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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.

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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?!

By David Mellor Tuesday August 30, 2011

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