The terms “Loudness War“, “Level War“ and “Loudness Race” describe the phenomenon of a constantly growing loudness of CDs containing popular music in the last two decades. The expression “war” indicates that these terms not only describe the phenomenon itself, but also the negative side effects of increasing loudness. The terms have their origin in web forums, professional journals and books concerning mastering and audio technology, where the topic is heavily discussed since approximately 1999. Those threads and articles show that there is awareness for the issue both in the professional audio industry and among “ordinary music listeners”.
Read more in the following paper by Arne v. Ruschkowsky:
The problem of sensation and perception of loudness has to be re-examined in regard of musical stimuli. In psychoacoustics, measurement and scaling of loudness has been pursued on the basis of sounds such as pure tones or notched noise which have little if anything to do with music. As recent reports on hearing loss caused by very loud sound as is met with in discotheques and rock concerts amply demonstrate, conventional approaches to measuring loudness levels are probably outdated because being based on inappropriate models such as the dB(A) scale which fails to cover essentials of, for example, Techno music. Sensation and perception of loudness must be considered in regard of real music such as found in contemporary musical idioms (e.g., drum & bass, Techno) which implies that psychoacoustics criteria and parameters most of which have been established long ago, and before advanced audio technology became widespread, need to be revised.