scoz wrote:I guess the difference between seeing them in their own right which I haven't and at a festival which I have. is they control the sound system when it's just them playing while at a festival it's the festival the supplies it. A while back I saw some macho idiot saying bascially "wooo I saw Sunn o))) without earplugs and my ears are still ringing a week later woo".
Don't be so quick to assign blame to festival sound vs venue installs. Obviously the latter have the opportunity to optimise and refine their house system, but not at every venue. Some rely on hired-in sound, or tired and badly-deployed equipment ... or sometimes both. Having "control" in the way you describe, can be a double-edged sword.
By contrast festivals now have much more powerful tools available, to optimise their temporary sound systems. For example Martin Audio's innovative post-line array MLA uses modern technology to put sound where it's needed, as well as employing the significant "hard avoid" functionality that avoids putting sound in places that would cause problems - such as reflective surfaces that send delayed interference back towards the audience, causing comb-filtering and similar types of unpleasant artefacts, resulting from multiple sound waves combining at various times in their cycle, polluting the direct sound the audience is supposed to be enjoying.
Anyone who's been to a gig at Hyde Park in recent years, will notice the benefit resulting from Capital Sound using multiple arrays of MLA and MLC, in addition to changing the orientation of the stage to reduce spillage that previously caused complaints from neighbouring residences. I saw Simon & Garfunkel play an amazing gig in Hyde Park in 2004, but even for that genre of music, which doesn't demand such challenging volumes as most more modern types - the PA I heard (V-Dosc I think) was not as loud as I expected for a gig of that scale.
Sonic compromises at festivals often come from the lack of facility to soundcheck, as bands would normally do without the audience present. The typical festival line-check involves using headphones (and sometimes near-field monitors) for a very short period of time, to anticipate how what you can hear will translate to the main system, which will only be brought up when the band begin their first track.
It's not necessarily difficult to follow a line-check with a decent "throw-n-go" mix, finished off and polished during the first few minutes of the first song. Festivals tend to introduce a load of additional inconvenient variables, from time constraints to stage logistics to weather threatening to wipe out the power. Many of these are hard to anticipate or prepare for beforehand.
Anyone who's been involved in festivals understands how the huge increase in the number of moving parts, compared with a typical one-off gig, can complicate matters and sometimes compromise aspects of a live performance. Issues happen to everyone from the greenest youngsters, to the most experienced and well-resourced acts.
For example the recent Radiohead festival issue has lit up all the live sound forums on the interwebs. Turns out their Avid S6L FOH desk had been flashing up an error message prior to the offending event - advising the external AVB interface (which can be used for everything from digital connection to stageboxes, to recording/playback of virtual soundcheck multi-tracks) was faulty. Basically a simple piece of maintenance got overlooked, this time with serious consequences.
The issue was publicised because normally digital consoles used for live sound are setup to continue passing audio, even if a fault causes the desk to power down (which thanks to the SOP of using UPS protection, means such events are rare but normally due to computer-style crashes, when they happen). In this event the fault left the band playing away (the monitors were not affected) whilst the audience heard FOH go silent for up to a minute - a timescale which lasts a lot longer when you're the person everyone is looking at during the terrible silence!
In respect of the post quoted, the biggest concern is someone "boasting" about not wearing ear-plugs. Good quality loud volumes, whether playing recorded or live music - should not fatigue the ear of the listener. Obviously they shouldn't be allowed to damage people's hearing either, but that's a H&S issue way beyond the scope of my knowledge.
Part of the problem is that music consumers of all types, can become accustomed to hearing distorted sound, especially at high volumes. This becomes part of the signature of that sound, and can actively detract from the ideal goal of providing sound reinforcement at high volumes, but which doesn't potentially damage or audibly fatigue the ears of consumers.
A good example of where consumer expectations regarding loud live sound can be polluted by distortion, is the modern preference for bass reflex subwoofers, commonly used at a variety of event types and capacities. When pushed beyond operating limits, a bass reflex subwoofer will distort and produce out of band artefacts, which the human ear is more susceptible to hear (see Fletcher-Munson or "equal loudness contour" for details).
The same distortion (when such speakers are pushed to the limit of their operating extremes) occurs in alternative subwoofer topologies, such as 4th and 6th order bandpass, or conventional horn-loaded enclosures. However the higher frequencies are much less audible, as both horns and bandpass subs send the majority of their output along a tuned and resonant enclosure, before the sound waves reach past the extremities of their cabinet - so the out of band distortion (ie higher frequencies) is naturally filtered by the loudspeaker cabinet design.
These are all just examples. Take any specific situation, and there are many other factors that come into play. However don't write off festivals as always having sub-standard sound - for example any outdoor festival immediately provides a far more acoustically inert environment, where the design and deployment of a PA system doesn't need to account for the same number of potential reflections found in indoor venues - reducing the potential for interference that is likely to impact on the quality of the sound.
I'm not going to name and shame any current music venues unfairly. But a good example of bad sound comes from a recently closed Leeds venue. They used a well-known, well respected and popular (if dated) arrayable 3-way point source speaker, for their tops. The manufacturer increased the life of this product, by employing a respected acoustic engineer who created a set of locked-in DSP presets that increased the lifespan of their existing speaker designs, only available via that manufacturer's bespoke speaker processor. The latter was never used in this venue, but I'll leave the reasons why up to folks imagination...
By contrast Brighton's Concorde venue has a high quality PA, using L-Acoustics Arcs over SB218 subs. If you look at their FOH system processing - the key detail is that the system utilises L-Acoustics' preset programming. The non-negotiable nature of the blackbox DSP pioneered by modern line array specialists L-Acoustics, designed by Dr Christian Heil, has been the key to the success of their sound system concepts. It's also a business model now used by other big names, as well as established manufacturers espousing similar concepts, such as Meyer and d&b, all to great effect - providing an assured consistency, regardless of location.
Arcs are probably the best vertically and horizontally arrayable tops available to system designers, as they have fixed dispersion that doesn't allow for differing array angles - avoiding the inevitable interference inherent in conventional line arrays.
L-Acoustics gained their top-tier reputation by creating holistic PA systems, allowing band techs to spec their products in every continent - with the assurance that each system sounds exactly as it was designed to back at the factory, regardless of the differing circumstances that present potential problems - for example different electrical topologies, or user-adjustable processing that potentially affects less rigidly-defined systems from competing manufacturers, if used incorrectly.
Arcs are now into their 2nd generation, and L-Acoustics now make system techs life easier by ensuring their current products can only be used with L-Acoustics' own amplifiers, that contain the bespoke DSP required to provide consistency in respect of the sound of their products, wherever they are used.
A good example is Adlib's install at Leeds' Brudenell venue, where a 400cap room is covered by a L/R pair of differing dispersion Arcs boxes (in a "WiFo" array, conveniently run from a single amp channel per side) that sounded fine initially, but has recently been improved by adding a centre-fill 115XT - to compensate for the varying volume of different channels emanating from the stage. I.E. vox that only spill from monitors require additional reinforcement in the house, whereas a Marshall 4x12" half-stack or Fender Twin (guitar amps preferred by Jason and Doggen respectively) are loud enough (when run at high gain to benefit from their valve amp character) to be heard by audience members close to the stage, hence normally only require reinforcement in the mid and far fields.
Apologies for this long, rambling and overtly technical post. However I think it's important to ensure folks understand that there's no simple festivals=bad/house gigs=good dichotomy in play. As with most matters related to live sound reproduction - the nuanced answer is normally complicated, starting with the phrase "it depends..."
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