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?


Over the last decade or so, about 90% of the concerts I've attended have had atrocious sound.   I just don't go to many anymore...bad sound damages my ears; bad sound is unpleasant; bad sound prevents me from hearing the artistry that drew me to the concert in the first place; bad sound wastes my money and my time.  I've never understood why a band would carefully craft an amazing sounding album and be content with lousy live reproduction of it.

@77jovian , down with that....👍

Living where we do, most concerts are min. 2+ hours away (Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Knoxville...Atlanta is an overnight, and it had better be 'early seat pick')

If I expect it to be an issue, we don't go.  So much easier to cue up a file of some source and enjoy it on my own sound reinforcement...and my own 'mix'. ;)

Don't have to tip-toe through the too-tripped with beer at ridiculous $s', can light up something of a non-retail variety without making the 'down-wind' crowd start head swiveling for source, Sal stoner with gal Sally either howling like wolves or loud on the cells...

I often wished for a jar of ether with a battery fan....My version of The Cone of Silence...*L*

That, and aerosol LSD...

"You're not f'd up enough...."  *psssht*

Any further yowls will be far more primal, and we'll 'relocate'....😏

I can accept people commenting on bad sound as hey, people pay for a good experience and they should have one whether it’s an audience that behaves themselves (note that classical concert attendees are very touchy about audience jerkwads, although jerkwads still show up), or clean sound. The goal for mixing should be to have an audience not notice it. I can’t accept pseudo expertise in a field I know something about so I will feel free to share my knowledge because after all...I’m a giver. Feel better teo? Good...I knew you would. Note that sound mixers don’t start with the drums and bass...in large venue mixing you simply get a signal from all the mics or direct line feeds in their respective channels and mix ’em. I mention "large venue" because in smaller shows (under 500) it’s not uncommon for musicians to crank an amp up too much and ruin the mix...about which there’s nothing the sound mixer can do other than anger a musician, and you don’t want to do that.

I have to agree with many posters here that the Grateful Dead sound very good live. U2 sounds like their recorded music are they compressing their sound on purpose? I have been very fortunate to see allot of live music, for me it is usually the treble shelving that is most annoying.  Deep Purple was another great sounding show come to think about it but Alice Cooper's show was just plain weird...