Here's an except from a story I posted on Forbes that looks at the strategy behind the dual master release of the latest Nine Inch Nails album. Keep in mind that it's written for an audience that's not audio sophisticated.
"Don't look now but Trent Reznor has done it again. Always ahead of the pack in some way, Reznor just took a stand in the the so-called loudness wars by releasing the new Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks, with two different masters; the standard compressed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life master, and a less compressed "audiophile" version.
For those of you not aware of the battleground, the loudness wars are basically a result of the insecurity of record execs, artists, producers and audio engineers everywhere that if their song is played right before or after another that’s louder, the listener will somehow deem it inferior. As a result, there’s a constant battle that rages behind the scenes in mastering facilities everywhere in an effort to make every song sound as loud as possible, even to the point where a mastering engineer (the specialized boffin who puts the final audio sheen on a song mix) will get the job based on being able to make the song louder than a competitor.
This is a battle that’s been raging since the 50s, and has resulted in mastering engineers usually violating their own collective good taste and judgement in making songs as loud as possible just to keep working. After all, lose a loudness shoot-out to a competitor and you might not get chance at the next record that needs mastering." Read the entire article on Forbes.
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