To jump, or not to jump? That is the question many Van Halen buffs will be asking themselves as they consider the prospect of the band’s original run of albums becoming available as pricey but very collectible premium vinyl boxed sets later this year.
Mobile Fidelity, the standard-bearer for audiophile vinyl, will be issuing the six albums the band originally recorded with David Lee Roth as frontman in double-LP boxes that involve the lossless “one-step” process, pressed across four sides each at 45 rpm, allowing the greatest insurance that even with Michael Anthony’s bass at maximum intensity, the needle will not go ahead and j… er, skip.
At $125 each from Music Direct, the only site from which they can currently be preordered, these special editions are not for the casual fan… or the modern vinyl “enthusiast” who buys LPs to display the covers without actually having a turntable hooked up. But as recent experience with MoFi vinyl releases would prove, it’s entirely possible that all 10,000 numbered copies of each could effectively sell out online, or that most retail stores that carry the brand might only get a copy or two in.
In other words, while there is a lot of flipping involved in having these albums spread across four sides for what is considered by many enthusiasts to be extreme fidelity, that will pale against the flipping that will occur on eBay once the run sells out.
The good news or bad news, depending on your point of view, is that the six albums will be released sequentially, not all at once, which charges going through only at the time of shipping, which puts less concurrent strain on the wallet.
News about the vinyl releases quietly (as opposed to Quiex-ly) slipped out at the beginning of 2022. What was new in Thursday’s announcement from Mobile Fidelity was confirmation of the rumor that all six O.G. VH albums will also be released in high-fidelity digital as well, pressed as hybrid Super Audio CDs, which includes a layer playable on normal CD players for those who don’t have one of the rare SACD players out in the wild. The SACD versions are also numbered and could wind up being nearly as collectible, but are more affordable to the average fan, with a $30 price point on Music Direct.
The titles included in this line will start with “Van Halen” (1978) in the fourth quarter of 2022, followed by “Van Halen II” (1979), “Women and Children First” (1980), “Fair Warning” (1981), “Diver Down” (1982) and “1984” (you know the year). MoFi won’t be done with these titles once the one-step versions sell out; a “standard three-step process 180g 45RPM 2LP” for each album will be announced at a later date, MoFi said.
Artwork for the vinyl boxes will match the original albums, albeit with the familiar Mobile Fidelity banner part of the covers’ foil-embossing.
“Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is excited to release Van Halen’s first six iconic albums in the UD1S and SACD formats for the first time,” said Jim Davis, president of Music Direct and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, in a statement. “Fans will experience Van Halen’s original blend of raw power and Hollywood flair like never before through these limited-edition, audiophile-grade One-Step vinyl box sets.” The company claimed the Van Halen titles “have previously been overlooked for the UD1S and SACD treatment due to the music’s sheer excitement and raucous intensity,” suggesting that X-treme cradle-rocking and true hi-fi were not always necessarily assumed to be completely compatible.
Mobile Fidelity has issued audiophile editions of large swaths of artists’ catalogs before, including multiple classics by Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Elvis Costello, the Grateful Dead, the Band and the Eagles. And in the last few years the company has made one-step boxed sets an increasing part of its output, with a special release of Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” proving just how quickly every copy of such a release could be snapped up, even at the higher price point. But this marks the first time MoFi has announced a large chunk of an artist’s catalog being due for the one-step treatment.
No plans for a premium edition of “Van Halen III” have yet been revealed.
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