Have you been following Metallica’s latest kerfuffle? It seems their latest album, Death Magnetic, was mastered with such extreme compression that it was rendered largely unlistenable. To make matters worse, the tracks available in the video game Guitar Hero, contain a more ear friendly mix. The internet is in an uproar, and rightly so. The Loudness Wars have been going on for the better part of the past two decades now, and while the good guys have done a good job at getting their message out (Compression=bad), some in the music biz still see benefit in forsaking dynamic range for loud, louder, and as loud as a cd can go. Will Death Magnetic be the album that turns the tide and brings dynamics back to recordings? I’d like to think so, but the pessimist in me says no.
I’m far from an expert on the Loudness Wars, and maybe this whole topic is new to you. The best thing you can do is get yourself educated. Perhaps, the best article I’ve read on the topic is Nick Southall’s piece, Imperfect Sound Forever, which ran in Stylus Magazine a couple years back. It’s required reading for anyone who cares about sound quality.