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Few Sound Answers After Springsteen’s Performances

A multimillion-dollar sports arena opens to great fanfare with a concert by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, only to leave fans grousing about the poor acoustics.

Sound familiar?

It does to rock fans in Indianapolis, where the Boss inaugurated the $183-million Conseco Fieldhouse in November, just a month after he’d played the first concert in Staples Center.

“The sound by many accounts ranged from soupy echoes to sludgy,” reported the Indianapolis Star after Springsteen’s show.

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What happened?

Both apparently were a combination of a poor sound mix by Springsteen’s crew--a complaint echoed at his shows in New York, Chicago, Washington, Oakland and elsewhere--in new buildings still in the fine-tuning process.

“We’ve all heard about the Springsteen fiasco,” said Trip Khalaf, senior engineer for Pennsylvania-based Clair Brothers Audio, who handled the Eagles’ Staples Center New Year’s Eve show. “If anyone has complaints about sound in this industry, a lot of it comes down to user error,” said Khalaf, a veteran with nearly 30 years of rock concert sound experience.

Said one veteran sound engineer who asked not to be identified, “I was getting 30 to 40 e-mails a week while I was out on the road last year [with another major rocker] from fans saying, ‘Please come out and mix Springsteen. We heard your shows--can’t you do something?’ ”

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“The facts are,” added acoustical design consultant Jack Wrightson, whose firm did the design work on Staples, Conseco and other arenas, “if Staples and Conseco had opened with a different show, there would have been much less concern over the sound quality of the building.”

Requests for comment from Springsteen’s sound engineer were referred to his tour manager, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed.


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