Mobile Fidelity's One Step "Abraxas": Is Any Record Worth $100?

Before you pay $100 for any record you have to ask yourself if you really like the music, right? Then the question becomes is this version that much better than the one you already have, assuming you already have one.

The record is Santana's Abraxas the group's second album was released in 1970. If you're of a certain vintage you know the music and especially the hit "Black Magic Woman", which is known to music fans of all ages. The version is the new "one-step" edition 1/2 speed mastered at 45rpm..

There's nothing new about the process. But because of the cost involved it's not commercially practical.

For those who don't know: records are made by first cutting grooves in a lacquer, which is an aluminum disc coated with a soft paint-like compound. The cut lacquer is quickly metal-plated. Prying the metal from the lacquer produces a ridged metal part that can be used to press records. That is how Mobile Fidelity is doing it, and why it's called a "one step" process.

The advantage of course is that you're one generation from the tape. The disadvantage is that once the stamper wears out after around a thousand records you have to cut another lacquer. In the real world of record manufacturing the metal part (called "the father") is again plated resulting in a playable grooved disc commonly referred to as "the mother". The "mother" can be plated to produce a second generation stamper that's used to press records.

The "mother" can then be reused many times to produce well more than one hundred stampers, each of which is capable of pressing many hundred or thousand records. The few times you rely on the same mother to produce stampers and fewer records you press with each stamper, the better the records generally will sound.

Here Mobile-Fidelity produces from the original master tapes a "one step" Abraxas pressed as two 45rpm records packaged in a box reminiscent of but far more opulent and value-packed than the old Mo-Fi's "UHQR" boxed records.

But first the music. That's your call of course. Mine is that I was never much of fan of this album. To me it was like Persuasive (Hispanic) Percussion—a mildly interesting, percussion-heavy, high drama, swaggering entrant into the hyphen rock genre as in "folk-rock", "jazz-rock", "raga-rock" and in this case "latino-rock" or something similar. It's the rock spirit and vibe with something grafted to the body, whether a tabla and sitar as in "tabla-rock" or lilting latino rhythm exclaimed by meaty percussion .

So i paid only minor attention to the record when it first came out though I have two or three versions to which I paid very little attention...until now.

Halfway through this "one step"'s side one I said to myself "This might be the best record I've ever heard". I meant by that the technical quality of the record and how much it resembles tape in four critical parameters: the wide dynamics and low bass response, the unlimited dynamic range, the tape-like sense of flow and especially the enormity of the soundstage presentation. More importantly I got a greater appreciation for the music, the musicianship and the showmanship too.

I had to refresh my sonic memory with the alternative versions I have here that include two originals, a German pressing from the 1990s and the Columbia "Mastersound" half-speed mastered version. First of all, about half of this record is magnificently recorded and hard work would be necessary to make it sound bad but this "one step" version is mind-glowingly better than any of the other versions I have beginning with the earth shaking bass that extends to near-impossible depths, moving on to the enormity of the stage width and especially depth and the transparency and the dynamic slam plus the blackest backdrops you'll hear on a record. I'm telling you, if you love the album it's worth spending $100 on it. Compared to this version the half-speed mastered Columbia sounds like a cassette tape.

The first two sides are so spectacularly recorded and reproduced even if you're not a big fan of the music, you'll find yourself luxuriating in the sonic riches.The spectacular sound got me to listen often just for he sonic thrill, but doing so made me appreciate more the muscular music, now unleashed as never before. The louder you play it the better this record sounds and that 's something that doesn't happen that often.

The percussion explodes forward from the speakers perfectly focused with a dead-black background intensifying the picture. Instrumental textures are visceral while attack is supple yet sufficiently gritty to engage. Sustain is impossibly long and decay into black is audible down to bottom of the sonic pit, which means Carlos Santana's guitar comes to life before you as you're never before heard it—and that's not hyperbole (ok, it is, but....) . If you hear this record on your system as I do on mine and you crank it up to sufficiently realistic SPLs you'll likely exclaim a "wow" or two through side one.

I don't know much about this record's production but it takes a weird sonic turn about half way through. Sonically the first half is truly astonishing and then it head south fast as if the group got tossed from the more costly studio to one they could afford. Not saying the second half sounds bad but it doesn't sound as spacious or textural suave as the first half though it sounds better than any of the other versions.

The packaging puts to shame Mo-Fi's '70s-'80s era "UHQR" boxes. Mo-Fi retains the black foam.The box is finished in a supple, soft matte black stock with gold leaf accents and an especially well reproduced though smaller than the standard cover image of Mati Klarwein's original artwork. Each of the two records repeats the cover motif. The records in a rice paper sleeve are each contained in an inner folded sleeve that produces a tight fit. Also inside is a generously sized cover image reproduced of course without the wrap-around required on the album cover. Also included is a one-sheet explaining the "one-step" process.

So will this limited edition record become a collectible? No doubt. Should you buy a copy to listen to and one to leave sealed? That's up to your investment strategy but if this among your faves, you'll be glad you invested $99 in a copy. (The sound rating is especially for the first of the two records).

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
GoldenEar5Percenters's picture

If you like his music. Sounds well worth $100 for that quality of sound.
I think he is good but just not into it that type of music.
I wish MoFi would re release some of their past half speed presses again.

Cam08529's picture

This is the best reproduction of music via the LP I have ever heard. Extra value to me because I like the record but my friends and family have been questioning my taste in music for the last 50 years. I'm OK with that however. If you think you might like to have this, order one this weekend. This release will be sold out very soon.

TK's picture

I will probably buy this and I love the way the 45 rpms sound. I may be in the minority buy I think it is a huge pain in the butt to continully flip the record. As I'm getting into the music a tradional side is about the right amount...not flipping after 1 song in some instances. That keeps me from buying more of these. I know the sound quality is amazing.

gbougard's picture

Quite frankly, nothing beats playing albums in digital format if you hate getting up to flip the record, like I do. I feel guilty having a fantastic Thorens 124MK2 fully restored by Schopper in Switzerland and not using it very often...

Michael Fremer's picture
How fantastic, it's not that fantastic....
infohou's picture

Hey Folks,

I have mine sitting unopened while I warm up the system with Caravanserai. Yes CARA... not CARVAN... BTW, this SQ version is better in two channel than many other SQ releases. The later Santana SQ LP's are even better in stereo that Caravanserai.

So most folks with RCMs say they clean new LPs before the first playing. I generally don't as I like to survey the quality control at the pressing plant. I do clean each side I play with a black material Discwasher. I believe the later RCA yellowish ones are inferior.

What's the vote? Should I clean the one step Abraxas on the VPI 16.5 before playing?

Also, surprised more folks don't like the music. I think the latin jazz tinged rock to be very well done and Mr. Santana can make a guitar talk like few others.

One last thing since someone opened the door, I don't think the I Still Do is as good as reported. I prefer AAA but I Still Do does not match Steve Hoffman's best or even many from Analogue Productions.

Hope you folks are having a fun weekend,
Robert A. Ober

Lazer's picture

But I think your reason for not cleaning first is kinda interesting. But I know a clean record always sounds better, so I clean the damn record.

That said, I'm the one who opened the door on "I still do." I love that album but I've had others tell me they don't; someone even told me he thought it was "sleepy." That's fine. Music is very subjective....the main thing is we all love music and it brings us happiness.

infohou's picture

Thanks Lazer for your reply.

Concerning "I Still Do", in Fremer's terms I was referring to Sound not Music. I like the Music, although it is a bit slow. Mr. Clapton's turn to even bluesier songs is fine with me.

Anybody else want to weigh in on the question of clean before playing the one step Abraxas?

Also, mine has some sort of whiteish translucent residue on the box cover. Y'all seen that?

Have a fun Sun.,
Robert

infohou's picture

BTW, when I use the abbreviation SQ I mean SQ Quadraphonic. That was a name for the better of the matrixed LP Quadraphonic methods. The better decoders, referred to as Full Logic, could give enough separation for sounds to be properly located in the soundfield. Full Logic decoders were made by Lafayette among others.

As you may know, folks elsewhere are incorrectly using SQ as an abbreviation for sound quality. SQ is Stereo Quadraphonic.

Take it EZ,
Robert

isaacrivera's picture

Is recommended not just because it sounds better. It sounds better because mold release and factory dust are removed from the grooves. Running a cartridge through a groove with grit is abrasive. So washing before use is healthier for your records and it sound better. However, I can hardly ever wait to wash and hear the record a couple of times before I get around to wash it.

infohou's picture

Yep,

Know that but I have had really good luck with the MoFi's being quiet. I did clean it and play it yesterday. Some crackle in the lead out of side 1 and some crackle between the last two tracks on side 3. Not a big deal and hopefully it will get better. I do need to call them about the residue on box cover.

The sound is really good. I think side 3 is not as good due to the processing choices either going in or during the mix. Not MoFi's doing. Side 4 is back to being pretty sweet.

Y'all be cool,
Robert
PS: Got number 984 by hitting the buy now button above last Friday and requesting Saturday Delivery.

Joe Crowe's picture

The attempt to add an ultrasonic carrier to convey extra channel information gave rise to extended range cartridges like the Grace F9 series. Even though LP Quadrophonic was pretty much a failure, having owned an F9-E for a very long time I am really grateful for the attempt. That was a fine cartridge for its' time.

infohou's picture

There were two major forms of 4 channel LP's. SQ and QS were similar matrixed forms of quad and CD4 was the RCA system that used a 19khz carrier signal. CD4 did give us Shibata and similar stylus profiles that could track the carrier and had sufficient high end response to be able retrieve the carrier.

And while we are on terminology, maybe we can agree to use the term LP for 12" vinyl albums. A CD or 7" 45 are also "records", as in recordings or a collection of recordings/songs.

Y'all take care,
Robert A. Ober

swimming1's picture

That's a bit obsessive. I prefer to send the cash on a few excellent bottles of wine and enjoy many different lps!

elliotdrum's picture

That is a good question-My first MoFi was Supertramp's Crime of the
Century which was fantastic sounding back in the early 80's
But since then it's been hit or miss but I would spend $100 on a these titles if they sounded fantastic.
Miles Davis and Gil Evans ...Miles Ahead -Porgy and Bess & Sketches of Spain.
Beatles Sgt. Pepper and Revolver.
The Who's Next.
Allman Brothers live Fillmore East.
Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet.
Ray Charles Newport 58.
Aretha Franklin Atlantic's Greatest Hits.
I have three vinyl records from Japan-Germany-US
of Miles Ahead and the SACD from Japan sounds the
best by far. So MoFi I hope you would consider these
titles for the future if possible and I'm would
think other people would be interested also.

Patrick of Chicago's picture

I have a couple copies of this record including a quadraphonic and a half speed. I have only listened to the first record so far. I'm not a particularly big fan of Santana but I bought the record for the collectability of being the first One Step and the curiosity of how much better it might sound. I was absolutely blown away. I enjoyed the record far more than I thought. It really brings you right into the music. It's rare a pressing exceeds my expectations in every way and this one really delivered. The packaging is especially wonderful

Joe Crowe's picture

Don't take this as a personal insult but I have always felt that "collectors" are just taking things away from the people who truly appreciate them. Usually with the intent of passing them on at a significant markup later on. Love it or leave it, don't take it if you don't mean to keep it! One mans' opinion nothing more.

orthobiz's picture

Amazing record. Buy it while you can , I could only find it on the MoFi website.
Paul

tsmith727's picture

The difference between the MoFi 33-1/3 LP is apparent on the first track. The instruments are so clear and clean. May sound strange for an analog opinion, but it blows away the other version. Well done.

Roy Boy's picture

Has anyone compared this to the DSD download on a reasonably high end digital front end? I have a Lumin A1 which I find to be very analog sounding. I have a refurbed Technics SP10 II/Basis Vector/Soundsmith Zephyr MiMC analog front end.
BTW I have been ripping vinyl via my Korg DS-DAC-10R to DSD128 and been pretty happy with comparisons to the vinyl. In some ways I prefer the rip as it completely removes the direct path of acoustic feedback from the speaker/subs to the cartridge at higher volumes. So the bass is cleaner.

davalexder's picture

I bought 2 and may not open any,I have the mofi gold cd which is great.we have enjoyed for years.

Steelhead's picture

After buying the mofi 33 and a third Abraxas this was a no-brainer purchase.

The bells are spooky good on my stats (much better than an original press) and I really am eager to rip the shrink wrap off of this one.

I pre-ordered it a few months ago and soundstage direct (usually excellent) still does not have it in stock.

Really looking forward to this as I love the music and I expect the sonics to be outstanding.

mauidj's picture

After reading the glowing reports how could I not order this? Thank you all :-)

sharris55's picture

This arrived tonight after business hours.....

Dear Customer,

We regret to inform you that just today we were notified by Mobile Fidelity that they would be unable to send to us anything remotely close to the quantity of one-step Santana/Abraxas LPs that we'd ordered. As a result, we have no means of selling you the copy that you'd preordered with Acoustic Sounds. This, of course, is extremely disappointing news and we share in what we assume is your extreme frustration.

We had been in continuous contact with Mobile Fidelity, repeatedly checking on the status of these LPs and reminding them of the quantity we had on order. There was never any indication of such a massive under-shipment given to us until today's notice. While we're embarrassed please understand that there is nothing we can do. Our only suggestion is that you call Mobile Fidelity/Music Direct as soon as you can to see if you can secure a copy. That number: 800-449-8333.

We're very sorry for such an inconvenience and disappointment.

Sincerely,

Chad Kassem
Acoustic Sounds, Inc.

Swervn's picture

for my pre-order I got #345. I have a number of copies of this album starting with an original pressing and as it is one of my favorites, I have listened to many different versions for many years. I even purchased the DSD to put on my Pono for when away from my home system which in itself was amazing in clarity and soundstage. But this new vinyl is quite spectacular. It had been a while since I had heard that kind of soundstage and definition from my old Krell and stats. While other 45rpm represses I have seemed a step better from other versions, this one was a huge leap to my old worn ears. Very happy I own a copy.

Muso's picture

I got an apologetic email too, from Elusive Disc. I immediately ordered one from Music Direct who showed it in stock and ready to ship. Two hours later, I thought I should order a second copy, and the status on their order page had gone from In Stock to Special Order. MoFi's website shows Sold Out.

But I got a copy, shipping tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to hearing it. I'm also interested in how it compares with my DSD version of Abraxas. I happen to love the album, and I don't have any copies other than my DSD version, so I figured why not on the 99 bucks.

It's already on eBay at some outrageous prices!

sharris55's picture

After getting the email cancellation, I was able to grab a copy from Music Direct and it arrived today! Seems to me they need to hold onto future one steps themselves and forget other retailers, unless they can allocate a set number to each for pre-orders. I kept wondering how all the retailers could keep taking pre-orders seemingly without limit.

dingane's picture

I was a senior in college in the fall of '70 when this came out. I can recall going to a lot of places and someone had this album playing. I have always loved it and I do not need some overblown recording process to make me like it any more than I already do. Back then I was listening to a $3.50 record on a $180.00 stereo and loving every minute.

AnalogJ's picture

When I was young, I remember cranking up the old Victrola to play this album. It was a 10 sided album. I hated getting up and down so often. This new 45rpm technology, which allows the entire album on 2 discs and 4 sides, sure is an improvement.

Russo7516's picture

Mike you remember when MOFI did the UHQR press ins of Sgt . Peppers. Dark side of the Moon, Cat Stevens etc. Some of those pressing are going for 900 bucks now . Will this pressing go in that dierection ?

mkimsey56's picture

This has been in my desert island list since it came out in 1970. (Fat, bald, grumpy old trolls can start typing rebuttals now.) But...based on entirely on side one, as Michael picked up on in his listening. I never thought about the recording qualities of side one vs. side two but the music is vastly different on most tracks. Side one is all about texture, air and flow. Side two is dominated by Greg Rolie's shouting rockers, Mother's Daughter and Hope You're Feeling Better, which I can appreciate, but also do not care much for. A highlight of side one is the closer, Incident at Neshabur, featuring the piano work of Alberto Gianquinto. And the one step process brings out the beauty of side one like never before. Great choice MoFi and great job.

Hermanenmonja's picture

After a few weeks of calling and mailing finally got the album. The shop (Netherlands) who sold it had 35 orders and only 6 copies when they came in...
So actually i was lucky. Very nice superdeluxe box (nr. 2048).
Played it 3 times and it gets better and better. Heavy bass man...
The prices now on internet are ridiculous by the way.

Muso's picture

My copy was shown as in stock and shipping the next day back in November, but then it changed to back order or special order or some such.

I woke up this morning to see a $99.95 charge on my credit card from Music Direct, and my order status changed to "Shippable." I had given up hope! I still won't believe it until I see "Shipped" - it is hoped that will be later today :-D

Muso's picture

- and it does sound fantastic! I won't wax on as others have already described it. I got #2314 and my neighbor who ordered at the same time got #2325 so I guess Music Direct has shipped out the final batch.

LP2 doesn't sound worse to me on my first listen (the whole album was recorded at the same studio except for 1 song). But I did notice that there is a lot of piano on LP1 and none on LP2. So maybe people are just subconsciously missing the piano - that could change perception of how the music sounds. Both discs sound awesome.

Anyway, MoFi did a superb job.

parman's picture

I see 3 copies for sale on Discogs today from $425 to $650. Sweet little return on their investment

Biff's picture

I was blown away by the sound quality of this pressing. I got a promo copy so it isn't numbered.

A little bird tells me that "The Nightfly" might be issued in this format...

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