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3:03pm on Wednesday, 25th April, 2007:



I bought a set of 4 CDs yesterday for the knock-down price of £4.99 from Sainsbury's. The reason I did so was because the new car can only play CDs or the radio, and most of my music collection is on casette tape so I just wanted something cheap and cheerful to play. Thus, I bought the 4-CD set, which was all Beethoven.

Some of the tracks were well-known, and others were obscure (deservedly so, in some cases). The thing is, the sound quality was just ghastly.

I listened to the first track, it was quite loud and very tinny. When the second track came on, I couldn't hear it and had to turn up the volume. When the third track came on, I was expecting to be blasted out of my seat but I couldn't hear that either and had to increase the volume still further. The fourth track was audible enough, but sounded all muffled as if it were being recorded through a layer of flannel. The fifth track had a huge dynamic range, so some parts were ear-judderingly loud and other parts were quieter than a baby's heartbeat.

All the tracks on the CDs have something weird about the way they are recorded, but that's not all: the music quality varies, too. The back of the box doesn't say which orchestras under which conductors were involved, which is usually a sign that if they told you then you wouldn't be any the wiser anyway. Some of the pieces are just fine, but others are racingly too-fast or ponderously too-slow or have the emphasis vary capriciously. Maybe there's a school of method conducting, as there is method acting, and the conductor wore earplugs to get into the mind of the famously-deaf Beethoven.

Still, if it means I don't have to listen to what my daughters want to play, it's £4.99 well spent.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).