Acoustics'08 Paris

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Good Sounding Rock Venues “Eat” the Bass!

Popular version of paper: 2aAAb3: The importance of bass clarity in pop and rock venues.
Author: Niels Werner Larsen
Co-author: Eric Thompson.

As a former jazz and rock drummer with 15 years and 1200 concerts behind me, I have experienced how big an impact the acoustics of a venue can actually have on the quality of the music created by the band. As a spectator, I also know for sure that bad acoustics can ruin the joy of a performance. Therefore, I was very surprised when I recently conducted a research project at the Technical University of Denmark and found NO references in the scientific literature on this exact topic! There were, however, many projects about recommendable acoustics for classical music.

Through the project, for which a large number of people were interviewed about which halls they liked and disliked, I learned that most of my musician and sound engineer colleagues are looking for the same sort of acoustics for jazz and rock concerts that I am. There was one point in particular that had not been highlighted in earlier recommendations of acoustics for amplified music and that emerged in the project as the most important parameter for good sound at these concerts: “Bass Clarity“. The bass frequencies are amplified with thousands of watts, but if the materials in the construction of the venue and the way these materials are assembled is not correct, then the bass sounds will not be absorbed (“eaten”) and the result will be an annoying boomy and rumbling sound. Unfortunately, we have all experienced this unfocused sound, and know it too well.

This paper includes recommendations for acousticians, so they will know how to help architects to create great sounding pop, rock and jazz venues. Now, we the listeners and ticket buyers must demand good acoustics and good sound from these venues – that is, after all, what we are paying for.

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