Nine Inch Nails offer two versions of new album

When it comes to understanding a fan-base, and going beyond the norm to please them, few musicians are on the same level as Trent Reznor, and he has shown this connection again as he announced two different masterings of his forthcoming Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks. In a message posted on the bands’ Tumblr page, he explained that there will be the standard mastering for the digital, CD and vinyl releases, but that for audiophiles, there is a second mastering, available only for those who purchase the album through the bands’ website.

This was largely due to the fact that during the recording process, the band took a rather unique approach when they would send each completed track off to mastering engineer Tom Baker one at a time, as opposed to the more common practice of finishing the entire album, and then sending it as a whole. The band made this decision in an effort to give more time to the mastering process, but it also made them aware of some frequency issues that were present in the recordings. It was the bands’ desire to keep the entire sonic range intact that ultimately led to the dual masterings, and for audiophiles and music geeks, this is nothing short of a dream come true.

The “standard” mastering was done in the “loud” style that is what an overwhelming majority of listeners have been experiencing for their entire lives. The man behind the mixing, Alan Moulder, correctly states in the message that, “For the majority of people, the standard version will be preferable and differences will be difficult to detect.” In more basic terms, this means that the overall volume will stay consistent and loud, and this will likely give the album more impact in terms of the overall feel of the record from song to song.

In terms of the differences that will be found on the “audiophile mastering,” Moulder sums it up when he states that this version, “…is more true to how the mixes sounded to us in the studio when we were working on the songs.” To simplify this idea, the mix in this case will have the volumes of instruments at different levels and there will be quieter moments than listeners might expect or be used to hearing. However, the reality is that these differences will likely be so subtle that unless you have high-end playback equipment, an understanding of how mastering works, and a keen ear, the variations between the versions will be almost completely undetectable.

The band rightfully assures listeners that, “The standard mastered version is in no way inferior to the Audiophile Version – we wouldn’t release something inferior as the default.” Along with this, the post makes a point that the vinyl release was tailored for that medium in particular, and that the entire idea of offering the “audiophile mastering” was to give an alternative for some listeners.

As the first new music from Nine Inch Nails since breaking their brief hiatus, Hesitation Marks is set to be released on September 3.


Joel Freimark hosts a daily music-related webseries HERE and you can follow his daily music musings and suggestions HERE as well.

Image: NIN Tumblr