steelaja

Steely Dan – Aja

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

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  • Presenting a STUNNING copy of Steely Dan’s magnificent Jazzy Pop breakthrough album
  • This one arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Punchy, full and smooth, with the kind of rhythmic energy that brings out the jazzy funk in the music
  • A Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 album and a true Demo Disc on an exceptional pressing like this
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records … a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest. “

Folks, there’s not much I can tell you about this copy of Aja that’s going to make you want this record, other than to say this: If you’re in the market for a superb pressing of what’s gotta be the most beloved Steely Dan record they made, look no further. It’s right here. (more…)

Question about Aja: “Are these all original issue from September 1977 when the album was first released?”

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

Got this letter a while back:

  Hey Tom,   

I’m very interested in purchasing one of your copies of Steely Dan’s Aja. Are the catalog numbers the same for all 3 albums? Are these all original issue from September 1977 when the album was first released?

I’m new to your website (and vinyl collecting in general) so any commentary you have would be appreciated. $200 is probably the most I can afford for this album.

Thanks,
Joe

Joe, yes, only the early pressings of the album are any good and we would not sell anything else. They would not have all come out in September but they look as original as any others would. You will get a lot of sound and music for your money on this album, and you should hear a world of difference between our copy and any other you may own.

Best, TP

Got it – Can you just confirm the catalog number is AB 1006? I’m specifically looking at the version that’s $199 on your site.

Thanks,
Joe

Dear Joe,

Keep in mind that we’re the guys who are all about sound, not originality.

We discussed it in our FAQ as a matter of fact: Are Hot Stampers Just Original Pressings?

This listing gets to the point: Original Is Better? Sez Who?

These are all records that sound better on the right reissue pressing, not the original:

Records that Sound Best on the Right Reissue Pressing (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Dropping you a line to tell you that these two Hot Stampers have four of the greatest sounding sides of music I have experienced.”

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

Hey Tom,   

Dropping you a line to tell you that these two Hot Stampers have four of the greatest sounding sides of music I have experienced. The new HS Aja and Fragile blew me away. I often start a listening session with the good intention of documenting the experience for you. I quickly blow that idea off and just start falling into the music. It would take thousands of words to explain the total experience. These two records have a presence and soundstage that put me in the studio (again, like your Sgt. Peppers) or feet from the stage.

In your description of Aja, you commented on Becker’s guitar floating on a bed of cool studio air front and center on “I got the news.” I became more interested and awed at the controlled pressure he was using on the strings with his left hand. The “harmonic” sounds of the notes were completely narcotic. With Fragile, the translucent layering of instruments and their note decay, danced across the room like sparks, making my head swim. At times the soundstage of Fragile extended well over my head. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Real Aja Vs. Cisco Aja

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

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

Hey Tom,   

It’s amusing that even Golden Ears who have the attention of large readerships can miss and misunderstand so much. You don’t have to understand the technical why of the variability of LPs to appreciate just how profound the audible differences can be from stamper to stamper. Even in acknowledging that differences are present, they do not seem to appreciate the extreme degree of the variation in sound among LPs from different stampers.

As so many of us have learned from you, a “hot stamper” LP is simply in a whole different league in sound quality. A good sound system is necessary to realize just how big that difference is and the more optimized that system is the better.

Beyond the audible reality and the technical issues, it is the subject of value that is not understood or appreciated. The ability to simply find a nice playable copy of a vintage LP is a major task. So many LPs have suffered the gouging of what must have been a rusty nail used as a stylus as well as all the other sins that can be wreaked on the plastic disc. Then the incredible task of assembling enough different copies to be able to do the “shoot-out” would seem impossible.

I have, as many now may have tried, done a simple “shoot-out” of a few copies of a favorite LP. Among those I have always found the “better” of the bunch. Now and then and just by luck (since the statistics of not having enough samples was not working in my favor) I have found what must indeed be a “hot stamper). And WOW …..what a difference!

The number of times this has occurred fits on less than one hand yet when you hear an LP that has been mixed and mastered really well and then “transferred” with care and quality via an excellent stamper, there is an epiphany. Suddenly you hear what you often refer to as “master tape” sound. As I have said before, this is really a sad statement about the quality and consistency of record production throughout its history.

The “Audiophile” Half-Speed thing only piles it on top of this with the way mastering at half speed seems to extract the dynamic life and frequency response from an album in contrast to a standard copy. The logical intention that mastering at half speed would allow the cutting lathe tool to have “more time” to lay down more of the music signal just never really worked. You would think the “Golden Ears” that developed this idea would have compared the result with real-time cutting speed (not brain surgery). I never wanted all this to be the way it is and didn’t even know it until I stumbled upon Better Records one day. But it is the way it is!

There seems to be a focus on the “wear” of the stamper as the primary cause of differences in the quality of the vinyl LP. My sense is that there is much variation over time in the production of stampers regarding the audio mastering and transfer in tonal balance and especially in the degree of compression used for a specific stamper that can destroy the “life and transparency” of the sound. This has nothing to do with stamper wear or physical variation but can vary from stamper to stamper over the duration of being in print and production and in some cases, never get transferred correctly.

I purchased the new Cisco Steely Dan “Aja” album hoping it would deliver perhaps even greater sound than the original and the hype regarding the remix quality, heavy virgin vinyl, etc, etc. certainly suggested that. After playing a few very smooth and quiet bands I put on my excellent vintage copy of Aja that proceeded to destroy the Cisco. The life, dynamics and transparency were in a totally different and superb league above. I very carefully returned my now even more precious copy to its sleeve. A few dealers that sell reissues like Aja will sometimes admit this but they certainly don’t want the world to know it. (more…)

Steely Dan / Aja – One of the Great Audio Disasters, Courtesy of Mobile Fidelity

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mofipresslit

Steely Dan – Aja

Sonic Grade: F
 
More Mofi Bashing, But Boy Does The MOFI Deserve It.

I remember back in the ’70s when I thought this album sounded pretty good on my plain old ABC original. Then I got a copy of the Mobile Fidelity pressing and I thought it sounded even better. Side two of the MoFi had bass that was only hinted at on my domestic copy.

Sometime in the ’80s I realized that the MoFi was hideously phony sounding, and that all the bass on side two was boosted far out of proportion to what was on the master tape. The song Home At Last must have at least an extra five DBs added at 40 cycles. It’s ridiculous.

And that’s just the bottom end; the highs are every bit as wrong. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Aja and Tea for the Tillerman

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

Hey Tom,   

A friend and I just did a shootout of 16 copies of Aja, plus one of your White Stampers, which easily trounced them all (including some DJ 12″ singles from the album), and in exactly those areas that you cover in some of the WTLF descriptions you have for that album. Just a great big, open and lovely-sounding record–what a thrill!. And thanks very much for those notes–they help clarify the critical listening process.

We also listened to 16 copies of Tea for the Tillerman. Among those (UK pink rims, German, Japanese, and many US labels) were two excellent early brown label A&M pressings, which I saved for the end of the shootout. And we had the Analogue Productions 33 rpm pressing, which has been a big disappointment since I first heard it. Those two original A&Ms both sound so much more natural, with more delicacy, extension, air, presence and energy than the AP version. My listening buddy said they sounded as if they were cut at 45 rpm; and neither of us really expected your White Hot UK pink-rim pressing could be a significant improvement over those.

But, as good as those are, it was also obvious that your WHS brought the music several steps closer. The A&M brown labels both added some thickness and over-emphasized the low range of his voice–which (until we heard your WHS) was a pleasant coloration. But as you frequently mention, the biggest issue, once you’ve heard a great copy, is how much more energy and flow the music has. The WHS stamper just pulled you into those songs, so you could feel every little dynamic shift and tonal change that the musicians were bringing to the table. It allowed that music to breathe in a way I’ve never heard before. What a record!

The BIG thing your Hot Stampers do is present the music in a perfectly balanced way–no frequency range is emphasized, which also means none are compromised. I think this is why you can always turn up the volume on a Hot Stamper. If you’ve got a bad mastering or bad pressing, at some point, turning up the volume only make parts of the recording more unlistenable. Turning up a Hot stamper makes it a bit louder, sure. But it also brings you further into the studio, and closer to the music–and that’s we really want, right? (more…)

Why Own a Turntable if You’re Going to Play Mediocrities Like These?

Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

This commentary was posted in 2007 and amended later with the statement that we would no longer be ordering new heavy vinyl titles starting in 2010. By 2011 we had eliminated them completely from our site. If you bought any Heavy Vinyl pressing from us, ever, now is the time to get rid of it and hear what a Hot Stamper can do for your musical enjoyment. 


Three of the Top Five sellers this week (8/22/07) at Acoustic Sounds are records we found hard to like: AjaAqualung and Blue. Can you really defend the expense and hassle of analog LP playback with records that sound as mediocre as this Rhino pressing of Blue? 

Why own a turntable if you’re going to play records like these? I have boxes of CDs that sound more musically involving and I don’t even bother to play those. Why would I take the time to throw on some 180 gram record that sounds worse than a good CD? (more…)

Steely Dan – Aja and Pretzel Logic – “Very tubey, we love it.”

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

Hey Tom,  

Funny enough, I listened to Pretzel Logic yesterday. Very tubey, we love it. I have an AAB-1006 (RE-3) pressing of Aja that sounds fantastic. (If you have any insight on that pressing I’d love to hear it!)

There are so many stampers for that record, and the same stamper that sounds great on one copy can sound terrible on another, so we just buy them and play them and let the chips fall where they may.

Best, TP (more…)

Letter of the Week – Aja

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Reviews and Commentaries for 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! (more…)

Listening in Depth to Aja (Includes Free Cisco Debunking Tool)

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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 Aja.

Our track commentary for the song Home at Last makes it easy to spot an obvious problem with Cisco’s remastered Aja: This is the toughest song to get right on side two. Nine out of ten copies have grainy, irritating vocals; the deep bass is often missing too. Home at Last is just plain unpleasant as a rule, which is why it’s such a great test track.

Get this one right and it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there on out.
(more…)