I am sorry to say, but Scritti Politti’s Anomie & Bonomie from 1999 (!) was my first encounter with clipped bits, a CD which was mastered way too loud. A digital clip on every bassdrum hit, but even worse: total clipping during some passages.
During my flight to Lissabon, Portugal, I read an interview with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti who had just released this new album ‘Anomie & Bonomie’. I thought Green had disasppeared from the earth, but so wrong I was. Happyness! A new Scritti, that must be mind blowing! Green looked better than ever before; he surely was ready for the new century!
Our hotel, Hotel Eden, was located in the same building as Virgin Music Store and since our apartment had a miniset I bought the CD straight away. And man, I loved that album!
But sound-wise the album didn’t sound good to me. The music, the fresh arrangements and Green’s lovely voice were mind blowing, but the CD sounded rather distorted. Was my CD faulty? Probably not, maybe that miniset had a bad amplifier. Or not?
Back in the Netherlands I noticed that the CD also sounded worse that I was expecting. What was going on? I contacted Martin Walker of Sound On Sound and by email he explained to me that the thing I was hearing might be what they are calling ‘clipped bits’, several bits at the top-level of the CD: 0db. And so right he was.
In the following years I noticed that a lot of these modern CD’s had these artifacts. They were created by mastering engineers adding too much limiting to the music. All dynamics were gone and digital distortion was all over the place.
Was it a personal thing maybe? Maybe I was wrong and I needed to adopt to this sound. Like tube overdrive, maybe my ears needed to adopt to this ‘new sound’? Mm, I felt tube overdrive sounded musical, but digital distortion did not. Me, becoming an old fart? Maybe, and I became to appreciate digital overdrive as an effect but somehow I never felt loudly mastered music was sounding great anyway. Not only because of the digital distortion but also because it lacked dynamics. Not dynamic, no depth, just a VERY LOUD SOUND!
7 years later, a lot of people, like me, still don’t like these loudly mastered CD’s. I am not saying I am not becoming an old fart. But if so, at least I believe I am an old fart with good ears 🙂