Steely Dan Aja vinyl shootout

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

  1. Sam

    Sam Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Rochester, NY
    Well, that's a little hard on Fremer. How the hell is one supposed to "know" what Bernie's handwriting looks like as opposed to someone else's handwriting. What's most important is that Fremer KNEW that the Cisco release WAS NOT produced from the master tape. Bernie has, for many years, placed BG in the runout groove. Sounds like you have a past axe to grind with Fremer.
  2. Paul Saldana

    Paul Saldana jazz vinyl addict

    After hearing the AB cut of the ABC pressing, I dumped my MCA and MFSL, the latter was the worst of the three. I haven't heard the Cisco. The DIDX-55 cd is decent, but lacks detail in the upper frequencies. I now play my needledrop in the car.
  3. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Forum Resident

    The AB is a catalog number. Individual AB LPs will bear particular information about the lacquers. While I am not into documenting the codes for this particular title, its highly unlikely that only one lacquer was cut initially given the Dans's popularity at the time. As mentioned, matrix or codes have been found on AA pressings that were used for the AB's. The question remains whether the earliest lacquers were cut totally un-futzed with, or, are just an initial EQ job made before the EQ'd LP cutting master(s) were made.
  4. bvirts

    bvirts Active Member

    Not sure, one is an ABC and one is an MCA. I haven't A/B'd them. I've always just played the ABC, and it sounds good.
  5. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    Sweet VA.
    Yes, I saw that after posting, thanks. Would not the AA with a scratched out B be the same plate just repressed?
  6. Randy W

    Randy W Forum Resident

    Late to this thread but I agree with Clay:

    My go to copy of Aja has the B of 'AB' scribbled out and a small A scribed next to it. It's sonically head and shoulders above the other "AB" samples I've tried - obviously pressed from a fresh stamper and in Mint condition.

    Never liked the Cisco. Unfortunately, it is unlikely we are going to get anything mastered from the original master tapes for Steely Dan.
  7. bibijeebies

    bibijeebies Forum Resident

    Amstelveen (NL)
    Simple question:
    has somebody ever asked Bernie Grundman directly how to recognize his Aja LP mastering?
  8. Jim T

    Jim T Forum Resident

    My AJA says:
    AB-1006 (RE.3) ^P4 this is side A
    AB-1006 (RE.3) B this is side B

    I always thought this disc sounded very good. My jacket says Bernie Grundman mastering.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
  9. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    Sweet VA.
    Went to the record store today....and found a true AB with an 1-A/1-B - do a shoot out with the 1st tracks on both sides. My other copy an AA with the scratched out B. It is a P4/X. What I found confirms what others have said. It appears the AB and the AAB are the same, side one with the 1A sounded better against the P4 as one would expect, the 1B vs the X was much closer. But, the general sound quality is the same, the 1A/1B just had a sharper low end attack and slightly better detail.
  10. rl1856

    rl1856 Forum Resident

    I recently picked up a "AB" scratched out AA pressing. Turns out my pristine copy from back in the day is a AA pressing. So of course I had to compare....

    AB: Great clarity. Wide and deep soundstage. Great recovery of details. I could hear the initial strike of the guitar pick against the string during the guitar solo. I could also hear whether the string was struck from the bottom or the top. Great sense of dynamics overall.

    AA: Less image depth, but similar width, maybe a smidgen wider? This pressing doesn't sound as dynamic as the other, with less dynamic range. It sounds like it was mastered at a slightly lower level. On the other hand, sounds like the tubular bells and some of the piano parts seemed more realistic to me.

    AB is definitely the better pressing.
  11. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    Are there little union jacks in the deadwax?
  12. Hasafraker

    Hasafraker New Member

    I just picked up a copy of this, I've never heard the album before at least not in it's entirety, my folks and my aunt played this stuff when I was a kid. I think it was in a thread from this board that said to look for the ABC pressing vs the MCA. I got lucky, not only does this thing play as NM with almost zero noise it sounds fantastic. So I don't torture my wife I'm going to listen to it again through my headphones. I wrote down my codes just for fun.

    T1 AB 1006(RE-3)-A T3 and T1 AB 1006(RE-3)-B-2 Honestly the numbers are really cool to know that it looks like I got one of the AB pressings, it sounds crazy good, I can't wait to hear it through my headphone rig.
  13. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Forum Resident

    New Mexico USA
    I've got an AA and an AB scratched out AA pressing and I can't hear a lick of difference between 'em. The pristine, chilly qualities of this album's obsessive sonic perfection shines through on both.
  14. RJ3000

    RJ3000 Forum Resident

    Milton, MA
    I picked up a copy of Aja during my second go around at the Salvation Army store near my in-laws (as detailed in my "$50 to 50¢" thread). Almost skipped it as I thought ABC Records was some sort of cheapo Ktel Records type of label.

    Just took a look at it and my side one appears to have the AB crossed out replaced with a larger AA to the left, so:
    AA [scratch out] 1006(RE-3)-A, handwritten with the little union jack flag

    Side two doesn't have the scratch out but the AA looks to be machine stamped kind of type, so:
    AA 1006(RE-3)-B and then either a '2' or a 'K', also has the union jack

    Haven't cleaned on my VPI 16.5 yet, but gave a spin anyway and sounded great. Some slight ticking at the beginning of Deacon Blues, else a pretty clean listen.

    The best 25¢ I've spent! :D
    Hasafraker likes this.
  15. Red

    Red Forum Resident

    My vinyl copy says: Made in Germany 25046 A-2/82S R/S A 250449-1 A. Noted on inner sleeve is AB-1006 Printed in USA.

    Seems like I'm lucky.
  16. bibijeebies

    bibijeebies Forum Resident

    Amstelveen (NL)
    that's this one:
    MCA 1982 repress made by Record Service Alsdorf
  17. Red

    Red Forum Resident

    Thanks. Did someone replace the inner sleeve on my copy or did they come with Printed in USA inner sleeve? Guess my copy does not have the original mastering.
  18. bibijeebies

    bibijeebies Forum Resident

    Amstelveen (NL)
    Without a picture of the actual inner sleeve I cannot determine this.
    Note that side 1 has the Ariola deadwax notation: 25046 A-2/82S, they always had the year in the date.
    The 1st German is this pressing:
    25 046 XOT
  19. Preston

    Preston Forum Resident

    KCMO Metro USA
    I got lucky this weekend and scored a NM copy of Aja (it didn't even have ring wear on the cover), with the AAB-1006 matrix numbers at my local record emporium for $7. I have to agree with those who said that it is superior to the Cisco that I have. The vinyl is somewhat noiser than the Cisco, but is still excellent. The bass on both is very similar, but the AAB-1006 LP just sounds clearer and more dynamic overall. I have to admit to being stunned by this revelation, as I always thought the Cisco was beyone reproach (and it IS).

    I had previously picked up a copy of Gaucho with MD2 stampers (with "EDP" or "EPD" in an oval) and boy does it destroy the SACD and other LPs of this album that I have. Too bad it's a VG or VG+ copy. The search continues!

    Thank you SHMF members!
  20. Ken E.

    Ken E. Forum Resident

    New Providence NJ
    I just played my two copies back to back.
    One is Canadian yellow ABC, SN 9022-1006. 1006A/1006B in deadwax. Good sounding but lacking in depth and especially percussion detail (wood block on AJA doesn't snap). Does seem to be recorded lower relative to number two, american black ABC SN AA 1006 on spine. Record identified mfd. by RCA Music Service under License. SN on record is AB 1006. Deadwax has R123475 A hand written/ R123475B stamped and an A1 stamped on both sides! This has it all over the other copy, clarity, lots of bottom, deep and detailed - and recorded 2/3 db hotter per my RS meter. No question which one sounds the best, I guess somehow I lucked out with an RC pressing!
  21. RelayerNJ

    RelayerNJ Forum Resident

    Whippany, NJ
    I think the Cisco sounds a little jacked. I like the warmth of the Mofi. I feel it compliments the music better and gives more atmosphere.
  22. DPM

    DPM Forum Resident

    Nevada, USA
    If by "jacked" you mean compressed I can assure you it's not. There's plenty of dynamics on the Cisco LP.

    The original LP was made from a copy of the master after said master had been run through a compressor set at 2 for 1 compression (the lowest setting). This was done because it was feared that the turntables of the day wouldn't be able to track the grooves if the full dynamics were left intact. The 2 for 1 compressed copy of the original master became the de facto master tape from which all subsequent LPs and CDs were derived.

    All of this was discussed on this forum back when the Cisco LP was released. How the facts got turned around I don't know. What I do know is when I listen to the Cisco the bottom end doesn't sound fattened up and there seems to be a bit more space between the instruments. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the Cisco used the true uncompressed master. Maybe be a copy of said uncompressed master was made. But the word at the time was this was the first time the original uncompressed stereo master had been used in the mastering/manufacturing of an LP or CD. Indeed, the Cisco LP does sound a bit more dynamic/less congested to my ears.

    Part of the reason that the bass sounds fatter on the original LP is because of the mild compression used. The same goes for the original CD as it used the same tape. Said compression does give this album some extra kick. There's nothing wrong with that. It could be legitimately argued that Aja needs said compression to bring it to life. Hey, different strokes for different folks.

    All I can say is I have an original pressing and the Cisco. Both sound great, but I prefer the Cisco--particularly for side 2. ( Side 1 I can go either way.) Your mileage may vary.
    nitsuj, BGLeduc, jgrillo and 2 others like this.
  23. mpayan

    mpayan Forum Resident

    Lots of great info in this thread guys, thanks! I dont really have much to add other than an agreement that the AB is awesome.

    Its always weird to read about the tapes. Here is a band who were perfectionist in the studio, make clockwork like recordings, skillfully engineered and mastered..and *poof* tapes are gone. How the hell does that happen exactly? Seems like Fagen and the boys after so much hard work would be hugely protective of their tapes. None of my business as to how and if and why; but always weird to me to read these things.
    rockclassics likes this.
  24. coffeecupman

    coffeecupman Well-Known Member

    Caterham, UK
    I think it's that the qualities that make great musicians are not similar to the qualities that make great archivists.

    No way to know for sure, but that's my suspicion.

    Aftermath likes this.
  25. rob303

    rob303 Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    I know this will go on for eternity, but Aja is worth it!

    From Fremer (

    "If you're a fan of Aja you should try to track down an original (ABC AB-1006). It beats the Cisco and especially the thuddy Mobile Fidelity from way back when. There are two catalog numbers here: AA-1006 and AB-1006. AA is actually a later catalog number but both editions were mastered by Bernie Grundman (though you won't see "BG" in the inner groove area) and I can't hear much of a difference between the two."
    nitsuj likes this.

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