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Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

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Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:33 am

I have gotten quite a few comments that when I am on the board, the sound is quite soft. However, even when I am sitting at the mixing console(which is behind the speakers so I technically should hear softer sound) the sound is rather comfortable for me. I never like blasting sound, especially when announcements are made, and I can hear it perfectly, but my audience usually tell me they cannot really hear it well. I have made an effort to turn it up so that it's a little loud for me, but every now and then I set it so that it is normal for me, and get chewed out for that. Is that a problem with my ears, and is there any way to fix it?
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Dave Rowles » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:24 am

Hard to say without you having a hearing test, but probably nothing wrong with your ears. Get a sound pressure level (SPL) meter and see what level you're running at. You can get ones for smartphones, and while they aren't necessarily accurate, they can give you a general idea as to how loud (or quiet) you're running it

Normal acoustic speech is around 60-70dB, quiet music gigs usually run around 75-85dB, loud gigs 85-92+ in my experience. Most rock engineers will run it at 96-100dB range, as you've got to cope with loud guitar amps and drummers trying to destroy the kit.

But really, without an SPL reading we can't say if you're running it quiet or not. Are you the only engineer in the venue? If not it could be the other guys run it louder, and the punters are used to that volume, which is what they expect.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby The_BPP » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:26 am

It's not a problem with your ears.

In my experience of gigging (I don't do the sound, I'm just the piano player, but I'm out most weekends), there's usually someone who complains about the volume, either too loud, or quiet.

Ultimately, it's a compromise. Too loud, and it's uncomfortable, and people won't enjoy it, too quiet, and people may not dance or engage with the artist (public conversation over the sound from the PA may indicate this).

You could, perhaps, take a little from the mid-range, if you think it's too loud - that can be fatiguing, at times, especially on a small PA system.

Remember... you can't please all the people, all of the time. Unless you unplug Justin Beiber's PA. :)
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:44 am

I think that it might really be that the other engineers turn it on too loud since personally I do find that the sound is very loud when it is not me that is on the board. But, just to confirm, I suppose I will get a test going on. But regardless, any tips on how to improve the situation? Getting told that I turned it too soft always gives me a lot of worries.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 18, 2013 11:57 am

Wear good quality musician's ear plugs!

There is something of a theme running in your posts, isn't there? You really do need to get on board with the concept that when you stand behind the desk you are a service technician whose only role is to satisfy the expectations of the audience. You are there to help them enjoy the experience, NOT to enjoy yourself.

It would certainly be a good idea to use a decent SPL meter to ascertain exactly what the sound level is across the auditorium.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:01 pm

Just to check, but where do I get those ear plugs? And what is their use?
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:04 pm

Various companies make them -- you'll find lots of options across the web. Provided that they are good quality musician's ear plugs that attenuate evenly across the frequency spectrum, they won't affect your ability to mix, but they will reduce the sound level you are exposed to. This is not only good for protecting your own hearing, but will allow you to work at higher levels to satisfy your audiences without it sounding excessively loud to you.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Jan 18, 2013 12:57 pm

+1 to good earplugs. Also is there any way you can get the desk in front of the PA? It's almost impossible to mix accurately from behind the speakers.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby seablade » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:16 pm

Dave Rowles wrote:
Normal acoustic speech is around 60-70dB, quiet music gigs usually run around 75-85dB, loud gigs 85-92+ in my experience. Most rock engineers will run it at 96-100dB range, as you've got to cope with loud guitar amps and drummers trying to destroy the kit.

A couple of corrections, or clarifications depending, here.

One all your numbers seem low to me. Part of this reason may be because you don't clarify what weighting you are using, and what response time, or where the measurement is taking place.

Typically using C-Weighted, which for most music is the most appropriate as it closest represents how our ears hear starting at about 80dBSPL, I find rock engineers tend to mix MUCH stronger than 100. I tend to PEAK at 110dBSPL for a rock concert, at the console. And I tend to be on the quiet side of rock mixers honestly.

Quieter acoustic music gigs I tend to find I am running between 85 and 95. Remember, unamplified average conversation at 3 feet tends to be in the 60-70 dB range. At 80dB an acoustic concert will sound right about twice as loud, meaning the conversation next to you won't impede your listening to the music much. Again I tend to peak about 95 depending for these types of concerts, meaning I tend to have about 10-20dB of dynamic range in my material, from quiet passage to peak.

The medium range gigs, which are what I am mixing most these days as I work full time at a church handling all their audio, I tend to sit between 90-100dB SPL and find that is the area where most people consider it comfortable. It is not a rock concert, but neither is it quiet.

As was mentioned elsewhere in the thread, there will always be people that complain one way or another though. However one thing does concern me, why is your mixing console BEHIND the speakers? Why aren't you out mixing where you hear what your audience hears? At one venue I played venue engineer for incoming acts, and every act that tried to mix from the stage failed horribly, frankly as they couldn't hear what their audience was hearing and I couldn't adjust it from FOH as they just gave me a 2 channel feed. Thankfully I didn't have to many acts like this.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Dave Rowles » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:58 pm

Heh, I generally check on C weighting, but I bow to your extra knowledge. Those numbers are based on what I aim for so maybe I do aim on the quieter side.

I try not to exceed 100dB at mix position as I really can't see the point of going any louder. It always moves enough air for me!
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:17 pm

If you think that behind the speakers are bad, you should try doing the mixer from another room. The mixing board in my school hall is elevated, and linked to the hall just through windows. Unfortunately, but I find that most public schools around my area tend to have mixing boards at such positions. Maybe it's cause school kids around my area tend to not mix all that well, and this configuration is to avoid having rotten eggs thrown at them?
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:21 pm

With regards to sound level, I seem to find that I am the only one affected by it, since even when I am not at the board, and viewing the performance as an audience, I find the volume too high for me even though the majority of the people aren't complaining. Thus, this brings me to believe that I am the one that is away from the norm, and while the musicians earplugs are a good idea, they are generally priced too high for a boy living off his parent's income to afford.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Exalted Wombat » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:30 pm

Arondite wrote:I have gotten quite a few comments that when I am on the board, the sound is quite soft. However, even when I am sitting at the mixing console(which is behind the speakers so I technically should hear softer sound) the sound is rather comfortable for me. I never like blasting sound, especially when announcements are made, and I can hear it perfectly, but my audience usually tell me they cannot really hear it well. I have made an effort to turn it up so that it's a little loud for me, but every now and then I set it so that it is normal for me, and get chewed out for that. Is that a problem with my ears, and is there any way to fix it?

Some sound operators think the job is to make it as loud as possible before feedback.

Another common error is to play introductory recorded music (which has no feedback problems) louder that the live part of the show can ever be. Instant anti-climax!
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Bossman » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:29 pm

Arondite wrote:..and while the musicians earplugs are a good idea, they are generally priced too high for a boy living off his parent's income to afford.

I paid around £160 for moulded earplugs - worth every penny if it helps save my hearing.

If you can't afford moulded ones, then generic ones are better than nothing and cost about £10 or £15.. I'd recommend Doc's Pro Plugs if your going to get generic ones.

I would talk to your parents, explain you are serious about protecting your ears and talk through the options with them. Surely they would be happy to buy you the earplugs if they understand how important they are.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:47 pm

Arondite wrote:The mixing board in my school hall is elevated, and linked to the hall just through windows.

This is a pretty standard arrangement for small theatres and school halls set up mainly for assemblies and stage plays etc. Usually the windows can be opened or removed to allow direct acoustic monitoring of the hall sound when necessary, and there are usually local monitor speakers as an option as well.

There are plenty of situations where the auditorium sound is controlled perfectly well from a separate room... but it does take a degree of experience and knowledge to do it properly.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:46 pm

To Bossman, could you refer me to where you got your plugs? Frankly speaking, what I did was type "Musicians earplugs" on google, and was led to Etymotic, featuring $500 earplugs, which was why I thought it was too extravagant. However, $160 seems to be a better deal, and something I might be able to get my hands on.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby seablade » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:11 pm

Dave Rowles wrote:Heh, I generally check on C weighting, but I bow to your extra knowledge. Those numbers are based on what I aim for so maybe I do aim on the quieter side.

I try not to exceed 100dB at mix position as I really can't see the point of going any louder. It always moves enough air for me!

Always varies. As I mentioned most of my mixing these days are what I consider 'medium' range stuff. It is rock music, but done in situations that don't demand the levels of a full on rock concert, and likewise I usually don't break 100dBSPL C-Weighted in those cases (On specific occasions yes, again depends on the material).

But if I am doing a full on rock concert, I will tend to peak at 110dBSPL at the console, and can tell you I am on the quieter side for that:)

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby seablade » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:13 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
There are plenty of situations where the auditorium sound is controlled perfectly well from a separate room... but it does take a degree of experience and knowledge to do it properly.

Yes, and many people don't understand this. It actually takes more skill to run an event properly in a separate room than it does in the house itself, and will generally result in worse sound.

Not saying it can't be done, but you do need a proper monitoring system, that is well designed and tuned well, a well tuned system, and of course someone that knows how to compensate for the fact they aren't hearing what the audience is.

Seablade

Who has mixed in such situations before as well, it happens.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Bossman » Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:18 pm

Arondite wrote:To Bossman, could you refer me to where you got your plugs? Frankly speaking, what I did was type "Musicians earplugs" on google, and was led to Etymotic, featuring 00 earplugs, which was why I thought it was too extravagant. However, Arondite60 seems to be a better deal, and something I might be able to get my hands on.

I'm in the UK.. I guess by your use of $ instead of £ that your probably from the US??

Anyway.. I got mine from ACS a few years ago. These are the one that I got.. they are £164.50 (UK Pounds not dollars).. but you have them moulded to your ears.. and they are based in the UK.. so you might have to find somewhere a bit closer to you
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:30 pm

Bossman wrote: I guess by your use of $ instead of £ that your probably from the US??

He's actually in Singapore.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:53 am

This is about the use of SPL's on iphones and androids. I went to my school hall as the audience for a show, and I took out my android with the SPL downloaded into it. However, even without any sound from the speakers, just random mummering from the audience, the SPL's meter is already at 83-85. Is that supposed to be alright? The average value of the SPL reading for a person speaking is about 96-98(98 is the highest reading for the SPL I downloaded, so it could possibly be higher). So, what is your take on the situation? Is the volume too loud?
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby MarkPAman » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:09 am

Arondite wrote:This is about the use of SPL's on iPhones and Androids.
What weighting did you have it set to, and are those peak figures? They could be correct.
I assume there's some sort of calibration procedure (even if it's just telling it the model of the phone) to go through as each type of phone will have a different microphone.

The one I have on my iPhone gives me readings within 1 or 2 dB of my proper meter.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby seablade » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:24 am

MarkPAman wrote:
Arondite wrote:This is about the use of SPL's on iPhones and Androids.
What weighting did you have it set to, and are those peak figures? They could be correct.
I assume there's some sort of calibration procedure (even if it's just telling it the model of the phone) to go through as each type of phone will have a different microphone.

The one I have on my iPhone gives me readings within 1 or 2 dB of my proper meter.

SPL meter software on phones has very large limitations. IF it is calibrated at least close to correct for the sensitivity of the mic, and there is no gain control the software doesn't know about, and you are within the range of audio appropriate for the mic (Not clipping and not so low as to be masked by the noise floor) then it might be close to accurate.

However if any of these are not met it it is very much not accurate. I would say that reading 98dBSPL is probably not accurate for conversation, however if the hall was very noisy then maybe it was, who knows, that can depend on the things mentioned in the above post (Weighting and response time) to an extent as well.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:45 am

Yes... some smartphone apps are surprisingly accurate (over a restricted range), while others are utterly hopeless. Most require some form of configuration to accommodate the specific sensitivity and gain structure of the phone's microphone system and are hopeles unless configured properly.

Rather than rely on a phone ap -- at least not until you have been able to confirm its accuracy and useful working range -- I'd strongly recommend purchasing a simple dedicated sound level meter like THIS ONE They are widely available for very little money, but are remarkably reliable, include the appropriate filter weighting options, and are surprisingly accurate. I use one routinely when aligning stereo and surround monitoring systems, and for checking PA levels -- and although I also use a far more expensive NTi system for critical work, the cheapo Silverline meter is usually within a dB or so.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:00 pm

My phone is a Samsung galaxy S2, and the app I am using is Sound meter (Lite). I typed Sound pressure level meter on my apps store and this was the first app I got. There is a calibrate mode there, but all it allows you to do is increase the calibrated amount by a certain number. I can't seem to find anything that tells me how to calibrate it to my phone.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:21 pm

Okay. Some apps have specific configuration options for specific phone models. Your's appears not to. You might find data on the manufacturer's website about the appropriate calibration settings for your specific phone model. The only other way is to mount the phone in front of a loudspeaker generating pink noise, alongside a properly calibrated dedicated SPL meter, and then adjust the phone app calibration to achieve the same reading!

As I said, it would be worthwhile investing in a simple, cheap meter like the one I linked above. I'm sure you'll find something similar in Singapore quite easily. That particular design is sold under a wide range of different manufacturer names (it was very popular as a 'Radio Shack' product in years gone by!).

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby seablade » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:29 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
As I said, it would be worthwhile investing in a simple, cheap meter like the one I linked above. I'm sure you'll find something similar in Singapore quite easily. That particular design is sold under a wide range of different manufacturer names (it was very popular as a 'Radio Shack' product in years gone by!).

I believe still is, I just threw one away that the calibration finally gave out on enough that I couldn't trust it.

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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Arondite » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:16 pm

In the event that I get a custom fitted earplug, what are the procedures to be done? Do I order it from Amazon first, then find a audiologist to get the impression? And do I need to go to any specific place to find a audiologist? I don't think any random hospital down the road will be able to get it fitted.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby MarkPAman » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:24 pm

Specsavers do it, though I don't know if this is at every branch.
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Re: Something is wrong with my judgement of volume

Postby Guy Johnson » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:49 pm

Back to perceived levels ...

I've found that maybe 10% of people tend to like music louder than I do when listening folk and acoustic music.
And that with rock maybe 10% like it quieter!

It's a matter of taste, both in the feeling of loudness, and the amount of sound-degradation that's acceptable as a consequence of more and more loudness. I always err on the side of quality and veracity — whatever the genre of the music is.

It never ceases to amaze me in gigs with a noticeable front/rear loudness profile, that moaners who think it's too quiet won't go towards the stage, and that moaners to whom the music's too loud, will hate to move away from the stage ...
even from in front of speaker stacks sometimes ... :headbang:
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