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Why are FOH levels so low these days?

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Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby _ Six _ » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:15 am

Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!

Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:27 am

_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!

Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

Eh? Sorry, you'll have to speak up. I went to lots of gigs when I was younger. Don't hear too good now...
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Pbassred » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:36 am

I guess its health and safety, and also noise pollution police. Especially at outside gigs.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Dave Gate » Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:38 am

It's a knee-jerk reaction to the Noise At Work act, which came into force for the Entertainment Industry in 2008.

Rather than take action to prevent staff from over-exposure to loud noise by such means as rotation, ear protection, siting bars away from amplification etc. many places have found it easier to reduce volume levels and blame 'elf and safety.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Dave Rowles » Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:25 pm

Annoying, yes, but I'm quite a fan of slightly lower levels.

Of course you have to ask yourself, would the people who were talking stop talking if the level was louder? Or, would they in fact talk louder or shout to make themselves heard?

Actually the levels should be appropriate for the music and the situation. Download was probably quiet due to the PA throw. If the sound tips the meters over at residences, then download would lose it's event licence and would not be put on again. I've had the exact same problem while mixing and being told to turn it down, because 5 miles away the sound is above the licence limit.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Sandeman77 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:46 pm

The reason noise levels are so low, especially at outdoor festivals, these days is due to Local councils enforcing noise limits.
I work as a FOH engineer and nearly ever stage I've mixed on at a festival has a noise limit imposed, normally in the region of 95-100dB SPL but sometimes as low as 90dBSPL at the desk.
I believe it's time for punters, paying upward of £300 a ticket for these events, to complain.
This was highlighted in 2007 by The Killers set at Glastonbury being marred by "bad sound". This was initially blamed on the PA system, but later revealed to be caused by a change in wind direction causing off site noise levels to rise, which then meant the local authorities imposed a ludicrously low noise level restriction on the FOH engineer.
This is nothing to do with PA throw as modern line arrays can easily blow your head off from a great distance.

Sorry for the rant but I do this for a living and it is getting increasing frustrating. It is time for audiences to fight back.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:43 pm

Sandeman77 wrote:Sorry for the rant but I do this for a living and it is getting increasing frustrating. It is time for audiences to fight back.

Perhaps they are? Since my 20s I've been telling sound operators in theatres to TURN IT DOWN!, both as a musician and as a member of the audience. They never heard - they were too deaf.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby seablade » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:06 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Sandeman77 wrote:Sorry for the rant but I do this for a living and it is getting increasing frustrating. It is time for audiences to fight back.

Perhaps they are? Since my 20s I've been telling sound operators in theatres to TURN IT DOWN!, both as a musician and as a member of the audience. They never heard - they were too deaf.

Wombat and I don't always agree, but dang if I don't agree with him on this as a both an audio engineer and sound designer. Yes there is a point when something is to quiet, but if you are trying to mix at 130dBSPL at the console, it is beyond pointless.

I don't know anything about the situations with Health and Safety regs over on your side of the pond so I will leave that alone. I will say I have been to far to many concerts that are just to loud for the sake of being loud. In all honesty I sometimes wonder how many audio engineers don't mix with dynamics at all and just keep turning up to get impact at various points of the song.

100dBSPL C-weighted at the console is not exactly quiet. True that is lower than I would like to mix as I would like to make sure there is headroom, but honestly for rock and roll I PEAK at about 110dBSPL when I mix, and I have never once had someone complain about it being to quiet. The majority of the time I am closer to 100dB SPL or even lower depending on the music involved.

Also for the record, line arrays are not a 'magic ticket' that mean you can turn it up as loud as you want and they throw identical pressures at the front and back of the house. They don't work like that. You can help some with frequency dependant acoustic shadowing at the amps, but the basic acoustic principle of a line array is that they will lose 3dBSPL of direct acoustic energy every doubling of distance instead of 6dBSPL that a typical point source loses, though even that isn't technically accurate as it deals with omnidirectional radiators which the higher the frequency the less omni-directional we get. The end result of this is that depending on your venue line arrays aren't always the best solution and won't always fix the problem of the people in front getting blown away while the people in back can't hear. Don't sell them as a magic ticket, they are one of many tools in our arsenal and part of the job of the sound engineer is to use the appropriate tools to ensure they are doing the best job they can be.

My rant[s] aside, I won't disagree that in some cases this can in fact be a knee jerk reaction, hard to tell without being there from my standpoint. But I won't say that FOH levels getting quieter and more sane in general is probably not a bad thing.

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby TSH-Tim » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:26 pm

Martin MLA is going to solve alot of this problem :)
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby tomafd » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:37 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!

Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

Eh? Sorry, you'll have to speak up. I went to lots of gigs when I was younger. Don't hear too good now...

Yup, I've had a damn fine time, but the years of feedback and loud levels have taken their toll. Early 50s and my top end peaks out at 12-13k, which is about average (for anyone of that age, not just musos) so I count myself lucky. Look after your ears, youngsters. You may enjoy sticking your head in the bass bin now, but it's not a good idea.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby seablade » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:40 pm

TSH-Tim wrote:Martin MLA is going to solve alot of this problem :)

Don't get to excited. The technology behind it has been available for some time really, and still isn't a magic one size fits all bullet. It is a digitally steerable line array, not quite as flexible as what are now mainstays in the installation market for some purposes, but does take a lot of the same basic ideas and apply it to a more modular touring system than has been typically available. It won't however be a 'magic ticket' for any possible crowd size I think you will find and my previous comments will still stand(Including the one about acoustic shadowing which is part of what this will do, it was always available, it will just be more automated in the MLA than you might be used to).

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby seablade » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:41 pm

tomafd wrote:
Exalted Wombat wrote:
_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!

Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

Eh? Sorry, you'll have to speak up. I went to lots of gigs when I was younger. Don't hear too good now...

Yup, I've had a damn fine time, but the years of feedback and loud levels have taken their toll. Early 50s and my top end peaks out at 12-13k, which is about average (for anyone of that age, not just musos) so I count myself lucky. Look after your ears, youngsters. You may enjoy sticking your head in the bass bin now, but it's not a good idea.

True, but I will say the larger issue for many is headphones more than concerts to be honest these days. Of course my comments above still stand;)

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby TSH-Tim » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:10 pm

seablade wrote:
TSH-Tim wrote:Martin MLA is going to solve alot of this problem :)

Don't get to excited. The technology behind it has been available for some time really, and still isn't a magic one size fits all bullet. It is a digitally steerable line array, not quite as flexible as what are now mainstays in the installation market for some purposes, but does take a lot of the same basic ideas and apply it to a more modular touring system than has been typically available. It won't however be a 'magic ticket' for any possible crowd size I think you will find and my previous comments will still stand(Including the one about acoustic shadowing which is part of what this will do, it was always available, it will just be more automated in the MLA than you might be used to).

Seablade

Sorry.... dont agree.

Who has done anything like MLA before ? Where have you seen anything like MLA before ?
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby tomafd » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:11 pm

seablade wrote:
tomafd wrote:
Exalted Wombat wrote:
_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!

Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

Eh? Sorry, you'll have to speak up. I went to lots of gigs when I was younger. Don't hear too good now...

Yup, I've had a damn fine time, but the years of feedback and loud levels have taken their toll. Early 50s and my top end peaks out at 12-13k, which is about average (for anyone of that age, not just musos) so I count myself lucky. Look after your ears, youngsters. You may enjoy sticking your head in the bass bin now, but it's not a good idea.

True, but I will say the larger issue for many is headphones more than concerts to be honest these days. Of course my comments above still stand;)

Seablade

You're right- especially with all those horrible top end distortions that mp3 tends to create. Car stereos, too - saw a video recently where some 26 yr old was shown that exposure to his 3k rig, in the car, had severely damaged his hearing in the 2-7k range. "Thanks a lot" he said "now I know which bits of the graphic eq to push up" Idiot.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby seablade » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:12 pm

TSH-Tim wrote:
Who has done anything like MLA before ? Where have you seen anything like MLA before ?

Look up digitally steerable line arrays. The MLAs are taking that technology to a new market in audio reinforcement yes, but the basic technology and concepts are still the same.

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby TSH-Tim » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:47 pm

seablade wrote:
TSH-Tim wrote:
Who has done anything like MLA before ? Where have you seen anything like MLA before ?


Look up digitally steerable line arrays. The MLAs are taking that technology to a new market in audio reinforcement yes, but the basic technology and concepts are still the same.

Seablade


There's a MASSIVE difference between that and MLA.... do you know how it works & what MLA is ?

There has NEVER been anything like like on the market before hence the hype & the price lol
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby TSH-Tim » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:49 pm

For those who have 40mins + spare :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfn2Om_iJUk
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby seablade » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:07 pm

TSH-Tim wrote:
There's a MASSIVE difference between that and MLA.... do you know how it works & what MLA is ?


Why don't you tell me what you think is so impressive about how it works then. I have yet to see anything that wasn't already done in one form or another before, with mot of the technology coming directly from digitally steerable line arrays.

Seablade

EDIT: For the record, yes I have watched the videos and there is absolutely nothing in them that for instance I didn't do with Duran Audio Intellivox line arrays in installs I have done years ago, except maybe the marketing. Renkus Heinz Iconyx is a little bit different, but the physics are identical, the difference being that their solution is closer to the more traditional array aiming/prediction software. As I said, it is taking the same technology that has been available to a different market.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Daniel Davis » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:48 pm

Must still be me that goes to most gigs and wonders why they are so loud. Frankly if it causes a threshold change - you've already shot yourself in the foot. Its not going to get any better by turning it up. I've been to several festivals where I come home and realize that I'm not going to be able to do any mixing work for at least 3 days.

I have however been to sooo many gigs where I can't hear the vocals and been told - they can't turn it up because of feedback - well turn the rest of the bloody instruments down so I CAN hear the vocals.

And... who are the ignorant people who go to gigs in order to have a conversation/shout fest with their mates. Can we just chuck them out?
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Steve Hill » Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:59 pm

I'm 57, I saw the Who and Black Sabbath about 15 or 20 times apiece in their prime. Plus a few Zep gigs etc.

My hearing may not be perfect but it works for me, I've never had any treatment for it, not any pain or other symptoms I feel might need treatment. I record, mix and perform, to this day.

Whilst I don't advocate unlimited noise levels such as I grew up with, I think there are a whole bunch of callow, useless, local authority jobsworths who have forgotten what a good time is (if they ever, improbably, knew) and are unwilling or unable to grow a pair and tell the locals in the region of a respected festival to just get over it and deal with it for a couple of nights a year. It's not as if there are no economic benefits for the local economy, if they want them.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby James Perrett » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:44 am

There are certain festivals who think they're doing a continuous all weekend 10 mile range seismic survey rather than playing music to an audience in a small area. Sadly they make it difficult for the more responsibly run festivals who respect their neighbours.

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby grab » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:06 am

I'm glad to hear that BK has got less loud, although perhaps it's gone too far. But when I saw her at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, I guess 2004, I was stood about halfway back, and my hair was actually being blown by the bass. Bit too loud there...
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby ginge6000 » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:40 am

grab wrote:I'm glad to hear that BK has got less loud, although perhaps it's gone too far. But when I saw her at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, I guess 2004, I was stood about halfway back, and my hair was actually being blown by the bass. Bit too loud there...
I've never heard anything sound good at the Corn Exchange - I've always assumed that it's the venue rather than anything else!
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:11 am

_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!
Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

I've stopped going for this very reason. I went to see the Eagles at the MEN & had it spoiled by the woman behind me singing half a beat ahead & a semitone flat. I could hear a woman on the phone talking to her mates all through Green Day. And as for Bad Company, you wouldn't have got away with a sneaky fart without half the audience hearing it.

I have fond memories of going to see bands like Thin Lizzy etc. when you simply couldn't annoy the people around you because they wouldn't have heard you. You had to communicate by hand gestures...and farts.

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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Raphbass » Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:17 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:
_ Six _ wrote:Went to see Beverley Knight last night and the couple standing next to us were talking over the music!
Same a rock concerts. Download FOH levels were an absolute joke!

I've stopped going for this very reason. I went to see the Eagles at the MEN & had it spoiled by the woman behind me singing half a beat ahead & a semitone flat. I could hear a woman on the phone talking to her mates all through Green Day. And as for Bad Company, you wouldn't have got away with a sneaky fart without half the audience hearing it.

I have fond memories of going to see bands like Thin Lizzy etc. when you simply couldn't annoy the people around you because they wouldn't have heard you. You had to communicate by hand gestures...and farts.

DM

By "communicate by ...farts" I assume you mean communication by smell? E.g. full-flavoured and fruity means "great gig isn't it" and rancid or fetid means "let's quit and go to the pub".
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Darren Lynch » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:25 am

Anyone go to the South West Four festival on Clapham Common? Two days untroubled to chest-crushing 909s and bowel-bothering 808s. I know that putting a dance music festival in posh Clapham is just asking for it in terms of low FOH levels, but still. Richie Hawtin managed to EQ his way around some of the worst of the limiting, bit many acts were just plain quiet.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby grab » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:08 pm

ginge6000 wrote:I've never heard anything sound good at the Corn Exchange - I've always assumed that it's the venue rather than anything else!

Yeah, it's a big echoey box which doesn't help at all. Seated events sound a lot better - more damping (from structure and people). Wish they'd do something about it.

But still, feeling your hair moving to the beat independently of you is a bit much FOH. ;)

And never mind levels - the tendency for a lot of gigs to have rip-yer-ears-out high-mids (probably down to that car stereo nut syndrome) is far worse. I'd rather be at a too-quiet gig than a painfully-EQ'd one.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Dave Rowles » Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:03 am

less is more in the corn exchange. You really need to keep the levels down in there or it's painful, as has been commented, due to the lively room.
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby monkfish » Sun Sep 18, 2011 1:52 am

Meanwhile I'm sat in my studio at home attempting to mix while the pub 50 yards up the street is blasting appalling chav karaoke at foundation-rattling levels, bass and sub-bass violating every room in my house. At least my horrible neighbours have finally taken a break from using my ceiling as a trampoline. But yes, why is there less unwanted noise in the world?
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Re: Why are FOH levels so low these days?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:41 am

grab wrote:And never mind levels - the tendency for a lot of gigs to have rip-yer-ears-out high-mids (probably down to that car stereo nut syndrome) is far worse. I'd rather be at a too-quiet gig than a painfully-EQ'd one.

Spot-on that man! It's usually that that has me wincing and moving-on rather than over-loud.
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