Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, March 23, 2011

other meeting reports

3/23/11 Meeting Highlights
by Ken Platz

Why is Concert Sound better than it used to be…or is it?;

Presented by: TC Furlong, Matt Satorius, and Brian Bolly


The March 2011 meeting of the Chicago AES Section was held at Shure Incorporated, located in Niles, Illinois.  About forty audio enthusiasts (members and non-members) attended the presentation and discussion which included real-world examples from TC Furlong (Founder of TC Furlong Inc. and the Audio Systems Designer for the PBS HD concert television series Soundstage) and his guest panelists Matt Satorius (Audio Systems Engineer at Willow Creek Community Church) and Brian Bolly (Cinema and Live Sound Project Manager at Meyer Sound).

TC started the evening by telling the audience that when he replies to a question asking what he or his business does, he sums it up by stating, “We make things louder.”   He also humbly offered that this was his first presentation using MS-Powerpoint slides and that we should be weary anytime we see ‘sound guys do video’. 

TC offered that Concert Sound Systems are all specifically amplified sound systems and can be considered better or improved over the years if one defines improvement to be more like a recording, more like a living-room experience, or if a higher level of excitement is achieved.  Polling experts in the field, he received a range of responses defining ‘good sound’ as ‘good sound is the absence of bad sound’ and reasons for improvement include ‘the gear is better’, ‘going digital’, and ‘line source speakers’.   Decision makers ultimately decide if the sound is good or improved and these decision makers can vary from the artist, the concert promoter, the production manager, or the sound mixer. 

His presentation and discussion then focused on differentiating between improvements related to the gear or the talent.  Talent can be scientific, artistic, or logistical but the most crucial aspect in achieving good sound is communication – which should not be overlooked but often is.  The evolution of equipment ranges from mixing consoles, monitors, loudspeaker & amplifier management, system prediction, and measurement and verification.  Ultimately, TC offered that ‘concert sound has been refined to the point of being very complicated.’

TC and the panelists fielded questions including: How  do you compensate for the audience - people as ‘bags of water’ (set up your best and then it only gets better when people arrive); Is the sound better…do we use the tools responsibly (we all have a responsibility to keep people safe – now with networked mics placed in various venue locations, adjustments can be made continuously); What is a good rule of thumb for loudness – indoor vs. outdoor (95dB at the front of house); are there tricks to control subwoofers – ground subs vs. flown subs (yes but subs are the most difficult tools/gear to control).


The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thanks to TC Furlong, Matt Satorius, and Brian Bolly for an engaging presentation and informative discussion.