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SME

How loud does your bass need to be?

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14 hours ago, SME said:

Judging by the multiple out-of-context posts, I'm guessing it's some kind of AI spam-bot.  Maybe it's some university student's pet project?

I like to think of this as a preview of our robots/AI future.  AI generally struggles to cope with "understanding" context, so in the future, we'll just do away with context entirely.  Problem solved!

Yeah I noticed these posts yesterday. At first I thought someone who is not a native English speaker using a junky translator because some of the posts seemed "real". Now I'm leaning towards spambot AI.

Went through and looked at all of the posts of this member and the latest had a suspicious link =BAN-HAMMERED!

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Another data point.  I was stood next to the mixing desk at an Aphex Twin gig (electronic music) and could see the long term average SPL readout which was hovering around 120dB (no idea of weighting) for the majority and got to around 125dB towards the end.  I would say it felt about right and they seemed to have a lot of headroom, at the end a few very low notes were hit hard without any evidence of fading or limiting.  This was in a very large lossy indoor environment (warehouse effectively).

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120db was unweighted or dbC. You wouldn't enjoy a concert at 120dbA. When I mix shows outdoors or indoors in a venue with a capacity of say 500 and up I like to keep the dbA average at 100, because that's where it 'excites' you but it still doesn't hurt. That also happens to be the European standard and limit/goal for Rock concerts usually. When observing the db meter I noticed that some crowds (cheering of 1000 people and more) easily exceeded 100dbA.

When mixing shows in smaller clubs you'll notice that the un-mic'd drumkit already exceeds 100dbA and you're left hoping for the drummer to accept your request for playing quieter or you can't really mix. Legally, you'd have to end the gig halfway through, because the band was 'using up' their loudness units too quickly.

I've got two smaller shows in Austria next month, I'll have a look what dbZ I'm usually reaching, but my guess it that it's gonna be around 115db-120db while the kick drum is playing.

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5 hours ago, peniku8 said:

When mixing shows in smaller clubs you'll notice that the un-mic'd drumkit already exceeds 100dbA and you're left hoping for the drummer to accept your request for playing quieter or you can't really mix. Legally, you'd have to end the gig halfway through, because the band was 'using up' their loudness units too quickly.

I often hear sound guys talk of too much stage volume from the band members especially drummers, but it's not as simple as just play quieter like it would seem to be. It can fundamentally affect the entire feel of the composition for the drummer, the entire band and even the audience since the group now has less energy, especially in the smaller intimate venues where this type of problem usually occurs. Basically you are asking the drummer to tone it down, and not put nearly as much energy and dynamics into the performance as usual. Usually there's a reason these drummers play like this. I'm one BTW...Usually drummers that are really loud are used to playing with little to no PA reinforcement (perhaps just kick if even that) and having to provide the beat with acoustic drums only while competing against amplified instruments. If you think about it there is probably no other instrument that you would literally ask the person to alter their usual playing style and performance in such a big way. I guess you could go to an all electric kit with triggers but that carries a host of other trade offs. 

In the smaller clubs or bars with live musicians the "PA" often isn't really needed a whole lot for overall volume, but mostly for vocals, samples and other instruments which need a boost in volume. In large clubs and especially arenas there is often enough distance and dispersion to work around loud players and the PA does a whole lot more work in these situations.

Anyway that's a subject I'm very familiar with. 

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Also the duration of SPL averaging (e.g. "fast" or "slow" on a meter) is important, especially when assessing high crest factor content.

I think 100 dBA long-term is very loud.  For "lively" critical monitoring (what I'd use for mix and mastering if I did these things), I end up around 79 dBA (long-term average).  So something like 85 dBA is really blasting, and I do develop alterations in subjective hearing following extended exposure to sound at that level and beyond.  Every extra 3 dB or so dramatically shortens the rate of onset and subsequent recovery time for these alterations.  Much beyond 90 dBA for more than 5 minutes, and my hearing is off for most of the rest of the day.  Apart from such hearing changes being a warning sign for potential long-term hearing damage, these alterations notably degrade my hearing acuity, causing everything I hear to sound less good, so I avoid them.  I also avoid demoing content at such excessive levels, at least until the end of a session, because it will likely adversely impact the listener's own experience of my sound.  Why would I want that when I'm trying to show off?

Now if long-term averages are reasonable and we're talking about brief short-term 100 dBA peaks on drum hits or something, that is not so insane, especially if the reproduction is clean.  Indeed, even though I've heard some sound engineers claim that peaks beyond "X dBA" (for some number X, often in the 90s) are uncomfortable and should be reduced using peak-limiting, I doubt there is really a universal transition point.  It depends a lot on the sound.  I suspect what these engineers are identifying is the SPL at which the limiter they are using sounds unacceptably harsh to them.  (It could also be the threshold at which their monitors start distorting heavily.)  That's a totally different thing.  Many limiters sound harsh to me at any SPL.  A big gripe I have with a lot of stuff that Disney/Marvel have put out recently, apart from the loudness normalization that harms the presentation of the program, is the use of very harsh sounding limiters that have a strong upper-mid/presence edge.  (Example: glass shattering sounds on these titles can sound like total crap.)  This probably yields a more "dynamic" sound with less peak output on middling systems, but on a high quality system it just sounds like a system that's being driven into distortion.  Yuck!

I see mention of screaming crowds being able to push SPL very high also.  I see how this can be a big problem.  I've never witnessed this myself, but I talked to a punk guy who said he's been at shows where the performers basically told the audience to STFU so that the performance could be heard over the noise.  I'm not sure this is a viable option for every band, but it ought to be kept in mind.

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I've mixed shows where the PA with only vocals on it could hardly keep up with the dumkit in the room. I'm talking 120dbA here, room for 150 people. No acoustic treatment, often not even half full. Hardcore drummers with a Snare drum forged on Mt. Doom.

I don't mind a little stage bleed in mid-sized venues, as it usually just results in a 1-4khz boost in the cymbal range. That's what we can bring cympads for if it gets out of hand, but at some point it's just too much. It's all about optimizing the sound at the FOH and you have to find the right balance.

And if you have issues playing a little less loud (ofc I wouldn't expect anyone to reduce his Metal drumming to conversation volume) you just need to practice more. I've been playing the drums in an Orchestra for 15 years now, that's where you really learn to control your dynamics. On the other side I'm also playing live shows with my Deathcore band and mix engineers often wonder why I'm playing so quietly heh.

The 100dbA I was talking about was during the songs with 3s average. Long term average over an entire show (Swiss, Z7, 1200 guests, huge venue) was 95dbA. It was a Punk show, so pretty low crest factor stuff. I was told to stay under 100dbA long term average and was a little intimidated by the main guy telling me that he'd turn the PA off if I exceeded that. He turned out to be a really nice guy thou and told me a story where some guy started a show with 10 minutes of 120dbA average and he just shut the entire thing down. Some people really seem to lose their mind on the mixing desk.

A friend recently had problems with loudness measurements at an outdoor event, where he saw the volume exceeding 120db periodically in the logs and they just couldn't figure out what happened. After some investigation it turned out to be freight trains passing by. Great choice of mic placement

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I do some PA stuff on an amateur basis, my tops are ~100 dB/1W and I run them off 4 amp channels rated as 120W (180W peak) per channel.  On some drum and bass I have seen the clip lights flicker on the power amps would I be correct in estimating that would be about 110dB peaks and an average around 100dB at 3m from the speakers?   Also what kind of instrumentation should I get to monitor SPL? as sometimes I worry that its too loud as it can be hard to tell as distortion is low. 

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44 minutes ago, kipman725 said:

I do some PA stuff on an amateur basis, my tops are ~100 dB/1W and I run them off 4 amp channels rated as 120W (180W peak) per channel.  On some drum and bass I have seen the clip lights flicker on the power amps would I be correct in estimating that would be about 110dB peaks and an average around 100dB at 3m from the speakers?   Also what kind of instrumentation should I get to monitor SPL? as sometimes I worry that its too loud as it can be hard to tell as distortion is low. 

If your 4 tops are clustered that would make around 133db at 1m at 128W into each top (double the power equals ~3db gain, having twice the speakers makes ~6db gain if perfectly aligned). You can substract 5-6db per doubling of distance if the tops don't have an exceptionally narrow throw (like line arrays) so it should be about 8db less at 3m. Maybe the effect is less grave at close range thou since humidity doesn't come much into play at short distances, so it could be even louder.

For SPL measurement I use my iPhone, which was calibrated with a UMIK. Factory settings were (only?) like 2db off in the "Mobile Tools" app I'm using.

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2 hours ago, peniku8 said:

If your 4 tops are clustered that would make around 133db at 1m at 128W into each top (double the power equals ~3db gain, having twice the speakers makes ~6db gain if perfectly aligned). You can substract 5-6db per doubling of distance if the tops don't have an exceptionally narrow throw (like line arrays) so it should be about 8db less at 3m. Maybe the effect is less grave at close range thou since humidity doesn't come much into play at short distances, so it could be even louder.

For SPL measurement I use my iPhone, which was calibrated with a UMIK. Factory settings were (only?) like 2db off in the "Mobile Tools" app I'm using.

Only one top per side they are 3 ways with a passive mid high crossover and active bass/mid-high.  Coverage pattern is 90x40.  For stereo you are assuming that left and right side add coherently?  Good idea on the phone! I also have UMIK to check the accuracy.

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1 hour ago, kipman725 said:

Only one top per side they are 3 ways with a passive mid high crossover and active bass/mid-high.  Coverage pattern is 90x40.  For stereo you are assuming that left and right side add coherently?  Good idea on the phone! I also have UMIK to check the accuracy.

Oh ok, that's alot of power for the mid/high section. It's unlikely that non-center signals are peaking in the mix so yes, left and right should add coherently on spikes since they're playing the same signal. Now since they're spaced and it's just two speakers and not four as I thought you might substract something like 6db from my previous assumptions. Keep in mind that is based on your statement that you've seen the clip lights flicker, which makes me assume that it's the case for all four amp channels simultaneously. And it's all just theory, in praxis, it is almost always very different, especially if this is not outdoors. Try just setting up the umik with a laptop and rew during soundcheck and you'll see what averages and peaks you're hitting. I say 'peak' but mean maximum short term rms values. 'True' peak values are not too useful

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19 hours ago, peniku8 said:

I've mixed shows where the PA with only vocals on it could hardly keep up with the dumkit in the room. I'm talking 120dbA here, room for 150 people. No acoustic treatment, often not even half full. Hardcore drummers with a Snare drum forged on Mt. Doom.

I don't mind a little stage bleed in mid-sized venues, as it usually just results in a 1-4khz boost in the cymbal range. That's what we can bring cympads for if it gets out of hand, but at some point it's just too much. It's all about optimizing the sound at the FOH and you have to find the right balance.

And if you have issues playing a little less loud (ofc I wouldn't expect anyone to reduce his Metal drumming to conversation volume) you just need to practice more. I've been playing the drums in an Orchestra for 15 years now, that's where you really learn to control your dynamics. On the other side I'm also playing live shows with my Deathcore band and mix engineers often wonder why I'm playing so quietly heh.

I have been in that scenario plenty of times. The room is small and usually full of hard reflective surfaces and the drums are titanic loud, which of course causes the bass and guitars to compensate louder and you end up with a scenario where the pair of 15" 2 ways that are usually in such a place can't get the vocals up over top of it. I'm not saying this doesn't happen and that it's easy to attempt to work around...Hell sometimes the drummer has a very light touch and gets completely drowned out by the guitar player who has to have a full stack running at 10 even in a 50 person room. Seen that one way too many times.

A lot of this depends on the music style too. If you are a Folk-rock group with quiet female main vocals and 3 part harmonies the drummer shouldn't be hitting through the heads the whole time. Play should be appropriate to the music clearly. That's the thing though if you are playing "heavy" aggressive music like east coast hardcore or something the drums are supposed to be hit aggressively. The double whammy with heavier bands is often the scream or growl type vocalists don't really have much projection or power. That's not always the case but it is a lot of the time. You end up with a very loud band and a vocal mic that needs a LOT of gain = feedback and tons of stage bleed. 

Back to the too loud drummer issue...My point is not about being able to play with less force. You should be able to play the same phrases or beats at a variety of volume levels without issue. That's 101 level stuff. Being able to do that with a beat or drum phrase does not mean that they will all offer the same sound, feel, dynamics or emotion to the drummer, the band or the crowd. As an example. Imagine...You are drumming in that east coast hard-core band...the big break-down comes... The whole crowd knows it from your first album...The ninjas are about to kungfu up the dance floor and!...You kick in at about 50% volume of normal because your drums are going to be too loud. Try to act like you are going hard, but you know you're not it's just an act. That situation is one I've been in and it sucks. None of the other instruments have to deal with that type of thing. That's all I'm saying really. Stupid loud ass drums and cymbals!

Deathcore band eh? Blasts and skank beats? Triggers? 

 

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1 hour ago, Ricci said:

Deathcore band eh? Blasts and skank beats? Triggers? 

 

I get what you're saying about feeling, but for me it's all about the overall sound, both when I'm behind the kit or in front of the stage.

I don't play with triggers live, but thought about setting it up for our IEM system. And yes, the gigs are exhausing 😅

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-awEQjlSk0 [Live]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA6-rMbrF1E [Recording]

To get back on topic, for our shows the bass drops need to be as loud and go as low as the system can handle of course!

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On 10/2/2019 at 5:07 PM, peniku8 said:

I get what you're saying about feeling, but for me it's all about the overall sound, both when I'm behind the kit or in front of the stage.

I don't play with triggers live, but thought about setting it up for our IEM system. And yes, the gigs are exhausing 😅

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-awEQjlSk0 [Live]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA6-rMbrF1E [Recording]

To get back on topic, for our shows the bass drops need to be as loud and go as low as the system can handle of course!

Awesome man... A lot of guys I know use triggers for death/grind/black stuff and it's fine if you've got a good engineer and PA but when the PA is undersized or when they have technical problems it's bad. We toured with a couple of bands that actually brought their own PA for their vocals and drummer. 

Here's some old videos from way back in my first band...1997-2004. The recordings are trash but the video is kinda required info.  Definitely not for everyone.

 

 

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33 minutes ago, Ricci said:

Awesome man... A lot of guys I know use triggers for death/grind/black stuff and it's fine if you've got a good engineer and PA but when the PA is undersized or when they have technical problems it's bad. We toured with a couple of bands that actually brought their own PA for their vocals and drummer. 

Here's some old videos from way back in my first band...1997-2004. The recordings are trash but the video is kinda required info.  Definitely not for everyone.

 

Loving it, man! We've played a few shows in tiny venues with karate kids clearing the pit every now and then. Let's say we were a little more Hardcore-influenced a few years ago 😁

The problem with triggers is that the sounds are either horribly sounding samples or just not mixed for a live gig (i.e. way too "clicky"). Many engineers would just turn it up and it theres no bass in the sample they wouldn't even bother equalizing that. Our setup would allow me to pre-mix the sampled sound as I'm always carrying a rack mixer for our IEM system, which already pre-mixes the guitars and bass sounds anyways. It's a very convenient setup, where the sound guy can just grab all our signals from our console, except drums. And we literally only have a single equipment rack, as guitar amps, bass amp and backing track player are all in there. And a single person can carry it. All-digital equipment is a real blessing. Hated hauling around full stacks and stuff.

The last gig we played, they had 4 15" subs there, which should've been enough for the ~100 people present, if it wasn't for the fact that the cabs sounded like they were tuned to like 60Hz and the sound guys had no clue what they were doing. Of course I could jump the console and do it myself, but I still didn't figure out how to play the drums on stage and mix at the FOH at the same time..!

I implemented a sub-octaver into my default console scene now, which is one absolutely brilliant tool to fatten-up the sound of low toms and the kick drum. I don't always need or use it, but when the kit on stage doesn't produce the sound I'd like, it's a blessing. Especially when it isn't tuned properly or the heads look like they've survived WWII.

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Pretty much +1 on everything you said. LOL.

I don't do any live mixing anymore. It's a tough job and the guys that are good at it with good equipment don't get enough credit or pay usually. 

Here's one more from a current project. Instrumental ambient weird prog stuff. This show was opening for John 5 who is amazing and a really good guy. You may not have heard of him but he plays for Rob Zombie among many other things. 

 

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19 hours ago, Ricci said:

I don't do any live mixing anymore. It's a tough job and the guys that are good at it with good equipment don't get enough credit or pay usually.

 

For scene gigs the sound guys are always underpaid, sadly, but from what I've heard the local scene here in Germany seems to be much better than in the states. I talked to one Hardcore band from the US a year ago and they said that small venues have a hard time surviving due to tax and noise complaints. They were pretty happy with the situation here.
I used to mix lots of local shows in the past, but I don't really accept many of those anymore. I'm done bringing high quality mics and my console just to mix a show on a PA equivalent to my phone's speakers. The live stuff I'm doing now is mostly weddings, mixing large shows for a friend's band or shows with mainstream music because these pay well. If I'm bringing the PA there will be l.acoustics with my soon-to-be-built subs, so I'm always happy and don't run out of headroom. Will be building two 12's and two 21's of my own designs. They model nicely and I think I'm starting to have my CNC under control now lol.

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