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Reviews: Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral

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Reviews: 8

Review by zomax December 13, 2004 (11 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This album is a natural for multichannel, and I knew that Trent would impress with the MC mix. The only question in my mind was whether the hi-rez could improve the digital nature of the recording. As one of the the reviewers from amazon.com points out, doubters need only listen to the bass drum on "piggy" -- what do you know? it's actually a real drum! The bass line on that song is also much more natural. Overall, it gives the song a whole different feel, much more sinuous. Other songs that benefit from the 5.1 treatment are "heresy," "closer," and "hurt." I'd get more specific, but I don't want to spoil it. Generally though, the rears and the center channel are used for effects, and on a few occasions vocals. One song that I think suffers from hi-rez surround is "mr. self destruct" -- the digital distortion of the backing vocals is so transparent its just not convincing anymore. Overall, I'm very happy to listen to this in hi-rez surround.

For those of you not familiar with the album, it's really a landmark album -- a concept rock/electronica album, kind of gen x's The Wall or Tommy. It's not the kind of album one listens to every day or for casual listening, but it's an album that still astounds me 10 years after it was first released with its range of sounds, tortured lyrics, and thematic cohesion.

P.S., disc two has some good tracks. I haven't compared the sacd stereo layer with the cd stereo layer, so I can't comment on sound quality. Any NIN fan would enjoy it for the outtakes, and the casual fan would probably find 3 or 4 songs to enjoy.

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Review by sthebkrman February 14, 2005 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is the first SACD I listened to after I bought my SACD system. My son bought it for himself. I guess I was lucky to play probably one of the best multichannel demo SACD's you can buy. Sadly, some of the songs are R rated so you can't play it while the family is around. This SACD makes DSOTM look tame in comparison. The songs flow together so well that you do not realize the songs have changed. I never was familiar with Nine Inch Nails until I heard this and I could not get enough. Warn your neighbors before you play it. If you want to see what your system can do, crank this up. You won't be disappointed in the surround mix and quality.

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Review by navman March 13, 2005 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Killer album. I think a landmark musically for the 90's.

While I only listen to 2 ch the SACD does sound good. Trent Reznors sound has always had a wide dynamic range and for industrial music it does sound surprisingly good on SACD.

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Review by DSDPhile April 29, 2005 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is such an exciting SACD release. I'm hoping we see more love from the music industry with such painstakingly engineered albums and/or remasters that really showcase DSD.

I've yet to experience the Multi-Channel layer of disc 1, but I can tell you that both discs have excellent sounding 2 Channel SACD layers. I was a little worried about whether or not there was any benefit from DSD because of the numerous digital effects (PCM of course).

I'm not sure if they just cleaned up their PCM effects, or if they recorded in some other format, but there are certainly some major improvements to this album that are evident with SACD.

From the performance stand-point I really shouldn't need to comment. Those of us who understood this album in prior releases know why it was such an amazing piece. Those of you unfamiliar with it, but who are looking for something unique in the SACD realm, need look no further. This 2 disc set will put your equpment to the test, as well as your musical boundaries.

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Review by vonwegen August 5, 2005 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This one's a keeper--it is probably Trent Reznor's career non plus ultra. I'm not sure I would recommend this as a demonstration of surround sound SA-CD sound, though: a LOT of the instrumental backing was deliberately recorded in lo-fi for effect, as was typical for the harsh, grinding _über-electronic_ "Industrial" music genre that NIN became famous for in the early 1990s. A perfect example for this lo-fi effect is the final song "Hurt", made famous by Johnny Cash's acoustic cover version--Reznor's own rendition has, for emotional effect, his very faint, almost whispered vocals almost swamped under white noise coming from the surrounds while the melody itself all but evaporates in parts of the song. Not a warm-sounding analogue recording, that's for sure--this was intended to sound cold, ultra-compressed & digital, and it does indeed.

Nonetheless, CD 1 is something you'll want to go back to again and again, as there are tons of fascinating little sonic details that pop up in the surround mixes, so that no one single listening is the same. "Closer" is a real highlight, with its swirling 'motorcycle' treated guitar (slide?) zooming around from speaker to speaker.

As for CD 2, you won't really listen to it as much; as with the Who's "Tommy" out-takes, it's an interesting detour, but the main course on CD 1 is what will keep you coming back for more.

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Review by lutefisk69 November 16, 2007 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I have always been a fan of Nine Inch Nails from the time that pretty hate machine came out. Trent Reznor is a creative mother pucker and he always seems to put out something different that sounds good to my ear. Since I have purchased the PS3 and found out about this SACD thing, I have really looked for SACD's that really work the 5.1 majic. I found the Downward Spiral to be just that. The mixes are excellent, there is a lot of movement through the speakers. Several times fo I hear Trent singing in the rear and most of the music still coming from up front. Heresy is great in SACD, and The march of Pigs ending is really good. I Look forward to hearing more from Trent, but feel spoiled with this SACD remix and would be upset at anything less. This is also my first review so if I rate higher then I should of, forgive me as I have no base to start at.

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Review by MusicJunky June 19, 2008 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
...Wow. I really don't know where to even begin.

All I can say, is that this album was made for Super Audio CD (SACD) - Trent and his crew really brought this album to life.

Here's my setup:

Denon DVD-2910 (DVD Audio-Video/Super Audio CD player)
Onkyo A/V Receiver TX-SR800 with 5.1 surround sound (with two center speakers)

...and I'm listening to this album at a fairly loud volume as I type this.

This is my first SACD purchase and I couldn't be happier with my decision to buy it. The Downward Spiral was (for me) a 90's classic; the album is jam-packed with so much raw energy and emotion. In fact, there were many times I felt my speakers couldn't handle all the sound, and because of this I often thought that the music never sounded like it should. I often thought that Reznor simply put way too much into each song (samples, loops, random noises..etc.) because you couldn't always hear everything that was going on, making you feel slightly disappointed.

That was then, and this is now. And boy how times have changed, the SACD version of The Downward Spiral is not only mind-blowing in sound quality, but it simply makes sense to re-create such a complex album in high definition. The multichannel digital re-mastering of each individual song brings an entire new sound to the same old songs you know and love, making it practically impossible for you (the listener) to NOT hear anything new. It is very clear that Reznor and his crew have done A LOT of work on these songs, assigning channels to all the different sounds, drones, bass-lines, guitar riffs, drums, vocals that were previously forced to be spread across only 2-channels (left and right). I kid you not, these songs all sound incredibly different from the originals, but ironically they sound the way you always thought they should sound: audible. For example, did you know there was a repeating bass-line at the end of eraser? One that shook your entire house? I think not. The same goes for Reznor's voice; you can actually hear him loud and clear on every song.

In summary, if you own (or have access to) a Super Audio CD player and a 5.1 surround sound setup, this is one album that will not disappoint, period. The audio is loud, sharp, in-your-face, and all-around-you, what else more could you want from Nine Inch Nails?

If you don't own a SACD player, you will still hear a definite improvement of sound from the original recording. All hybrid SACD's (including this one) come with a standard CD layer designed for playback in a standard CD player and have been re-mastered in stereo and Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound, something that the original recording was not.

Fantastic job to all who was involved in the high definition re-production of this album.

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Review by JReedC243 September 24, 2012
Performance:   Sonics:    
I bought a multichannel surround system just so I could listen to this album. It was worth every penny. The music has a whole new life and is even more amazing on multichannel. My favorites on the album in MC are "Closer", "The Becoming", "Piggy", and the title track.

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