Here is a nice article about audio engineering trends over the last decade or so. Yeah, maybe that sounds about as much fun as shaving a rotten asparagus stalk with your grandma’s discarded Lady Bic, but give it a chance. It’s written by freaking Rolling Stone so obviously it doesn’t get too technical. The article gives a nice laman’s description of dynamic range compression and the “Loudness War”. If you’ve ever wondered why everything on the radio sounds twice as loud nowadays, this is a good read. There is a lot of predictable geeky conservatism, mainly of the “Analog, warm! Digital, cold!” variety, but also a good amount of realist opinions:
“Compression is a necessary evil. The artists I know want to sound competitive. You don’t want your track to sound quieter or wimpier by comparison. We’ve raised the bar and you can’t really step back.”
— Butch Vig, producer and Garbage mastermind
I have fought with compression and the idea of compression since I started producing my own music. Only recently have I begun to make peace with it. Although, I wouldn’t call it a necessary evil as much a necessary step in the evolution of modern audio production.