NIN Offers Audiophile Mastered Version of New Album

From the NIN website:
Hesitation Marks was mastered in two different ways - the standard, “loud” mastering (which is what you’ll find on the CD, on iTunes, and everywhere else), and also an alternate “audiophile” mastering, which we’re offering as a free download option for anyone who purchases the album through nin.com. For the majority of people, the standard version will be preferable and differences will be difficult to detect. Audiophiles with high-end equipment and an understanding of the mastering process might prefer the alternate version.
They are also offering a 24-bit/48kHz download at no extra cost. Nice. And here's some more information on the mastering process from Alan Moulder who mixed the album:
Whilst doing this we became aware of how much low bass information there was on the record. Since that can define how loud of a level the mastering can be, we were faced with a dilemma: do we keep the bass and and have a significantly lower level record, or do we sacrifice the bass for a more competitive level of volume? The biggest issue in mastering these days tends to be how loud can you make your record. It is a fact that when listening back-to-back, loud records will come across more impressively, although in the long run what you sacrifice for that level can be quality and fidelity. So after much discussion we decided to go with two versions. On the main release Tom did exceptional work to maintain the integrity of our mixes and reproduce the low end as much as possible and still get a decent level, although it’s still nowhere as loud as a lot of modern records. The Audiophile Mastered Version is more true to how the mixes sounded to us in the studio when we were working on the songs. Have a listen, turn up the volume and enjoy the experience!
It seems we, and by "we" I mean us audiophiles or people who care about the quality of our experience when listening to music, are getting treat after treat this week. Let's hope this trend continues!

You can also stream Hesitation Marks in its entirety right here.

COMMENTS
lithium's picture

I love the fact that NIN are not only offering everything at the same price but with different versions of mastering. The one thing I hate about downloading FLAC files is somehow people think that it is ok to overcharge. I hope Bands like NIN can force companies to rethink their pricing

hotsoup's picture

I like this. I even agree that most people will not hear a difference on their systems (so why bother), but still providing the audiophiles with a richer version is... like a nice tummy rub. Please keep rubbing.

Stephen Mejias's picture

What bothers me about this is that NIN say, "The standard mastered version is in no way inferior to the Audiophile Version. . ."

But they also say, "It is a fact that when listening back-to-back, loud records will come across more impressively, although in the long run what you sacrifice for that level can be quality and fidelity."

So, which one is it?  Is the standard version in no way inferior to the audiophile version or does it sacrifice quality and fidelity?

I haven't heard either version, but, in general, I think greater fidelity -- truth "to how the mixes sounded to us [the musicians and engineers] in the studio when we were working on the songs" -- is to be desired over simple loudness.

For loudness, our amplifiers come equipped with Volume controls. NIN know this and practically say so: "...turn up the volume..." 

I appreciate what they've done, but I wish that NIN would take this opportunity to educate.  

bdiament's picture
liuj88's picture

"For the majority of people, the standard version will be preferable and differences will be difficult to detect."

If the majority can't tell the difference, then why not release just the "audophile" version?

hotsoup's picture

I would never defend loudness or dynamic compression, but I get it. I listen to music at work but can't crank it. Nor do I want to reach for the volume knob. It's also kind of annoying if you're playing something extremely dynamic where the soft passages are below the office noise floor AND THEN THE LOUD BITS HIT and then it's too soft again. It probably annoys the dancing ipod silhouettes too. In these cases, I actually prefer a bit of compression.

NIN still needs to sell this for the common denominator, of which we are not, I'm afraid. I think it's a great compromise, personally.

bdiament's picture

Whatever the reasoning, I think this is good news and salute Trent Reznor for at least offering the option of a non-loudness-wars version.

I would like to think some small part of the inspiration for this came from my mastering years ago, of the original CD release for "Pretty Hate Machine", where, as usual, I left the dynamics of the mixes intact 100% -- no compression whatsoever.  (Of course, this may well have absolutely nothing to do with that album or the work I did on it.  But I'd like to think so.   ;-})

The concern was to "compete" with the sound of the music (the quality) and not with the volume at which the CD was mastered (the quantity).  Besides, there are so many musical benefits to controlling playback level with the volume control and not with the recorded level on a disc.

These types of discussions always bring to mind the words of the poet, Paul Haines, when he said:
"Better a lot, of what's wrong,
Than a little, of what's right."     ;-}

Best regards,
Barry
www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
www.soundkeeperrecordings.wordpress.com    (new blog)
www.barrydiamentaudio.com
 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I would like to think some small part of the inspiration for this came from my mastering years ago, of the original CD release for "Pretty Hate Machine", where, as usual, I left the dynamics of the mixes intact 100% -- no compression whatsoever.

I'd like to think so too!

Cheers.

torturegarden's picture

I download both the "audiophile" and standard versions and while the 24 bit version does sound a bit better, it doesn't really have any more dynamic range than the 16 bit version. I have a comparison of the track Came Back Haunted here: flic.kr/p/fJV3py

hotsoup's picture

Right, I heard its album DR is around 6 or 7 for the "audiophile" download, right? Does compression and limiting sound better with more bits? Oh well.

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