The loudness war has been fought and Metallica has emerged as the winner. Their 2008 album Death Magnetic has been judged to be the loudest album. But according to some experts, it's nothing to be proud of.

Production Advice, a blog written by mastering engineer Ian Shepherd, has put together a graphic comparing the dynamic ranges (DR) of 21 very popular albums in rock, pop, R&B and hip-hop from the past 38 years. found that Death Magnetic had the smallest at DR3, while Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms (DR16), had the widest.

The "loudness war" is the industry term for the recent practice of mastering music to make them as loud as possible. The rationale is that a loud record sounds more exciting, and is therefore better. In doing so, the highs and lows -- the dynamic range -- of a recording are pushed close together, removing nuances, textures and depth from the finished product.

By contrast, head-banging classics like AC/DC's Back In Black (DR12) and Motorhead's Ace of Spades (DR11), received good marks. Shepherd, a major critic of the loudness war, adds that it's "ridiculous" that pop acts Taylor Swift (DR6) and Nicki Minaj (DR5) rank with bands who are celebrated for their volume.

The irony, as Shepherd points out, is that the way the platforms most people use to consume music these days -- including Spotify, YouTube and traditional outlets like radio and TV -- are set to have all their songs play back at the same level so that listeners don't have to keep reaching for the volume controls with every new song.

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