The chaps at RollingStone have compiled a pretty in-depth article chronicling the current trend for music production to have its dial turned waaaay up. Titled The Death Of Fidelity, the article discusses the landscape of modern music production and how several noted artists have had recent albums engineered extra loud to gain attention- rendering the actual quality of their sound rather low.
This effect is done by “applying dynamic range compression, which reduces the difference between the loudest and softest sounds in a song,” which masters the music much louder than it should be. The article goes on to say advancements like ProTools only enable the “loudness wars” and perpetuates the ongoing “volume contest” to attract attention and, ultimately, sales.
RollingStone also talk to noted producers and artists like Butch Vig (Nirvana) and Kim Deal (of the Breeders) about this rising trend. There are also handy visual accompaniments that highlight just how much production volume has changed in the past decade, even comparing the differences between albums that have been reissued in recent times. There are also audio samples to highlight the issue (you may however, have to listen to Fall Out Boy).
The most interesting point they make is how technological advancements like portable music players, laptops and such, may have played a part in influencing this change. It’s no lie- most computer based speakers, as well as earphones, suck.
On an unrelated note, you can check out the Japanese metal band, Loudness, here.