Test Tracks: The Bad Stuff

The following is a strange list. It’s a collection of recordings that should give you some kind of an idea of a worst-case scenario. These are NOT good recordings – but they’re good examples of how bad a recording can be…

Artist: Metallica

Album: Death Magnetic

Track: All Nightmare Long

Label: Warner, Vertigo

Comments: This thing has no dynamic range to speak of and it clips all over the place. Look at it in a DAW display and you’ll be amazed that it’s recognisable as music…

  1. Thank you Bart, Your links have brought me “up to speed” on the loudness wars. Now, if we can get a similar movement started to apply the principles to the loudness of advertising on TV and radio….

  2. While on the one hand, it may not represent a good example of dynamic music, I found the Metallica track provided my best test so far of frequency response from speakers as it is almost like a pink noise and more than any other recording, maintains an almost consistent level across most frequencies, allowing me to more accurately and immediately appreciate the spectral differences between setups in my listening environment.

    It more than anything else gave me the best subjective confirmation of what my best setup was and why.

    I think there is another side to this recording, it is a marvel in comparison to many other overly compressed commercial music, as it still provides very good clarity for all the instruments, very easy to hear each instrument, when my listening environment(speakers, etc, etc, room, position, et al) is at its optimal setup.

    I must thank you for turning me on to this recording, cos it now sits at the top of my reference speaker/monitoring test tracks. And strangely enough, while metal/rock is not my preferred music genre I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the track, whatever its technical flaws might be, from an audiophile’s perspective. Artistically it communicated the energy and intention of the creators, in my humble opinion, quite transparently.

    I must add, in my case I listened to it streamed so I did not have the benefit of being able to examine the waveforms/clipping. I formed an opinion from just listening to it, which has its own subjective merits, however seemingly unscientific.

    As a musician, I am sure you will appreciate that at the end of the day its all about the music, and in a good listening environment, the track did its job, conveyed the energy of the creators, very well.

    Even I am surprised with my conclusion, considering all the “bad press” that this track has received for many many years.

  3. Hi,

    It may surprise you to find out that I agree with everything that you’ve said. I too use this track for all of the same reasons. However, we have to accept that a large part of the high frequency spectrum in this track is the direct result of clipping…

    So, I stand by my public statement that this is a terrible track if we’re evaluating purely on its technical merits. However, like any track, if you know what to expect, then it can easily be used to evaluate loudspeakers.