Steely Dan CDs Different Masterings: A Decade of Steely Dan

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by BartK, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. psound

    psound New Member


    You're right, the 2006 Definitive Coll uses the FM with guitar solo ending & running time of 4:51, cool..:)

    So I'd better consider for Showbiz Kids for the "Here At The Western World" track.


    Very interesting history...I did not know such thing happen in company like MCA. So prior to 1999 remastered, there were 3 version of SD 7 albums:

    1. The original issue : sourced from digital tape prepared by R Nichols

    2. The early 90's issues: sourced from the deteriorating old analog masters

    3. The MCA newly remastered issue as a replacement for no. 2 : same source as no. 1

    Or no. 3 is the 1999 R Nichols remastered ?

    How to identify each version, particularly no. 1 as the best sounding version? Is there any discussion on how to identify in this forum or others?


    Gee..too bad (it's considered) that there's a need for such kind of sonic..where CDs are purposely made to sound "less than optimal". IMHO such decision does not ideally serve the music or the art, nor does it educate people, but I clearly understand that music needs to be sold...

    So you're a recording engineer...that's awesome man, I'm very interested in such area + mastering, because I love music, listening not playing, & have been thinking about studying recording/mastering engineering to later pursue a career in that area...but doing so means a major career change into a much unknown (to me) world & certainly not at young age...Maybe later we could chat more about recording engineering, if you don't mind, perhaps in this forum's private conversation cause to do so in this thread would be off-topic ?

    Eventhough having SD Cds for only a few months, based on what I can capture I really agree that SD is amazing, they're like no other indeed. I like buying albums, actually not a fans of best of/collection, I feel that albums provide a musical satisfaction, i.e. a complete & coherent musical message or whatever it is that the artist trying to communicate. In SD case, just trying to find good sounding Cds which might be one or two of the collections available out there. As for the 7 albums...if I'm being honest, pursuing them might be, oh well, inevitable..;).

    I appreciate your help Paul,

    Prinadi
  2. Paul P.

    Paul P. Active Member

    Location:
    Seattle, WA, USA
    Yup!

    The theory is that #3 are the 1998/1999 R. Nichols remasters.

    As for identifying these versions, you'll need to get a copy of EAC - Exact Audio Copy. It's free, and we use it to generate tables of peak track volumes directly from the CDs, which, the theory goes, can be used to identify masterings.

    Then, our own forums will provide the rest:

    Can't Buy A Thrill
    Countdown to Ecstasy
    Pretzel Logic
    Katy Lied
    The Royal Scam
    Aja
    Gaucho

    These are the threads that got me on the right track. There are many other fine threads on this forum that will also be helpful - there's a lot of Steely Dan Fans around these parts. :D

    And - just so we don't wander too far off topic, here's the "A Decade Of Steely Dan" EAC values and matrix numbers I have:

    Nichols/Ludwig (Katz on label)
    Disc Spine: DIDX-306 MCAD-5570
    Matrix: DIDX-306 2896 613 03 * (West German)
    EAC Values:
    94.0/ 100.0/ 93.4/ 91.0/ 76.1/ 86.3/ 86.2/ 91.0/ 67.8/ 79.2/ 44.4/ 88.8/ 96.4/ 100.0

    Cut-off & crackle are present. No Barcode.

    This exactly matches your Mastering 2a. :)

    Cheers,
    Paul

    P.S. A post-script:

    Sure - very happy to chat. Fair warning - I haven't done much with my audio engineering degree per se. I've been working mostly as a software tester after my daughter was born, so I'm a little behind the curve nowadays. :)
  3. psound

    psound New Member

    Cool link to each thread of the magnificent 7..:). I've bought Katy Lied & Royal Scam, both 1999 issue, to me they sound quite similar & both are better sounding than my Aja (sound fuller, less artificial, more like 3D images). Quite surprising particularly for Katy Lied which I expected to sound inferior due to problems with noise reduction that I read about before. As for the music...let just say that now I have better understanding what the fuss on Steely Dan is all about...they're simply exceptional.
    Based on your suggestion I've downloaded the EAC & have used it on my copy of Aja, Katy L & Royal S.

    Thanks Paul for all your helpful info & insights, I really appreciate it.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  4. princesskiki

    princesskiki Well-Known Member

    Hi. I just wanted to think out loud here:

    Regarding the glitch on "Bad Sneakers" on the original Nichols/Ludwig mastered MCA CD pressings, that glitch is NOT on the original digital transfer that Nichols did around 1983 or 1984. That glitch is either a part of Nichols/Ludwig mastering or just on the glass masters (or whatever physical form that MCA sent to the plants at that time) that were sent out to the JVC Japan, Polygram West Germany, etc. plants. The facts supporting my statement are: (1) "Bad Sneakers" on the earliest MCA CD pressings of Katy Lied (which was also manufactured by JVC Japan, by the way) does NOT have the glitch around 24 seconds into the song; and (2) "Bad Sneakers" on Canada-only "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" also does NOT have the glitch. In other words, the original source does NOT have the glitch and the glitch only appears present on the early pressings of "Decade Of Steely Dan" (or "Best Of") mastered by Nichols/Ludwig.

    Also, regarding Nichols/Ludwig mastering of "Decade Of Steely Dan", if you carefully listen to each track against the earliest Japan for U.S. (manufactured by JVC Japan) MCA CD of each album from which the songs are taken, you will notice some EQ'ing here and there. On the other hand, the original Cinram Canada pressing of "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" CD sounds basically identical to the tracks on earliest JVC Japan MCA CD pressings of the individual albums.

    While I agree that Nichols/Ludwig mastered "Decade Of Steely Dan" is an excellent sounding CD, it is NOT a flat transfer of the original digital transfer made by Nichols (with Steve Hoffman, I think). If you like Steve Hoffman mastered Katy Lied CD, for example, I think you will really enjoy the ORIGINAL Canadian CD pressing of "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" (made by Cinram), which is a flat transfer of the original digital transfer made by Nichols (and Steve Hoffman). (Please note that there were multiple pressings of "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" manufactured by Cinram; while all Cinram pressings may share the same digital source, the very first/earliest pressing sounds more "analog-like" than the later pressing; my original pressing has the following matrix: "MCAD-6008" "MFG BY CINRAM" "#900820B".)

    The Canadian "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" is a different compilation from the U.S. "Decade Of Steely Dan". The Canadian "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" is a CD issue of the double-LP from the late 70's (Robert Ludwig-mastered copies of which are highly regarded among audiophiles), and therefore does not have the tracks from post-Aja (including my personal favorite "Babylon Sisters"). The Canadian "Steely Dan Greatest Hits", however, has additional cuts from pre-Aja albums and the total time is more than 80 minutes (much more music than the U.S. "Decade Of Steely Dan"). Besides, the sound on the Canadian "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" is noticeably better than the U.S. "Decade Of Steely Dan" (although the latter is excellent in its own right).

    I often see a copy of the original Canadian "Steely Dan Greatest Hits" on eBay for cheap, usually less than $10.

    I really hope that someone takes my advice and tries a copy for him or herself. I am quite certain that I won't receive any complaints.
    Dave likes this.
  5. jbgoode

    jbgoode New Member

    Hi, today i found my copy of A Decade Of Steely Dan.
    On the front of the booklet it says: A Decade Of Steely Dan (The Best Of)
    The red spine mentions the same, with the additional info: DIDX-306 MCAD-5570
    On the back it says: Produced by Gary Katz. Remastered by Bob Ludwig and Roger Nichols. Digitally remastered from the original first generation masters.

    EAC: 94/100/93,4/91/76,1/86,3/86,2/91/67,8/79,2/44,4/88,8/96,4/100.

    The Disc itself says:
    A Decade Of Steely Dan.
    Manufactured in Japan for MCA Records Inc. 70 Universal City Plaza , Universal City, California - U.S.A.
    Produced by Gary Katz.
    Compiled and remastered by Gary Katz.
    Matrix: MCAD - 5570 - S8 F31 (i haven't seen this number mentioned before.....)
    Do it again fades out, and i couldn't hear a crackle on Bad Sneakers, although i didn't have the time yet to listen with headphones..!
  6. princesskiki

    princesskiki Well-Known Member

    The matrix most likely ends "E31" and not "F31".
  7. jbgoode

    jbgoode New Member

    Well, i looked again with a magnifying glass, and i still would say it's an F, although the downside of the E or F ends exactly on the grey circle, so i'm just 98% sure it's an F.....
    (is E or F typical for a japan disc)?
  8. princesskiki

    princesskiki Well-Known Member

    Hi. Your disc was manufactured by JVC Japan (Victor Company of Japan) around 1985, based on the fact that your matrix has "dashes" and has "S". Every "S" matrix I have seen ends with something like "E" plus a two-digit number. I have never seen a "F". :wave:
  9. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Maven Of Rare Earth

    Location:
    Eastern Iowa
    Gosh I'd love to have that disc again. Like a fool, I traded it in for the remaster...when I thought remaster was better.
  10. Levitated

    Levitated Well-Known Member

    I hear ya, I was guilty of the same sins once! Got lucky with this CD, saw a smooth sided case in the used bin & "made in Japan" on the back, so grabbed it. Cost about $7 a few years ago. The only Cd's I'll sell back these days are remasters!
  11. Steve Martin

    Steve Martin Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Plano, TX
    Just wanted to finish the details on my copy which after all has settled out is definitely mastering 2b, EAC values match including 97.7 for Bad Sneakers

    MCAD-5570 DIDX 306 on spine
    MCAD-5570 154135D on CD itself

    Mfd. for RCA Direct Marketing, Inc under License D 154135 in place of bar code
    Made in U.S.A under Compact Disc logo on CD
    Matrix D1-54135 1A5 D75
    Nothing in clear section of hub
  12. RoyalScam

    RoyalScam Luckless Pedestrian

    Just checked my A Decade of Steely Dan...

    Seems to match Mastering 2a - it has the cold ending on "Do It Again" and the digital crackle on "Bad Sneakers" at the :22-23 mark, both detectable clearly on headphones. I can't do EAC levels, as I'm on a Mac.

    Spine and rear artwork read "MCAD-5570 DIDX-306", no bar code. Spine reads "Remastered by Bob Ludwig and Roger Nichols" (Though the CD says "Remastered by Gary Katz")

    CD Matrix reads "MCAD-5570-2T" in a clear laser print, followed by an etching that looks like "124" or "*24".

    CD states "A Decade of Steely Dan" (not "The Best of Steely Dan") and is "Manufactured in U.S.A. for MCA Records, Inc., 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California -- U.S.A."

    Since all previously listed instances of Mastering 2a seem to be Japan or WG manufactures, I figured I'd share this one that's clearly a U.S.A. manufacture...hence later than the previous ones, yet previous to the corrected 2b or later masterings.
  13. Hoyaloya

    Hoyaloya New Member

    A Decade of Steely Dan
    Nichols/Ludwig (Katz on label - says remastered from the Original first generation masters)
    Disc Spine: DIDX-306 MCAD-5570
    Matrix: DIDX-306 2896 613 02 # (Manufactured in West Germany for MCA Records Inc.)
    EAC Values:
    94.0/ 100.0/ 93.4/ 91.0/ 76.1/ 86.3/ 86.2/ 91.0/ 67.8/ 79.2/ 44.4/ 88.8/ 96.4/ 100.0

    Cold Cut-offon Do It Again & crackle present at 23 seconds of Bad Sneakers. No Barcode.
  14. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Active Member

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    "A Decade of Steely Dan" was one of the very first CDs I ever bought. Years later I borrowed a friend's Glenn Meadows remaster and dubbed it for the sake of comparison. Meanwhile, my original "made in Japan" Nichols/Ludwig CD has become somewhat unstable and the last few tracks no longer play (or can be ripped) correctly (even though it appears to be in near-perfect physical condition). The Meadows disc plays perfectly. Can someone please explain exactly WHY the Meadows remaster gets panned so much in these forums? Is it brickwalled? Is the EQ screwy? Something else? Are some people just putting it down because they read someone else's negative comments? I've heard FAR worse so I don't really "get" the harsh criticism. I have all the original SD albums on vinyl and know them backwards and forwards. Thanks.
  15. RoyalScam

    RoyalScam Luckless Pedestrian

    I can tell you the Gold Ultradisc remaster, which I believe was done by Meadows, is awfully high-endy. If the regular silver disc uses that same mastering, then that's likely the major complaint. Which is weird, because I wouldn't describe the Meadows-mastered Citizen box as awfully high-endy.
    SteelyNJ likes this.
  16. Jerry James

    Jerry James Active Member

    I just picked up a copy that I'm unsure about. It's "A Decade of Steely Dan" with a red spine and DIDX 306 and MCAD-5570 on spine. On the disc is: MCAD-5570 to the right of the Compact Disc logo, Manufactured in Japan for MCA... above the Compact Disc logo. Inner silver ring has MCAD-5570 (at approx. 3 o'clock), UNI (at approx. 9 o'clock) and N38642-6 (at approx. 11 o'clock). It's got the cold "cut-off" and the "static" issues mentioned above. Total time is 68:09. Sounds pretty muddy to me, but I'm no expert. Anyone know about this issue?
  17. SteelyTom

    SteelyTom Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston, Mass.
    But you're an expert on how it sounds to you, right? Or are you relying on other people to tell you how it sounds?
  18. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Maven Of Rare Earth

    Location:
    Eastern Iowa
    if you don't like it, I will gladly take it off your hands for what you paid for it. I've been after that disc for a long time, to no avail :)
  19. Jerry James

    Jerry James Active Member

    Well, I suppose I should have been more specific by saying that I'm not familiar with the album enough to know what other pressings sound like; and/or if this pressing is considered by few/many to be superior/inferior. I'm trusting my initial listening (only using headphones so far, but that's my usual listening habit) that I'm pretty underwhelmed with how it sounds. I guess I'm also curious if there are those familiar with this pressing that share my opinion, or not. Finally, I didn't see any mention of this pressing in this thread, so perhaps it's a new addition here.
  20. Jerry James

    Jerry James Active Member

    Goodwill: $1.99
  21. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Maven Of Rare Earth

    Location:
    Eastern Iowa
    I always check my local Goodwill for stuff and never find anything to my tastes.
  22. Jason Pumphrey

    Jason Pumphrey Forum Resident

    I saw a few days a ago at Goodwill a different edition of Decade Of Steely Dan, this uses the early 90s MCA logo, and has a red labeled disc.
    Sadly it was scratched to death, so on rack it still sits.
    I have three CD's of the older version, one says Best Of on the disc (CRC edition), the others say Decade.
    As for content, they should have swapped East St Louis Toodle-oo, for Dirty Work, and Babylon Sisters for Time Out Of Mind, but it is what it is.
    Now I will have to now check for Bad Sneakers crackle and Do It Again's ending on all three,
  23. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Active Member

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    For me, Babylon Sisters and Time Out Of Mind is pretty much a wash (I like both tracks more or less equally), but there's absolutely no question that the Duke Ellington/Bubber Miley cover East St. Louis Toodle-Oo is the weak link of the CD and a poor choice for a "greatest hits" type compilation album.
  24. Jason Pumphrey

    Jason Pumphrey Forum Resident

    Also, the Citizen Steely Dan box set should have been done right in the first place.
    It should have been 5-7 discs to include, the unique 45 single edits/mixes, some alterate mixes/takes, all the versions of FM, and of course the very rare Dallas b/w Sail The Waterway.
    Fans would have been uber happy!
    Emberglow likes this.
  25. Yost

    Yost Active Member

    Location:
    The Netherlands