Is it just me, or do you find live music is being over-amplified?

I know this is not a music forum, still, I know there’s some keen listeners on here. This is a bit of a rant…

I don’t attend live performances often at all, but often when I have, I find them grossly too loud.
What brought this to mind was having dinner in a club following the rally last weekend. There was a (pretty decent) live band playing ‘golden oldies’.

And boy was it loud!!

I found anything under 30m (big club!) from the stage physically uncomfortable - going by long experience with operating power tools, mowers, tractors and so on, that band was way over the 85db-something threshold of potential hearing damage, yet there was a small crowd dancing right in front of the speakers :scream:

I remember years back at a festival in Canberra, there was a classical ensemble playing on a band stand, and again, it was amped to blazes. The high notes from the winds were like a knife through the ears, and I was well behind the rear-most row of seats! And that was classical music - I just don’t get it.

Is it just me? (don’t be polite :wink: ) Or have you noticed it? I’m not talking about big stadium performances, just local level stuff. :man_shrugging:

Edit: A quick search turned up this little report suggesting it’s not just me… Is Electronically Amplified Music too Loud? What do Young People Think? - PubMed


Is it because musicians can now only make money through live performance rather than CD sales and there’s a kind of loudness war going on with live music? In the same vein, big shows seem to be becoming ever more theatrical to justify the ticket prices and to generate cheap PR.


Having said that, I remember my ears ringing after various Motörhead and Iron Maiden gigs as a kid, but could have a conversation with Belle and Sebastian on stage and me 20 rows back as a younger adult.

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My main live performance attendance is classical music at the Perth Concert Hall. I don’t find it too loud at all.

Where I do find a problem is with certain music channels (cough Classic FM cough) using large amounts of compression on the dynamic range of their transmissions, so that there is little difference between pianissimo and fortissimo.


I find most live music is over-amplified in Hungary. In Switzerland, however, both my wife and I find the volume lower, and also the quality better (no one instrument dominating everything). These are only general observations, there are examples for the opposite, too.


Sounds about right - I knew about this in terms of recording, but stands to reason that live would be the came I suppose.

Not too surprised at this :slightly_smiling_face:. Both good points.

I should probably try attending a few proper concerts before giving judgement I guess - I don’t think I’ve ever been a venue of that kind of importance. :grin:

We have Classic FM too! Actually the name changed to ABC Classic a few years back. I think they compress too, but I don’t really listen to a lot of classical music so again, not in a position to comment.

Interesting. I suppose Switzerland is known for quality engineering (watches?) so maybe that extends to sound engineering too! :slightly_smiling_face:


And also for following and enforcing rules…


I don’t really listen to a lot of classical music so again, not in a position to comment.

One of the great joys about moving to Scotland was the ability to regularly attend concerts by the Dunedin Consort. I couldn’t find a video of them in the UK, but here is one with them playing Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day.

We also have the classical accordion player Ryan Corbett.

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I suppose Switzerland is known for quality…

Of course:

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Very weird… and funny! :joy:

If you are not the loudest, someone will come and out loud you.
Even with classical wind instruments, they were all redesigned over time to maximize loudness and playing efficiency. Lovers of period instrument performances (instruments before they were redesigned) enjoy the quieter tones.
Flutes became made out of metal… Clarinet mouthpieces made of hard rubber and glass instead of wood… metal strings on guitars… 140 dBa pipe organs… 170 dBa cannons…
It’s always been a shocking thing even before the electronic age. Since electronics, there have been two camps… Sound engineers who amplify sound versus sound engineers who reinforce sound. The difference is subtle, but essentially comes down to the desired signal/noise ratio. At modern electronic concerts, there is no need for ambience, so it is completely drowned and the music is felt as well as it is heard. The feeling is in the feet and the lungs. In a sound-reinforced performance, some instruments and voices recieve relatively less amplification than others, leaving room for more dynamic range and ambience in the performance. Different goals and different results.

Many classical musicians who are forced to sit in front of trombones must perform while wearing earplugs. If you attend an electronic concert without earplugs, your level of enjoyment may be diminished as much as your hearing. I have sat at mixing consoles with both earplugs and shooting earmuffs on so that I may be able to actually hear my work.


I must confess that it hadn’t occurred to me that one might wear ear protection in order that one may feel the music!

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I went to Rammstein’s concert this year here in Portugal and it was unbearably loud, and the sound quality left a lot to be desired, even with concert ear plugs.

I’ve watched Tool, Iron Maiden, Ozzy etc in the past few years and it wasn’t this bad.

That said, the crowd could be almost as loud as the band if they wanted, so take that for what it is.

Those people dancing in front of the speakers must already be deaf :smiley:

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It doesn’t make much sense I think. After a threshold people don’t even hear it any louder, it only causes discomfort.

Vertical line arrays also disperse the sound much better, so that may be part of it. I’m sure it’s much more affective than 50 Marshall stacks blasting away in an arena :smiley:

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My thoughts exactly…

Not exactly to my taste anyway, but that must have been very VERY loud!

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Years ago, I got very drunk and passed out next to a loudspeaker — I ended up with permanent hearing damage, and tinitus that lasted for seven years (even now, when I go to bed, I can ‘hear’ what sounds like the engine of a 10-wheel truck ticking over in the distance — or, if it’s particularly bad, it sounds more like a bunch of giant hornets droning away).

I don’t go anywhere, now, without earplugs in my pocket — I don’t think I’ve attended a single live gig since without wearing them. I remember seeing a Deep Purple concert some time ago — the base was so loud it was shaking my rib cage.

At one time, I was taking photos at a local event and I had to resort to taking the camera off the tripod — again, it was so loud that the base was shaking the camera all over the place.

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Ouch :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

Indeed. I was totally deaf for four days. When my hearing DID come back, everything was just high-pitched squealling and droning. It drove me mad, as there was simply no way to stop it. It slowly deminished over time.

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That must have been a pretty bad experience. Glad it did recover!

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