Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

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Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

Postby nopunin10dead » Sun Jun 11, 2017 3:15 pm

OK, I admit the subject line is redundant, because anything Bear said seems to be provocative.

Now that that's out of the way: I stumbled upon a recent biography, Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III, by Robert Greenfield, published November 2016. Plenty of stories and info there. In Ch. 17, "Bear's Dream," he says: "...I know you cannot use a line array by itself. Two strings of speakers, one hanging down on each side of the stage, sound like dog shit. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot ever make them sound right."

I'm not an audio engineer. I'm simply a guitarist and fan of the Dead who always appreciated that their shows sounded better than any other bands. I've also been to several concerts in the past few years with line array systems that sounded terrible (Brad Paisley in Salinas was painfully distorted, which I kind of thought was antithetical to the whole goal of a line array in the Wall of Sound tradition). Even at last weekend's Dead & Co. show, I had seats on the far right near the back of the lower section, with (what I call in my ignorance) a "fill" array pointed right at us, and the sound was not clear---hardly heard Bob all night. Admittedly, I was pretty far to one side.

Anyone care to contribute thoughts, experiences, insights? Is Bear essentially "correct"?
Last edited by nopunin10dead on Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:28 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

Postby williamsaut » Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:14 pm

In ideal situations, two columns of speakers can sound quite good as can almost any sound system, the Bose L1 is a good example and I have heard it in both indoor bar and outdoor applications. That said, filling a large auditorium with sound is a much more complex matter. Not only are these highly reverberative huge halls, but the wattage needed to produce high volumes at a distance make for some real problems. Outdoor venues are far easier to handle. The dead's system was used so many times in the exact same venues that for the most part, IMO they had it pretty much dialed in for a best practical sound for each venue. Most of these sound systems have more than just front of house sound, as soon as there's rear facing or satellite sound sources, they must be delayed so that the reverberations don't propagate and cancel each other out or create distorted standing wave's at certain frequencies. I don't think it's possible to eliminate the negative effects 100% either so it's a balancing act. Shelving is another technique used to help eliminate muddiness of sound that other engineers may or may not employ but I've read that it was a big part of the Dead's Meyer sound. But no, line array systems are head and shoulders above the previous generation "stacks of bass bins, speaker cabs and horns on each side of the stage" type systems. But both types of systems need some pretty extensive tweaking to maximize the quality of sound in each particular venue. If there's folks out there who actually are professional sound engineers, I'd love to hear your take as my opinions are based on only what I've heard, seen and read over the years.
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Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

Postby nopunin10dead » Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:25 pm

Thanks. I only have read and heard things over the years, so I have only a layman's understanding. But I'm interested in learning, out of curiosity and for whenever my band(s) perform (infrequently) or when my friend can't seem to make his band's system sound clean, which drives me bananas.

Another point: At Dead & Co. they now have Bose arrays on the drum riser, pointing toward the guys in front. Bob, John, etc. still have wedges in front of them. Any idea how/what that Bose system is used for? Monitoring vocals? Instruments?
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