Steely Dan Aja vinyl shootout

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Sam, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. MooGoo

    MooGoo New Member

    Location:
    Cincinnati Ohio
    I have a nice MFSL of this fine Lp. Would love to hear the Cisco pressing.
     
  2. katstep

    katstep Forum Resident

    Did a shootout some months back with the Cisco and several stock ABC pressings and the Cisco won hands down. No contest on my setup. It had the breath of life. I'll have to go back and check my ABC pressings, but I can't imagine anything sounding better than the Cisco on my system. It's one of my go audiophile records.
     
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  3. MooGoo

    MooGoo New Member

    Location:
    Cincinnati Ohio
    I have three US AA 1006's that are far below the MFSL version's sound quality. I have never had nor heard an AB pressing but know of a used vinyl place locally that had more than 7 or 8 pressings od AJA in the bins... I will be making a trip there soon. The Cisco is on the wishlist for certain.
     
  4. Dragonwell

    Dragonwell Active Member

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Don't own a Cisco, but wish I did.
    I've compared a MOFI, an AA, and an AB "Promo", and my go to is the AB for sure.
     
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  5. MooGoo

    MooGoo New Member

    Location:
    Cincinnati Ohio
    Now I really need to find an AB to go with my MOFI.
     
  6. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    Location:
    Hyannis Ma
    Cisco. The rest got pitched.
     
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  7. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    Yes. Not so long ago, I scored a nice vintage AB pressing of Aja. It's pressed at the Santa Maria plant, and the handwritten matrixes end in 1A 1A. I don't think you can get any earlier than that. The handwriting looks like Bernie Grundman's, he gets the mastering credit inside the jacket.

    So, I did a shoot out between the Santa Maria 1A, another early AB copy from the Terra Haute plant, and the Cisco reissue.

    Firstly, I felt the Santa Maria 1A had a definite edge over the Terra Haute pressing. The Terra Haute was really very nice, but missing the ultimate magic. The Santa Maria was more immediate, and dynamic. In fact the sound was completely stunning, I was hearing all sorts of details for the first time.

    Then I compared the Santa Maria to the Cisco, which for years has been my "go to" copy. My findings were that I really liked both. Both copies were wonderful but different experiences. Each had its own advantages--the 1a Santa Maria had the more natural sound, and it sounded just right. The details were marvelous. The lows were low, and the vocals and drums were as lifelike as one could hope for a late 1970s Steely Dan production. However, there was a slight tendency towards inner groove distortion, especially at the end of "Deacon Blues".

    The Cisco copy had really clean audio and the quieter surfaces were a nice feature. It's closer to playback perfection. The inner grooves and the loud peaks tracked better on the Cisco, especially in the drum solo on the title track. In fact, I've yet to hear a system that could fully track the peaks of all the ride cymbals and high hats, they are brutal. Overall, I really liked the Cisco, it had a bit of that audiophile sheen or 'air' to it. Most enjoyable.

    In summary, there's no way I would sell either of these copies, Aja sounds fab on both.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2013
  8. MickAvory

    MickAvory Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    So, are we saying here that the Second variation with the B scratched out is essentially the same as the first pressing in mastering terms? My copy has the B scratched out, but also has Re-3 on both sides. Does that change anything around?
     
  9. Sam

    Sam Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    I emailed Michael Fremer yesterday and asked him about the tape used for the Cisco and the AA, AB pressing differences, based on some members believing that the true uncompressed master tape was used for the Cisco release. His reply is below:

    "The original tape has long since vanished. Cisco used the best available source. Given the source, yes, the plating and pressing produced the good results. I have both an AA and an AB but the AB doesn't have any mastering identification on it. In the case of Bernie there's almost always a "BG" but I don't see one on it."

    I don't believe that Bernie put his "BG" on any Aja pressing, but that's my opinion since I never heard about his initials on any aja lp. But I do hear a world of difference between MY AA and AB copy. If Bernie did master both, then SOMETHING happened with the plating and pressing of the AA to make it inferior.
     
  10. Sam

    Sam Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Then something has to account for the wide variation in sound quality that I and others hear between the AA and AB matrix pressings.
     
  11. rl1856

    rl1856 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    SC
    A toungue in cheek Thank You to the author of this post because of your accomplishments: As a result, Ebay sellers will jack up their prices for "AB" pressings and you just validated the sales practices of Better Records...aka the purveyer of "Hot Stampers". Now I must hurry home to check the matrix info of my much cherished copy of AJA.....

    Thanks for the hard work and your willingness to share the info.

    Best,

    Ross
     
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  12. c-eling

    c-eling Forum Resident

    What does the AS-SX in the AA refer to?
     
  13. Sam

    Sam Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Well, maybe it will make the AB matrix prices go up. I can't help that. But man, sharing information, free information with you guys and gals on this forum is what its all about. I have learned so much from Steve and other members, and if I can, I want to share what I have found as well. It was nice to know from Steve (posted above) that only the very first pressings of Aja used the master tape, and from Fremer that the Cisco pressing DID NOT use the original master tape as others had thought.
     
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Where do the UK ABC cuts fit in the grand scheme of things? Mine is an A2/B2 (orange gradient label, ABC logo in musical note, gatefold sleeve, lyric inner).
     
  15. GreatTone

    GreatTone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Falls Church, VA
    Nobody has the Japanese reissue from a few years back? It really is quite good.
     
  16. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    I have an AB and AA with -1A / -1 B matrices. The AA release clearly shows, in the dead wax, the B of 'AB' was scribbled out and a small A scribed next to it - making it an AA! I played them back to back. No sonic differences of note. Then again - they are the same cuttings. Its possible later cuts during the AA catalog period may not be up to snuff. But listing simply AB and AA doesn't say much about the source of the pressing. One may have to list the complete dead wax information.
     
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  17. Daniel Thomas

    Daniel Thomas Well-Known Member

    I bought a copy of Aja for $4 from one of the local record shops. The sound is terrific, very musical, and a good showcase album for my stereo system. I just checked the inner groove, and it turns out I have an AB pressing. Nice!

    This was a very helpful thread, thanks a lot!
     
  18. randy9700

    randy9700 Well-Known Member

    Like you I bought the Japanese pressing. At the time the Cisco and Japanese pressing came out I couldn't decide between the two so I bought both. Both are still sealed because I have a number of AA pressings (No AB pressing at the moment) and just never got around to opening them. I have no regrets about buying the Japanese version and one of these days I will open them both and give them a spin to compare them...Randy
     
  19. Sam

    Sam Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    From what I understand, IF the B is scratched out and an A placed over or near it, then it is the same pressing as an AB. They did that to indicate different price levels. However, if you DO NOT see the B scratched out, and the AA appears cleanly and clearly, then it appears, based on my ears and those of others, that it is indeed a different mastering.
     
  20. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Location:
    Northern VA, USA
    My copy has the "B" scribbled out on both sides to make it a modified "AA". It also has the Union Jack that reeler mentioned on page 1 on both sides, and the additional stamped (not hand written) RE-1 on side A and RE-2 on side B. Strange deadwax - I don't think I've ever seen that little stamped Union Jack on any other vinyl. I also have an old RCA Record club copy and a Blue Cloud MCA "Super Stars at Super Savings" copy. They don't sound nearly as good as the AAB copy.

    I'm not obsessive enough about the album to need/want to better my ABC vinyl copy (though I was obsessive enough to buy three copies on vinyl over the years... :-/) of my MFSL UltraDiscII CD copy.
     
  21. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Yes of course, clearly the lacquer was made at the time AA was the current catalog code. I have no idea how many lacquers would have been cut - this was a massively popular album. Had to be several. Thats why I said earlier - its probably best to listen to different pressings of several AA pressings and see whats up. If I understand the history right, these would have been made off a vinyl cutting master.
     
  22. TLMusic

    TLMusic Musician & record collector

    Regarding "BG" in the deadwax. I frequently see that on Classic Records reissues from the 2000s.

    However, I have scores of LPs with the same distinctive handwriting (4's with sharp points, 2's look like backwards inverted number 5s, etc.). These are early pressings, and are credited to Bernie Grundman, either in the liner notes or on his website. I have not seen a Bernie Grundman credited LP from the 1960s-1980s with "BG" in the deadwax.

    I have to wonder when Grundman began signing his deadwax with "BG". Maybe in the 1990s with possible exceptions?

     
  23. GreatTone

    GreatTone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Falls Church, VA
    I have an original copy of Joni Mitchell's "Ladies of the Canyon" with a tiny BG in the deadwax. Also, pretty sure I've seen it on James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James." I also have lots of records with his distinctive handwriting without the BG, particularly late-60s A&M records.
     
  24. GreatTone

    GreatTone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Falls Church, VA
    You need to crack those open, play them, and report back!
     
  25. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident

    I didn't remember that that the Cisco pressing was something Hoffman worked on.

    I gotta tell ya, I'm with the OP. I liked the Cisco pressing on my previous inferior turntable setup, but on my VPI Scout, it sounds almost smiley-faced to me. Something lacking in the midrange and a little too much in the highs. I definitely prefer the better ABC pressing, although I still need to find one in NM condition. I remember everyone saying how great the Cisco was, but this one doesn't work for me. A bummer too given how common the original LP is.
     

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