Mainstage Sound

August 6-9, Catton Park, Walton on Trent, Derbyshire
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bloodblind
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby bloodblind » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:07 pm

Virtue wrote:one band in particular had an atrocious sound mix: Dark Angel. Everything was turned up waaaaay to much, the bass was booming over everything, the guitars where muddy, the drums crashy and the vocals, well they where the only parts I could hear relatively clearly (although drenched in reverb). Was really gutted tbh as there one of the bands I really wanted to see all weekend and although their setlist was good (no Slaughterhouse though) their sound was absolute bollocks :(

EDIT: Also did anyone notice Korpiklaani's violin and accordion didnt work for half the set?


Couldn' disagree more and these are the bands that basically were my main reason for going. While the sound wasn't outstanding for Dark Angel compared to how amazing it was for Sepultura I don't think it was bad at all over the festival in general! At least not from where I was standing just behind the moshpit. Death sounded excellent from just in and around the pit also. The only band I had to walk away from all weekend because of a bad sound was Arnocorps
Last edited by bloodblind on Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Virtue » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:45 pm

I think you quoted the wrong post mate. I had no issues with seputuras sound
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Nantha » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:57 pm

beenabadbunny wrote:(Just to be clear, I wasn't involved in any way with this year's festival so this is all conjecture. I'm happy to be corrected/contradicted by anyone more in-the-know than me! :) )

I would say there's no single answer to this as there's umpteen factors that all fit together to make or break live sound.

The quality of the system is a massive factor but I think that's not in question this time - you noted yourself that you thought certain bands sounded excellent.

The sound crew themselves will also be important. I think the ideal combination would be a sound engineer who is both familiar with the system, and with the material. I suspect that a lot of the time, you can have one or the other but not both.

If a band uses their own sound crew then the mixing engineer will know what the band is supposed to sound like, but with limited time on an unfamiliar sound desk, they may not be able to achieve it.

Or on the flipside, if it's the festival's own sound engineer then they will know the system but may not know the music - which parts are important, when to boost for a solo, how loud the backing vocals need to be, and so on.

Some bands write instructions for the sound crew (for example I saw a picture of Wolf's setlist which must have been obtained from the sound desk as it had directions on it) and others probably just show up and hope for the best.

The bands themselves might not be using their own gear - particularly at a festival they are likely to be travelling light and using backline equipment. That actually makes getting a consistent drum sound somewhat easier for the crew, but things like guitar amps are a bit more complicated. If the amp settings aren't dialled in properly and the tone on stage is weak, then the guitar will probably sound weak in front of house, because you can't polish a turd.

Individual instruments can also go wrong in unexpected ways that the sound crew can't control. Let's say someone's keyboard isn't loud enough. It could be that the volume control on the actual keyboard has been knocked down and the keyboardist hasn't noticed. Or maybe the pad switch on the onstage DI box has got switched on during the changeover - so the desk could be getting 20 or even 40dB less signal from the keys than they should be, and without getting to the DI box to disengage the pad, they literally can't turn it up any higher.

The weather makes a big difference. Hot air transmits sound differently than cold air, so the sound will change throughout the whole day. The wind also blows it around. (As I recall there wasn't much wind on Friday and Saturday morning, but it picked up a bit on Saturday evening and Sunday). All of these things will affect high frequencies in different ways than low frequencies as well, which can muck around with the perceived mix even more.

Listener location - you mention that you were usually standing over the cable snakes. How close were you to the front? Because the speaker arrays are off to the side there will tend to be a bit of a dead spot front and centre.

I spent most of the weekend right by the sound desk (either just to the side of it, or immediately in front of it under the camera tower) and with a few exceptions the sound was consistently good.

Were you wearing any ear protection? If not, hearing fatigue will affect how you perceived the sound.

I've probably not even scratched the surface but these are the initial things I would be thinking about.


Yeah, basically everything I was about to write and more. Unless the system is set up piss poor/ has a system tech who doesn't know what he's doing, you can't blame the entire festival sound on one factor.
I wasn't there this year, otherwise I'd offer more insight, but as long as festivals exist there will always be problems, every time! :D

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby bloodblind » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:59 pm

Virtue wrote:I think you quoted the wrong post mate. I had no issues with seputuras sound


No it was just me typing like a retard while head is still returning to normal after the festival! Edited the post to show the point I was making better now.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Bearstock » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:05 pm

mathewxentrix88 wrote:
Virtue wrote:one band in particular had an atrocious sound mix: Dark Angel. Everything was turned up waaaaay to much, the bass was booming over everything, the guitars where muddy, the drums crashy and the vocals, well they where the only parts I could hear relatively clearly (although drenched in reverb). Was really gutted tbh as there one of the bands I really wanted to see all weekend and although their setlist was good (no Slaughterhouse though) their sound was absolute bollocks :(

EDIT: Also did anyone notice Korpiklaani's violin and accordion didnt work for half the set?

The poor sound on Dark Angel and Death(D.T.A) was the reason i started this thread.Both bands seem to be getting high marks on the "rate the bands" thread but for me the poor sound-(lack of guitars for Dark Angel and lack of vocals/guitars for Death) really spoilt both performances-which was a shame as those two bands(plus Nuclear Assault-who also suffered from poor sound) were my must-see bands of the weekend.



I didn't see Dark Angel but was a handful of rows from the stage to the left for Nuclear Assault and to the right for Death and really enjoyed both with no majorly noticeable issues.

I was in a similar spot for Ensiferum though and did notice the vocals seems a bit quiet at times.


I thin overall the sound was much better this year than it ahs been in previous years.
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Jim » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:07 pm

Did anyone notice the use of white noise during changeovers? Anyone give any insight into what that was? (Nantha?)

I'm guessing it was something to do with setting up the master EQ or something.
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Nantha » Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:10 pm

You're close. Would have been pink noise (without getting too technical, similar to white noise in that each frequency is present, but the bands of frequency are altered in level for human ear, so each frequency sounds at the same level) Human hearing is ridiculous basically.
It's used as a way to 'flash out' sends from the desk. So not only can he or she be sure their monitor mixes are turning up in the right wedges, they can also check for issues with speakers/cabling etc. Because every frequency is present, if you've got a speaker with a blown mid driver, you'll hear something is wrong straight away, rather than if you were to use human voice or a piece of music!

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Virtue » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:59 pm

bloodblind wrote:
Virtue wrote:I think you quoted the wrong post mate. I had no issues with seputuras sound


No it was just me typing like a retard while head is still returning to normal after the festival! Edited the post to show the point I was making better now.



you said you couldnt disagree more, I basically said the same thing :P I liked Dark Angel's set, I just found their sound crap lol.

Also I totally agree on Arnocorps, they had the worst sound of the weekend IMO.
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby cthulhu » Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:28 am

mathewxentrix88 wrote:A lot of people have said they thought the sound on mainstage was better this year than previously.I definitely don't agree.Potentially amazing sets by Nuclear Assault,Dark Angel,Death(D.T.A) and Ensiferum were ruined by a poor mix but other bands (Savage Messiah,Opeth for example) sounded great so why is the sound quality so random?
Now i tend to stand somewhere down the middle where the cables are housed under the plastic "tramlines" so maybe i should be standing elsewhere?.I would have thought in the middle would be perfect but maybe not?
I'm not moaning for the sake of it but poor sound blighted most of the bands i was really looking forward to,to the point where me and the missus both crossed our fingers by the time Ensiferum came on hoping for the best.It was shit.
So guys-any thoughts? Am i standing in the wrong place?Why does it vary so much from band to band? Is there something wrong with my ears?
Anyway-to balance that i thought that Sophie and New Blood sound was great for the majority of bands in the tents-to the point that i spent a lot more time in those than in previous years-mainstage was just too frustrating for me-and it must be said-the other people i was with.

* It was significantly improved, the addition of a second line array on either side in case of malfunctions was a smart idea after the last few years and paid dividends after the Sabaton issues started.
* Nope the middle where the "tramlines" are is the best space for you, typically putting yourself half way between the tower and the stage whilst on said lines will be the average region where the sound coverage from left and right is at its best.
* Nothing wrong with your ears, nothing wrong with the sound on mainstage. The reason each band sounds so random is because each band on mainstage has its own semi-autonomous crew. These crews travel with the band and do the sound for them and typically only them (although sometimes they'll do the supports too if they're paid extra) at every gig and festival they play on a contracted number of dates, some super rich bands have long term dedicated crew for the job but other bands have to rely on who is decent and available for the dates required and hence these engineers have to learn the mix rapidly and don't have as much time to experiment with what works best till they find the method that works best. Not all engineers are equal either so some are just not quite as good. The reason these crews are only semi-autonomous is that festivals and venues typically provide a house crew (or a few guys from the PA rental company for festivals) who basically babysit the process just in case the gear fucks up.
* Mixing indoors, even in a marquee tent is a different animal to mixing open air and a decent portion of engineers are far more experienced with the challenges of indoor venues than outdoor ones.
* Not all festivals and gigs use the same house gear and occasionally desks (particularly digital ones) have different ways of achieving the desired result from others and since you have to basically familiarise yourself on the fly with what you're using if you've not used one before that sometimes doesn't help.


bloodblind wrote:I thought the sound was pretty dam good all weekend and I have a good ear and play in bands like yourself. If I find the mix is weak where I'm standing I'll move until it comes into phase with how I like it and get that peak sound if you know what I mean, although sometimes that's just not possible. Nuclear assault being one example. I reckon that a lot of it is actually down to the bands themselves and their gear, guitar sounds etc, you can't polish a turd as they say but for example I've never once had trouble hearing andreas kissers guitar, why? Because he has such a dialled in tone and doesn't use any shitty effects that it's easy to mix. Same for Opeth and a few others. Death sounded great I thought and very authentic to the classic sound on their records from Human through to Sound of Persevearance. A few bands did have a bit of sound issue but I think it wasn't so bad as to spoil my enjoyment of them

To be honest in my experience mixing guitars using less effects is typically harder than more. If a guitarist has invested in effects he's doing about 2/3rds of the work in getting his sound how it should be and you're really just trouble shooting errant frequencies in the mix and ensuring a balance against the vocals and the rhythm section. A guitar tone that has less effects (depending on what's actually missing) can sound threadbare, weak and bland and it then becomes your job to make him sound great because he hasn't bothered. Some like Andreas might not use many effects but they've put the same amount of work into their sound using amp settings so it's typically the same job mixing them as it would be for a band who do use a lot of pedals.

The one major issue that guitarists with pedals really need to wake the fuck up to is signal loss due to the pedal chain. It's rarely an issue at the level we're talking about but amateur guitarists rocking up with 8 or so pedals and wondering why their guitar sounds weak as hell really need to either cut back or invest in some good signal boosters. After guitarists who fail to properly gain stage their solo channels (and hence switch to it for a solo and it gets way too quiet), people not properly considering their signal chain is probably my least favourite part of mixing guitarists live.
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby Jim » Fri Aug 14, 2015 6:46 am

Nantha wrote:You're close. Would have been pink noise (without getting too technical, similar to white noise in that each frequency is present, but the bands of frequency are altered in level for human ear, so each frequency sounds at the same level) Human hearing is ridiculous basically.
It's used as a way to 'flash out' sends from the desk. So not only can he or she be sure their monitor mixes are turning up in the right wedges, they can also check for issues with speakers/cabling etc. Because every frequency is present, if you've got a speaker with a blown mid driver, you'll hear something is wrong straight away, rather than if you were to use human voice or a piece of music!


Ah ha, cheers. Knew you'd know! :yes:

And yeah you're right, it was pink noise (biased to the bass end, I thought EQ shaping had just trimmed off the high end).
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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby mathewxentrix88 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:36 am

Thanks very much for your detailed replies guys.I reckon i need to go and get a hearing test before next year!.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby beenabadbunny » Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:47 am

Not to be preachy but in all seriousness, do get earplugs. Hearing damage happens very quickly and is irreversible.

They're not necessarily dear - £17 for these Alpine ones from Amazon for example.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alpine-MusicSafe-Filter-Plugs-Musicians/dp/B000VO8PR0/

I won't go near any amplified music without ear protection - I've done enough damage playing in bands over the years before I learned that lesson.

At BOA it was probably worse inside the tents than on the main stage, I guess because the sound is more focussed at you whereas outside it disperses more widely. I found the main stage sound was still punishingly loud though, especially when there was no wind.

As a rule the higher the frequency, the more damage it does - so bass drums won't hurt you that much but eg cymbals are very bad for your ears. And transients (ie short 'spikes' of high-pressure sound) are also very damaging - so that's snare drums.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby SamB14 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:21 am

I have those alpine ones, whats with the case though its so strange. I had them in when i was down the front for sabaton, went to put them in during WT but i lost one annoyingly. Fortunately i didnt find it punishingly loud for that set. For the tents i stood near the back so i didnt feel the need for them. I always wear them at small indoor gigs or bigger venuesnif down the front.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby beenabadbunny » Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:31 am

I do have a pair of those Alpine earplugs but they're a few years old and came with a cylindrical case:

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If they've changed to a different case, I would guess it's because it was quite easy for one or both of the earplugs to get stuck inside.

In practice I prefer ones with a cord so it's harder to lose them, especially if you want to pop them in and out between bands / to have a conversation etc.

In a pinch you can just use regular earphones, as long as they're the kind with the silicone tips that go right into your ears and make a seal. So these will work as earplugs:

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but these won't:

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Obviously it's better to use proper earplugs designed for live music, and you can spend arbitrary amounts of money on custom moulds for your own ears and stuff. But really anything is better than nothing, as long as it creates a seal to give some isolation.

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Re: Mainstage Sound

Postby SamB14 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:40 am

beenabadbunny wrote:I do have a pair of those Alpine earplugs but they're a few years old and came with a cylindrical case:

Image

If they've changed to a different case, I would guess it's because it was quite easy for one or both of the earplugs to get stuck inside.

In practice I prefer ones with a cord so it's harder to lose them, especially if you want to pop them in and out between bands / to have a conversation etc.

In a pinch you can just use regular earphones, as long as they're the kind with the silicone tips that go right into your ears and make a seal. So these will work as earplugs:

Image

but these won't:

Image

Obviously it's better to use proper earplugs designed for live music, and you can spend arbitrary amounts of money on custom moulds for your own ears and stuff. But really anything is better than nothing, as long as it creates a seal to give some isolation.


I bought that cylinder case from a shop online because the case it currently comes with is not simple to use. Never had a problem removing these ones as your not supposed to stick them that far down your ear!