I actually saved this as a document I can copy and paste into threads when myspace's algorhythm was so bad it required special strategies to avoid deal-breaking artifacts. anyway... still use it, so here goes:
I use a pair of compressors and Voxengo's Elephant on the master bus to get my tracks loud enough to play people who might think a quiet track is "defective" rather than "dynamic".
the pair of compressors I put in to give a more predictable shape to the transients before they get to the limiter. this makes it punchier as needed, but also reduces or eliminates certain kinds of artifacts on myspace due to their cheap-and-dirty algorithm. (no longer the case, I think) usually the 1st comp is set to 12-20ms attack, with an release that varies with the material, but is usually longer, usually compressing 2-6db with a 2-4:1 ratio. the 2nd comp I set to reduce only a db or two, with a 0.1 ms attack (the fastest setting), and a 10ms release.
for Voxengo's limiter, I use the "Master's Punch 6db" setting, and raise the RMS from there, making the track compatible in terms of perceived volume with my others. this would be quieter than a pop record, but not so much that the track appears "broken".
not the same as true mastering, must be said! I make a 24 bit version with no loudness junk in case I want the job done better down the road.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their drums." -Eleanor Roosevelt www.soundcloud.com/d-audi