As a Laptop user, I'm sure that a lot of people, even the ones using Netbooks would have already gone through this problem. Especially when listening to podcasts, and using it as an example, the sound might have loud moments and quiet moments, one person speaking loud and the other speaking very quiet in the same episode. Thereby, I always wanted the sound to be compressed system-wide, and I just noted the other day, that in Windows, some Realtek drivers already offer this function.
We have already a pulseaudio plugin for equalization system-wide, and although it still has problems like not letting us change its values and listen the change in real time, or cracking the sound while changing pulse volume, I do love it and use it. Now I'm just missing something to keep the sound around 0db (or near the volume level you're using) as a leveler plugin for pulseaudio.