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Old 08-31-2013, 02:02 AM
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Default NIN Audiophile Mastering?

As a long standing Nine Inch Nails fan I was intrigued to learn that two versions of mastering his new album Hesitation Marks would be available. One is standard itunes affair etc, they call this 'loud' version. The other is termed Audiophile mastering.

More can be learned about it here.

Anyway they're saying it's a first. What's peoples thoughts? Clever marketing ploy? Warm welcome? Nonsense? Great?
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:10 AM
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Of course its great, no question about it. Even though I think the loudness war has already been lost long time ago. A whole generation has now grown up listening to compressed sound (not compressed as in "mp3" but compressed as in "harsh, clipping sound with no dynamics"). During the 90's it was self evident that a sound engineer would strive for the best possible sound when mastering a recording. At some point the natural, high quality sound apparently became too boring and passť... after the transition stage from late 90's to early 00's they now seem to have perfected the art of making the recording as artifically loud as possible without rendering it completely unlistenable (=YMMV of course, I find many of them unlistenable ) Any deviation from this trend is generally welcome but at the same time I'm highly sceptical about seeing (hearing?) any real improvement on a wider scale. Anyway, if I was a NiN fan I would definitely grab the "audiophile" version and tell my friends to do so as well.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:31 AM
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Although the album isn't that great (imo) I will likely grab it to support him and also hear the difference, I'm just worried my i9+ and Triple Fi 10's won't be adequate enough?
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceBanner View Post
I'm just worried my i9+ and Triple Fi 10's won't be adequate enough?
I don't know about this particular release, but here's an example of the kind of difference I would expect. (Nevermind the horrible 64kbit compression quality, the effect should be clearly audible despite that). Sample A (taken from a vinyl release) vs sample B (the CD). Definitely should not require "audiophile grade" equipment or a set of golden ears to spot the difference.
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Old 08-31-2013, 05:19 AM
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thanks for that will try it out in a bit.
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceBanner View Post
Anyway they're saying it's a first. What's peoples thoughts? Clever marketing ploy? Warm welcome? Nonsense? Great?
"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."


I don't understand that at all. People are free to change volume levels from album to album (assuming a non-European player).

Tom Baker is the one who did the Queensryche 2013 album that sounds like CRAP. You still have to buy the loud version to be able to get the download, and then I'm assuming it's a single format.

Although it's welcome that someone is actually talking about it, but I wish they'd have taken a stand and not released a loud version at all.
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Old 08-31-2013, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kp-j3 View Post
I don't understand that at all. People are free to change volume levels from album to album (assuming a non-European player).
The loudness war began because of radio play. They did not play whole albums, and did not change volume from one song to the next. I would guess that if radio used replaygain, the incentive for the loudness war would disappear.
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:07 PM
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Mp3Gain solves the problem,... And the only real difference will be no clipping, so any quality iem/headphone is good. The need for super special stuff is a myth,...
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Old 08-31-2013, 03:16 PM
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MP3Gain--a good thing.
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Old 09-07-2013, 07:38 AM
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I wish more artists would deliver music this way. Make a mainstream release, and then an audiophile mastering. Trouble is, I know some artists would milk it for all the money they could get.
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Old 09-07-2013, 05:16 PM
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I listened to both and the difference is very obvious. The 'loud' recording sounds dull and muffled compared the the AM version. I MP3Gained the AM version to 89db (default). Some tracks sounded louder than the loud version doing this, I had to listen at a lower volume on the i9+.
The AM is far clearer, and the separation is more obvious.
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:39 PM
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I guess the audiophile mastering might be the way to go then,...
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Old 09-08-2013, 04:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The DarkSide View Post
Mp3Gain solves the problem
The only problem that MP3gain (or any Replaygain software) solves, is the disparity of perceived loudness between albums or tracks, by automatically turning the volume knob as appropriate. It cannot fix bad mastering (be it clipping, dynamic range compression, or whatever). A really hot master will sound just as bad with MP3gain, as it will on its own.

Conversely, MP3gain (Replaygain) can even make it worse, by giving some high dynamic range material a positive gain because of low perceived loudness, and therefore introducing some clipping, if the material was already peak normalized to (or close to) 0dBFS. Some Replaygain software has an option to prevent clipping, but that will lower the gain of the material, and thus create a new disparity in perceived loudness between albums or tracks.

Replaygain is very useful software, but certainly not a magic wand for bad mixing/mastering.
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Old 09-08-2013, 04:17 AM
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A compressed/artifically loud recording is bound to lose much of its rhythmic impact because there's simply no room for the peaks anymore. On the other hand, a less 'hot' mastering usually sounds more 'airy', less distorted and less fatiguing for the ears. I have found that on many occasions the soundstaging is also much better. I know I'm starting to sound like an audiophool describing the outcome of his latest cable tweak but still, if you pay attention to the quality of music production these days you will notice that everything is not as it should be.

Edit: added images of two different masters of the same audio to illustrate the difference (its not from the NIN album but I'd imagine something similar there as well)
Attached Images
File Type: png dr_cd.png (31.0 KB, 4 views)
File Type: png dr_lp.png (33.6 KB, 4 views)

Last edited by el maco; 09-08-2013 at 04:57 AM.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:21 AM
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NiN may be the first to brag about doing this but they aren't the first to do it. Although the only other case I've ever noticed was the difference between the Stadium Arcadium Vinyl and CD releases. CD was hot mastered and the Vinyl was properly mastered, it's one of the few Vinyl records I ever bought, just so I could get someone to rip it onto an MP3 player.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack4L View Post
NiN may be the first to brag about doing this but they aren't the first to do it.
That's true. For example, many of the 'high res' downloads on HDTracks are in fact better mastered versions of the corresponding CDs. This contributes to the myth that 192/24 or 96/24 sound better than the good old red book CD. Also most LPs cannot be mastered too loud because rapid needle movement would risk skipping and most turntables wouldn't be able to physically cope with it. This, again, contributes to the myth that vinyl recordings sound inherently better than CDs. Many of them do, but not because of the analog nature of the technology.

Last edited by el maco; 09-08-2013 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 09-08-2013, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by el maco View Post
For example, many of the 'high res' downloads on HDTracks are in fact better mastered versions of the corresponding CDs.
That's not always true. I'm not even sure it's mostly true. The version of Hesitation Marks on HDTracks, for instance (which is the topic of this thread), is the "loud" master, not the "audiophile" master. I.e. it's no better than the CD release.
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Old 09-08-2013, 08:37 AM
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I'm not even sure it's mostly true.
While browsing the DR database I noticed some of them certainly are improved versions. Its difficult to say just how common it is of course.
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Old 09-08-2013, 02:05 PM
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About the MP3Gain. If the audiophile mastering is better but the loud mastering is 'louder', are we talking about using MP3gain to increase the volume of the audiophile mastering to essentially get 'the best of both worlds'?
I MP3gained the audiophile mastered version to 89db (to match all the other music residing on the i9+) and it lowered the volumes of the tracks...
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Old 09-09-2013, 04:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceBanner View Post
I MP3gained the audiophile mastered version to 89db (to match all the other music residing on the i9+) and it lowered the volumes of the tracks...
Yes, because the so-called "audiophile" version is "loud" too. From ABXing the two versions, I'd say the bass on the audiophile version is slightly less compressed, and while the difference is clearly ABXable (I got 10/10), it's not really night and day.
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