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Sound Levels

When operating a PA system, occasionally people come up to me at the end of a programme and say that the overall sound was too loud.

Mostly I have to sit at the front of a hall fairly near to the speakers and it is difficult to get an idea of the overall sound.

Short of walking around the room or asking someone to listen from the back of the room and signal, is there a way of working out a rough gauge as to how much output you require for a given hall size (possibly taking into account the number of people in it)?

I am considering buying a cheap digital SPL meter - is this likely to be of much use?

Comments

BobRogers Sat, 05/26/2007 - 16:51
If you are taking your computer to gigs regularly, the software may be the way to go, but Radio Shack sells a $50 SPL meter that is very nice for the price. You really have to gauge the audience, so the meter is only a rough guide. But it can also come in real handy when dealing with complaints about noise from outside parties (including the police).

rockstardave Tue, 05/22/2007 - 15:46
if people stay in the back of the room, you're probably too loud.

if people are up front and walk away from the speakers with looks on their faces, you're probably too loud.

if people keep saying "WHAT?!?!?!" to each other, you're probably too loud.

in most smaller places, i match the PA to the loudest instrument (usually snare, cymbals, or a loud guitar).

in medium-sized places, watch the crowd's reaction.

in larger places, ... who cares?! :-P

just watch the crowd and see how they react. it's not rocket science, ya know?

sheet Tue, 05/22/2007 - 17:25
Why not download some free RTA/dB meter software, hook up a calibrated mic to your computer, and let that be your measuring stick in the middle of the room.

If one or two come up and say that it is too loud, then say "Thanks for your opinion." If 10 people come say that it is too loud, then get your hearing checked and turn it down. Especially if you don't think that it is too loud. I understand mixing in a null. I have had to do it. I have had to mix in a remote room before on near-fields. It was insane. But, I had ClearCom or radios to communicate with the staff.

Always refer to the OSHA exposure charts! It could keep you, the band, the promoter and the venue owners out of the courtroom.

Boswell Wed, 05/23/2007 - 03:01
AUD10 wrote: When operating a PA system, occasionally people come up to me at the end of a programme and say that the overall sound was too loud.
The golden rule for PA is that it should be sound reinforcement. The audience should think they are hearing the performers, rather than just sitting in front of a large loud television. Bear in mind also that poor quality sound can produce tiredness effects in the audience that they interpret as being due to excessive volume.

AUD10 wrote: Mostly I have to sit at the front of a hall fairly near to the speakers and it is difficult to get an idea of the overall sound.

Short of walking around the room or asking someone to listen from the back of the room and signal, is there a way of working out a rough gauge as to how much output you require for a given hall size (possibly taking into account the number of people in it)?
Yes, get up and walk round the room, not just for levels but also for checking EQ and other venue-related effects. You get a blinkered view of the sound from one location, especially if it is near the front. There isn't a universal rule for power levels because it depends on so many different factors. Your ears are the best meter.

AUD10 wrote: I am considering buying a cheap digital SPL meter - is this likely to be of much use?
Yes, if it's a reasonable quality one and you walk round with it. Otherwise, probably not.
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