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Phil Starr

Killer Sound?

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I saw the Killers along with Tears For Fears and Elbow at Hyde Park this weekend and the bass sound was awful.

It's not the first thread on this topic but why do they do it? The PA at these big events is out of this world, they can pretty much have any sound at any volume they want, the control of dispersion is so good as is the integration of the relay speakers, you pretty much get the same sound at the back of the arena as you do up by the stage.

So what was wrong, the bass was too loud and the kick drum even louder. The bass sound conveyed very little information. Tears for Fears used a Hofner look alike (Taylor I think) but you couldn't tell it from the P-basses we saw most of, and you really couldn't tell a P from a J even though some bands were swapping out between songs. You couldn't really tell a pick from a thumb. The bass was probably 10db above the rest of the mix and was distorting like hell on all the louder passages. Kick drum was at least 6dB up on that for a lot of the time, though less distorted because it was compressed to hell. There was almost a complete lack of mids and top for bass and drums. Kick and tom drowned out the cymbals snare and hihat. It just sounded like one of those in car systems with a boom box in the boot. the only band that got anywhere near a decent balance were Elbow though even then the synth bass was running into distortion. The Killers had the worse balance you could barely hear Dave Keuning's guitar if the rhythm section were playing and it stayed the same all through the set.

Honourable mention goes to whoever was running sound for Callum Beattie on the smallest stage. Lovely kick sound as he was setting up but too loud in the first number. Then one by one the vocals and guitars slowly came up until by the end of the third song he had nailed the mix completely. I don't suppose anyone in the audience noticed it happening either, which is how it should be.

You'd think the headline band would get the best sound guy, not someone who doesn't notice a missing guitar or his speakers hitting the stops. The bands were fabulous by the way.

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Sound quality at these big events is always crap. Plus, I suspect the soundguys don't put all that much effort into mixing the bands, as the average punter at at event of over 100,000 people doesn't really care about the sound quality.

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[quote name='Chris2112' timestamp='1499762636' post='3333360']
Sound quality at these big events is always crap. Plus, I suspect the soundguys don't put all that much effort into mixing the bands, as the average punter at at event of over 100,000 people doesn't really care about the sound quality.
[/quote]

You'd think though that at that level, only people who knew what they were doing and took pride in their work would be used.

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Live sound seems to have turned into 'drums as loud as possible and kick louder still', even in small venues. It's spoiled more gigs for me than I care to remember.

:(

Edited by ahpook

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happens all the time, but I'm surprised the Killers don't have there own sound guy, I've heard support acts sound crap and the main act is good, either by design or incompetence, I've told this story before I was at a smallish festival a couple of years ago and all weekend the trebley kick was dominating the sound, the bass a dull thud with no definition, The Ruts DC came on great sound everything spot on, I was so intrigued I messaged the Ruts bassist Seg Jennings and asked him, his reply was they'd got their own sound engineer, so in that case it was incompetence because they weren't even the headliners.
At the Butlins punk weekend last year In from the Jams sound was superb, next band on the Sex Pistdolls was so bad people were walking out saying how crap they were, again all bass drum, so like you say it's not the PA it's sound engineers

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[quote name='ahpook' timestamp='1499766249' post='3333387']
Live sound seems to have turned into 'drums as loud as possible and kick louder still', even in small venues. It's spoiled more gigs for me than I care to remember.

:(
[/quote]I'm afraid so, I don't go to many paying gigs because of it, if it's not the kick drum that's way too loud it's the snare, or even both, drowning out the vocals in some cases

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It seems to be the "in thing" as many a band I`ve heard have suffered this, all kick drum and booming bass appears to be how many sound-guys want bands to sound.

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Many sound engineers using digital consoles have a bass preset which they use for everything, it's a bit like using a plugin like Ampeg SVX that makes everything going through it sound the same. But regardless of that they should be able to at least put a decent mix together, it's amazing how many engineers can't come up with a basic useable live mix.

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Saw Cheap Trick supported by Stone Broken at Kentish Town Forum a couple of weeks back. Sound quality for Stone Broken was spot on, everything clear and well defined and levels were nigh on perfect. Bodes well for Cheap Trick thinks I.........

Wrong!!!!!

So loud it was painful, even away from the PA, mushy and muffled, couldn't hear a guitar solo through the racket, spoiled the evening for me.

Is it an age thing maybe? louder not always better IMHO :(

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I was standing by the desk at Shepherds Bush Empire, many years ago, at a Little Feat gig, featuring Craig Fuller. That's how long ago. They started and the sound was perfect. Clear, well balanced, well defined and a good volume.

I watched the FOH guy spend the whole gig "operating" the desk. He never stopped fiddling and the sound went from just like the record to and awful indistinct mush at about 3 times bearable volume. If those guys can't get a sound man who knows what he is doing then what hope is there for anyone else.

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I was stood next to the desk for Cannibal Corpse once, every instrument sounded great........except that bass which was completely inaudible, to the point where I wondered if it was muted in the FOH.

Alex Webster is one the very best bassists in metal and the only times I could hear him was when he hit the strings a couple of times between songs and during the bass break in Hammer Smashed Face, really disappointing. The worst bit is that the person on the sound desk was their tour manager, so presumably they sound like this all the time, it really puts me off seeing them again.

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I've had close calls at festivals concerning the band's sound guy; here's an anecdote posted before ...

[url="http://basschat.co.uk/topic/264458-hopeless-live-sound-all-the-gear-no-idea/page__view__findpost__p__2804776"]Keziah Jones at 3 Elephants summer festival ...[/url]

'Substances' (sometimes liquid...) can be responsible for much, I'd say.

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I was staggered at the incompetence really. I used to mix at festivals back in the 70's (think WEM 4x10 era and AltecA7's) It's not an easy job as you don't really get a soundcheck but in these days with digital desks you can simply program in your settings at the start of a tour. The changover was so slick, with teams of people wheeling on the drum riser and new lighting rigs, pyrotechnics going off on beat. Techs handing over ready tuned guitars. Session players in the wings for one song, or ready to take over if Brandon decided to drop guitar for a bit of audience interaction. Probably £1,000,000 worth of PA, nothing left to chance it seemed. I can't believe it was the lack of money that caused this, or plain laziness.

I think there's a general hatred here for the Disco/RnB style bass mix but there's no doubt punters like a bit more bass and drum that used to be the norm. I also get the techs wanting to compress the drums in a live situation or trimming the upper end of the frequencies to clean up the mix and separate the instruments a little. For god's sake I'm a bassist. I like a lot of bass and drums but to let it overload the speakers and drown out the lead guitar. And they had someone there on the other stage who could do the job.

Edited by Phil Starr

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I saw UB40 at the Uni Of Herts - their own sound guy - couldn't hear the keys or the horns most of the time, guitars rarely, bass was so muddy that you could feel it but not hear it clearly.

There were complaints from their Cambridge gig last year about too much drum and bass. They've had the same crew for years apparently - you'd think that they'd get it right by now.

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The usual then..... Kick drum and vox at ten with everything else at two....and like the op said all of it through the highest tech money can buy....dear oh dear.
[size=4]Also I have never understood the term ..."our own sound guy"....how difficult is it for the guy at the desk to eyeball the instruments on stage, then eyeball the channels and then loose the mud and get it all crisp and shiny....99% of bands sound roughly the same anyway cause they play the same instruments.[/size]
[size=4]I stand to be enlightened of course.[/size]

Edited by oldbass

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[quote name='oldbass' timestamp='1499784982' post='3333585']
The usual then..... Kick drum and vox at ten with everything else at two....and like the op said all of it through the highest tech money can buy....dear oh dear.
[size=4]Also I have never understood the term ..."our own sound guy"....how difficult is it to eyeball the instruments on stage, then eyeball the channels and then loose the mud and get it all crisp and shiny....99% of bands sound roughly the same anyway cause they play the same instruments.[/size]
[size=4]I stand to be enlightened of course.[/size]
[/quote]well if you don't want the kick at 10 and everything else at 2 you need your own sound guy, apparently.

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I was at the Tom Petty gig the following day and the bass was spot on for everyone I saw across all stages IMO. The sound overall was great except for an annoying nasal whining sound during Stevie Nicks' set. ;)

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I don't go to a lot of big gigs, but I can't help but think that genre has a lot to do with it.

Most of the big gigs I've been to in the last few years have been late 70s to mid 80s bands (or new bands influenced by those eras) and without exception the sound has always been excellent and near perfectly balanced. In particular at the WGW the 8 bands playing in the main hall at each event have always sounded great no matter where they are on the bill and what instrumentation they are using.

The one exception to this was HIM in London a couple of years ago. Massively loud drums, and everything else except for the upper-range vocals reduced to a undefined sludge. This kind of mix might work in the studio where it's possible to spend ages fine tuning the separation between lots of down-tuned instruments all competing for a limited sonic space, but live it simply doesn't work. Many of the songs were unrecognisable until the higher pitched chorus vocals came in, because the indistinct mix meant that almost no actual notes were discernible from any of the instruments or the lower range verse vocals. The opening band had a perfectly good mix, and the sound for the headliners - Fields Of The Nephilim was great despite the fact that Carl McCoy vocals are close to the lowest pitched "instrument" in the band.

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The soundguy is always hugely important. I've seen Steve Vai live a few times and Thomas Nordegg always delivers on an incredible sound.

I saw Big Country live at the same venue a couple of years ago and the mix was complete garbage, to the point where some of the songs were hard to follow. It was a huge shame, being a band I love so dearly.

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[quote name='Chris2112' timestamp='1499762636' post='3333360']
Sound quality at these big events is always crap. Plus, I suspect the soundguys don't put all that much effort into mixing the bands, as the average punter at at event of over 100,000 people doesn't really care about the sound quality.
[/quote]

I never get to hear the house sound system when my band plays big gigs

I can tell you Peter Frampton's sound was fantastic.

Blue

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[quote name='Phil Starr' timestamp='1499760748' post='3333342']
I saw the Killers along with Tears For Fears and Elbow at Hyde Park this weekend and the bass sound was awful.

It's not the first thread on this topic but why do they do it? The PA at these big events is out of this world, they can pretty much have any sound at any volume they want, the control of dispersion is so good as is the integration of the relay speakers, you pretty much get the same sound at the back of the arena as you do up by the stage.

So what was wrong, the bass was too loud and the kick drum even louder. The bass sound conveyed very little information. Tears for Fears used a Hofner look alike (Taylor I think) but you couldn't tell it from the P-basses we saw most of, and you really couldn't tell a P from a J even though some bands were swapping out between songs. You couldn't really tell a pick from a thumb. The bass was probably 10db above the rest of the mix and was distorting like hell on all the louder passages. Kick drum was at least 6dB up on that for a lot of the time, though less distorted because it was compressed to hell. There was almost a complete lack of mids and top for bass and drums. Kick and tom drowned out the cymbals snare and hihat. It just sounded like one of those in car systems with a boom box in the boot. the only band that got anywhere near a decent balance were Elbow though even then the synth bass was running into distortion. The Killers had the worse balance you could barely hear Dave Keuning's guitar if the rhythm section were playing and it stayed the same all through the set.

Honourable mention goes to whoever was running sound for Callum Beattie on the smallest stage. Lovely kick sound as he was setting up but too loud in the first number. Then one by one the vocals and guitars slowly came up until by the end of the third song he had nailed the mix completely. I don't suppose anyone in the audience noticed it happening either, which is how it should be.

You'd think the headline band would get the best sound guy, not someone who doesn't notice a missing guitar or his speakers hitting the stops. The bands were fabulous by the way.
[/quote]

I know Callum, I'll tell him to give his sound person a pay rise.

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Saw Tom Jones a couple of weeks ago at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. Wasn't looking forward to the sound
at such a venue to be honest, but couldn't have been more wrong.
The whole gig was one of the best sounds I've ever heard. Loud and ballsy but never painful, and the drum and
bass sounds were absolutely spot on. No cabaret thing for Tom, it was a full on rock style gig. Great band
and flawless vocals too, all balanced and sounding great. Wish I had found the sound guys to let them know,as
I usually do when it's that good.

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Interesting that several refer to the fact that the sound from one band at a concert (usually the headliner) was excellent, but terrible for other acts. Probably because the main band's sound man was doing it and didn't want others to sound too good. It happens.

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[quote name='Dan Dare' timestamp='1499872064' post='3334224']...It happens.
[/quote]

Maybe it does, but I've never seen such an attitude, over several decades. Just sayin'.

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