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Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun Jun 11, 2017 3:15 pm
by nopunin10dead
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"?

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:14 pm
by williamsaut
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.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:25 pm
by nopunin10dead
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?

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun May 05, 2019 11:58 am
by zambiland
nopunin10dead wrote:
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"?
Old thread, but I think Bear was right. There are a lot of good reasons to use modern line arrays, but most have to do with convenience over sound quality. For the most part, they are the mp3s. of PAs.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun May 05, 2019 4:46 pm
by TI4-1009
How did you like the Bear book? It's been in my Amazon wish list for a few months now.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun May 05, 2019 6:28 pm
by zambiland
TI4-1009 wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 4:46 pm
How did you like the Bear book? It's been in my Amazon wish list for a few months now.
I liked it. I'm surprised it hasn't been more popular.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Mon May 06, 2019 6:56 am
by Sparklewell
The liner notes from Bear’s Sonic Journal release of Big Brother at the Carousel 1968 explains Bear’s solutions to the phase cancellation and comb filtering problems that plague “split” PA stacks or strings.
Dave Rat also does a video demonstration on YouTube of this phenomenon that is very impressive.
By arranging, in essence, separate PA systems for all the members of the Grateful Dead, in a single unified source i.e. the wall of sound, his concept minimized intermodulation distortion, phase cancellation, comb filtering etc. The liner notes to the big brother release specify the exact way to reconfigure your stereo to achieve Owsley’s intended imaging.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Fri May 10, 2019 11:00 pm
by bouldersoundguy
In any given venue with any given PA, there's an upper limit to how good it can sound and how well it can cover all audience areas. There's nothing about even the best system that can prevent it being used badly.

Good line arrays generally have the potential to sound pretty good, even in challenging indoor venues. There will always be some imperfection because of the unavoidable problems of large indoor venues, largely due to differences in arrival times from multiple sources combined with reflections. It's virtually impossible to have good sound in all listening areas, so you just have to find compromises.

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Sun May 12, 2019 8:33 am
by zambiland
bouldersoundguy wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 11:00 pm
In any given venue with any given PA, there's an upper limit to how good it can sound and how well it can cover all audience areas. There's nothing about even the best system that can prevent it being used badly.

Good line arrays generally have the potential to sound pretty good, even in challenging indoor venues. There will always be some imperfection because of the unavoidable problems of large indoor venues, largely due to differences in arrival times from multiple sources combined with reflections. It's virtually impossible to have good sound in all listening areas, so you just have to find compromises.

Nice to see another Boulder person here!

Re: Provocative Bear quotation about line arrays

PostPosted:Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:40 pm
by nopunin10dead
TI4-1009 wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 4:46 pm
How did you like the Bear book? It's been in my Amazon wish list for a few months now.
I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I've picked it up to read random sections over again for the sheer enjoyment. As an editor, I deplore the occasional typo, but it can't be helped! :-)