February Stereophile

This caught my interest in the recent issue:

On page 3 there's a quote from George Massenburg about copy protection watermarking. "The sonic compromises due to watermarking, etc., are nothing compared to the compromises [mastering engineers] have to make on 'commercial' recordings." Massenburg is a top tier recording engineer (various Joni Mitchells, "Joshua Judges Ruth", etc.) as well as a noted equipment designer (the inventor of parametric EQ). What he's referring to is the current demand for commercial releases to be LOUD. The mastering engineers are forced to squash dynamics as they raise the average signal level. The idea is that loud music will grab the listeners' ears when played back on low resolution mediums (radio, TV and MP3). The dynamic range of pop/rock oriented music is below 10dB.

It's interesting that now when it's possible to make truly high resolution recordings that commercial consideration have on average lead us to worst sounding records.
I have been commenting on other theads how even many of the recent classical recordings sound worse. On the CD cover they brag about the new remix of a classic performance using 24 bit technology, but to my ears the old 16 bit or 20 bit mix sounds better. Deutsche Grammophone is now one of the worst. In the LP era they were one of the best.
It really bugs me that so much of what on commercial broadcast TV is so compressed, dynamically. What little TV I do watch is often PBS. Then when I switch to another station I often get blasted back in my chair, a la a 1980's Maxell commercial (or was it memorex?). The commercial breaks are the worst. Whats the dynamic range on those? 3dB?