sound quality control (mixing) at live venues


I find the sonic balance at most live concerts/events I'm attending to be atrocious.Everything seems to be turned up almost to the max.
Bass blooming, producing one note bass even though you can see the bassists fingers frantically running over his strings and fret-board. I think this one issue creates a roll-on effect for everything else.
Mid-range promoted to be heard over the exaggerated bass.
Ear splitting high frequencies to overcome all of the above.Vocals maxed to be heard over everything else.
Volume in a nightclub's acoustically untreated concrete room that would be better suited to open-air stadium concerts.
It happens everywhere from cruise-ships and major venues down to the pub down the corner, with very few exceptions.
I always complement the band and sound guy at those exceptions and they seem to appreciate the response to their efforts.Trying to explain to the majority who are producing horrible sound is generally met with hostile or blank looks.

I realise it's new technology being used, iPads and digital programmes to control everything, but that can't be the real issue. Is it lack of knowledge and/or experience? Don't they know what "real" music is supposed to sound like?
I watched one "sound technician" the other night. Everything was as described above and when someone soloed, he turned them up even higher! It was ridiculous to watch as well as listen to. Even if he is doing this job for nothing, he was still a waste of money.
Maybe it's just my aging ears. Does anyone else notice or suffer from the same problems when they go to watch bands or live music?
ianrodger
Sure, it's a mess. When I see the sound guy (it's always been a guy) wearing earplugs, I know I'm in for the worst.
It's not just the sound guys. I remember going to a small venue, the band playing brought 30" looking woofers and some of the attendees were salivating over them. That was their experience. Big bass.
Ask Wolf, he should have a better slant on this deal.

Not attended many good gigs of late as always seem to be work busy.

However one does soring to mind that still make me wince.

It was a Christian rock festival and Skillet were playing.
Now I really like this band but holy moly.
The lead guitar was turned up so high it literally made your ears bleed! I have been to many concerts including ac/DC, Rainbow, Mettalica etc but never heard a lead guitar this loud and piercing.
get seats near the sound board!
It sounds you've never been on Broadway between 4th & 5th, Nashville. Or Ravinia, all 3 venues.
I heard McLauhlin sound perfectly balanced in the Cubby Bear bar.
Listen to any Opry broadcast, WSM. It sounded even better live. And I don't even care for most Country.
There's many reasons this can happen. The Eagles in Seattle started out atricious, people scrambling around eventually got quite a bit better but still nowhere near what I know the venue to be capable of. Supertramp in Seattle was a testament to state of the art audio, and this was in the 70's. So its not like this is so hard to do.
For years I was in the habit of taking time at some point to walk around and sample the sound from different locations. Yeah what can I say I'm a audio junkie. There's always differences but nowhere was this more dramatically demonstrated than Steely Dan at the Gorge.

From off in the distance it sounded like any old band. Walking around the edges of the main seating area the sound ranged from crappy to downright painful. I mean it was just awful, and if it was reserved seating I wouldn't stay there no matter what. People did though. From up closer in the main seating area it sounded pretty good. Huge difference.
Finally I walked up and got as close as I could to the little stage they had set up for the mixing console guys. Right in front of them was the best and smoothest and most holographic sound I have ever heard at any concert ever.

So its a crapshoot. Sad to say, considering what you pay....
I believe that a notable percentage, perhaps even a majority, of the poor quality sound I’ve heard at recent amplified/electrified concerts has indeed been due to the change to digital technology.

The best (read worst) example both my wife and I experienced was at a Todd Rundgren show at the Akron Civic Theater several years ago. My wife has been a huge fan for many years and has seen him in every conceivable venue. We’d seen the Liars tour in Sandusky State Theater and came away hugely impressed. The Akron show was quite another matter. Compressed, harsh, brash, poorly defined and generally unpleasant. This was true even standing directly behind the board. After the show, we checked out the equipment and discovered that both the incoming and outbound signals were entirely digital and transmitted via CAT-5.

We have since talked about that show as a worst-sound-ever reference point many times, and most recently a few weeks ago when we went to see a friend’s band play at a local bar. Our buddy doesn’t play with a garage band; they have a very loyal following, play top quality small venues (including the Beachland Ballroom for those who know NE OH) and has a top-notch sound engineer. Again, the sound was very disappointing. This time, it was overly bassy and so biased toward the guitars we couldn’t hear the vocals or the violin. The second set was better, but it still sounded like there just wasn’t enough power even though there was plenty of volume. Loud with no depth or clarity. That’s something I never expected to hear again after I dumped my early transistor gear in the 80’s. After the show, I checked out the board and PA. Active speakers with chip amps and what looked like a standard board.

Smaller venues seem to be less affected, perhaps due to a closer proximity between the sound board and the stage. For sure, the Beachland has always delivered better sound than Quicken Loans Arena here, anyway. That said, none of the shows we’ve seen since the last Pink Floyd tour have fully met our expectations on sound quality. That was at the transition point from transistors to chips in amplification. Perhaps just a coincidence, but our experience in the 20+ years since argues against that presumption. Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion tour was the only exception, but even that was 12 years ago now.

This weekend, we attended our first symphony concert and it was a revelation in many ways. We’re not huge classical or operatic fans, but have a number of favorite pieces we’ve listened to over the years. I’d always thought my system did pretty well with classical music, and I still think it’s pretty good. That said, I can now also say without a doubt that the classical recordings I have are far short of the mark. Other threads here have contained many comments that symphonic recordings are generally poor, and I’m now inclined to agree. One passage where there was a large string melody (violins and cellos) had a single bassoon counterpoint. One instrument contrasted against perhaps 30, and still clearly, perfectly audible. That’s not something I’d heard in any of my pressings (several of which are supposedly audiophile grade), and will be the subject of a new thread shortly.

Didn’t mean to give such a lengthy reply, but the above is a vehicle to support why I agree that clarity, depth and nuance are sorely lacking in many of today’s amplified performances. Volume has it’s place, but so does silence. Don’t lose faith though; there is still much happy listening to experience!
I should have mentioned that I am in Sydney, Australia and have never been to Broadway. We have some wonderful venues here and have heard some great music over the years at many of them. Sydney Town Hall or the Opera House for example, have amazing acoustics and the balance, where all instruments can be heard, all the time, as with the orchestras I've heard at those venues is what every muso and sound tech. should be striving to produce imo.
Elliot, I agree although a position directly in front of the sound guy does not sound better if he has no idea of what he's doing, especially in a small venue like a pub which is where I was the other night. The band were using active digital speakers but I've heard those sound OK at other times. I know the room wasn't particularly helpful but imagined that the mixer was employed to try and get around the rooms influence to some degree.

This was my experience 30 years ago:  the sound man starts by getting the balance and EQ on the drums and bass, setting them as loud as he can, leaving no room for the guitars, keys, vocals, etc.  to be heard above them. So the resulting sound is absolute crap with no hope of it being musical.  I doubt it has changed.