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Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

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Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Oct 27, 2019 9:23 am

I was speaking to a friend last night, he went to see Tangerine Dream at the Barbican, he walked out half way through, the music didn't live up to expectations, but what pushed him to walk out was the sound, he said it was "mushy" with no clarity or definition, and way too loud.
I have been to numerous concerts in the last couple of years, and I always dread the sound, the worst being a couple of Bill Frissel concerts, and it seems that good sound is a very rare experience these days, and it seems to be getting worse, this is very ironic at a time in history when the technology has never been so good.
I went to a Psych festival this year, the sound was dreadful too, way too loud, with bad mixes, and obvious cock-ups.
I've spoken to a few live engineers, some are great, but more often I come across a very cavalier attitude "that's good enough" and attention to detail and subtlety is lacking in the general attitude.
As far as good sound goes, I can't say I've got any recent memories, but events that stand out in my mind as having really excellent sound date back about 20/25 years, David Sylvian, always really good, excellent, Laurie Anderson also, and a concert by Diamanda Galas was amazing too, these artists obviously care about the sound, and probably have dedicated engineers that work with them all the time. But even so, I dread going to concerts these days, it's such a lottery regarding sound quality, and it definitely shouldn't be, as bad sound can ruin the whole concert experience.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby gsc1ugs » Sun Oct 27, 2019 10:05 am

Exactly, technology, is it my earS but i get a mouthful on here because i want it more or less perfect, still searching
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Oct 27, 2019 10:12 am

You can have perfect...

You just need the talent, knowledge and skill to set it up and operate it properly, an the budget to afford the right gear... but the PA system won't be small or light.

H
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Oct 27, 2019 10:59 am

It's also the venue and where we're seated. We may need to pay for seats with the best live sound. The one time this Aussie was at the Barbican, we had last minute seats up high at the back. The venue reverb was insane. A local folk club here recently moved venues and the sound is now much worse, but the managers aren't tuned in to such issues. If management aren't even aware of a venue's sonic limitations, all bets are off.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby shufflebeat » Sun Oct 27, 2019 11:22 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:You can have perfect...

You just need the talent, knowledge and skill to set it up and operate it properly,

Tim Gillett wrote:If management aren't even aware of a venue's sonic limitations, all bets are off.

These are prerequisites from the lowest bar gig to the biggest stadium, well appreciated it seems by theatre designers in times when decent PA wasn't an option.

There is a string of Northern (UK) social clubs that still exist despite major demographic change and, while some of them are truly awful to play in, you can tell that the best of them were designed fron the floor up with entertainment in mind.

In a good club you have to work quite hard to muck up the sound.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:09 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:It's also the venue and where we're seated. We may need to pay for seats with the best live sound. The one time this Aussie was at the Barbican, we had last minute seats up high at the back. The venue reverb was insane. A local folk club here recently moved venues and the sound is now much worse, but the managers aren't tuned in to such issues. If management aren't even aware of a venue's sonic limitations, all bets are off.

Yes, I've had bad experiences at the Barbican, it's not got a good reputation for amplified concerts. But, saying that, I did see Stars Of The Lid there and the sound was excellent, as Hugh says, you need a good operator, with good knowledge, and who's familiar with the venue too.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby The Elf » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:25 pm

gsc1ugs wrote:Exactly, technology, is it my earS but i get a mouthful on here because i want it more or less perfect, still searching
I don't think anyone here has given you 'a mouthful' for wanting perfection. It is your methods of trying to achieve it that have drawn reasonable, and well-intentioned, criticism.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Oct 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Venues designed with unamplified music in mind* usually have a fair bit of natural reverb. Loud amplified music is much better served by a dryer acoustic.

I did an outdoor gig/festival a few years ago, I was assisting the sound guy and we were getting a decent sound from our rig **. The headliners arrived, with their own sound guy and spent about 50 mins setting up and sound checking. The band (Sunshine Underground IIRC) were excellent but, more relevant, their sound guy was brilliant, listening to our rig was a revelation, it sounded like a veil had been lifted. Just goes to show that knowledge is far more important than gear***.

* Concert halls, churches etc

** EAW 750 tops and subs x 4 and Crown Macrotech amps, adding up to about 10kW all driven from a A&H GL2200 plus various outboard.

*** this is, obviously a remake of shufflebeat's Fergal Sharky experience :D
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Wonks » Sun Oct 27, 2019 1:25 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:*** this is, obviously a remake of shufflebeat's Fergal Sharky experience :D

i.e. Just get a load of young adults to attack the speakers with their Dr Martens. :D
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Wonks » Sun Oct 27, 2019 1:28 pm

I've been to many concerts where the sound seemed bad, but sometimes it is the venue and the sound at the mix position is fine, just not elsewhere. Sometimes just moving along two seats can improve matters greatly. Sitting in the middle few seats is never the best place to sit for good sound, though can give the best visual experience.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby MOF » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:50 pm

I’ll be honest I don’t go to gigs but a mate of mine does and his experience of the NEC wasn’t good - a tin shed. I was amazed that Nottingham Arena opened for concerts, it’s an Ice Rink by day.
Sure, if lots of people attend it’s going to damp down the acoustic a bit but both venues are essentially metal boxes.
The Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham has variable acoustics and I’ve heard good reports about Rock concerts there.
I think the main problem is excessive SPLs in rooms that don’t absorb the sound but just bounce it around.
Just think of all that bass and low mid swimming about, it’s bound to create less definition in the mix.
I did some sound recordist work a while back, no names here, but my trousers were literally flapping in the wind caused by the PA, admittedly I was at the back of the room next to the wall where bass is at its strongest, but it’s indicative of the PA levels, I used my headphones as ear defenders.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby shufflebeat » Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:14 pm

MOF wrote:...my trousers were figuratively flapping in the metaphorical wind (an allusion to the fluctuating variation in air pressure) caused by the PA...

FTFY
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby MOF » Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:36 pm

Unread postby shufflebeat » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:14 pm
MOF wrote:
...my trousers were figuratively flapping in the metaphorical wind (an allusion to the fluctuating variation in air pressure) caused by the PA...

FTFY

No they were “literally” flapping in an actual wind created by the movement of air from the PA system.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby shufflebeat » Sun Oct 27, 2019 4:50 pm

MOF wrote:
Unread postby shufflebeat » Sun Oct 27, 2019 2:14 pm
MOF wrote:
...my trousers were figuratively flapping in the metaphorical wind (an allusion to the fluctuating variation in air pressure) caused by the PA...

FTFY

No they were “literally” flapping in an actual wind created by the movement of air from the PA system.

I stand corrected.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Oct 27, 2019 7:50 pm

With flapping trousers... ;)

I remember leaving a British Sea Power gig a few years ago because the sound was so terrible. The whole of the midrange was just mush and you couldn't begin to determine one instrument, or even melody line, from another.
That venue has closed now thankfully and the main operator moved to a different venue that has much better acoustics. I saw Dry The River there (who'd brought their own desk as well as engineer interestingly) and the sound was brilliant - just like listening to the album.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:00 am

I had the opposit experience at the opening night of a Lloyd Webber musical in the West end, first night, excellent sound off-the-bat, it was amazing, the best ever, and we weren't in a particularly good position. And that venue was a Victorian theatre, definitely not designed for amplified sound.
I think that if the acoustics are questionable, my first thought would be to keep the volume as low as possible and still try to get the job done.
I did some work helping out a BBC trained engineer, the shows were Jaques Loussier, Cleo Laine, and the Chelsea Music Festivals, in small clubs and small halls. It was an education, the engineer was great, and believed in the less is more approach, always balancing the PA to the loudest source, like unamplified drums, no compression, minimal EQ, we always got compliments for the sound, well, he did!
It strange after doing those shows, when I go to a tiny pub, and see mic's all over a drum kit, the chances are it's not going to be good.
I know larger venues require more amplification, but dome engineers seem to go on what's normally done, rather than what needs to be done.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Oct 28, 2019 1:40 pm

Arpangel wrote:It strange after doing those shows, when I go to a tiny pub, and see mic's all over a drum kit, the chances are it's not going to be good.
I know larger venues require more amplification, but dome engineers seem to go on what's normally done, rather than what needs to be done.

All true - it should also be noted that tiny pubs sometimes have a level of background noise that takes some beating, not usually the case at yer actual paying gig of gentle nocturnes.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 28, 2019 1:57 pm

Wonks wrote:I've been to many concerts where the sound seemed bad, but sometimes it is the venue and the sound at the mix position is fine, just not elsewhere. Sometimes just moving along two seats can improve matters greatly. Sitting in the middle few seats is never the best place to sit for good sound, though can give the best visual experience.

It always surprises me when the sound engineer stays at his desk and doesn't move around during soundcheck.. it should be a matter of course.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:29 pm

I once sat down and worked out just how many live shows I had done over about 12 years touring and it came to over 2,000. This was in the days of towers and before JBL had invented the line-array. There are some venues where it is very hard to provide bad sound and some, where good sound is impossible.

You can, of course, say "Well, why don't they . . . " and come up with obvious fixes - except that time, money and venue managers get in the way and you are stuck with untreated back-walls, dome ceilings and unraked seating and TBH pish-poor design by architects who never give a fig for acoustics. And the newer the venue, the worse it gets!

If you want to know why live sound is getting worse, just look at the study programme for architects - not one of the thousands of three-to-five-year courses I have looked at has acoustics on the programme anywhere. Architects are trained to design anything and everything but not once do they get any training in acoustics - just ask anyone living in a modern high-rise flat about noise and neighbours!

And live music venue design is given to people who have little or no knowledge of theatre design. As the sound guy, you are fighting an impossible and uphill battle against people who just don't know and don't care about the very thing they are designing the place for. And the people commissioning new builds are even worse - "Surely that's something we can fix afterwards!" is a statement I have heard many times in planning committee meetings. Unbelievable but sadly true.

The plans go in and after thay have been OK'ed an acoustics engineer is consulted and his or her recommendations are commissioned, studied and then roundly ignored because (1) they cost money and nobody budgeted an extra £200,000 for acoustic treatments (2) the building plans cannot be altered without considerable cost and delay (3) nobody on any planning committee understands the subject so they disregard things that they cannot understand.

In short, you are dealing with idiots!

Imagine you are on the planning committee for a theatre or other venue and you commission a plan that costs £250,000. Then, after fighting the £20m budget through countless other committee stages and getting some pencil-pushers to OK the project, some Johnny-Come-Lately acoustics consultant tells you that the dimensions are wrong and new plans have to be completed. Yer, right!

It's like making a movie or recording a record on a very tight budget - how often do we hear "We'll fix that in post!" and the results are predictably pish-poor?

"Another £250,000 to fix the sound? Come on! Get real! I'm absolutely sure that it can be fixed once the building is finished!"

You have just spent £250,000 on plans for a venue with a glass dome ceiling and now some £240 per hour consultant tells you that it is the worst design possible and has to be scrapped - are you kidding?

But there is another evil lurking in the bushes - clever councilors, aided and abetted by private development companies (usually off-shore) who cash-in on their 'clever' ideas - because they are happily spending YOUR money!

Well, I say clever - they THINK they are clever and nobody has ever told them that they are in fact as a breed, 100% stupid as pig shite. If you are talking to any councilor who has not made it to MP within 10 years, the chances are that you are talking to a gibbering, babbling moron. No exceptions are allowed (by me!) and I have had to deal with hundreds of these creatures - boy could I tell you some stories!

The average housing and planning committee would have the standard of debate vastly improved by replacing the councilors attending with boxes of excrementum porcorum, subspecies sus scrofa dometicus. At least then the committee rooms would not stink of unwashed councilors soaked in cheap perfume and deodorant.

'Clever' councilors do 'clever' things and right at the top of the list of 'clever' things they do is save money by converting buildings. Every unsightly and 100% unsuitable disused factory has a gaggle of councilors lobbying to have it turned into a film studio, a concert venue or they have some other brain-dead idea to save money. Your average councilor cannot look at a factory that has a leaking roof and is miles from any supporting infrastructure without frothing at the mouth and starting to rant about it becoming a theatre, film studio or some other centre of cultural excellence (in his or her febrile imagination).

Fortunately for all of us, nearly all these idiot plans never come to fruition - but a significant number do get through and make life for everybody that has to use this dreadful structure that should have been torn down a hell on Earth.
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Re: Bad live sound at a time when technology has never been better?

Postby MOF » Mon Oct 28, 2019 3:36 pm

It always surprises me when the sound engineer stays at his desk and doesn't move around during soundcheck.. it should be a matter of course.

In fairness to the engineer, at the performance he or she has to mix the show.
They should have listened to the venue with tracks playing through the PA that they know well and done the necessary eq at that stage.
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