Several knowledgeable folks have written in on the subject of compression in pop production, which Sasha kicked up and I punted below. Mauro Graziani sent a link to an unsigned article on "The Death of Dynamic Range," which shows, in the form of waveform graphs, how "loudness wars" have squeezed dynamic contrast out of many pop recordings, creating a uniform wall of sound. The chart above, derived from Ricky Martin's 1999 album Ricky Martin, is a case in point. Nick Southall has more to say on the issue in Stylus. And Douglas Wolk sent along, per request, the text of his article "Compressing Pop," which was delivered at the EMP Pop Conference a few years back and published in Eric Weisbard's anthology This Is Pop. Douglas explains why people like to use the device: "Compression is like salt: a little of it makes everything sound better. Compressed voices sound more authoritative; compressed instruments sound more precise and energetic. Done properly, it gives sound more oomph." But: "Making CDs very loud means that you can't do much else with them. When a recording is ultra-maximized, its dynamic range is severely limited, and it loses what's called 'headroom' — the amount by which a recording can get louder than it is, the sound-engineering equivalent of available space. Without headroom, the entire recording starts turning into one dense, undifferentiated clump of sound." And he suggests why Timbaland's productions have had such blistering impact in recent years: they avoid sonic uniformity by interpolating sudden, yawning silences into the middle of tracks.