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Top 10 Reasons For Bad Sound (And What You Can Do About It…)
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One of my favorite quotes goes something like this: “Let’s take some of these things over which we have no control, and do something about them.”

I only wish I knew who originally said this, because that person is my hero.

This article is my attempt at accomplishing this goal, because I tend to think of bad sound as something that I often have no control over but nevertheless I want to fix because it is a crime against the audience.

Sure, there are times when the gear is at fault but let’s be honest – it is more often not the fault of the operators. That’s right; it’s you and me screwing up the sound. So here’s my list of reasons for bad sound and how these problems might be overcome.

10. Promoters, event coordinators, pastors, principals, or other kinds of dweebs in charge of some event that just don’t know what real is, what it costs, or even how to ask for it.

They have done so much with so little for so long, that they don’t have any clue how bad it really is. They hire a DJ with loudspeakers on a stick when they need to cover an event with a PA, including background music, speeches, dancing, etc., for 450 people.

They low-ball all the local vendors and squeeze them for every dime. Unfortunately, some of these dirtbags actually DO know what it would take to do it right and they just don’t care. I’m sure you’ve been involved with events like this. I certainly have.

The solutions are tricky. But first, the only professional way to deal with one of these situations, once it is too late to turn back, is of course to do everything in the world possible to make it as good as it can be.

The down side of that is that the event will likely succeed as a result of your efforts and the problem is perpetuated (and of course if it fails, you are likely to be blamed).

My first suggestion is to flat out turn down any work that you know will be like this, and politely explain that your and your company’s goal is to always provide professional sound at hired events, and that for such little money, you simply can’t provide the proper tools and people to get good results.

Yes – there are companies and individuals that will whore themselves out for the bottom dollar. Just don’t be one of them if you can help it.

Failing that (and we have all failed that – often because we don’t realize what kind of a gig it will be until it’s too late), the next step is to very politely explain to the powers that be, after the gig is over, that a lot of problems could have been avoided, and better sound could have been had (meaning more, and happier, customers) if they had budgeted enough money and listened to the right experts about how it should have been done.

They may or may not take any interest. But at least you know to avoid this particular job in the future, and you can warn your friendly and like-minded competitors about it.


Source: Live Sound International

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Comments (2) Most recent displayed first
Posted by Karl Winkler  on  08/06/10  at  02:44 PM
Graham, thank you for your note. Although I mention Haas at the end, Time of Arrival is the heading for #6 and I think it applies here. And, to some extent, the binaural function is at stake here - if you hear sound first from the left PA stack, it will appear to you that the left PA stack is the original source. And with that, there is some cognitive dissonance: person taking is in front of me, but the sound is coming from the left PA stack.

Sure, the goal is to have everything arrive at the same time, but that relationship only exists for a narrow strip of the audience. I've found that by thinking about the greatest portion of the audience as receiving "synched" sound, that it also means that some people receive the original sound first, many get it at the same time as the PA sound, and then some still receive the PA sound first. Mainly, I was attempting (perhaps badly) to raise the issue that I've found most PA operators are completely unaware of.

Posted by Graham Gallimore  on  08/03/10  at  04:52 PM
Great article but point 6 is totally wrong!

If you 'delay the signal just enough so that most people in the audience hear the person’s voice slightly before they hear the sound from the PA' all you're doing is reducing the coherence and creating comb filtering.

The goal should be for both sounds to arrive at the same time.

The Haas effect only applies in the horizontal plane as it is a binaural function.

I am happy to clarify this further if required.

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