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ears. volume. screech. sizzle.

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by radiophonic, Apr 6, 2001.

  1. radiophonic

    radiophonic Guest

    Hi everyone...

    This is a topic that's been nagging at me. In most of the rooms I've been (be it local club/bar, movie theatre, or recording studio), it seems that people listen at very LOUD levels (i.e. 95db+). Frankly, my ears hurt under these circumstances. As if they are themselves distorting. I always wear ear protection at shows (when I play and when in the audience)... but I hardly want to do this when critically listening or enjoying a film.

    Is it me, or are a lot of productions overly bright these days (a rather broad statement, I know). Perhaps I'm going in a lot of directions with this - it may end up being my realization that most digital mediums are killing the potential enjoyment of frequencies from 1khz on up...

    Here's the thing for me - I'm think I'm experiencing some fatigue from harsh high frequencies. This message is starting to look very disorganized, and I apologize - but I think these issues are all related. And when we get down to it, our ears (& their brain connection) are some the most important things we have. I don't want to 'get used' to the harshness, making brighter and brighter records, etc...

    What are your thoughts?

  2. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    It's not you Graham - it's been going on for years. But part of the problem is "Driver Throat Distortion". It's common when you overdrive a horn compression driver like most of the small Peavey's or Yamaha's. In very simple terms, the opening at the start of the horn gets overloaded, the blockage deforms the diaphragm, and the distortion increases dramatically. Very typical in 1" horn drivers in small PA systems at high levels.
  3. j.hall

    j.hall Guest

    i'm with ya on the extreme level thing in all those same places

    there is a club around here that is not the best club around
    however the show are so enjoyable there cause they don't kill you with volume

    i don't get the movie thing
    how freakin loud does the theatre have to be
    and especially the center chanel......damn those voices cut my head off sometimes

    recently i have been to some local rock shows where i felt the need to continually puch my ear plugs in further and further
    hoping it would get better

    it is really bad when wear those little yellow foam plugs that cut out all the high end and you are standing in front of the stage hearing more high end then ever before :eek:

  4. brad

    brad Guest

  5. Southwind

    Southwind Guest

    Hear Hear.........
  6. radiophonic

    radiophonic Guest

    Well, it makes me worry about the live sound guys - because so many of them that I know also engineer/produce in local studios... and that can't help. If someone is mixing in those clubs 4+ nights a week, their hearing HAS to be demolished in short order. Then you end up with bright/harsh recordings... and that's not helped with some obnoxious CD mastering techniques (no offense), not to mention the horrors of commercial FM station compression & limiting.

    I have to wonder how much of this is attributable to the small & mid-level project rooms and digital recording. I guess my real question is why this has happened in the past few years? I have to assume the volumes were just as loud in the 60's, 70's & 80's...

  7. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Active Member

    Oct 12, 2000
    << i don't get the movie thing how freakin loud does the theatre have to be and especially the center chanel......damn those voices cut my head off sometimes >>

    Actually movie theatres for quite a number of years have been calibrated to the Dolby spec of 85dB and this hasn't changed. What has changed is the amount and type of compression. I say compression but it's more like whacking up the gain with a serious limiter.

    Ironically the worst example of mid range harshness I heard was a film I worked on a few years ago that was mixed on a huge analog Harrison!

  8. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Feb 27, 2001
    It's not you. Not only are records being hyped like mad on the top end, but they're getting pushed to the wall for level. This causes the high end to be harsh, and distorted. Digital distortion and clipping is the harshest distortion I know of.

    Add into this blasting it through systems that can't handle the level, and you have very loud, very distorted, and very bright music.

    I'm the kind of guy that 'gets' not necessarily making things sound 'good' for a production. In fact, I'm kinda into that. This I don't get.

  9. radiophonic

    radiophonic Guest

    Okay, so it's not just me... but how are we going to change this trend? I mean, compared to poverty or world peace, you'd think this problem wouldn't be so bad...

    Though I suppose the way things turn themselves around in pop music, perhaps this 'fad' will pass.

    As for the movies being calibrated to 85db... um, not in Dallas! I'm tempted to take my SPL meter next time...

    Thanks everyone-

  10. regebro

    regebro Guest

    It goes against my liberal guts to have governmental regulations, but I really am starting to think that you need to be able to put a fine on pubs and theaters that go over, say 90db or so.

    Concerts are a bit of another thing. People KNOW that the volume is going to be big, and expect it, and smart people have earplugs. But earplugs on the movies??? Nah...

    (I was happy I always have my earplugs with me when I went to spain, and the airport personell had a demontration for higher salary. They were LOUD! :) )
  11. Tymish

    Tymish Guest

    Having worked live sound for 10+ years I can tell you that it is impractical and impossible to expect a 90 dB (C weighted) live music show in a club or elsewhere. Unless you do away with acoustic drums. A snare alone can peak at 115+ dB. I used a dB meter quite a bit and was happy if I could keep rock band levels at 105 but 110-115 was more likely, and that's just the drums, bass guitar, vocal monitor stage volume. I worked hard with my clients (bands) to keep stage levels in control so we wouldn't run people out with death volume. We might start at 105dB or so but near the end of the night the drummer is warmed up and excited and he's hittin' those drums hard. I don't do live sound anymore and yes my ears are happier, 5 nights a week will certainly leave ears ringing. But hey, it's rock n' roll, if you're geezin' that hard listen at home. :eek:

    As far as bright recordings, I agree. The latest Dave Matthews recording sounds harsh and brittle at the top end. It detracts from the songs and the music. Most of his records are on the bright side but I liked the previous recordings. If you look at the equal loudness curves it almost seems that the EQ-ing used is the inverse of the curves making the recordings seem louder and louder by boosting the 2-6K region where our ears are the most sensitive.
  12. Good discussion guys. I work in live sound mostly, and I agree that most shows are too damn loud. :p
  13. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Jan 4, 2001
    There was this story George Thoroughgood told about blues legend/oddity Hound Dog Taylor and his band. They all played behind their amps, and George was completely dumbstruck as to why and asked Hound Dog. The reason? "Too damn loud!"

    da Bear
  14. Rog

    Rog Active Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    I've experienced this in one particular club around here. Towards the end of the night they really crank it up and I experience very real pain ... as if my ears are distorting. I looked around and found that everyone else is 100% happy and enjoying themselves. Needless to say, I retired to the bar area. Does this mean my ears are more sensitive? I'm much happier with loads of bass, but from about 4-5K upwards excessive dBs hurts. Would the same dB in, say the 2K and lower end cause as much damage, even if there is no noticable pain?

  15. brad

    brad Guest

  16. hargerst

    hargerst Active Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    A big part of the problem is the nature of acoustics and the typical desogn of most PA systems. For the most point, they can be considered as a "point source", which means that the're loudest when you're close to them, then they drop off in volume as you move further away. In order to get the sound levels up at the back of the room, you hafta crank them up to "kill" levels at the front of the room.

    A better solution would be a distributed source, where you have a lot of smaller speakers occupying a large area. I did this with the old Acoustic Control PA in the 70s where I used 96 small speakers in short horns, with some subwoofers and super size high end horns (4' x 2').

    As you got closer to the PA, the sound actually got quieter, since you were only hearing a small part of the system. At concert levels, you could walk over in front of the system and sing - without feedback, or even stick a mic directly into the speaker without feedback, since you were only hearing 1/96th of the whole system. You could stand directly in front of the PA system with it cranked, and still carry on a normal conversation.

    As you moved further away, you heard more of the system and the volume stayed pretty constant, up to the point where the whole PA system became a "point source" again, and then the system would obey the laws of physics and drop off beyond that point.

    An added advantage was that the 96 cone speakers were covering most of the mid/high range, so you eliminated the ugly throat distortion you get from compression drivers that are being pushed too hard.

    Most PA speakers still rely on the "brute force" method of "crank it till it kills". I hate that!!
  17. Tymish

    Tymish Guest

    I would have loved to have been able to set up a multi source PA. Stage stack and then some delays. Since I was a one man with a truck PA guy and time and spine restrictions ruled I had to do the stage stacks. One thing I always did was keep the hi freq horns at least a foot or more above ear level. This kept highs from getting killed by bodies and kept them from beaming directly in someones ears. I also used high wattage amps, Say a 1200 watt amp for a 600 watt speaker. Not for volume but for clean power and headroom. Many PAs are under powered with the thinking that a 600RMS amp is perfect for a 600RMS speaker. Speakers can usually take a little more then the rating but if the amp start to clip it's all over. This is what I usually hear in club PAs. The other problem is someone bringing a 100W Marshall stack to a small club where a 40W amp would be perfect.
  18. Kevin F. Rose

    Kevin F. Rose Active Member

    Feb 14, 2001
    We could bring back those litle rainbow light thingies from the 60's that after traversing up to red (90db)turn all the power off. Bands love those things.
  19. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Active Member

    Oct 12, 2000
    << As for the movies being calibrated to 85db... um, not in Dallas! >>

    Well all I can say is that for you to be licenced to use Dolby to a public audience you have to have your system calibrated to the Dolby spec. Same is true if you run a studio that is certified to produce Dolby licenced soundtracks. Don't forget that a soundtrack at 85dB can sound painfully loud with enough compression.

    << The threshold of pain is generally described as about 120db. For me it's much lower. For some it's a little higher. The threshold of permanabt damage is around 90db. >>

    Except in the case of explosions, individual sounds rarely cause hearing damage. The ear is very good at recovering from from short duration loud sounds. The way to do damage is to listen to constant loud noise. Over most of Europe if you are in a working environment with a constant sound level of 85dBA for eight or more hours a day, your employer must (by law) provide industrial strength hearing defenders. Research over the last few years seems to prove that even this figure is too high. Certain countries in the EU are looking to lower the level to 75dBA.

    The ratio of hearing impairment to population has grown dramatically over the last few decades. It is generally accepted this is due to noise damage.

  20. Traumakind

    Traumakind Guest

    last week I was at a great concert by a band called Mogwai. They had a sign at front door of the place which stated that it was going to be really loud and that earplugs were available for free at the bar. I thought, well, get 'em, cause then I might sleep longer (construction going on in the neighbourhood...) and put bits of paper in my ears, which is usually enough. In the end I was more than happy to have those yellow noisekillers in my ears because the band was so incredibly loud I would have lost my sense of hearing in 5 minutes. The sound was absolutely perfect with them. And I think the music needed that volume because of the great dynamic changes that shook your body. In the end it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

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