Nine Inch Nails takes on the Loudness Wars

For their eighth studio album, Hesitation Marks, American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails have decided to complement the standard ‘loud’ edition, with a special ‘audiophile’ version.

According to the band’s website, the idea behind releasing the ‘audiophile’ version came about from passing along each track individually to mastering engineer Tom Baker, rather than waiting for the entire album to be mixed.

“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 if off to Tom Baker, our long time serving mastering engineer, to give it some mastering treatment,” says Alan Moulder, who mixed Hesitation Marks.

“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 have a significantly lower level record, or do we sacrifice the bass for a more competitive level of volume?”

Instead of choosing between a louder end product with somewhat lower quality and fidelity, and a quieter one that wouldn’t compete with other releases volume-wise, NIN opted to release two versions of the album.

“I believe it was Trent’s [Reznor] idea to master the album two different ways, and to my knowledge it has never been done before,” added Tom Baker. “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.”

Hesitation Marks is set to be released 3 September on Columbia Records. The ‘audiophile’ version is only available to those who download the album from the band’s website,