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Distortion in Music, Clipping, Noise - intentional or mastering failures?


Mar 6, 2022
From listening hour and hours, i found some Music that made me think something is wrong on my side, because it cant be mastered this bad can it?
i tried listening over different headphones, amps and speakers, some showed more and some less those effects.

In particular distortion, clipping and other unwanted noises. not speaking of "vinyl scratch and pops" post-effects those are obviously intended to be there.

Listen for yourself:
(i dont have those songs in a higher quality format other than what those streaming platforms provide on a free plan, but it cant be all due to it being aac/mp3 compressed..)

London Grammar - All My Love
at 1:40 it sounds like someones ringing the doorbell next to my ear.

Aurora - Little boy in the grass
listen at 0:40 when the bass kicks in, theres like a crackling onto of it, as if someone stuffed a piece of newspaper into the bass vent

on the other hand,
Kevin Morby - Farewell Transmission
at 2:15 when she sings "want this to beeee"
that eeee rings like crazy on a few of my speakers, but not all of them.
big metal dome tweeters like on some backes & mueller i once had were the worst, unlistenable. KEF Q150's were not as bad but still noticeable.
AMT's didnt show this problem (elac bs203.a)

What were they thinking at the studio? was this intentional or is it just me hearing it?
Do you got any tracks with such "defects" in mind, just wondering.


Major Contributor
Nov 6, 2018
because it cant be mastered this bad can it?
Oh yes, yes it can. Studio glitches are not super rare in my experience. Clipped ADC, clipped mix, before things even get to mastering. Here's an example off the top of my head:

I think they just ran out of headroom in the DAW on the crescendo.

Also, the mastering on this album (from 2012) used to absolutely drive me up the (brick)wall:

It is my impression that things have improved over the last decade though. Oversampling brickwall limiters alone constituted major progress.
Jul 2, 2021
The distortion you are hearing is probably not from the mastering stage but the mixing stage of the albums.


Distortion, compression, drive, saturation, and harmonics are tools that are often used to artistic taste. Different artists and engineers have different amounts they are going for, and sometimes they can be a little heavy handed, as in the examples you posted above.

For what it is worth I use these tools quite a bit in the mixing process. And no they don't have to be obvious, they can be incredibly subtle and actually add fidelity and detail.

Just one mix engineers take. :)
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