This is one of the most infamous albums ever released - in audiophile circles, at least - and it's easy to see why. When this album debuted in 1999, it was heavily criticized for its audible distortion and hyper-compressed mastering. It's certainly a candidate for one of the worst sounding mastering jobs in my music collection, and it lives up to its reputation, with crackling, staticky distortion throughout. But this album was released during the tail end of the cassette era, during a time when CD volume levels had begun to really get out of hand but cassette and vinyl releases (presumably) were still being mastered as before. So how do the levels on the Californication disc compare with the analog releases? I got my hands on an original, period copy of the cassette release in order to find out.
Note: The cassette waveforms below are from a digital transfer of a 1999 mint condition, factory sealed copy of the album that I acquired via eBay [release #247386-4], played back using Dolby B noise reduction. The volume level of each individual song from the cassette version has been normalized for a more accurate comparison of dynamics.