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Why did some people think the sound was bad at Bruce Springsteen?

Some complained about the sound at Croke Park.

Image: RollingNews.ie

IF YOU WERE at Bruce Springsteen last night, people will probably have already asked you about the sound.

Indeed, this very website carried news that some people left Croke Park early because of sound issues.

Others, this writer included, have different opinions as to the quality of the sound for the first The Boss’s first night at GAA HQ.

But, why the discrepancy?

The basic answer comes down to how sound travels. It stands to reason that the further you were from the stage, the clearer the sound would be as you are relying totally on speakers positioned on the field.

There’s also an issue with the height and width of a place like Croke Park. The speakers just don’t have the wattage required to deliver perfect sound to all corners.

Lance Smith, a music producer and sound engineer, tells TheJournal.ie that it would be “very hard” to make the sound perfect. However, if you’re heading to tomorrow’s gig, try to stand near the sound engineer.

There’s probably great sound straight down the middle and a sweet spot by the engineer’s tent, but on the margins and at the wings of the stadium, it’s very difficult to get that right.

Bouncing off the walls

With nothing to bounce the sound off, it can lead to music sounding washed out, a common problem for Croke Park.

A 2014 study from Aalto University found that music had a greater dynamic range in shoebox-shaped auditoria.

Sound reflected from the sidewalls strengthens the especially strong higher overtones that players produce during a whole orchestra piece. This means that the Croke Park lost out on certain tones when the whole E Street Band was playing last night.

Slane, a venue which holds roughly the same number of people, is different because it is a natural amphitheatre. A man-made structure in Greece at Epidaurus features a design which allows music be heard at every point.

Smith says that one thing that could have washed the sound out is, oddly enough, an improvement in technology.

As technology has got better you have much lighter portable systems. While they’re better in most ways, you can’t power them out the way you used to.

“It’s not just a case of upping the watts and blowing a crowd away.”

With all that said, concert-goers still paid €100 and more to watch Springsteen and some were left unhappy.

“You don’t have to just accept it at over €100 a ticket,” says Smith.

“But you are playing with the elements a bit.”

Read: WATCH: Enda Kenny plays air guitar at Springsteen gig

Read: The ties that bind: Here’s how Bruce superfans get their front row spots

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