So I found myself distracted today when I found an interesting article. The article was about how some people in Commerce City, a poorer suburb of my home city of Denver, were very upset by bass noise from a Bassnectar concert that was held at an outdoor venue there. From there, I learned that the iconic Red Rocks venue quite recently (2014 and 2015) imposed a noise ordinance in response to noise complaints from local residents. (Google it. I can't find the actual regs online to link.) That's remarkable because the venue had operated without complaints until only recently. In any case, Bassnectar made some curious statements about Red Rocks before announcing he was going to use a different venue for 2016: "[...] And sadly Red Rocks is gonna have to run their sound levels so low it will sound like laptop speakers. And I'd feel guilty telling ppl to go. [...]"
In any case, the reporting of technical facts in the articles I read were predictably atrocious, and it took a lot of digging for me to figure out just what kind of levels we're talking about here. Eventually, I tracked down my answers (but please forgive the source).
An audio consultant was hired to carry out a study. Measurements taken at the front of house mix console over course of multiple performances revealed a maximum 1 minute average SPL of 132 dB. Wait what?! Someone's concert had bass playing at 132 dB continuous for a whole minute?! In any case, Denver put a noise ordinance in place in 2014 and updated it in 2015. In its current incarnation, 1 minute average sound levels at the mix console are required to remain under 105 dBA and 123 dB for 25-80 Hz bass.
Now my question is, am I getting old or something? Cuz even 123 dB SPL continuous across the span of a minute is ludicrously loud, even for bass, isn't it? Not loud enough for whoever played at 132 dB SPL. Also, I'd to know from Bassnectar where I can buy some laptop speakers that do 123 dB SPL continuous at 25 Hz. (@ 1m is OK as I will be using near-field)
What amazes me is that he and so many others regard such a limit to be somehow draconian, even an affront to electronic dance music (EDM) culture. This is despite the fact that the ordinances place no restriction on levels of dynamic bass. But when I listen to Bassnectar and a lot of the rest of the dub step genre, I realize *there is no dynamic bass*. (Sadly, almost all of it is also compressed to hell and back to squeeze every last dB of bass out of it.)
Don't get me wrong. I have no beef with EDM, and in fact, I enjoy listening to quite a lot of EDM. (I am picky, but I think everyone is because it is such a broad genre.) I was and still am a big fan of ambient, dub, and psy-trance. I heard Bassnectar stuff when he was just a local thing in California, and I wasn't too impressed then. Some of the older stuff is not too bad, and I listen to a couple of these songs as part of compilations, but after browsing YouTube, IMO, the music has not gotten better with time.
Admittedly, I haven't found a lot of dub step I like, despite the fact that the genre is quite similar to stuff I do like. I find it very repetitive. Some of the bass harmonic modulations certainly sound cool, but the harmonic structure often doesn't vary in ways that are interesting. The novelty wears off, and I have to wait for the song to end before I get to hear a new bass riff. Talk about boring! And yes, I may be a teapot because I like psy trance music, which can be pretty darn repetitive also, not to mention almost universally 4/4 rhythm with relatively high BPM. However, I very much like how it works for me. The bass keeps the body anchored while the mids and highs take the mind on a journey.
So perhaps I owe it to myself to open my mind a little. Perhaps the point is to focus on the bass to the exclusion of all else. All the mid and treble content is there merely to focus attention on the droning bass. And only if that bass is droning at 125 dB or higher for minutes at a time, can a listener truly appreciate the music for what it is. I dunno. My home system will soon be capable of such things, but I don't think I'll be trying it out any time soon. I do have neighbors.
How often do people here with big systems run them with 125 dB continuous average bass for a minute or longer?