How Loud Is Loud Enough When It Comes to Concerts?

VU meter

I’m of the faction of concert-goers who believes that it’s not necessary to make an audience’s ears bleed to put on a good show.  Some of the best gigs I’ve attended involved an emphasis of clarity over volume.  I also hate having to bring my own ear protection–and that feeling I get in my head if I forget to bring it.

Why do bands feel that they have to turn everything up to 11?  How loud is loud enough?

Audio Pro International, a site devoted to, well, audio professionals, has asked that question.

A simple enough question but the answer is anything but simple. How can we truly judge whether our live mixes are loud enough? What exactly is loud enough?Going to a live concert is a visceral shared experience. As the audience we often seek to put ourselves inside the music while we commune as directly as possible with the musicians. As FOH engineers we play a key role in delivering a pleasing and immersive concert experience so getting the volume right is a key component. Modern sound systems are capable of producing clearer and louder sound than ever before but does that mean it should be as loud as the sound system will permit or should we be more aware of the potential damage loud sound can cause and mix more responsibly?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “How Loud Is Loud Enough When It Comes to Concerts?

  • January 7, 2014 at 10:00 am
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    I hate overly-loud concerts. Never seeing MBV again. It’s just idiotic.

    The best-sounding concert I’ve ever heard was Ned’s Atomic Dustbin recently. It was loud, but so clear and pleasant. The basses were absolutely thundering. It was glorious.

    I’m used to seeing shows in Toronto. Ned’s played in London at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, my first show outside Canada. I thought it may have been a cultural thing, or maybe the venue just has a much better sound-system than what I hear here.

    Reply
  • January 7, 2014 at 9:36 pm
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    It’s amazing how many people (and children accompanied by parents) always seem to overlook the most basic rule at shows/concerts. ALWAYS bring earplugs

    Reply

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