Still confused about Decca Matrix codes [long]

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Bryon, Jun 19, 2004.

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  1. Bryon

    Bryon Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I know that this has been covered here a few times and I have searched the archives but I am still confused about Decca matrix codes and would love it if someone could enlighten me.

    Here is some information I have garnered from various places:

    "The lacquer number is at the 6 o'clock position immediately after the tape sequence number (the letter after the number is for the mastering engineer). At the 9 o'clock position is the mother number and at the 3 o'clock position is the stamper using the word B U C K I N G H A M to represent the numbers 1 thru 10. 11 is BB, 12 is BU…." Article By Sedrick Harris

    Here is a totally different interpretation of the codes presented by a seller on ebay who just sold a copy of Beggar's Banquet for over $600.

    "Decca's 60's UK pressing's are really easy to date, made simple by the sequence of the digit stamped at the end of the maitrix number. This is found in the run-out grooves in the 6 O'clock position. That digit never varied, starting with '-1' on both sides, rising with every successive pressing. The letter following the digit, varied depending on the year, but in 1968 they used a 'K' for stereo records or 'A' / ' B' for mono. So a first pressing will end with '-1K' on at least one of the sides. Tracing a record back to the very first to be made,
    it will have on both sides, this record's '-1K / -1K' maitrix ending."

    Is this accurate or just wishful thinking by someone trying to sell his record?

    Another possibility for the K in the above 1K would be given in The Absolute Sound, issue 44, page 182, The Decca Engineer Codes [thanks to Vinyl1 - audio asylum]

    E Stan Goodall
    F Cyril Windebank
    G Ted Burkett
    K Tony Hawkins
    L George Bettys
    V Quentin Williams
    W Harry Fisher

    Thus the 1K would suggest that it was the first lacquer engineered by Tony Hawkins.
    The date might be found by another set of letters:

    "On all English pressings by the Decca Company (this includes English RCA-SB records as well as VOX-turnabout and many others) you find a two-character coding on the disc, mostly above the label, sometimes at the side of the main stamp, and often faintly scribed. This coding gives you information about the age of the records. The codes used by Decca are:
    RT - from 1959
    ET - from 1960
    ZT - from 1962
    OT - from 1963
    MT - from 1965
    KT - about 1967 to 1969
    JT - about 1969 to 1972
    no age-codings were used after 1972" [author unknown but from audio asylum vinyl forum]

    Now when I try to apply this to a few of my Decca albums, I get confused.

    Can anyone help me interpret the following codes?

    Let it Bleed - Unboxed Decca so it should be an early pressing and sounds marvelous.

    6:00 - XZAL 9363-P -4W [both sides]
    9:00 - 2 and either a D or a B improperly pressed [side A] and 1 [side B]
    3:00 - ^ U [side A] and ^ 11 [side B]

    What does the P stand for before the laquer #? the D or B at 9:00 and the ^ and 11 which doesn't conform to the Buckingham code at 3:00

    It would also appear that I have a first pressing of Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out [XZAL 10076 - 1W on both sides] which also sounds amazing but has a boxed label. Was Ya-Ya's ever released with an unboxed labels?

    I have a number of other inconsistencies on other pressings but I think I have already taxed the patience of a number of readers so I'll limit my inquires to the above.

    thanks for taking the time to read to this point and for any and all help you can give me.

  2. Paul K

    Paul K Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    Question for also some have a XZAL and some are ZAL.

    Why the X on some?
  3. Paul K

    Paul K Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    Bump for those who know...
  4. peter

    peter Senior Member

    The only think I know is that I was shocked at one point when an open Decca stereo Bleed LP sounded worse than the boxed Decca copy I bought at Millers on Granville in 1975. I got rid it, needless to say.

    I have many (8) stereo and 2 mono copies of Bleed, all UK, and to my ears, the boxed copies all sound better. And, my one stereo unboxed copy is stone cold mint. not even one spindle trail! I think the matrixes of the boxed copies I have end in 4K or 5K.
  5. MikeyH

    MikeyH Stamper King

    Berkeley, CA
    Bryon, your eBay seller is incorrect. Your other sources have the right information.

    However, sellers make lots of claims about first pressings:
    - pressings made from first *masterings* or *lacquers* can be made years later. The -1 in -1K only gives the lacquer number. Lacquers may or may not exist in a numerical series, e.g. a particular album may start with -2 -1 then go -4 -4 for all sorts of reasons.

    - Decca revised their mastering electronics and cutting equipment all the time (if you read some of the story, they were all audio geeks and enthusiasts). I think the best rock stuff was made in the 70's. That would mean boxed blue and red labels (yes, even mono was being pressed up to about 1975 in the UK)

    While a lot is made of first masterings and such, Decca is one of the most consistent in my opinion (at least for pop and rock - classical stereo is another matter. Any compilation of Decca pop material was always superbly done.). I have disks with mismatched engineers on different sides, yet there is no glaring change of tone or level on flipping it over. I believe that cutting at Decca was seen as an engineering exercise - trying to get consistency, pressability, good stamper wear etc. rather than an art 'putting on to the disk a personality'. I think the cutting engineers had a training and apprentice program, and did a very consistent job. There is less visible difference between different Decca issues than with other companies. Despite my signature, I have no idea about the X. A good guess would be 'eXternal', i.e. not mastered at Decca. (the ZAL number is the the box number of the tape that was used to cut the side.. hence the increments side 2. Neat book-keeping)
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