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BobK

Why do many mixers at concerts clip the speakers?

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Some venues are hard to get good sound in, but a skilled sound man can make it happen.  One of our local clubs has lots of musical talent play there, but the sound can be bad.  I was near the speakers for Wide Mouth Mason, and I left after twenty minutes.  The bass drum was so loud that it felt like I was being hit with a Nerf baseball bat over and over.

 

The ceiling is very low, not more than 12 feet, and the room probably seats 400, between the dance floor in front of the stage, the tables in the middle, and the booths along the walls.  When Ten Years After played, it was so loud that the air in the room seemed to be overloaded.  When the band was not even playing, just saying the name of the next song, you could not make out a word.  When they were playing, there was massive distortion.

 

However, when Dweezil Zappa played the same room, the sound was great!  That was the second time I'd seen him and his band, and the sound was great the first time, too, in a 750-seat concert hall.  I went over and complimented the sound man after the show.  He was a guy called Glynn Woods.  The credits say his name is Wood, but he pronounced it Woods.

 

Here's a 10-minute clip of him discussing sound setups:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8hvuTORaIA

Edited by Islander

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I don't know quite where to begin. Not sure if the OP is complaining about the mix (the blend of the various instruments), the overall amplitude of the sound at his location, or distortion in the sound system. 

 

 

Modern sound systems in concert halls are complex. Really complex. There are generally several systems in place. Mains, outfills, infills, delay speakers - each designed to integrate into the whole, and to provide satisfactory sound mix from anywhere in the hall. Most rooms will have areas that are not covered by the main sound system 'hang' so these other ancillary systems are in place to fill in. In my experience, sometimes the seats up front don't get enough attention from the front fills, so the stage noise (drumming and guitar amps) are still heard overly loudly over the vocals. Front fill mixes should be a separate mix to contain instruments not providing already ear-bleeding levels on stage (acoustic guitars, keyboards, voices etc). 

 

As to overall volumes, this has been addressed somewhat by the introduction of line array speakers. These are the vertically long systems of similar shaped boxes that act together, but also are 'steerable' by use of electronic digital signal processing. Each speaker box has it's own amp(s) with built in DSP to control volume, eq, even phase, which can all be utilized to give very similar volume/eq to any seat in the house. Used to be that the patrons up front were bludgeoned to death so the folks in the back could have decent sound levels. Not so much any more, we've conquered that. However sometimes it's too loud for me, so I take my custom -15 db earplugs to ALL shows, and wear them probably better than 50% of the time. 

 

Our auditory sense is a funny thing, and the brain can make up for a lot of shortcomings, I highly recommend wearing good quality ear protection at shows, after a song or two you won't notice anything different in the mix because your brain has 'made up' the missing frequencies. A reasonably priced set of non-foamy types are the Etymotic brand. They don't mess with the high frequencies as much as foam EAR type plugs, but not as expensive as custom molded. I know some guys who love the fit of their Klipsch Image in-ears that they just wear them, not hooked up to any source, as an alternate means of hearing protection. 

 

Sound guys DO care, they have a lot to do in a little time. Generally I've seen them with multiple microphones through the hall prior to a sound check, running pink noise through the systems to get a good balance and check frequencies for room nodes, feedback etc. They then usually run a few favorite and familiar songs through the system and walk the room/hall. I've done what you've done in commenting to them from time to time during intermission, sometimes to good effect. Take into account that you must get to the dude while he's at the desk, NOT actively mixing, and they take breaks at intermission too, so usually the dude you see there at break isn't the mix engineer at all. 

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for this listener, 90 dbA slow weighted on a decent meter is ideal. That's what I shoot for at my FOH (mix) position in clubs, theaters etc. Yes it will be louder on the dance floor of a club, that's what you want. But 90 is generally powerful enough yet comfortable. I use a little iPhone app called RTA by StudioSixDigital for measuring levels and checking EQ. It has a nice 31 band real time analyzer in even the simple version. You can get an entire suite of audio tools for a reasonable price from this same company. The more complicated $10 version of the program has pink noise generators, frequency sweep tone generators, and host of other goodies. 

 

NOSHA states that workplace noise should not exceed 85dbA for more than 8 hours. The exposure time is to be halved for every 3 db over that limit. At 94 dbA, the limit would therefore be only 1 hour. My custom in-ears reduce 15 db, so I can sit in festivals of 100dbA for 8 hours if necessary without much fear of hearing loss. 

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I'm happy to say the sound of the Todd Rundgren show last night at The Palladium in Carmel Indiana was outstanding. It was very clear and clean sounding, not too loud at all. The bass guitar and drums were especially sweet sounding. There were no amps on stage, and very few speakers on stage, only a few monitors for the drums. None of the musicians had ear pieces or in ear monitors, that I noticed. 

 

With the lack of amp, speakers, or monitors, were they playing through only the house speakers?

There was a small curtain behind the stage, could it had hidden the speakers? I doubt it because it was so far behind them.

 

Todd put on a great show, especially for a 67 year old guy. His band was spectacular, you could tell they have played together for a while. 

 

The ceiling in the place has a bunch of angled and adjustable glass panels. They claim to have one of the best acoustic rooms on the planet. The only other show I've seen there was a performance of Beethoven's 9th, that was superb.

 

Here's  pic of the room...post-58190-0-92920000-1463228801_thumb.jpost-58190-0-58920000-1463228838_thumb.j

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DWI in discussing Meyer Sound has illuminated an important development, that is Cardiod Sub Arrays. it is possible, using delay, to stack sub cabinets in what might seem bizarre configurations, and literally steer the sound with predictive software. Our small local sound company does this with standard EV QX218 bins, stacking them facing forward, backward, then the top cabinet forward again. It really works, propels the bass forwards and away from the stage, so the performers don't feel like they're being liquified on stage. 

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I'm happy to say the sound of the Todd Rundgren show last night at The Palladium in Carmel Indiana was outstanding. It was very clear and clean sounding, not too loud at all. The bass guitar and drums were especially sweet sounding. There were no amps on stage, and very few speakers on stage, only a few monitors for the drums. None of the musicians had ear pieces or in ear monitors, that I noticed. 

 

With the lack of amp, speakers, or monitors, were they playing through only the house speakers?

There was a small curtain behind the stage, could it had hidden the speakers? I doubt it because it was so far behind them.

 

Todd put on a great show, especially for a 67 year old guy. His band was spectacular, you could tell they have played together for a while. 

 

The ceiling in the place has a bunch of angled and adjustable glass panels. They claim to have one of the best acoustic rooms on the planet. The only other show I've seen there was a performance of Beethoven's 9th, that was superb.

 

Here's  pic of the room...attachicon.gifPal th2.jpgattachicon.gifPal Thr.jpg

 

Most likely all the performers had in ear monitors IEM, giving them isolation from room sounds and acoustic sounds on stage, and perfect stereo mixes in their heads. Guitar amps are housed in little cabinet back stage with internal microphones. I worked a recent Broadway show where they set up the drums in a dressing room instead of having him taking up valuable space and creating unwanted volume for the audience by being in the orchestra pit. It's VERY high-tech these days. I could show you photos that would blow your minds of racks of wireless mic and transmitter for IEM setups at shows. 

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DWI in discussing Meyer Sound has illuminated an important development, that is Cardiod Sub Arrays. it is possible, using delay, to stack sub cabinets in what might seem bizarre configurations, and literally steer the sound with predictive software. Our small local sound company does this with standard EV QX218 bins, stacking them facing forward, backward, then the top cabinet forward again. It really works, propels the bass forwards and away from the stage, so the performers don't feel like they're being liquified on stage.

It is simply amazing how they can create those nulls back stage, literally whisper quiet, with all that energy projected forward.

Don't understand how it works, but it does work, like an invisible cone of silence.

Travis

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...

A reasonably priced set of non-foamy types are the Etymotic brand. They don't mess with the high frequencies as much as foam EAR type plugs, but not as expensive as custom molded

...

I think these are the two Etymotic ear plugs which look best for the money, but both are -20db:

 

$13 https://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearing-protection/er20.html

$20 https://www.etymotic.com/consumer/hearing-protection/er20xs.html

 

green line is the $20 one:

er20xs_nr_chart_foam_2015b.png

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With them, loud is good, louder is better, quality don't matter.   -  Couldn't have said it better!

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With them, loud is good, louder is better, quality don't matter. - Couldn't have said it better!

Well that's not what he said, but that certainly added to the conversation.

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A few years ago, I saw Beck (Beck Hansen, not Jeff Beck) at a 1400-seat concert hall, the Royal Theatre in Victoria, built in 1912. I'd bought tickets the morning they went on sale, and got third-row seats.

The opening act was Band of Horses. I hadn't heard of them before that night, but they were pretty good, and the sound was good.  It was pretty loud, I'd say like 7 or 8 on a max volume of 10.

 

Then Beck came on stage.  The volume was cranked up to about a relative 13 on 10.  I was glad I had earplugs.  You could not make out a word of any songs, nor any of his conversations between songs.  He did a good show, and the whole crowd was on their feet from the second song until the end, but the sound was horrible.

 

This is a good concert hall.  I've seen Dave Brubeck play there, and Holly Cole, and Cheech and Chong with War.  All of them had great sound.  I don't know if Beck wanted to be sure we knew who the headliner was, or what, but it was disappointing to pay good money for crappy sound.

 

When I saw Beck the first time, he played an outdoor venue in Toronto, the Ontario Place Forum, in the late Nineties.  That show had great sound, so I was expecting it to be even better in an excellent concert hall.

Edited by Islander

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A few years ago, I saw Beck (Beck Hansen, not Jeff Beck) at a 1400-seat concert hall, the Royal Theatre in Victoria, built in 1912. I'd bought tickets the morning they went on sale, and got third-row seats.

The opening act was Band of Horses. I hadn't heard of them before that night, but they were pretty good, and the sound was good.  It was pretty loud, I'd say like 7 or 8 on a max volume of 10.

 

Then Beck came on stage.  The volume was cranked up to about a relative 13 on 10.  I was glad I had earplugs.  You could not make out a word of any songs, nor any of his conversations between songs.  He did a good show, and the whole crowd was on their feet from the second song until the end, but the sound was horrible.

 

This is a good concert hall.  I've seen Dave Brubeck play there, and Holly Cole, and Cheech and Chong with War.  All of them had great sound.  I don't know if Beck wanted to be sure we knew who the headliner was, or what, but it was disappointing to pay good money for crappy sound.

 

When I saw Beck the first time, he played an outdoor venue in Toronto, the Ontario Place Forum, in the late Nineties.  That show had great sound, so I was expecting it to be even better in an excellent concert hall.

Maybe it was the hall's sound guy cranking up the volume too much. I have not seen Beck in concert (would love to) but I have heard and watched a few of his concerts on Austin City Limits, and a concert disc. All the shows I heard sounded very good. I know you can't compare a recorded version versus a live show, but I think he would prefer the best sound available.

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Beck does a great show.  See him if you can.  I hope he sounds as good as he can when you do.

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Bob Dylan played at the old theater in Memphis (can't remember the name, it was almost 40 yrs ago), and we were doing a story on the show. The crew was bringing in all this gear, and they were told they wouldn't need to crank it up, as the hall was built to hear a whisper in the balcony. Playing a good performane venue in waaay different than a sports arena or race track.

Bruce

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Beck does a great show.  See him if you can.  I hope he sounds as good as he can when you do.

I've been a huge fan for decades. I like how he experiments with different music sounds and even genres. He's never boring. He's currently on an Asian tour.

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Wow, Just saw this topic. Other than talking klipsch speakers this is why I hangout here. I may not post a lot but sometimes there are some great threads like this one.  colterphoto1 I enjoy your experience with live sound. I have done some but with small bands, mostly using there equipment until I get frustrated enough to buy my own pa. (going from Peavey to crown and electrovoice 2 pairs of double eliminators.)  I have never worked for a sound company. I saw Sir Paul twice. both times the sound was fantastic. The last time was in Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Arena. It's supposed to be one of the hardest places to mix. They used meyer sound, Yes I asked. Ceptorman I have seen Todd about 20 time over the years. and yes he is big on good sound. Todd uses Chris Anderson as FOH. a very long track history in sound and video. I met him in Little Rock last year on Todd global tour, Fun to talk to. Nobody knew who he was. Bottom line, most all venues can sound good if the FOH can keep the volume loud enough to satisfy the venue, the band. " Turn it up"..... "It's too loud"..... "We want it louder".  "OK."

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A few years ago, I saw Beck (Beck Hansen, not Jeff Beck) at a 1400-seat concert hall, the Royal Theatre in Victoria, built in 1912. I'd bought tickets the morning they went on sale, and got third-row seats.

The opening act was Band of Horses. I hadn't heard of them before that night, but they were pretty good, and the sound was good.  It was pretty loud, I'd say like 7 or 8 on a max volume of 10.

 

Then Beck came on stage.  The volume was cranked up to about a relative 13 on 10.  I was glad I had earplugs.  You could not make out a word of any songs, nor any of his conversations between songs.  He did a good show, and the whole crowd was on their feet from the second song until the end, but the sound was horrible.

 

This is a good concert hall.  I've seen Dave Brubeck play there, and Holly Cole, and Cheech and Chong with War.  All of them had great sound.  I don't know if Beck wanted to be sure we knew who the headliner was, or what, but it was disappointing to pay good money for crappy sound.

 

When I saw Beck the first time, he played an outdoor venue in Toronto, the Ontario Place Forum, in the late Nineties.  That show had great sound, so I was expecting it to be even better in an excellent concert hall.

Beck will be on Austin City Limits tonight at 11pm eastern on MTVL, it's the old VH1Classic channel. 

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Went to see Marshall Crenshaw a few weeks ago at an old downtown theater in Burlington Iowa. The sound for the warm-up band (his band) was terrible, vocals were lost. He came on after a break and after 3 songs we walked. Guitar mix was painful and vocals were still lost.

Many moons ago I ran sound and lights for several bands and know how it can work so bad experiences, crowds of humans and Klipsch speakers at home have put me off live music.

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