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Enigmatic_Oddity
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12 Jun 2009, 8:20 pm

I've been going to gigs for the last few years, and about one in ten of them have been way too loud. Sometimes it is not only loud, but the sound balance is out so it is difficult to pick out individual sounds and it can't be made out what the singer is singing. When that happens there's no dynamic range, the music is all loud and it more closely resembles noise than music. Anyone else found that this can be a problem?

I've just recently purchased some Etymotic ER-20s so that next time I'm subjected to such high volume at gigs I'll be prepared, but the idea of wearing earplugs to listen to music strikes me as very silly.



normally_impaired
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12 Jun 2009, 8:25 pm

I do stage lighting work for various bands, whenever I'm at a concert I always have a pair of OSHA approved over-the-ear earmuffs. I use them since a lot of the time I'll have to go right in front of a PA speaker while trying to trace a control wire. I don't often go to big concerts unless I'm working tho.



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12 Jun 2009, 10:35 pm

yeah, I remembered playing in a benefit once in a small club (for Bosnia, this was decades ago...;) There was one band that only had those 'lunchbox' sized amps, and I swear they were louder than King's X, or even Zepplin...I think I left some of my hearing in there. I think their amps went to '12'...;)



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12 Jun 2009, 11:02 pm

I am rarely able to listen to live music without an earplug in at least my left ear (the more sensitive of the two). Volume is almost always too loud for me.



Italianwolf77
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13 Jun 2009, 9:56 am

I just use a pair of ear plugs. They bring the noise down to a listenable level, and it seems to help filter out the audience noise and let me hear the music only.



JohnHopkins
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13 Jun 2009, 10:12 am

I hate how loud gigs are. I've had tinnitus in both ears since I was 15 because of how stupidly loud a Muse gig was, and I don't like that band any more.

I've worked as a techie, and we were the people actually controlling the sound and we still wore earplugs. If you don't wear plugs to a gig, you're probably an idiot or have ears of steel.



TenaciousDrT
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13 Jun 2009, 11:52 am

It's perfectly fine to wear earplugs at gigs, in fact i would say it's a bad idea NOT to wear earplugs at gigs. I now do after going to a couple of gigs and well, it may seem weird but frankly you're destroying your hearing if you're not.

The comment about no dynamic range at gigs is spot on i think actually, it varies according to venues I've been to and sometimes even bands on the same night. I think it's something to do with either the PA in the place or the mixer or a combination of both. Otherwise yeah, it completely ruins the gig - i thought i was the only one that noticed that the only sound coming out was loud thumps from the drums at gigs i would go to. But i guess most people are too drunk or high to notice.



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13 Jun 2009, 11:54 am

What I've noticed is that the stage volume of bands has grown progressively quieter while the PA volume has grown louder. Bac in the late 60's and into the 70's, it was common to only run vocals and perhaps drums through the PA system while the backline of instrument amplifiers provided the sound for the Venue.

With the advent of more advanced PA systems in the late 70's and into the 80's and further advanced in the 90's , it was possible to theoretically have a relatively moderate stage volume, with the PA system handling the sound for the venue. Of course, with small venues it's only possible to amplify vocals, and perhaps kick and snare drum. --The band's backline still provides the sound.

A good sound tech will keep the PA system between 100-115db, but this is measured from the mix position, which is usually towards the rear of the venue. Positions forward of the FOH mix position will be louder, with the loudest place of course being closest to the PA system.

pakled wrote:
yeah, I remembered playing in a benefit once in a small club (for Bosnia, this was decades ago...;) There was one band that only had those 'lunchbox' sized amps, and I swear they were louder than King's X, or even Zepplin...I think I left some of my hearing in there. I think their amps went to '12'...;)


I don't know what you mean by a lunchbox amp, but 25 years ago, Gallien Krueger made a 50 watt per channel stereo guitar amp that was slightly larger than a lunch box. They were quite popular at the time. Also, a popular style of guitar amp was a style pioneered by Mesa/Boogie that fitted a 100 watt tube amp into a cabinet with a single 12"/30cm speaker. While the Gallien Krueger's were capable of being loud, the Boogie style amps were, and are capable of being incredibly loud, as any 100 watt tube amp is. --Oddly enough, I've found that these are louder than Marshall and other british style stacked amps with 4x12" sealed back speaker cabinets, as the 4x12's tend to equalise and dampen the mid and high frequencies,(the frequencies that carry more, and give a greater sensation of 'loudness') while open back combo amps like Fenders and Mesa/Boogies do not.

Also FWIW, The standard guitar amps that you will see in any given velue will generally be tube amps that output between 50 and 120 watts. Occasionally you'll see smaller amps in the 20- 35 watt range, and rarlely a guitar player playing through an amp that puts out more than 120 watts.

Furthermore, Celestion speakers are frequently used in guitar amps. Celestions are generally known for accentuating the upper midrange frequencies via both voice coil design and the breakup characteristics of the speaker cones. Also, some Celestions have a greater efficiency rating than others due to using a larger magnet in the motor structure. --Essentially all of this togeather means that Celestion speakers sometimes sound louder than other brands because of the frequency bands that they accentuate.


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Fogman
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13 Jun 2009, 12:30 pm

TenaciousDrT wrote:
The comment about no dynamic range at gigs is spot on i think actually, it varies according to venues I've been to and sometimes even bands on the same night. I think it's something to do with either the PA in the place or the mixer or a combination of both. Otherwise yeah, it completely ruins the gig - i thought i was the only one that noticed that the only sound coming out was loud thumps from the drums at gigs i would go to. But i guess most people are too drunk or high to notice.


Actually the loss of dynamic range generally has nothing to do with the PA system, Mixer or venue so much as woh is running the FOH mix position, and how much audio compression/ peak leveling they use on the signal before it hits the racks/stacks. Usually it's good to peak level the signal, AKA use 'Brick Wall' compression so transients won't ruin the diaphragms in the HF horns, or otherwise blow speakers. Some people OTOH also like to use boost compression in conjunction with this as well which boosts low level signals and makes the mix seem louder because with boost compression all of the signals will have a much more constant dynamic range, and therefore seem louder overall. Unfortunately, this also ruins the dynamic range as well.

Another thing that some FOH techs will do is route the backline mix buss on the mixer through a sidechain on a compressor that the vocal mix buss is routed to. This will allow greater vocal intelligibility by slightly reducing the backline volume with the vocalist is singing, much in the same way that voiceovers are done in radio and sports broadcasts.


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Sephiroth_52
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13 Jun 2009, 7:58 pm

Enigmatic_Oddity wrote:
I've been going to gigs for the last few years, and about one in ten of them have been way too loud. Sometimes it is not only loud, but the sound balance is out so it is difficult to pick out individual sounds and it can't be made out what the singer is singing. When that happens there's no dynamic range, the music is all loud and it more closely resembles noise than music. Anyone else found that this can be a problem?

I've just recently purchased some Etymotic ER-20s so that next time I'm subjected to such high volume at gigs I'll be prepared, but the idea of wearing earplugs to listen to music strikes me as very silly.


The idea of earplugs is silly when you are going somewhere to listen to something, but it is a neccesity for saving your hearing.

Bands tend to play loudly because they are setting up the volume so the peiople in the nose blead section can hear it, even if the people up front have bleeding ears.



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14 Jun 2009, 7:50 am

I am not bothered at all by loud music, so I don't wear earplugs to live bands or anything. I have ear drums of steel when it comes to music.


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b9
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14 Jun 2009, 8:05 am

there is not a lot of attention to dynamic range in many venues. they set their slider levels and they do not adjust them much during the performance, and it often leads to "clipping" and drop outs and T.I.M distortion which is disastrous to my mind. most mindless rabid dancers care not for sound quality.

i do not like live performances much because they are played through industrial grade speakers designed to pump an acceptable facsimile of the sound out to the audience in massive quantities.

i like studio environments where the studio monitors are built for fidelity rather than mass delivery.

it is amazing that songs i thought were not good when i heard them at concerts sounded so good on the studio monitors that were driven by a very carefully balanced desk.

i think i probably did not answer this thread properly.



Enigmatic_Oddity
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14 Jun 2009, 8:24 am

Most of the gigs I attend are acoustic sets and excessive volume is not usually a problem. In smaller venues, people tend to be quiet too, whereas in larger venues talking amongst the audience is more common, so the music has to be even louder.



Fogman
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14 Jun 2009, 4:08 pm

b9 wrote:
there is not a lot of attention to dynamic range in many venues. they set their slider levels and they do not adjust them much during the performance, and it often leads to "clipping" and drop outs and T.I.M distortion which is disastrous to my mind. most mindless rabid dancers care not for sound quality.

i do not like live performances much because they are played through industrial grade speakers designed to pump an acceptable facsimile of the sound out to the audience in massive quantities.

i like studio environments where the studio monitors are built for fidelity rather than mass delivery.

it is amazing that songs i thought were not good when i heard them at concerts sounded so good on the studio monitors that were driven by a very carefully balanced desk.

i think i probably did not answer this thread properly.


Actually, even though the main mix is pretty much set from the start of the gig or better yet from the soundcheck, (The faders, or'sliders' as you put it) the actual overall volume control for the PA system is located at the PA system's Crossover which is located in the 'drive rack' which is usually located the effects rack next to the PA system.

PA systems were built with fidelity in mind starting with Clair Bros. S-4 systems in the late 70's. In 1985 EAW intruduced their KF-850J cabinets which essentially meant that anybody who could afford them had access to high fidelity PA cabinets with minimal pre-processing. Good PA cabinets are pretty much now always designed for flat frequency response, this is a simple thing to do.

What is not simple OTOH, is making cabinets with flat frequency response that array well, with minimal interferance/comb filtering and the resultant phase cancellation issues when the speakers are tightly packed togeather to form an array. Also, it is much easier to make a speaker system for home use with perhaps a maximum handling power of 100-200 watts sound good. It's much differant with a PA system which must:

1. Handle program SPL between 1-2kw/ per cabinet, (2-4Kw Maximum signal)
2. Array well with other cabinets
3. Handle the abuse of being packed/set up/ torn down again, and be repacked for transport, and transported on a daily basis.
4. Be able to run without issues in, and stand up to incliment weather, (outdoor venues).
5. Weigh no more than 250 Lbs/ cabinet
6. Take up minimal space in a truck trailer (truck pack well)
7. Sound as close as possible to a home system or studio monitor system in the process.

A lot of 'A' list bands tour with Mix desks that are very similar to the hand made Neve, SSL, and Trident desks used in top studios. Gamble and Midas consoles come to mind. Pink Floyd Even used a purpose built Neve modular mainframe console for quite a few of their tours.

With a Touring PA system, the smaller and more compact, and therefore more powerful your PA system is means less time and hassle with the logistical issues and costs associated with running and transporting that system.


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