(I don't normalize, don't like the squashed dynamics, but realize many here prefer that).
It's my impression that normalization is just arithmetic gain, nothing non-linear. How does that squash dynamics if used properly?
I gain my sets up to the max (Audacity channel gain) and hand edit peaks to get more than I could otherwise, BEFORE using any plugins. I am working on a detailed description of my method, maybe I'll tune that up and post it shortly, now that you mention it!?
This has always been my ear's take on the difference between normalizing (peak normalization) and individual gain. That said, technically, your simplified statement is correct, however, there are more 'holistic' considerations. I found this link which I think goes toward saying you are correct about arithmetic gain while also offering some well thought through conceptions of normalizing.http://www.hometracked.com/2008/04/20/10-myths-about-normalization/
Myth #4: Normalizing increases (or decreases) the dynamic range
A normalized track can sound as though it has more punch. However, this is an illusion dependent on our tendency to mistake “louder” for “better.”
By definition, the dynamic range of a recording is the difference between the loudest and softest parts. Peak normalization affects these equally, and as such leaves the difference between them unchanged. You can affect a recording’s dynamics with fader moves & volume automation, or with processors like compressors and limiters. But a simple volume change that moves everything up or down in level by the same amount doesn’t alter the dynamic range.
Myth #6: Normalizing can’t hurt the audio, so why not just do it?
Best mixing practices dictate that you never apply processing “just because.” But even setting that aside, there are at least 3 reasons NOT to normalize:
Normalizing raises the signal level, but also raises the noise level. Louder tracks inevitably mean louder noise. You can turn the level of a normalized track down to lower the noise, of course, but then why normalize in the first place?
Louder tracks leave less headroom before clipping occurs. Tracks that peak near 0dBfs are more likely to clip when processed with EQ and effects.
Normalizing to near 0dbfs can introduce inter sample peaks. http://www.hometracked.com/2007/11/08/prevent-intersample-peaks/
Myth #7: One should always normalize
As mixing and recording engineers, “always” and “never” are the closest we have to dirty words. Every mixing decision depends on the mix itself, and since every mix is different, no single technique will be correct 100% of the time.
And so it goes with normalization. Normalizing has valid applications, but you should decide on a track-by-track basis whether or not the process is required.
Myth #8: Normalizing is a complete waste of time.
There are at least 2 instances when your DAW’s ‘normalize’ feature is a great tool:
When a track’s level is so low that you can’t use gain and volume faders to make the track loud enough for your mix. This points to an issue with the recording, and ideally you’d re-record the track at a more appropriate level. But at times when that’s not possible, normalizing can salvage an otherwise unusable take.
When you explicitly need to set a track’s peak level without regard to its perceived loudness. For example, when working with test tones, white noise, and other non-musical content. You can set the peak level manually – play through the track once, note the peak, and raise the track’s level accordingly – but the normalize feature does the work for you.
I will admit to last using normalization in Wavelab 6 or on my MAC which I stopped DAW work on in 2006. So I haven't ever used the normalization in Audacity which is my current editor.
Finally to admit, I love this site, I dig the users and recordists whom always seem to find new things, ideas, or old ones to discuss and define.
Just doing this quick, 30 minutes search, read, and reply has taught me things.