Dire Straits: Dire Straits

Dire Straits: Dire Straits

Mobile Fidelity  UDSACD 2184

Stereo Hybrid


Dire Straits

Mastered from the Original Master Tapes for Optimal Sound: SACD Engages with Natural Tones, Superb Balances, Reference Imaging, Sterling Clarity

Dire Straits' arresting self-titled debut arrived in the midst of punk's reign but couldn't have been further removed from the era's slash-and-burn style. Recorded in West London in February 1978, the band's tasteful, jazz-inflected set embraces folk, blues, and pub rock while also tracing a direct line back to the beat-oriented sound of early rock n' roll. Country and roots accents further distinguish the British quartet's stripped-down music from any 1970s peers, as does the transparent production, which has remained revered among audiophiles the world over – and which has never been better in digital than on this meticulous hybrid SACD.

Mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition SACD version of Dire Straits features natural tonalities, superb balances, you-are-there imaging, deep-black backgrounds, and pristine clarity. Even if you've heard this album hundreds of times before, you've never experienced it with such lifelike sonics and premium richness. This collector's set immerses you within the smoky, laidback atmospherics of every song. This is how all discs should sound.

Crucial to every arrangement, Mark Knopfler's winding guitar lines emerge with supreme transparency and multi-hued textural detail. His intricate playing comes across as if it's being transmitted via his 60s-era Fender Vibrolux amplifier placed right before you. The cleanliness, dimensions, and live feel are that good. Rhythms skate and swirl; percussive effects resonate with crispness and attack; the leading edges of notes naturally decay.

Dire Straits' strong, well-edited batch of original material further enhances the overall enjoyment and makes the record one whose pleasures go far beyond the organic sonics. Just as Knopfler's narratives pour forth with poetic and surrealist texts, the musical settings – an intoxicating combination of easygoing shuffles, back-hall boogies, and pop-honed ballads – mirror the old-fashioned soulfulness inherent in the classic recordings of the late 50s and early 60s. The lyrics are equally captivating.

Drawing from his time as a youth in Newcastle, Leeds, and London, Knopfler invests tunes with an autobiographical slant and emotional connectivity that become obvious the moment he opens his mouth to sing. "Down to the Waterline," "Wild West End," and "Lions" all feature colloquial touches that add to their reach. By extension, "In the Gallery" functions as a tribute to Leeds sculptor Harry Phillips (father of future Knoplfer collaborator, Steve Phillips) while the record's breakout smash, "Sultans of Swing," pays homage to struggling bar bands.

Through it all, Dire Straits performs with a subtle cool and clever poise that no band ever matched. Just how good is the chemistry? Bob Dylan heard the quartet and invited Knopfler and drummer Pick Withers to play on Slow Train Coming. But even Dylan himself didn't hear Dire Straits sound this magnetic back in its original heyday. Now, everyone can.

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1. Down to the Waterline
2. Water of Love
3. Setting Me Up
4. Six Blade Knife
5. Southbound Again
6. Sultans of Swing
7. In the Gallery
8. Wild West End
9. Lions
Comments (3)

Comment by breydon_music - November 8, 2019 (1 of 3)

I recall some useful correspondence on either this or the previous site, which pointed out that the MoFi issue of "Brothers in Arms" was sourced from the U S master, whereas the later Universal Japan SHM-SACD used the original U K masters which were slightly different in both content and balance. I wonder if anyone out there can comment on the provenance of these new MoFi's relative to the pre-existing Universal Japan series?

Comment by Downunderman - November 8, 2019 (2 of 3)

.....Just for the record (and ease of access) I have copied over 'Analogue's' comparative comments on the relative merits of the MoFi and the Japanese versions of Brothers in Arms from the old site to this site.

You can find them on the Universal Japan listing for BIA here : Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms#comments

It will indeed be most interesting, especially so since the Japanese versions of Dire Straits albums seem to have been pretty well regarded.

Comment by Downunderman - June 27, 2020 (3 of 3)

The differences between the JSACD (2010/2014) and the MoFi are not nearly as great as I experienced with MM. In part this will have to do with this title being much better recorded in the first place.

For reference with regard to tape provenance, the indications are that the JSACD was DSD transferred from the Japanese (Not UK) analogue tapes in 2010. Additionally, the Copyright date of 1996 would seem to suggest the Bob Ludwig remaster from that year is the source used for the 2010 DSD transfer. It also has the same average DR.

There was a subsequent issue of the title in 2013 on Platinum SHM-CD which was based on a flat transfer from the UK master tapes done in 2013. I have not heard the Platinum SHM-CD, though I am aware that it does have its supporters.

Whether MoFi used the UK or the USA original master tape I can't say. What I can say is that the JSACD has a total time of 41.59, whilst the MoFi has a total time of 42.01.

Sonically the JSACD and the MoFi are pretty similar, with the nod going to the MoFi.

The JSACD is a little louder and brighter, whilst the MoFi is more organic sounding and a little darker. It also rewards increasing volume levels and comes with a booklet. There is not much in the average DR - 12 for the JSACD and 15 for the MoFi.
My wife described the JSACD as being the more jaunty sounding of the two - perhaps a function of the JSACD being a little brighter.

if you already have the JSACD and find it a little bit bright it will be a no brainier to pick up the MoFi version.