Nine Inch Nails' new album, Hesitation Marks, has been mastered in two different ways, and will be released in "Loud" and "Audiophile" versions.
The standard "Loud" version will be available on the CD and through iTunes and similar sources, but the alternate "Audiophile" free download option, which is expected to be more popular with high-end equipment users and those with "an understanding of the mastering process," is being made available to anyone buying the album through the official Nine Inch Nails website.
Alan Moulder, who mixed the album, commented: "When we were mixing Hesitation Marks we decided to treat the mastering process in a slightly different way to the usual. Since we had tried to treat every other aspect of making this record differently to how we were used to, it seemed to make sense.
"We were mixing as we went along with the production of each song rather than at the end, so we thought that once we had a song pretty close we would send it off to Tom Baker – our long time serving mastering engineer – to give it some mastering treatment. Normally you wait until the record is finished being recorded and mixed, then take all the mixes to mastering. But we thought doing it again, as we went along, might make us push the process further and spend more time on mastering rather than rush through it at the end.
"While 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."
Mastering engineer Tom Baker added: "I believe it was Trent’s (Reznor, Nine Inch Nails frontman) idea to master the album two different ways, and to my knowledge it has never been done before. The standard version is “loud” and more aggressive and has more of a bite or edge to the sound with a tighter low end.
"The Audiophile Mastered Version highlights the mixes as they are without compromising the dynamics and low end, and not being concerned about how “loud” the album would be. The goal was to simply allow the mixes to retain the spatial relationship between instruments and the robust, grandiose sound."
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