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Author Topic: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?  (Read 3026 times)

Douglas R. Allen

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2019, 09:15:36 am »

These ....

    Not sure if the graph will follow over or not in the quote.  I've seen many post through the years on this. Some wanting a bass hump. Some wanting a more or less flat response through the response range of the system.  When it comes right down to it doesn't what is to be coming out of the system really determine what is needed for a pre emphasis? Putting a big hump on the end may "sound" fine with recorded music but we are "Mixing" aren't we? Also as the Fletcher Munson curve changes with spl so at what spl do you want to see this curve?  You put in bass drum or lower toms or bass guitar into the board etc. Eq those items to make the PA sound pleasing ( we hope ) in the low end for the majority of the patron's in the room.  Does it make sense to add this low end then have to Low Cut everything that doesn't need the low end boost, even if its to remove the harmonics that this boost in the lows Main PA gives in channels that don't need it? Another way of looking at it is you have some inputs that don't have a lot of high end in them so you put a big shelving boost on the high end of the PA then have to High Cut many of your channels because now they are too bright.  ( Maybe setup Aux Fed Highs so these won't reach the horns....)
   I'd rather add bass to a few channels than take bass out of many channels. As we know eq causes phase issues so I guess I'd want the PA setup so I can use the least amount of eq to start in the most amount of channels for the type of inputs I was mixing. If I wanted my drums to be bass heavy I could put them on a Bus. Eq the Bus Master heavy on the low end then low cut the drum channels that I don't want to ride this eq. Same as the Main Eq curve but in a different location. But does this make sense?  ??? ;)

   There may never be a correct answer. I guess what works for the mix engineer and what keeps the overall audience and the band happy and keeps the money rolling is always the real solution.

Douglas R. Allen
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Tim Steer

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #31 on: November 14, 2019, 12:11:38 pm »

There are a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to voicing a sound system, and which one you fall into broadly depends upon where you draw the line between art and science.

One group maintain that the mix engineer should be given a 'blank canvas' upon which to paint whatever sonic picture he/she wants. The job of the system engineer then, is to tune the system to give a 'flat' frequency response, and to ensure that all parts of the venue sound the same. If the mix engineer favours a bass-heavy sound, then this is an 'artistic' decision and one that should be done by the mix engineer on the desk.

Another group of system engineers will tune a system based on any number of other desired response curves - the assumption being that flat systems generally sound bright and lacking in sub-bass, and most mix engineers will invariably boost the low end and hack out the ear-piercing high mids/top end to make the system sound more musical - so why not make the system sound nice in the first place?

Can a skillful mix engineer make a mix sound good on either system? Of course. Which is the right approach? Depends who you ask, and what the programme material is. I know respectable and successful system engineers from both schools, and I've noticed there does seem to be a difference across the Atlantic divide. Living in the UK, I find most system techs tend to tune their rock systems along the lines of the D&B curves - something like flat from 1kHz upwards, with a 3dB increase per octave below 1kHz. There is a perception amongst many UK engineers of American systems being 'harsh-sounding' and aggressive, and I suspect this might be because more engineers and system manufacturers across the pond favour a flatter frequency response. I'd be interested to know if this is true.

Back to the OP's question... how should you voice your system for dance music? Most dance music contains a lot of synth sounds with unnaturally high levels of high-order harmonics. Most dance music fans expect the music to be played loud, as the enjoyment comes from the visceral experience of being immersed in the sound and feeling it. And the music tends to be 'all or nothing' - either the music is fully pounding, or it's in a breakdown, where the beat lets up for a while and builds into the next big drop. All of these things can lead to a very fatiguing sound when the system is too bright; it's one type of music that really does sound terrible on a flat system (those high frequencies are absolutely screaming when the system's running at 110dBA). I personally find that the 'flat but with massive amounts of extra sub' approach favoured by some sounds pretty offensive to my ears too - I've always felt that people who tune EDM systems this way probably don't like or understand the music, and just think that if you give the kids lots of bass then they'll be happy. I find that more of a gradual rolloff from 100Hz upwards all the way to 20kHz works well, and this is what I do with my dance music systems; it sounds loud and the drums have plenty of punch and energy, but the highs aren't damaging peoples ears when the system's being run at high level.

Whether you make these adjustments on the desk or in the system is up to you, but I'd suggest that if it's a club system and you're only ever running DJ mixers into the console, then making the changes in the system might be the best approach.
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Helge A Bentsen

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #32 on: November 14, 2019, 03:15:59 pm »

I'm in the process of dialing in our dance music Sound System, but it sounds way too bright if I have it EQed flat. I'm accustomed to much more sub-bass than mids and highs.

I'm wondering what you guys do when EQing a sound system with a measurement mic? Is there like a standard practice here for prerecorded / DJ music shows?

Josh Billings

Today it looks like this.
Have no idea how it measures, its a walk-up gig tonight.
But the lead vocal mic sounded good with that eq, so Im keeping it for this gig.
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Scott Helmke

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #33 on: November 14, 2019, 03:28:35 pm »

I generally go with a measured-flat system from the very top down to maybe 60-80Hz, and then let the subs be louder because that's usually what people want.

But if you really want to give yourself something to think about, take a look at the channel EQ's on the mixer before you start. If you notice that almost every channel has a similar shape to the EQ, such as all the low mids carved out, then you have a pretty good guide to what they *don't* like about the sound of that system.
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Peter Morris

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #34 on: November 14, 2019, 05:44:51 pm »

Lots of people have said they want a blank canvas to start with. 

i.e. If you voice the system with a (flat) mic it should sound perfectly like you, the problem when I try this with a system that measures flat (amplitude response) it usually sounds thin and harsh.

The question is why logically you would expect it to sound perfect.

What I have noticed is that some of the newer systems with better low distortion drivers and a (FIR processed) relatively flat phase responses seem to need less bass boost / HF cut to sound right.

Its still work in progress but I processed one of my boxes to have a phase response that is relatively flat to about 100Hz . and its sounding just right when flat.  The question I have to determine is it the phase, my imagination or something else ???
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Bill Meeks

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #35 on: November 14, 2019, 07:57:27 pm »

A free product that I started using several months ago to monitor my own mixes is the Voxengo SPAN spectrum analyzer plugin for use in DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). The plugin is a free download. There is a pay version with some extra features, but the free one is enough for most users.  Here is a link: https://www.voxengo.com/product/span/ (I have no affiliation with the vendor).

I use a PC with the Reaper DAW installed on it along with Dante Virtual Soundcard to record tracks from our services. I have a Dante patch configured to send the FOH audio from the mixer to a stereo Reaper track. I put the Voxengo SPAN plugin on that track within Reaper. I have the SPAN plugin set to Average mode with 1/3 octave smoothing. I can then take a glance now and then at the Reaper screen to see the overall spectral balance of the mix. You can set the smoothing to several different values, but I find 1/3 octave works well for what I am monitoring for. I look to see if some particular frequency zone is sticking out too far. I'm still training my ears, so I use the visual from SPAN to validate what I think I'm hearing.

The SPAN plugin has a default 4 dB roll off or slope that is designed to compensate for the way our ears hear high frequencies. This translates within the plugin to showing you a relatively flat frequency curve when things are "right" in terms of generally accepted mastering curves. To test, you can play what you consider to be a well recorded and mastered reference track through the SPAN plugin and watch what the spectrum curve looks like. It should look pretty flat if you set the SPAN smoothing to 1/3 octave or 1 octave.

So back to the topic, I would prefer my house frequency response curve to be as flat as possible, then I make adjustments within my mix to get a properly balanced final sound. Using something like the SPAN plugin helps you validate with an objective "ear" that your mix should be right (at least in terms of spectral balance). Your turn bright "abrasive" sound producers down or tame them with EQ, and turn up lower frequency sound producers or enhance them with EQ. That's what a recording engineer would do, and when it comes down to the basics, a live sound mix engineer is fundamentally doing the same thing as a recording studio mix engineer:  making the mix "sound good". Of course the live sound guy has more issues to deal with since he has no perfectly treated recording studio to work in.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2019, 09:59:52 pm by Bill Meeks »
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Tim Steer

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2019, 03:25:18 am »

Your turn bright "abrasive" sound producers down or tame them with EQ, and turn up lower frequency sound producers or enhance them with EQ. That's what a recording engineer would do, and when it comes down to the basics, a live sound mix engineer is fundamentally doing the same thing as a recording studio mix engineer:  making the mix "sound good". Of course the live sound guy has more issues to deal with since he has no perfectly treated recording studio to work in.

That's assuming the OP even has a sound engineer. It sounded like he was describing a nightclub setup. Many smaller clubs don't have a full-time desk operator, and some don't even have a sound desk if the only thing that ever gets connected to the system is the DJ mixer in the booth. I can't think of any EDM club installations that are tuned flat - they're generally tuned to sound good with dance music.
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Bill Meeks

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #37 on: November 15, 2019, 08:28:36 am »

That's assuming the OP even has a sound engineer. It sounded like he was describing a nightclub setup. Many smaller clubs don't have a full-time desk operator, and some don't even have a sound desk if the only thing that ever gets connected to the system is the DJ mixer in the booth. I can't think of any EDM club installations that are tuned flat - they're generally tuned to sound good with dance music.

No argument from me there. And there are plenty of folks (particularly younger ones) that love a sound that is 90% composed of sounds below 160 Hz and anything above that frequency is like -20 dB down or something compared to the bass ...  :).

Personally that has never been my idea of sounding good. But in my younger days I've gotten in a friend's car and the radio (remember when we actually used those in cars to listen to music?) would have the bass turned up to max and the treble turned down to minimum.
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Geert Friedhof

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #38 on: November 15, 2019, 10:56:47 am »

No argument from me there. And there are plenty of folks (particularly younger ones) that love a sound that is 90% composed of sounds below 160 Hz and anything above that frequency is like -20 -10 dB down or something compared to the bass ...  :).

Fixed that for ya.
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Bill Meeks

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Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #39 on: November 15, 2019, 06:18:38 pm »

Fixed that for ya.

Yeah, the "-20 dB" number was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek exaggeration.
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: What should a Sound System frequency response look like?
« Reply #39 on: November 15, 2019, 06:18:38 pm »


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