The definitive takes on the loudness war are probably The Death of Dynamic Range, and Rip Rowan’s Over the limit.

Most articles on the subject, though, are addressed to engineers, by other engineers and producers fed up with the hammering their mixes receive at the hands of overzealous mastering engineers. For the average music consumer, the matter remains somewhat esoteric.

In his article Imperfect Sound Forever, Nick Southall addresses this, and more importantly why the steady increase in volume is so bad for consumers, from the perspective of someone who just loves music:

Levels have crept up over the last decade though, and alarmingly so. Nevermind is 6-8dB quieter than, say, Hopes & Fears by Keane—to contextualise this, those 6-8dB will make Nevermind sound approximately half as loud… Keane should NOT be twice as loud as Nirvana.

For those why decry the practice, it’s a good sign when writers outside the field of music production begin to address the issue. And Southall has more great thoughts in his follow-up article:

Compression will continue to be abused in the pursuit of loudness for as long as the recording industry believes that louder shifts units. I don’t think the loudness war is causing tangible increases in sales anymore than I think the actual notes and words and beats of music are getting “worse” though … I think this is because the clamour to make music louder has made it less loveable, and in the long run loveable sells more. Record company people sadly don’t always seem to get this

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