Top Artists – Steely Dan & Donald Fagen Solos

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill – Speakers Corner Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

This has to be one of the worst sounding versions ever pressed. You think the average ABC or MCA pressing is opaque, flat and lifeless, not to mention compromised at both ends of the frequency spectrum? You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

As bad as the typical copy of this album is, the Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl is even worse, with not a single redeeming quality to its credit.

If this is what passes for an Audiophile Record these days, and it is, it’s just one more nail in the coffin for Heavy Vinyl. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Aja

Aja

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

I got the shipment today and it was meticulously packed. It all got here in perfect shape.

I could not resist doing a little side-by-side comparison of Aja tonight, as I have several copies. When I realized that different pressings sounded different (before I found your site) I began accumulating multiple copies, but I find it quite difficult to get loads of mint minus copies of anything. [It’s not as easy as it used to be, that’s for sure.]

Anyway, I was totally blown away. The Hot Stamper copy went WAY beyond what I expected in terms of the sonic shortcomings I could hear on the other pressings. Just… amazing… music.

The good news is my record collection should shrink by at least 75% in size as I sell off all the old multiple copies!

Adrian B.

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++! Super energetic and present, this record is on a completely different level than the typical pressing. We just finished a big shootout for Donald Fagen’s solo effort from 1982 (just two years after Gaucho and the end of Steely Dan) and we gotta tell you, there are a lot of weak sounding copies out there! We should know; we played them. 

We’ve been picking copies up for more than a year in the hopes that we’d have some killer Hot Stamper copies to offer, but most of them left us cold. Flat, edgy and bright, like a bad copy of Graceland, only a fraction had the kind of magic we find on the better Steely Dan albums. (more…)

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam – Turning Aggressive Energy into Pure Excitement

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The Royal Scam

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We really went overboard with the track commentary for this one. This should make it easy for you to compare what we say about the sound of these songs with what they sound like to you on your system, using the copy you own or, better yet, one of our Hot Stampers. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe below. This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should — but if you’ve done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life. (more…)

Letter of the Week – What Were Once Vices, Countdown to Ecstasy, Tapestry, Sweet Baby James, McCartney, Houses of the Holy and The Nightfly

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

As a new comer to your business, and to the entire concept of “Hot Stamper” records, I was naturally skeptical. Many of us have invested in a wide variety of vinyl that simple failed to live up to expectations. Initially I was going to order one and only one record from you, and test your bold promises. Instead, I ended up ordering a nice variety to truly put it to the test… investing a couple thousand dollars on faith. In short, I am now your customer for life.

As a point of reference, my system includes a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia powered by 2 mono-block McIntosh tube Amps and a Mc-tube preamp. Most importantly, a Brinkmann mag drive turntable with a Sumiko low output moving coil cartridge. So, not the world’s best system, but enough to discern what is to follow.

I ordered the following:
* Carole King Tapestry, ((White Hot Pressing)
* The Doobie Brothers, What Were Once Vices (White Hot Pressing)
* James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (White Hot Pressing)
* Paul McCartney, McCartney (Super Hot Pressing)
* Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (White Hot Pressing)

I warmed up my amps with the tuner for an hour or so and then sat and listened to some of my other records and reacquainted myself with the music from my system. First up was “What Were Once Vices…”. It was immediately apparent that I was getting a range as wide, if not wider than anything I had ever heard from my stereo. Then when I got to the last song on side one, “Road Angel” the guitar and drum interplay in the instrumental jam completely blew me away. Midway through I took the volume from loud to louder, and it exposed nothing but pure, sweet rock and roll. Literally gave me goose bumps.

I then listened to “Countdown to Ecstasy” and in this instance I owe a clean original copy, so I put it to the test. Back to back. I did not have to go past “Bodhisattva” to know it was no-contest. If I had to apply a percentage, something like 20% more music comes from the Hot Stamper, and this (like all of my orders) is one of my all time favorite albums. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Opening My Ears: Steely Dan, Half Speeds, Heavy Vinyl

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hi Tom,

Just a note to thank and curse you for opening my ears. On one hand, the
audio enhancements (Aurios, Stillpoints, Talisman and Disc Doctor fluid)
you’ve suggested have greatly improved my stereo system. I also upgraded
my phono cartridge and had the entire front end fine-tuned.

Now, LPs I’d once regarded as mediocre have shown new life and become
much more enjoyable. On the other hand, those I’d once thought sounded
impressive, have revealed themselves to be uninspiring. My entire Steely
Dan collection, for example, has become a major disappointment. Almost
all the half speeds, heavy vinyl and otherwise “audiophile” type
pressings have revealed themselves to be impostors.

What’s an audiophile to do? In my case, all the improvements I’ve made
have resulted in a thinning of the herd, so to speak, but I simply can’t
listen to crappy vinyl anymore. I’ve always maintained that the music
should be the most important thing but, what’s the point of listening to
sub par pressings when you find yourself becoming easily distracted and
wanting to hear something with some life in the grooves?

So I say damn you but thank you, Tom, for steering me in the right
direction. I’ll have a smaller collection as a result but will
appreciate the sonics of what’s left much more. You are a credit to a
hobby which is, otherwise, drowning in snake oil!

Bob M.
Huntington Beach, CA

See more of our Steely Dan albums in stock


Reviews of Audiophile LPs


Reviews of Heavy Vinyl LPs

Steely Dan – Gaucho – Listening In Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Gaucho, the last of the Must Own Steely Dan albums. 

Of all the great albums Steely Dan made, and that means their seven original albums and nothing that came after, there are only three in our opinion that actually support their reputation as studio wizards and recording geniuses.

Chronologically they are Pretzel Logic, Aja, and Gaucho. Every sound captured on these albums is so carefully crafted and considered that it practically brings one to tears to contemplate what the defective DBX noise reduction system did to the work of genius that is Katy Lied, their best album and the worst sounding. (Those cymbal crashes can really mess with your mind if you let them. To get a better picture of the DBX sound just bang two trash can lids together as close to your head as possible.)

The first two albums can sound very good, as can Royal Scam, but none of those can compete with The Big Three mentioned above for sonics. A Hot Stamper copy of any of them would be a seriously good sounding record indeed. (more…)

Steely Dan – The Parker’s Band Saxophone Battle Listening Exercise

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Parker’s Band — another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

Take three or four Pretzel Logic pressings, clean them up and just play the saxophone battle we discuss below. You won’t find any two copies that get those saxes to sound the same. We had twenty and no two sounded the same to us. 

By far the TOUGHEST test on side two is the saxophone battle at the end of the song. If you’ve got a badly mastered or pressed copy it’s sure to be an unmitigated sonic DISASTER: aggressive, hard, shrill, sour, irritating — pick whatever adjective makes you wince, because wincing is exactly what you will find yourself doing with the typical ABC or MCA LP on your table.

You need a copy with an extended top end to allow the harmonics of the saxes to be reproduced correctly. This is the only way they will sound balanced. Otherwise you will be left with a honky upper midrange aggressiveness that will no doubt be doing its level best to tear your head off. If the pressing in question has any added grit or grain, and they almost all do, you are in for even more trouble. Only the sweetest, most tonally correct, grain-free, full-bandwidth copies will let you dig those battling bopish saxes.

Ah, and it’s so good when they do.

Steely Dan – Katy Lied – A MoFi that Beggars Belief

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

By the time I was avidly collecting Mobile Fidelity records in the late ’70s this title had already gone out of print, one of the first to do so. My guess is that even the cloth-eared audiophiles at MoFi knew when they had a turkey on their hands and mercilessly put this one out to pasture. Yes, the sound is so bad that even MoFi could hear it. 

Compressed and lifeless as the screen speakers so popular at the time, it’s hard to imagine any version sounding worse than this one.

And yet I continued to play my copy, for enjoyment of course, oblivious — I must have been oblivious, right? — to the bad sound. (more…)