"We set out to make a record that we felt is out best one, and we really have been really proud of the act that we've done that," Harry Styles tells PEOPLE

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One Direction fans all over the world suffered broken hearts when Zayn Malik abruptly quit the band earlier this year, but they needn’t have worried. According to the remaining four members, their newest album is their greatest work yet.

“Obviously when you get the finished product, a voice that was there before isn’t there anymore, so obviously that’s different,” Harry Styles tells PEOPLE. “But we set out to make a record that we felt is our best one, and we really have been really proud of the fact that we feel like we’ve done that.”

While Made in the A.M. (out Friday) doesn’t feature any songs about the drama, getting through that difficult period wasn’t easy.

“It was a tough time,” says Niall Horan. “We took 10 weeks of our tour to literally just go into the studio and spent that time in L.A. And a lot of time in London on writing. That’s probably why we’re so proud of it.”

For much more on One Direction’s new album and how they’re moving on after Zayn Malik’s departure, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

The band is now “stronger than ever,” according to Horan, and “this record is one where the four of us have contributed the most,” adds Louis Tomlinson.

“We were all in a position where we wanted to continue,” says Tomlinson. “When you lose a member of the team, of course that’s a hard thing to deal with, but actually what was kind of cool about the situation is we kind of knew that we had to bond together as a band at that stage and we actually really did that.”