Acoustic Sounds
By: Michael Fremer

July 28th, 2023


Editor's Choice

UHQR Perspective Please!

what makes a great reissue?

The less than enthusiastic review I gave to the UHQR reissue of Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic" produced some nasty and totally unfair comments aimed not at me, but at Analogue Productions and Acoustic Sounds that I think need addressing now, not later.

All of the UHQRs shown in the photo got great reviews on this site from me or from Fred Kaplan. Why? Because they elevated the sound of those recordings to above what either of us heard on any other pressings, though of course to varying degrees, some more so than others. Both the mastering and pressing quality were responsible for it.

And all were cut from analog master tapes, which I can't believe at this point I have to reiterate but I do, because a commenter insinuated otherwise. All of what Analogue Productions UHQR or otherwise reissues are cut from either the master tapes, or, as in the case of A Love Supreme, from a tape copy that sounds better, or in cases where there no longer is an original master tape, from the best available analog source.

At one point, Chad Kassem mastered albums where the tapes resided: in the U.K. or in Germany or in America, either in New York (at Sterling Sound before the lacquer cutting moved to Nashville) or in Los Angeles. He didn't ask for tape copies to be sent here to make it easier or less costly, he used original tapes wherever they were located, regardless of the additional costs and increased logistical hassles involved that he, not you the buyer absorbed.

When he wanted to reissue The Doors catalog, management refused, offering instead to send high resolution files prepared by Bruce Botnick and Jack Holzman because he was told "the tapes aren't in good shape". Chad persisted and further opened his wallet until the green paper turned to brown mylar and the albums were released AAA all from master tapes, other than the first album because that master tape had disappeared (I almost typed "no longer exists" but I bet it does in someone's basement somewhere).

As I wrote in the serious knock on the truly awful Rough Mix reissue, there are numerous reasons, not just one reason, to produce a reissue, with improved sound and the scarcity of original pressings being tied for the number one reason. Remixes, by Giles Martin, or Steven Wilson, or Jon Astley or whoever, come in farther down the list in my opinion, even if the original had some problems, though I'm not opposed to revisionist history. My preference is for the original document and in cases where the original sound is magical and you could say beyond criticism as with Rough Mix for instance, the goal should be to duplicate that as closely as is possible.

Where bass was attenuated and dynamics compressed to make records that were kiddie phonograph friendly, or playable on budget turntables as in the Beatles mono catalog, or RVG's original Blue Notes that some prefer (mistakenly IMO), of course revise to add what's on the tapes.

The first two Steely Dan UHQRs were better than originals but not "drop your jaw" better because, to begin with, the recordings, while good, were not spectacular or iconic or anything else. They were just good early '70s studio productions. And they got treated well in the reissues and sounded better, at least to me, in every way, both because of the mastering and because of the pressing, but not as in "WOW". Whether or not one wanted to invest in those or any of these is of course a personal matter.

To me, Pretzel Logic is the first "real" Steely Dan album for the reasons outlined in the review. When I played the UHQR for the first or the fifth time it didn't sound even somewhat better overall, it sounded perhaps better in a few of the usual checklist sonic items, but worse in other ways, particularly on top and in the lower midrange where there was too much of it. I thought the original pressing and the files from the 2014 flat transfer had, in some ways, more life and were more enjoyable.

Writing that review was not easy for me at all and I knew it would upset Chad Kassem but I had to offer my honest opinion. Had I written the kind of mindless rave I see on too many websites and people bought and heard what I heard, who wins? Obviously not me! I take a serious credibility hit. Not the buyer. He or she takes a financial hit. And not as far as I'm concerned, Chad Kassem or Acoustic Sounds. I suppose a few orders were canceled because of what I wrote, but I don't part the Red Sea or make time stand still or issue "buy" orders! People who want that record will buy it! And they may really like it and think I made a big mistake and I hope those people comment and tell me so and why!

Had I written a rave and people bought and were disappointed, what happens when the next in the series Steely Dan album is released? What will my word mean if I'd written enthusiastically about a reissue I thought was only so-so? If the next one is a sonic real step up from the original and I write that, I think people will rely on it. I hope Chad and his production team work hard to make it so, and don't try to anticipate what "audiophiles" might want, which in some ways is what this Pretzel Logic, wrongly or correctly, sounds like.

I don't want the Mo-Fi "smiley face" bass and treble bump heard on many of its reissues, just for the sake of a record sounding different from the original, but if a tape can use a bit of added sparkle to come alive or a touch less mid bass to add clarity or whatever, it ought to be considered. On Pretzel Logic I didn't hear the UHQR bring much to the table that made it clearly superior and as I wrote, in a few ways to me it sounded worse through four cartridges on three different turntables, so as much as it distressed me to write what I wrote, I felt obliged to, and let's be adults about this, Acoustic Sounds is an important site advertiser, but I never have and never will let that influence what I write because in the end my credibility is my working capital and I don't ever plan on depleting any of what I have worked so hard to accumulate.

That's all I have to say about this, though I will chime in if I read any nasty comments under the Pretzel Logic review!


  • 2023-07-28 09:21:58 PM

    Tim wrote:

    I own many of the UHQRs and am mostly happy.

    I personally wish however that Chad would hurry and get these Steely Dan reissues done so they can move onto a different artist/album... Was never a huge fan..

    Also, how about doing an newer artist for once? All of these UHQR releases, and even Mofi's onesteps, tend to focus on artists that exclusively cater for the Boomer generation... There are a lot of consumers under 65 that would appreciate a bit of diversity!

  • 2023-07-28 09:54:32 PM

    Diogo wrote:

    Excellent follow-up Michael. Thank you

  • 2023-07-28 10:15:47 PM

    Danny wrote:

    Michael, while I read and take to heart most of what you say, I let my ears be my judge. There are so many ways I can be pulled, and I have learned my opinion is the only one that matters. I have an old MCA copy of this, but it's not great. I was planning on buying this, and still do. I will admit that I am now waiting for a few reviews to come out, but again, more opinions. Your honest take is important to me, and it's important for AS to ensure they are making a product that is worthy of buying. Best, Danny in Phoenix.

  • 2023-07-28 11:02:48 PM

    Andrew Curtis wrote:

    That photo looks like a door to door World Book Encyclopaedia Collection.

    I spent thousands and thousands of dollars with Acoustic Sounds during the pandemic. Then in one large $800 order I got an unplayable $25 LP (warped, off centre etc). I was told to send it back for a refund. I said I was not spending $35 to send back a $25 LP from the other side of the world. Case closed. No response to further emails, calls or a hand written letter to Chad. I have not purchased from them since (I would have pre-ordered the whole Steely Dan UHQR set). It’s now been over a year since purchasing anything from Acoustic Sounds.

    • 2023-07-28 11:15:07 PM

      Anthony J Russo wrote:

      Thats the point @ 150 per and s&h no shipping discount on UHQR . One just wants a lp with no issues. I am surprised they did not reply to you. Do a You Tube on it you will get a response than . A few on the SH forum were saying on the KoB 33 1/3 they had a issue with a whistling sound. Mine was good . He is a sponsor on this page hopefully he will read the comments and get back to you. So AS needs more QC ?

    • 2023-07-28 11:21:50 PM

      Danny wrote:

      I have received 4 or 5 bad pressings in the last few years from AS, and I have never had an issue with the return. AS will replace an LP for you once, after that you can only receive store credit. They always have provided me with a Fedex label to return it. You have to mark the defective side, song, etc. Once they receive and review the issue, they will email you. I think I still have credit on my account from a return earlier this year. This has been my experience with Acoustic Sounds.

      • 2023-07-28 11:46:45 PM

        Andrew Curtis wrote:


        I am in Australia and it was a low priced $25 Blue Note (Moanin’). A single email from customer service said it had to be returned before I could get a credit. When I said it would cost me $35 to send back from Australia, there was a single email response saying that that was their policy. I emailed a video of my turntable trying to play it (tonearm was all over the shop, trying to track grooves). Again, no response. In one final act, I smashed the record into bits and tore the cover up and sent a personal letter to Chad with a bit of the broken label and cover to show that I had, in fact bought it, and it was useless to me. Nothing. Again, this LP was part of an $800 order. I had spent $1000s with them over the pandemic. It has been quite cathartic. I have never shopped with them again. And, like many others, am discovering the superiority of first pressings from country of origin. I now have a massive wantlist of first pressings on Discogs. Now when I’m looking for a wantlist item, I’ll find sellers that may have 20 items from my wantlist. I can then make a large purchase from a single seller and get a great deal on shipping as s result. Just this week I’ve had 30 LPs arrive from a seller in England. 1st pressings of Dire Straits, Police, T-Rex, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Roxy Music, Rainbow, Attractions etc. They really do sound fantastic. I now believe in Tom Port’s philosophy of OG pressings (even if they’re not ‘super white hot stampers’ (with issues, lol!!)) sounding like they should sound. They have a visceral presence of the era that often can’t be beat. Chad’s crap lack of care for my small $25 case has completely changed my record buying habits. Thank you Chad and AS.

        • 2023-07-29 03:02:14 AM

          Michael Fremer wrote:

          1st pressing country of origin is generally a good rule of thumb but there are many exceptions and many variables affecting that! I could play you two copies of the same “1st press” based on label that sound completely different and not because of a mythical “hot stamper!” Sorry you had that experience with AS…

          • 2023-07-30 07:51:51 PM

            Robert Nakata wrote:

            You're call-it-as-you-hear-it has been consistent with all of your reviews. But since it came up in the context of this UHQR explanation, how about an article on 1st press, Country of Origin?

    • 2023-08-01 03:49:15 AM

      Ivan Bacon wrote:

      Sadly and pathetically i can not be an AS customer. I live in Alaska, Free shipping to the lower 48 for order over $50.00 but not to Ak and shipping, FEDEX UPS, ONE lp or CD to me is nearly $30.00. and much more for multiples. I Emailed AS customer service and asked if they would ship USPS. Crickets, nothing, not a response at all. I have stated this on forums, Blogs and on chads YouTube comments to no avail. They just don't give a rats ass for one guy in Ak. I am not paying $30.00 to ship one Lp when it could be mailed for $6.00.

  • 2023-07-29 12:39:37 AM

    PeterG wrote:

    I love Steely Dan, have ordered all the UHQRs, and cannot imagine canceling. Your review has left me a bit deflated as I await shipment. But I REALLY appreciate your honesty/integrity. As I posted in another TA comments section, I take the site's numerical ratings very seriously. (Of course, for $150, I hope I disagree this time, haha) I also really appreciate Chad, AP, and their commitment to getting us the best possible sound. I trust that all of the SD UHQRs will be the best that can be done today, even if not mind-blowing. Some commenters just need to grow up

  • 2023-07-29 01:56:29 AM

    Ronan O’Gorman wrote:

    Thanks Michael for the honest review, your credibility is essential to the value of a site like Tracking Angle. My experience with Acoustic Sounds has been SUPERB! Service and Products are excellent, If there has been an "issue" the service has been SUPERB. thanks to Chad Kassem and team!

  • 2023-07-29 04:26:09 AM

    Jeffrey C. Robbins wrote:

    Michael, thanks for your remarks. I bought the first two UHQR SDs and will pause on the third, based on your comments. I like the 2014 rip off the JAP SACD and will enjoy that for now. I’ve never been disappointed in any album I’ve purchased on your recommendation, and there are quite a few. So, keep up the good work. JCR

  • 2023-07-29 04:35:21 AM

    Derek Duncan wrote:

    Mine is on the way and I’m very curious what it will sound like to my ears. And I’m also a completist and want this next to my other UHQRs. I also agree that we shouldn’t hold this against them, I think they are the greatest reissue label out there. No one is perfect, and we don’t know the whole story behind it. I may get it and think it’s wonderful. But I do as always appreciate the honesty. Even though I know you probably hated to have to say what you said, it just shows your integrity. Honesty is what the people want. I’m sure some think you are an AP fanboy, and Mofi basher. I’ve seen some very positive mofi reviews, like your Surrealistic Pillow one, that happens to be my go to copy now. But now this shows you are truly about the sound , and transparent in your reviews. But I think we all knew that already. Doesn’t change what I think of AP and I know that hasn’t changed for you either.

  • 2023-07-29 07:28:00 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    In the early 1980s the record industry introduced the spars code. It would be so easy to silence people like me: just put that AAA on the boxes. I see no reason, why audiophile labels neglect this important selling point and make clear all the facts in just three letters.

  • 2023-07-29 11:25:37 AM

    Come on wrote:

    Absolutely full trust to Chad, he’s one of the very best, transparent and honest in this business, no doubt in his releases, whatever sticker on the front.

    And I think he shouldn’t be upset of your Pretzel review, even if (like myself) some cancel this order, I think it even helps his business as a whole.

    You gave rave reviews to 99,9% of AP releases over the decades (for good reason). You even (in my perception) occasionally did it to a degree where I smelled a certain grade of sales promotion, when I thought you may have projected single correct experiences to a whole set (for example new AP releases vs. former ORG, or new AP 33 releases vs. former AP 45). But that still was ok for me, as also tastes differ more or less.

    Your current Prezel review proved your integrity. That’s why we take you seriously. It proves what you raved before was rather more than less true overall and we will continue to buy AP releases also based on your reviews. That’s why I think your proven integrity will ensure Chad’s sales more than the Pretzel review harms the sales of this single release.

    Kudos for this review!

  • 2023-07-29 02:02:25 PM

    Jimhb wrote:

    All I want is an honest review. Thank you for that!

  • 2023-07-29 02:27:21 PM

    WJ Wicks wrote:

    I have emailed Chad twice in my long association as a customer of Acoustic Sounds, and in both instances my emails were personally responded to and acted upon. I have only the highest respect for Chad and his teams. I am a repeat customer because I have never been disappointed with the quality of the records, or their attention to detail.

  • 2023-07-29 05:50:06 PM

    Mr. Audio wrote:

    I've had my copy for a couple of days now. Listened through to it several times on two different analog rigs. Fremer has a system that most of us dream of, so take that into account. On my system, my room, my gear, this is a pretty decent reissue! I'd give it a 9.5 for MUSIC and a 8.5 for SOUND. Not quite as good as the first two, but no dog...

  • 2023-07-29 11:17:14 PM

    Bill Bird wrote:

    Can't wait for my copy as I don't currently own an original for some unknown reason and I worked in a record store like Michael back in the day fer Pete's sake. I'm sure of two things 1 I'll probably like it and 2 I'll probably agree with Michael and still like it anyway. My AS experience had been top notch so far. My copy is bundled with Aja so come late Sept. I'll be Steely Dan-ing till the cows come home. 4 down and more to come.

  • 2023-07-29 11:57:54 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    I believe I did the right thing by not getting the Steely Dan UHQR's because, as you say, they really are merely good 70's studio recordings. I took a chance on the Bob Marley and Jimi because I knew I didn't have 1st pressing, clean originals and this would and is the best for what's available. They are fantastic for what they are. I do think the Marley can sound very transparent and detailed, while solid in the mids. The Miles is a revelation period and smokes the MoFi. Plunging into Steely Dan would have been a poor value for me and here and keeping to hi-rez digital is just fine for my love of the Dan. I think MoFi's bass and treble bumps do sound a bit artificial- Jeff Beck's Truth comes to mind. I have a clean, early pressing and it does sound better with certain section of the LP vs. the MoFi. I don't think the MoFi is a bad value if one wants convenience over sourcing an original by oneself.

    • 2023-07-30 12:09:53 AM

      Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

      And yes- Mr. Audio wrote that MF's system is among the most resolving on the planet and some audiophiles who are after a more ultra-linear presentation will more often concur with Michael's statements and convictions on TA. Those that might want a more forgiving and pleasingly 'Smile' response sound may like MoFi reissues more than a flat transfer. I think once one gets to over a $10K price point for a entire system, may find see more truth in what Michael is trying to convey, but nowhere the full picture. Again, his system is many, many levels beyond most readers' and that is really important to contrast that to one's system. It doesn't change the truth, but more often than not, obscure the absolute, full value of what Michael is communicating. While I feel he is an excellent communicator, it takes a good deal of exposure at audio shows and dealer demos to begin to appreciate that full weight and complexity of audio presentation.

      • 2023-07-30 12:42:08 AM

        Come on wrote:

        I have a problem with the logic in what you wrote:

        1. to your first sentence: a more resolving system would usually be more critical to more top end, so if MF needs more of it, others will likely, too.

        2. to your second sentence: a smiley EQ isn’t more forgiving, rather the opposite if anything.

    • 2023-07-30 12:46:33 AM

      Come on wrote:

      The other two, especially CBAT have a stunning quality in my opinion, absolutely worth buying them for sound quality reasons compared to the rest.

      • 2023-07-30 08:23:50 AM

        Bill Bird wrote:

        Agreed. Played 'Reelin' for a pal and he said ' I have never that song sound so good'

  • 2023-07-30 12:20:49 AM

    Tomato Sandwich wrote:

    I simply appreciate the honest take, Michael. Overall, I'm growing weary of how the industry is treating reissues with the expansion of the inclusion of outtakes, demos driving reissues into multiple LP purchases and MSRP's of $60, $70 and upwards. Chad's outift almost always puts out a good product, but the spiraling costs are a concern. $150. Lord, in what universe is that value even though I can afford it. What is the consumer paying for? Ridiculous packaging? Liner notes? If the generally superb $40 AP pressing is value, what is driving the decision to charge $150 for the Steely Dan sets? I'm at a loss here. Spend your money where you want, but IMHO, MoFi and AP are, with each release, becoming poorer value and less relevant to my purchasing desires.

    Guys, ditch the expensive boxes and the upcharge associated with them. Get back to basics and a good fidelity to value proposition. Or not.

  • 2023-07-30 05:04:57 PM

    Come on wrote:

    I now compared what I have with the 2023 UMG files in 24/192 which I guess come from the same remastering as the UHQR.

    I hear the same that MF described. Missing top end transients and level/extension. Until my original LP arrives my favorite (but not perfect) choice so far is the 1999 CD remaster, then the 2014 SHM SACD and quite a step behind my muddy yellow label LP and the 2023 UMG hires.

  • 2023-07-31 02:04:54 AM

    Jon Sokol wrote:

    The top end of the UHQR of Pretzel Logic is rolled off and sounds muted compared to the original pressing. Rikki and Night by Night explode off the 1974 ABC original pressing. By comparison, all of the energy and the transient highs of these great Steely Dan songs are gone in the UHQR. The UHQR didn't even improve on the background noise floor of the original pressing. While the UHQR seems to have better bass than the original, it only results in the UHQR sounding muddier than the original. Whereas the UHQR releases of Can't Buy a Thrill and Countdown to Ecstasy are home runs that improved upon the SQ of the original pressings, the UHQR of Pretzel Logic by comparison is a failure. Bernie and Chad need to address what went wrong here.

    • 2023-07-31 07:13:50 AM

      Come on wrote:

      I still hope MF will get feedback and post it here. Chad stopping this run and doing it again (what analogy) will probably stay a dream unfortunately.

  • 2023-07-31 10:59:50 AM

    James Ellis wrote:

    Good article Michael, and yes I think your review needed some more context. From my perspective the only person who influences me in buying a record is me. I am still looking forward to receiving my UHQR copy and listening with my ears, my system and in my room. Who knows I might have a different view.