Vinyl producer Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is now facing a proposed class action over recent revelations that its expensive “all analog” reissues were actually partially created using digital methods.
A month after allegations on YouTube set off a scandal in the world of audiophiles, lawyers for a MoFi buyer accused the company of legal wrongdoing by charging premium prices for “purely analog recordings” while secretly using so-called direct stream digital technology since 2011.
“MoFi never disclosed this fact, nor did it change its representations to reflect the fact that its records were using DSD,” lawyers for the accuser wrote in a complaint filed Thursday in Chicago federal court. “Instead, MoFi intentionally hid this fact from consumers.”
The lawsuit claims buyers paid extra for the supposedly all-analog vinyl, labeled as either “Original Master Recording” or “Ultradisc One Step” – not only for better sound but also because they’re intrinsically more scarce than recordings that incorporate digital processes.
“Original recording tapes age, so only a limited number of analog recordings can be produced,” the lawyers wrote. “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.”
In a statement to Billboard, Mobile Fidelity’s attorney Joseph J. Madonia of Chicago said the company “cannot comment on pending litigation matters at this time.”
The lawsuit came a month after Phoenix-area record store owner Mike Esposito made those same accusations in a pair of YouTube videos, including one in which MoFi’s engineers appeared to confirm that DSD had in fact been used in production. As reported by the Washington Post earlier this month, the revelation has “thrown the audiophile community into something of an existential crisis.”
In a statement in late July, MoFi apologized for using “vague language” and for “taking for granted the goodwill and trust” of its customers: “We recognize our conduct has resulted in both anger and confusion in the marketplace. Moving forward, we are adopting a policy of 100% transparency regarding the provenance of our audio products.”
The new lawsuit was filed by a North Carolina man named Adam Stiles, who says he bought a number of the albums from MoFi over the years. He specifically cited his recent purchase of The Pretenders’ self-titled debut album, saying he forked over $40 for it because he saw that it was an “original master recording.”
“Had Mr. Stiles been aware that the record used digital remastering or DSD technology, he would not have purchased the record, or would have paid significantly less for it,” the lawsuit said.
In filing the case as a proposed class action, Stiles seeks to represent “thousands” of other consumers who bought records from MoFi based on what he says were its “misleading misrepresentations and omissions” about analog recording.
MoFi’s claims about pure analog methods “used to be true,” but the lawsuit says the company began using digital processing on certain albums in 2011 and then kept the switch secret for more than a decade. They cited an email in which the company reassured a customer in 2020 that there was “no analog to digital conversion in our vinyl cutting process.”
Stiles and his lawyers say the company’s recent mea culpa and efforts to update its labeling won’t save it from legal liability – and, if anything, demonstrate just how much the company was allegedly hiding.
“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,” the attorneys wrote.