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An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A free download from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Equalization - A free download from Audio Masterclass

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A free download from Audio Masterclass

Two microphone preamplifiers compared at Abbey Road Studio 2 - tube and transistor

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

How much difference does mastering really make? [with audio]

A brief introduction to acoustic treatment

What is production? Part 4: Mixing

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)

Q: Why do I have to record acoustic guitar twice?

An example of bad audio with an analysis of the problems - Sept 2017

New vs. old guitar strings: Part 1 - The case for new guitar strings

This voice over studio looks like something out of Monty Python

The worst-sounding hit record ever?

How can a record be a hit, yet sound terrible? Is the quest for audio quality pointless in today's market?


Take a clever song, add a capable performer, record, mix and master with the best in the business, and you end up with...

The worst-sounding hit record ever?

(IMPORTANT - This is a 5 megabyte .wav file ripped directly from CD, which we recommend that you download to audition. Please wait until it has downloaded completely otherwise it is unlikely that it will play.)

If you don't know this song, then you must have been living under a rock since it was released. A quadruple-platinum award confirms its commercial success, and presumably its appeal to the market.

So why does it sound so terrible?

You don't have to listen carefully to hear the huge amount of distortion, which seems mainly on the kick drum. It's as plain as day that something went dreadfully wrong in the recording process, or dreadfully right if that's what the market wants.

But the fact is that you, dear reader, are an audio enthusiast. You're listening on quality equipment that can reveal the distortion. (And if you're not, then you are probably on your way to the studio where you can hear it in the highest of fidelity.)

The market doesn't listen on hi-fi these days. They don't even aspire to hi-fi. They are happy with their car stereo, kitchen radio, TV, ear-buds, computer speakers (click here if you want a laugh) or phone on speaker mode.

So they can't hear the distortion. What they can hear however is excitement. That's how they interpret the distorted kick, which has to be extremely distorted for the 'excitement' to get through.

The rest of us, with decent-quality audio systems, hear something that is really rather objectionable and spoils a nice song.

Two questions...

In the light of this, I have two questions for you...

1. Should we just give up on audio quality and give the market what it seems to want?

2. Is there any other hit record that actually sounds worse than this?!

Please click here if there are broken links or missing images in this article

By David Mellor Tuesday August 30, 2011
Online courses from Audio Masterclass