Muddy Sound

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A note from Chris-at-Bose[1] This was written as a response to L1™ owner smbr (Steve) who wrote:

musician friends in the crowd said everything was "muddy"

Introduction

Boy, do I hate "muddy". It's a personal pet peeve. So I have a catalogue of what I think can make things muddy. I'll you give the full list in order of increasing cost, not in order of likelihood, then I'll try to address your situation in particular. Some of it is repetition of what others suggested. (If I'm leaving out something that creates mud, I hope someone will chime in and add it to my list.)

Gain Staging

Errors in gain-staging. If you have the gain up too high somewhere early in the chain, that stage will distort and may sound muddy, even if the final output is not overloaded. The later stages then just amplify that muddy source. So be sure of your gain-staging if you get complaints of muddiness. The give-away here is that not everything will be muddy, only the sources that are staged badly. (So this is probably not your problem, Steve, since the same complaints came in on all three of you.)

Blocking the L1™s

Lots of dancers (or standing people) close to your L1s. If this happens, the people close by won't complain of muddiness, but the people in the back will, because the folks in front are blocking the sound. And the whole band will be muddy in back. If there is a safe, secure way to elevate the L1s, you can shoot more sound over the heads of the close people and deliver clarity to the people farther away.

Open Microphone on the Kick Drum

Open mike on the kick drum. The whole bass region gets hip-deep in mud from open kick drum mics. The kick gate can cure this, if you have a T1. (This doesn't apply in your case, Steve, since you have E-drums, but with acoustic drums, it's almost universal.)

Overdriving the the System (limiting)

Overdriving the B1s or even the L1s. We have really good limiters in our amps that prevent nasty distortion if you try to get too much level from the B1s or L1s. But if you really push them too hard, they will kind of "mush out" and sound "flabby". (Great word, huh?) If this is happening in the bass, turning down or getting more B1s is the fix. Remember, the sound on stage for a given audience level is definitely lower than you're used to, so you may not need to be so loud where you are. You may be able to turn down and still rock the house. If the L1s (not B1s) are limiting and muddying up the midrange, maybe too many people are sharing those L1s. (Not your problem, Steve, as you each have an L1.) If every member of the band has their own L1 and you are still overdriving the midrange, you are louder than I want to be close to. I'm not saying that no band should play that loud but, at that point, you're out of the L1's league and you may need something that can deliver more "punishment", if I may interject my personal slant on things. (I really like loud music and I appreciate bands that don't require ear plugs to listen to.)

In your case, Steve, you don't have a kick mic, you each have an L1, you seem to have roughly enough B1s, and the complaint of muddiness applied to all of you, so gainstaging is not likely to be the culprit. I think it's either "people blockage" or overdriving all the L1s. So the key question is, "did you sound muddy to yourselves?" If you did, you were probably all driving your L1/B1 systems beyond their limits. If you didn't, probably the people in front blocked your sound from the people in back. If you were overdriving, the fix is usually pretty easy. Ask your friends in the audience whether they would have enjoyed you more if you had been less loud. Chances are, the honest answer is "yes". But it takes a while to develop faith that you can blow people away with how musical you are, instead of how loud you are. But you can, you know, because that's what musicians have always done.

In any case, since you are about 80% satisfied after the first gig, I'm optimistic that you'll soon get close to 100%.

Hope this is helpful,

Chris