Pete's Guide to Concert Venues
As an amateur sound engineer I'm always interested in the sound quality at
the various venues I've been to. Here's my personal guide to the best and
worst venues to see live bands at. Obviously this will be coloured by the
sound engineer in question that night and how well the band played so take all
reviews with a pinch of salt. In summary, Milton Keynes Bowl, Royal Albert
Hall, Brixton Academy and Clare Cellars all good. The Cobden Club, Earls Court
and Cambridge Corn Exchange worth avoiding.
Audley End Hall I saw Jools Holland here. As expected for an outside
venue the mixing was good and everything was very clear. However, I was on the
front row which distorted things slightly as I could hear Mark Flanagans
guitar amp and the large horn section clearly from their on stage sound. This
turned out to be advantageous as the tech crew had massively under supplied
the power supply. As the back lights came on the sound went off, again later
the baritone sax played a low note and the sound went off. Jools Holland
improvised well with his brass section playing unaccompanied for several
minutes at a time throughout the four power failures.
Milton Keynes Bowl I saw Bon Jovi, Matchbox 20 and support here and the sound was
fantastic. Not overly loud, clear for all of the bands and well mixed. The
best live sound I've yet experienced.
Royal Albert Hall I saw Jewel supported by Rosie Thomas here. Despite
some reservations going in the sound was superb apart from an echo from the
back wall which was noticeable on some drum solos. Other than that it was well
mixed and sounded great.
Cambridge Corn Exchange I've seen Jools Holland, Manic Street
Preachers, Space, Terrorvision, Mary Black, Beverley Craven, Bill Bailey,
Jack Dee and many others
here. In general the sound quality here is distorted and muffled with huge
peaks around 3kHz. Beverly Craven was an exception due to being a solo gig
that was mostly empty. It's often very loud. Wearing Ultratech earplugs with a
gentle treble roll off improves it greatly.
Not recommended but sounds better towards the front.
I saw the Divine Comedy here. It was very very loud and the band were
extremely drunk so it's a bit hard to tell. The vocals seemed distorted though.
The Boat Race, Cambridge Atcha Acoustic, The Hamsters and many other
bands I've forgotten. Generally the sound here is very good but a little too
loud. Things are sometimes a bit distorted due to push the too far but always
well mixed. This is even true of the open stage nights which is quite an
Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge I saw many people at the folk festival,
the sound on all stages was competent but there was some inevitable cross talk
between stages. Generally good throughout though.
Nynex, Manchester I saw Elton John here, the sound was competent but
echoed a little. Possibly because I was sat near the back.
Earls Court, London Very bad echoing from the room and a muffled sound
all round. Not recommended. May be due to sitting up near the top a long way
from the stage.
The Cobden Club, Kensal Road, London I saw Morroco here, a small venue
for an unsigned band. Having mixed the myself I know the band can sound very
good, however the Cobden Club managed worst sound I have yet heard.
Incorrectly miked instruments, horrendous distortion on the lead vocal to the
point of incomprehensibility, a horrible mix and a nasty sound overall. I have
since mixed the band personally much more competently.
Update :- I've been in email contact with the new sound guys at the Cobden
club who took over. They had this to say.
Ok that's fine. We didn't take over until June 2003 (morocco played for us
over the summer) and the guy we have (Dave Dix) totally overhauled the sound
in there and they're in the process of installing a new pa as well.
We're packed out every week these days and putting on loads of acts for the
industry, so if they're happy so are we. I was just curious as to how you
guys could have got it so wrong. But as it was before our time it's
irrelvent. You're more than welcome to come down whenever. We're there every
Monday and Tuesday and it's £4 to get in. You will need to contact
firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the guest list and obviously drinking is
heavily encouraged and I'll foot the bill for any tap water you indulge in.
Brixton Academy, London I saw the Beautiful South here, the sound was
very loud but fairly clear and well mixed. The slanting floor was a little
disconcerting but ensured a fantastic view. Recommended.
Wembley Stadium, London I saw Bon Jovi and support here. Muffled sound,
too quiet compared to the crowd it sounded poor. I was relatively close to the
front too. Long echoes could be heard off the back of the stadium.
Clare Cellars, Cambridge As a resident sound engineer I've seen
hundreds of people here. It generally
sounds quite good but it muffles quickly through the room because of the
pillars. It's worth standing in the front quarter of the room to get good
sound but it might be a little loud.
Ain't Nothin' But, London [somewhere] I saw a blues band here who's
name I've forgotten. Pretty good sound despite using Bose 802 speakers with no
802 controller, just a well set EQ instead.
Davenport Theatre, Stockport I saw the Commitments here, it sounded
Empire Theatre, Liverpool I saw the Commitments here, the sound was
over loud and very distorted.
Apollo Theatre, Manchester I've seen Mark Knopfler and the Corrs here,
both sounded clear and well done. The Corrs sounded over produced but that's
typical of their later album sound.
Gmex, Manchester I saw Meatloaf here, it was a long time ago but I
think it was fairly good if a little echoey.
Parr Hall, Warrington I saw Jools Holland here, it was adequate.
Palace Theatre, Manchester I've seen the Rocky Horror Show and the
Blues Brothers Tribute here. Both times the sound was very good.
Cambridge Arts Theatre I saw the Blues Brothers Tribute Here. Sound was
clear and well done.
Arena, Sheffield I saw Eric Clapton here a long time ago. I think the
sound was alright.
Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield I saw Bon Jovi, Van Halen and Thunder
here. I recall the sound being good and clear throughout.