The problem with this, is yes you can turn down the volume, but if the peaks are clipped, you have already ruined the sound. The volume knob cannot restore that. But, if you make a good master, then the listener can choose to use the volume knob (or software scheme) to make everything jsut as loud. That would be a better option.
I'm guessing you're referring to the part about the transparent auto-gain features built into so many players and platforms these days. Yes: you're right to say that they don't restore lost dynamics. But they do take away the incentive to make needlessly hot masters. There is no more loudness war. It's essentially over. And it will only get more and more "over" the more people continue to switch to streaming and portable players.
That said, a lot of people will still make hot masters anyway. Not just for the sake of volume, but for the sake of tone
. That brickwall limiting sound that you don't like? Well, that's now the sound
of some genres of music. Regardless of the level.
It's like I always say about a Dave Fridmann mix: "It's not distorted because it's loud. It's loud because it's distorted." Big difference.
Hard limiting has become more than just a tool. It's also an aesthetic. Like other technologically-based aesthetics (big reverbs, gated snares, parallel compression, distorted vocals, bright mixes, boomy mixes) it will come and go out of style.
I wouldn't get so bent out of shape about it! A lot of times I don't master loud at all. Transparent auto-gain processors make it so unnecessary that most of my clients don't really care any more. I just go for what sounds right for the music. I don't want the level to be way off from "normal", but loudness really is a secondary concern.
Still, there are times (mostly on more electronic-y records) where I might master insanely
hot. But this is not for level. It's for sound. When the records are "supposed" to sound that way, you're doing a bad job if you don't
do it. To do otherwise would just be gross incompetence. The kind of incompetence that comes from "not listening" and "not understanding culture." That's way lamer than printing an occasional extra-hot master, for sure. Explaining-at-the-client that the sound they like is "wrong" would be just as bad as squishing a record that doesn't want to sound squished.
End of the day: Do what serves the record. That could mean way "too much" limiting, or barely any at all. This requires listening, conversation, and understanding both what's gone before, and we we are now. Whatever makes the music sound better and more "real" and ideally, "interesting". There is no one answer.
It's also important to remember that "more dynamic range" does not necessarily mean "better sound quality" -- particularly where popular music is concerned. Make sure to check out the end of that article. There's a back-to-back comparison of "DR levels." Within reason, they really have no bearing on quality whatsoever. There are just so many other variables at play.
I've heard great-sounding records towards both ends of the dynamic spectrum, although not at either of its very edges.