More of the Music of Steely Dan
Reviews and Commentaries for Aja
A couple of years ago, an interested party inquired about a Hot Stamper pressing of Aja he had seen on our site, specifically whether we were selling the AB first pressing or the AA reissue. You can find the discussion that ensued here.
As a kind of a postscript, we added:
By the way, [Joe] ended up not buying our Hot Stamper pressing. When you have to have an original, you have to have an original and that’s all there is to it.
If Joe was of a more scientific or skeptical bent — in other words, if he were more like me — he would have acquired an original, and then ordered our Hot Stamper in order to compare the two.
This is the subject I want to talk about today.
Audiophiles tend to subscribe to widely-held, conventional theories about what kinds of records are most likely to have the best sound. Outside of those of us who write for this blog, you will find very few audiophiles who believe that a substantial percentage of vintage reissues — not the modern ones, we’re talking about the ones from the 60s, 70s and even the 80s — are superior to their more original brethren.
Assuming Joe wanted the best sound — nobody who pays our prices could possibly be interested in anything else, right? — then he was simply making the point that since he wanted the best, and an original pressing absolutely had to be the best, nothing else would do, and that was that.
Joe could have done the experiment for himself easily enough. Had he asked us to send him our best AA pressing, we could have done that, and he could have compared that pressing to the original he no doubt owns, or, in the case that he had no original, acquiring one or more could have easily been arranged. They made them by the millions.
And that experiment might have resulted in an interesting learning experience, or not — who can say what the best pressing would have been on Joe’s stereo, with Joe’s ears doing the listening? It could have gone any which way, but something would have been gained in the act of sitting down to find out, for a fact, what pressing sounded better.
With all this in the back of my mind. just recently we did a shootout for Aja, and I checked the stampers for the two top copies.
Sure enough, the stampers found on the AB pressings won.
But those same stampers are found on the AA pressings for one of the titles, and one of the sides for the other title.
I could not even tell you for sure which pressings — Ab or AA — actually won, because we don’t keep track of that information.
We only buy early pressings on the original labels because those are the only ones that sound good to us.
We don’t pay attention to the catalog number on the label because that doesn’t tell us anything of value. Playing the records is how we know what they sound like, and unless all the AB pressings beat all the AA pressings, or vice-versa, then that information is none of our concern.
Even if all the AB copies beat all the AA copies, we still have to buy, clean and play the AA copies in our shootouts because some of them are going to do well and can be offered to the customers who don’t want to spend the big bucks the top copies command.
We are generally opposed to having one-size-fits-all theories about the messy world of records, and you can find some of the commentaries we written about that subject here.