Why does rock concert sound suck?

I have been to two rock concert in the past year : Brit Floyd in Bridgeport CT and Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden, NYC (last Monday)

For Brit Floyd I was about 40 feet form the stage and treble end was an ear-splitting distorted sound - the soprano solo on Dark Side of the Moon sounded like a chain saw running at 5x speed.

For Eric Clapton I was sitting at floor level about 20 rows behind the mixing desk - i.e., the opposite end from the stage. In this case the high top end was not so distorted, but the voices were still very harsh - seemingly a massive response peak at ~1500hz. Imagine AM radio with the treble turned up 20db.

I knew a lot of the words form the songs ahead of time of course, and just about recognized them, but otherwise the lyrics were unintelligible. The only exceptions were when he sang a quieter song - e.g., “Tears in Heaven” . Clapton moved back from the mic rather than place his mouth right next to it. Then the sound was quite listenable .

Of course managing the acoustics in such a big venue is no doubt a challenge — but does it have to be this bad?


@mtbiker29 Thanks for posting that a friend and I were just talking the other night about the Sphere Center about to open in Vegas and whether Phish would play there vs the MGM.

I can’t tell you how many terrible sounding concerts I have been to.

I stopped going to amplified concerts over twenty years ago. I had to put paper in my ears to prevent hearing damage. I still had access through conferences I attended every year… I would stuff napkins in my ear… seldom have i lasted more than one or two tunes.

I have been to the Orange County Conference center, Orlando at least a dozen times. It sounded pretty good once.

Generally too loud, difficult acoustics, electronics built more for volume versus quality, In house audio engineer… well, I don’t know what is wrong with them. I am sure one could come up with a half dozen more.


Even twenty five years ago my system sounded much better than I could hear at a concert. Also, I hate fighting to claim seats.


However, I have had season tickets to the symphony for over ten years. Reserved seats on the aisle, front and center. From my seat if a violin soloist is playing a Stradivarius it takes me a couple notes to be able to tell. The sound hole of the violin is pointed at my seat. This also helped me calibrate my hearing for choosing electronics. Has been one of the most positive influences in audio for me.

Never sit close to the stage as it is really loud. I went to a Deep Purple concert in 73 and was sitting second row with the left speaker almost in my face. My ears rang for over a week. I believe that was the beginning of my hearing loss. After that, I always brought ear plugs with me to concerts.

Just saw Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks and the sound was terrible. Far, far too loud and just awful. In addition, so many people around us just talked loudly throughout the entire concert!

This has been my experience over the last few years without exception. My wife and I have decided we will no longer attend concerts at large venues as the experience is no longer enjoyable.

Saw both Rickie Lee Jones and Aimee Mann at smaller theatre venues and really enjoyed those concerts.

Probably because it doesn't always suck. I've been to hundreds of rock concerts and some have had absolutely pristine sound, like hearing it on a great hi-fi system. And sure, plenty sound horrible, too. Venue, sound crew, lots of reasons...