Katy Lied: GREAT Album, FLAWED recording. Pick your poison!!

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by SteelyNJ, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    "Katy Lied" is one of my favorite albums of all time, if not the absolute favorite. Unfortunately, as almost every Steely Dan fan knows, there was a major screw up with the DBX noise reduction system during the original 1975 recording process which has negatively affected every release of the album (and the individual tracks from the album) to date.

    To my ears, "Katy Lied" has never sounded particularly good in ANY incarnation, regardless of format, where or when it was pressed/released, who mastered it, etc. No version that I've ever heard sounds "quite right." Yet, there is no shortage of opinions in these forums as to which version bests all the others. For example, see this related ongoing thread: Katy Lied - Kendun vs. MFSL

    With that in mind, I decided to post samples of two of my favorite "Katy Lied" tracks ("Bad Sneakers" and "Doctor Wu") and hear what YOU guys think sounds "best." I purposely left them unlabeled with regard to source so as not to influence the results, but as soon as I get enough responses I will reveal that information.

    For these comparisons I only used vinyl sources, but I can certainly add CD sources if anyone is interested. I did a very approximate volume match but by no means are the levels identical so please compensate accordingly. I employed absolutely no noise reduction or filtering. The sources were an ABC Kendun, a "Pressed in Japan" MFSL, an MCA "rainbow label" reissue and an MCA "Greatest Hits" (which might or might not have been cut by Bob Ludwig; there's no "RL" etching), also with a rainbow label. To some of you, it will be fairly obvious which sample comes from which source. Still, I'd really like to know what you're hearing here. The differences in mastering are quite striking in many cases, but as I said at the outset, none sound really good to me.

    Here's the download link: 'Katy Lied' Vinyl Test.zip

    Files are zipped and in FLAC format but I can create MP3's if that makes life easier for any of you. Thank you in advance for participating.
     
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  2. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Very quick listen as its time for bed since long ago.
    But to me the third and seventh samples seemed best. 2 and 6 were a good second best. 4 and 8 were worst.

    Will try again tomorrow on speakers too.
     
  3. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Senior Member

    Location:
    OH
    I always thought it sounded ok until I joined here
     
  4. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    I think it does too for the most part.
     
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  5. bhazen

    bhazen Fab Fourever

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    This is yet another album where I purposefully just listen to the performance, and ignore any sonic issues. As, indeed, I do with tons of pop recordings from the past ... Katy Lied still sounds better, to me, than loads of other records I could mention. Once the Eighties are well underway, Katy starts to sound pretty good in comparison.

    I'm still struggling to recover from a bad case of audiophilia ...
     
  6. libertycaps

    libertycaps Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Iirc, RL mastered the ABC 1978 DLP Greatest Hits collection. Grab the next clean copy you comes across, it's fab.
    Most of the Katy Lied sins were absolved with the 1993 Citizen Box Set remasters. Inferior Steely Dan is still a mighty cut above most from the era.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  7. Combination

    Combination Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Perfectly put. Perfectly.
     
  8. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Already very interesting!!
     
  9. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I have two different pressings of Greatest Hits and, as stated above, I used samples from one of them in my upload. I also have the Citizen CD set but in my opinion it doesn't offer a substantial improvement over other versions of Katy Lied. I can add it along with a couple of other CD versions to the group of sample files.
     
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  10. AnalogJ

    AnalogJ Forum Resident

    Location:
    Salem, MA
    I take it that you don't own a turntable? On your equipment profile under the turntable line, you say "No need".

    Look, even when I first bought Katy Lied back in the 1970s and had a very mediocre turntable and cartridge (Dual 502 and Sonus Blue), I knew there was something wrong with the recording. Of course there were very crappy recordings out there in almost every genre of music, but Steely Dan were known for pretty good sound. Their previous album, Pretzel Logic, while not terribly dynamic, sounded tonally natural. Katy Lied did not. So, of course, there's the music. But music isn't just about linear notes, but it's also about how those notes are played. A flat, dynamic recording takes the life out of the music. A recording that sounds tonally off can be distracting. Hey, I listened to a lot of music on a transistor radio growing up in the 1960s and I enjoyed the music, so expectations are adjusted accordingly. I have heard really affecting music come from a well-tuned Victrola on 78s. But just like if you went to Symphony Hall in Boston and sound was thin and tinny, you might wonder what was going on, knowing that the sound should be rich, open, airy, fluid, and dynamic. Every time I listen to Katy Lied, whether it is the ABC Kendun or the MoFi, I hear the oddity in addition to the great music. Sure, sonically speaking, Katy Lied sounds better than listening through a tin can, but it's off. Have you ever listened to a record where it's out of phase? The life seems sucked out of the music because the dynamics are in reverse. I have both a UK and a US of the Dire Straits EP, Twisting By The Pool. I have found that original UK Vertigos sound better than my US copies. For some reason, the UK Twisting By The Pool is lifeless. That is, until I reversed polarity on my loudspeakers and the album came alive. There are a number of albums that were recorded out of phase (or reverse polarity - I know there's a difference between the two - forgive me.). Instead of strong transients pushing air, they suck it back. Rather the music coming across as dynamic, it feels lifeless.

    My point again is how good the recording is has a large affect on the enjoyment of the music itself.

    We keep hoping for a miracle in terms of a breakthrough in sound for Katy Lied. That may not ever happen. If anyone tells me that Katy Lied sounds great to their ears, I'm more likely going to question that person's ears than anything else.
     
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  11. mpayan

    mpayan Forum Resident

    Steely Dan were such perfectionists that the perfection of the performance fools our ears and allows us to not really think much of shortcomings.

    And thats the very essence of music. Illusions.
     
  12. GregM

    GregM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Daddyland, CA
    It's not a great recording, but it's not terrible like many of SD's contemporaries. I always thought the problem was unresolved polarity issues affecting certain tracks of the recording inversely to other tracks. Heck, one could say the same of all SD's records and most others' too.
     
  13. JohnT

    JohnT Forum Resident

    Location:
    PA
    Wiki speaks about a malfunction with noise reduction equipment.

    "Band leaders Becker and Fagen were unhappy with the album's sound quality because of an equipment malfunction with the then-new dbx noise reduction system."

    My vinyl checks in with a DR of 8. Yuck.
     
  14. libertycaps

    libertycaps Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Set and Setting. It's all so insanely subjective. MY EARS. MY SYSTEM. MY LOTUS FLOWER BLOOMING!
     
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  15. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    Once folks found out about the DBX and mixing issues, then all of a sudden it sounds pretty horrid. You never heard this before everyone found this out.

    MFSL thought it was hi-fi enough to choose it for their 1/2 speed remasters early on. So somebody liked the sound of it.

    I think it's wonderful, and a fine album. Kind of transistorized in certain frequencies but not nearly as bad sounding as many early all-digital recordings/mixes of the 80s. It's getting late in the game now, ain't it.
     
  16. bhazen

    bhazen Fab Fourever

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    Well, I am not that person. I hear issues with the sound, sure. Before I ever read the story about DBX issues, I suspected something odd, maybe misaligned Dolby, azimuth, too-liberal No-Noise or such. But the songs and performances are of such quality the I can listen past -- out of necessity. (I'm a musician, so I tend to listen to the performance over other considerations even at the best of times.) If they can use computer software or something to ever fix Katy and reissue it, I'll be standing in the checkout line just behind you to buy it. I love this album.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
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  17. Beatmaniac

    Beatmaniac Forum Resident

    Location:
    Slidell, Louisiana
    Is this “malfunction” apparent on the master tapes only or the multitracks as well? If not is a remix in order? I’m surprised that it hasn’t been remixed since they were such perfectionist.
     
    bhazen likes this.
  18. UncleHalsey

    UncleHalsey Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Paging Steven Wilson...
     
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  19. bhazen

    bhazen Fab Fourever

    Location:
    Newcastle, WA
    I'm guessing the issue was/is on the multitracks. Can't imagine Nichols, Fagen & Becker not remixing it, were that possible.
     
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  20. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    It always sounded "off" to me, especially in comparison with the more balanced sound of the Dan albums that came before and after. CBAT, Countdow, Pretzel Logic and The Royal Scam may not have been sonic masterpieces but they sounded just fine. Aja was cited for engineering excellence. Katy was always the odd duck of the lot, we just didn't know exactly why.
    I see it another, almost opposite way. The MFSL sounds radically different than the ABC. Why? I think Stan and the MoFi folks saw obvious room for improvement and took on the project knowing there was likely a market of dissatisfied Dan fans who would readily cough up the bucks for an "improved“ remaster geared to audiophiles.
     
    ggergm likes this.
  21. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    What could he do ?
     
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  22. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    The phase-y-ness on the vocals might not be unintentional too. That effect if found on many (vocals) recordings of the era. And Fagen has stated how weak he feels he is as a vocalist, so confidence being low, I can see using this to positive effect in a way.
     
  23. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Location:
    City of Angels
    A very fun 5.1 but of course!
     
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  24. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Think he would be better working with something like Can't Buy A Thrill in the 5.1.
     
  25. Phil Tate

    Phil Tate Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Shields
    I'd like to know this too. I've read contradictory reports from various sources, some of whom were actually involved. Be nice to have it irrefutably confirmed.
     

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