just 15.6 million LPs were sold, up 5.4% from 2016, but down from 2015’s 16.9 million.

Now take all that and realize that the audiophile business is a tiny niche of that. That’s why AF is no more (and they’ll be more to follow). Even back in 2011 (240 million CD’s were still sold that year), the RIAA claimed that 80% of albums sold fewer than 100 units, 14% sold between 100 and 1000 units, 5.5% sold between 1000 and 10,000 and just 0.5% sold more than 10,000 copies. It’s probably far worse than that today, even including downloaded albums (66.4 million units). Having said that, in 2017, 77 titles each sold more than 20,000 units on vinyl, topping out at 72,000 units for Sgt. Pepper.


I have both Kate Bush’s LPs. The sound is realny impressive! I waited for more reissues of Kate’s albums. Now I see the game is over. It’s a pity!


As the market for physical releases decreases, I really wonder why the major labels dont just employ the same principals for general release: Good mastering etc. release the brickwalled master to stream and itunes and media and the good master for physical. Likewise with the demise of this sub label, when the licencing period is up for these releases, in the digital realm, why don’t the majors just clone the masters here and make it available at a reasonable price? Seems like a real waste.

Neil Parnell

agree on good mastering…when the Kraftwerk catalogue was remastered it was a revelation for me….bass where it always should have been etc.

Mike the Fish

Ooh, but Computer Love was pretty bad.


I’m only missing a handful of Audio Fidelity titles released on Gold CD and SACD between 2002 and 2016.


I have over 40 DCC and Audio Fidelity titles, some SACD 4.1 and 5.1, and some in 24KT gold CDs. The sound quality of these releases, especially the SACDs, is a great improvement from the standard CDs, probably because of Steve Hoffman’s brilliant skill at remastering albums. I’m sorry to hear AF is closing down its operations. Mobile Fidelity, which I also collect, is also excellent, and still makes gorgeous sounding 180 gram vinyl, and SACDs in mini-LP packages that rank higher than Japanese mini-LPs. I know these audiophile releases are expensive, but if you really love an album, it’s worth the extra cost to get the best sound quality possible.


Do you have ANY information on the ultimate outcome of the release of Clear by Spirit??
The first two albums, the Self-Titled and The Family That Plays Together were produced/delivered and then there must have been thousands of pre-orders for the third one, Clear.
I assume the re-mastering was done and production was completed to the point of taking pre-orders. Does anyone have any official information on this other than declaring some pat, throw-away “Canceled”?

Emilio Lafarga Giribets

Why dont you people buying shm-cds try getting them from Amazon.jp? You will always know how much you will be paying for them exactly. I , for example, ordered Springsteen vol.2 exclusive(for now) Japanese cd box from cdjapan.jp but some days later I cancelled otcand ordered it from amazon.jp. I will pay 20€ more but I know that there will be no extra charge as I am paying for taxes, VAT, etc. With cdjapan and given the price of the box, if Ivwas not very lucky I might have ended paying who knows what in the end.

Stephen K

As far as I know, the AF version of Songs from the Big Chair is still the only place to get the mix of Shout (U.K. Remix) that has a cold stop instead of a fade-out at the end. Also, a few differences can be found in the tracks of The Unforgettable Fire. I liked AF. Too bad they are going away.


I think you are referring to the Mobile Fidelity versions, not Audio Fidelity.

70s Guy

I had an email exchange with AF yesterday inquiring as to whether there would be a new run of The Grand Illusion. They responded almost instantly, in fact I was very surprised to see that it was Mr. Blonstein who had directly replied. Odd twist of fate to see this news this morning.


What I loved the most about the AF SACD’s was that they used the surround sound layer on many of them, something that Mobile Fidelity almost never did. Getting to hear so many vintage 70’s quadraphonic mixes in such high quality was a real treat. The Billy Joel, Laura Nyro and Earth Wind & Fire 4.0 mixes are wonderful. It was so great that AF liberated them. Kudos to Mr. Blonstein for all the work he did. And oh yeah, those Kate Bush LPs are wonderful too.


A real shame about Audio Fidelity. I have Blue Oyster Cult’s Secret Treaties and Elton John’s Rock of the Westies on AF and I rate both.

My Macca Japanese SHM mini LPs have not arrived yet, but I have seen images of Chaos and New and they are both gatefolds, exactly how they should be, rather than the lazy way the vinyl has been done.


Sorry to hear that. I got away with the last eight Maccas, then ordered another free CD using my CDJapan points and got stung for £15! It seems to be about one in every three orders of mine that get intercepted.
The one to worry about next is the order for the Elton John SHM mini LPs of his studio albums from Empty Sky through to Blue Moves and the two Greatest Hits volumes from the seventies.. These come out in June. If that gets intercepted, including what they cost me, my music money is burnt for the summer.


DaveM can I have all my imports shipped to you first and then can you send them on to me please….. if you have a 33% interception rate?

Im not sure how but I get stung on every single Import weekly…. The last one was ridiculous 89 pence vat and then Royal Mails ridiculous £8.00 Handling Charge!


@Nick, they must be on to you LOL. To be fair I only order about four or five times a year from Japan. The odd thing is, it is always single CDs that seem to get intercepted whereas multiple CD packages seem to always get through (theres a lesson in there). I may be eating my words next week if the Macca’s get spotted.


The last time I ordered through Amazon.jp, I noticed there was an option to pre-pay the import duty to France. Having been hit a couple of times, I took the oprtion. It saved a lot of bother and import duty resentment, and it wasn’t too much.

Philip Cohen

Audio Fidelity hadn’t issued a surround sound SACD for some time. Fortunately, Britain’s Dutton-Vocalian label has become the new licensee for Sony Music’s vintage 4.0 quadraphonic mixes; mixes that would have previously been licensed to Audio Fidelity. Potentially, Sony titles previously issued by Audio Fidelity could someday be licensed to Dutton-Vocalion. Most of Audio Fidelity’s surround sound recordings were licensed by Sony.


@Philip, I am reading good things about Britain’s Dutton-Vocalian in general and their remastering on Hoffman. They are also reasonably priced.

Adam Shaw

Yes Phillip,
The Vocalion SACD are really good quality.
I started with the Deodato 2fer last year and the Art Garfunkel releases this year .


How do you like the Garfunkel? I’ve loved that album since it came out.

Adam Shaw

To Press
Loved them both , great clarity


Someone at MPL probably have a 200£ Chaos original LP to sell on discogs,hence the weird reissue


I got both Kate Bush LPs and I was especially lucky to get the Sensual World as my Amazon order kept getting delayed.


The DCC Compact Classic re-issue of Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” is just dreadful. Some songs are louder then others, the remastering is dire and it’s never any fun having to adjust the volume level every time a new track starts. The volume on some tracks are so low that you literally have to turn the volume so high just to hear them.

Bob M

I have always been skeptical of gold discs – the actual material for the manufacturing. Over the years, I have purchased DCC discs and some AF discs, as well has other gold issues. My main goal was to always get better audio, especially for some of the earliest CD issues, which I thought sounded way too bass-less and had way too much tape or vinyl hiss. But in a lot of cases, when remasters came out, some on gold, and others not, I didn’t find a lot of difference when the same master and remaster tech was used. Anyway, all in the ear of the listener.
I agree with some of the other commenters here – that today, a lot of people are not concerned with really listening to good audio while listening to music – that requires an interest in good gear and budgets to match. Those of us that pursue an immersed experience of high quality are few enough that the market for these specialty discs is dying, along with smaller retailers.
I find it sad that the majority of music buyers may never really know what they have missed.


“I find it sad that the majority of music buyers may never really know what they have missed”

Caring more about the quality of the audio than the quality of the songs? Most people, myself included, just want to enjoy the music instead of comparing the audio quality of remastered albums next to the originals and producing and studying audio compression graphs that audiophiles seem to be so fond of.


Yes, but RJS the quality can have a real impact on the enjoyment of music. You know that. People who have never heard a well produced and mastered album on a good hifi system will never know any better. But those of us who have usually do.

I can honestly say that the enjoyment of my Steve Hoffman mastered DCC CD of Hotel California is a lot more than my vanilla regular CD version. There are extremes of good and bad that come into play here of course, with perhaps most releases still falling into the ‘just about ok’ category.

We seem to have reached and passed a peak of quality, and sadly (to my ears anyway) the quantity of those releases at the more lousy end of the sound quality scale is increasing every year.


Looking at the other comments, I know I am the minority in this, but to my ears every AF SACD I own (at least a dozen) is the worst version of that album. I’m not sure why I kept buying them. Maybe because I kept hearing about how good they were? But I was very unimpressed with all of them. At least I know I can probably recoup my investment online.


Mark, check your system (set up). SACD has deep data info that some players can’t handle well. As well as it happened with old cd players that couldn’t read well all deep data recorded on 80’s compact discs the same thing might happen today with SACD players. AF SACDs play quite terrific on my Marantz SACD Player. The closest thing to original vinyl sounding that I’ve found were those AF titles as well as some Mofi titles. Mr. Hoffman really has a gift in sounding perception. And he usually compares all first vinyl issues sounding with final sounding of their titles as well as he used to play the original master tapes on same machines that were used in first pressings. It’s an artisan work. A labour of love. It’s not entirelky about money but about finding a perfect match between master tape and digital sounding. I really hope Mr. Hoffman can go on with his work of art in another audiophile label. Many AF titles became unsurpassed digital versions of its mostly releases. I can’t say for all because I haven’t got every DCC or AF title.

Chris Squires

The copies of The Hounds of Love that I have on Audio Fidelity are absolutely sublime. The Ninth Wave, when it is listened to and concentrated on is one of the best audio experiences I have have ever had. It is levels above my original copy. Hello Earth just blows my socks off. It is so good I have a sealed copy of both KB AF albums for the day I wear my opened copies out.
As there will be no more it is certainly worth hunting a copy down if this is even remotely your thing.

Kevin M

Hardly surprising when a company with a sound quality focus goes under. So many buyers seem to care more about things like the colour of the vinyl these days. The market gets what the market deserves.

Geert De Wilde

Very happy with the 4 colour vinyls – they look lovely and play beautifully. Very happy that NEW and Chaos&Creation are now single discs: while pristine versions of the old albums are a treat; slightly different versions of the newer albums (which I already have in pristine versions) make them more interesting. So, altogether very happy with these new coloured vinyl reissues, and together they begin to form quite a nice stack.

Geert De Wilde

‘single discs’ – I meant gate-folds of course. They were always single discs :)

Tony Orwell

Maybe the standard of new vinyl is so much better than 15 or 20 years ago they have lost their unique selling point? As shame but i will sleep tonight. On the macca issue it seems a bit of a cheapskate thing to do, oh well never mind.

martin farnworth

the audio fidelity release of Blade Runner is one of my favourite vinyl’s. Top quality (far better packaging than the sequel i have) and one of the reasons i love collecting from a view of ownership rather than “merely” a listening experience. The sound quality is fantastic also. In fact the only soundtrack album i’ve actually listened to quite a bit.

Adam Shaw

I think the Chaos vinyl colour is disgusting.
I’m going to get Wings Greatest on blue as it’s a good collection and my original is worn out (the cd was never remastered) and some tracks on it still haven’t been re released, but it’s about time Maccas lot stop re hashing these titles and carry on with the reissue program, if there still is one .


I have three AF releases:
RATM first two records on hybrid SACD and Ritual De Lo Habitual by Jane’s Addiction on HDCD.
Each release has a stunning audio quality and a fancy packaging… i always hoped they’d release The Battle Of Los Angeles on SACD but at this point it won’t happen.
A bit disappointing, but i’ll survive anyway :)

Auntie Sabrina

I guess with the advent of blu-ray audio and of course Hi-res downloads there is a limited market for Audio Fidelity. Unless thse are the ‘other projects’ mentioned. At least we in the UK have Rock Candy

tom m hans

To me the Rock Candy releases of Kick Axe are far too brickwalled – I am shying away from those remasters and stick to the originals.

wayne klein

I think it has more to do with people just not buying audiophile releases not with Blu-ray, etc.

I’m sad to see AF go. The Spirit reissues were sublime as were many of their other releases.


Do you mean Ritual de lo Habitual or Nothing’s Shocking? Ritual is one of my favourite albums ever and I’d love a HDCD of that.


I agree, it is a rather lovey shade of pink.


That’s a gorgeous shade of pink though…