Why Isn’t 5.1 Surround Sound Music Mainstream at Live Music Venues?

Since my first concert in May 1973, live music has always been ‘The Bees Knees’ for me in terms of entertainment value, not to mention being in the same space with the bands and artists I loved. 

However, prior to attending my first concert, the only way I could experience it was through my imagination and my giant 1970’s headphones and rocking out to whatever music I chose.

Still no matter how hard I tried, I could not recreate the experience of a live concert with those headphones.

At that time I could only imagine stepping into an auditorium. Hearing the incredible sounds, and talented performers telling their stories through music along with their rock-star stage presence. It was where I needed to be!

Once I experienced it, I was hooked on the entire live concert/music experience forever. Still am.

Hands down, it remains my absolute favorite form of entertainment even after 40+ years.

With that I ask. “Can a concert-goer’s experience be maximized further from what’s the norm right now? Today?!” If so, how?! 

Enter 5.1 surround sound as the new medium for live music performances.

Can 5.1 Surround Sound Enhance a Live Music Performance? 

With the rise of 5.1 surround sound technology, many people, yours truly included, are questioning why concerts and live events aren’t embracing immersive 5.1 surround sound? 

By far, it can deliver a more exhilarating and immersive experience for the audience. It would be a great way for live music venues, artists, and entertainers to put on a show with an unforgettable audio eye-opener if you will. 

Despite the potential for a much more engaging experience for those in attendance, there still remain certain obstacles from a few different standpoints. 

However none that cannot be overcome. It’s 2023 for crying out loud!

In this article, I’ll take a look at what I think is holding back live music venues and artists from providing the ultimate live concert experience. And what can be done to ease their concerns to finally make 5.1 surround sound live music events the norm.

Potential disadvantages of a live concert in 5.1 surround sound

It’s important to note that the disadvantages listed are potential, and whether or not they are significant depends on the specific concert and venue.

Frank Foti, our “Il Padrino” talks about the potential disadvantages of a live concert in 5.1 surround sound and answers those disadvantages.

How complex is it to set up a 5.1 surround sound system for a concert?

Frank Foti on creating and unforgettable concert experience in 5.1 surround sound

Setting up and running a 5.1 surround sound system at a live concert can be complex and time-consuming. This can make it difficult to get the sound system up and running in time for the concert. It can also make it more difficult to troubleshoot any issues that arise during the concert.

Frank: As with any live venue, PA sound requires setup, alignment, and tuning. This is true for any production that will be mixed in monophonic, or stereo sound. When introducing a surround environment, like 5.1, the same is required except that there’s more amplifiers and speakers, or sound clusters, which need to be setup, secured, and then tuned for the theater/concert hall.  

Basically, the surround setup will require the addition of a center speaker, and the Left/Right surrounds. 

The LFE is already in place, as most PA systems are set up to accommodate the sub frequencies. 

No matter what solution you use, I can tell you our Déjà Vu simplifies live surround sound by eliminating the need for a specialized mixing console. Déjà does this by using a regular stereo mix and converting it into discrete 5.1 surround sound via a plug-in and app.

How much would it cost to set up 5.1 for a concert?

5.1 Surround sound systems can be expensive to purchase and set up, which can make it difficult for smaller venues or concert promoters to afford.

Frank: Before proceeding with a live surround presentation, it’s important to ask “Is a live surround experience suitable for us?” 

If the answer is ‘yes’, then a plan should be created that includes an estimate for any necessary additional equipment. 

Some venues may already have speakers and amplifiers for this purpose, but if not, this should be taken into account in the plan.

Many apps and plug-ins can render stereo audio into 5.1 surround sound at a reasonable cost, as does our Déjà Vu, you can buy a single license for well under $600.

What would the fan experience be at a live concert in 5.1 surround sound?

Not all concert-goers may prefer the 5.1 surround sound experience, and may find it to be distracting or disorienting.

Frank: Attending a 5.1 surround sound concert can be quite an experience. It’s a more immersive entertainment experience than traditional stereo sound systems. 

One huge benefit of a 5.1 audio system during live concerts is improved entertainment value due to increased presence. Music will not only be clearer, but more layered which allows performers to create music that previously wasn’t achievable in standard stereo setups. 

However, we understand that not all concert attendees may prefer the 5.1 surround sound experience and may find it to be distracting or disorienting.

Is it difficult logistically to set-up a live 5.1 concert?

The added speakers and equipment required for a 5.1 surround sound concert can take up a lot of space in a venue and make it difficult to move around. It also may require additional personnel to operate the equipment, increasing the overall cost of the event.

Frank: Another cool part about 5.1 surround sound for live concerts is that it’s quite simple to install and set up. Using most technologies, you don’t need any complicated wiring or hardware—just install the plug-in into ProTools or whatever digital audio workstation software you’re using and you’re ready to go.

Connect whatever speakers you’re using, adjust their positioning relative to each other so their output matches evenly, then you’re ready to start enjoying 5.1 audio from all angles.

How is the sound quality in a live concert setting?

Although 5.1 surround sound can add more dimension to the audio experience, it can also be challenging to balance and mix the sound in a live concert setting, especially in a dynamic environment such as a concert hall.

Frank: The increased number of channels within 5.1 audio systems make this unbelievable quality of sound possible. 

For example, using Déjà, the music/audio will fill your entire room and can even give the feeling that instruments are physically present with you in the space. 

Although 5.1 surround sound can add more dimension to the audio experience, we realize the dynamics of each particular environment can also be challenging to balance and mix in a live concert setting. It really depends on the acoustics of the venue.

Improved Accessibility to 5.1 Surround Sound

No longer would concert attendees have to worry about being limited by where they decide to sit at an event! With 5.1 Surround Sound you can easily enjoy full coverage of high-quality audio no matter where you are in the venue.

Finally, the best part is, this technology is available now and spreading its way into larger gatherings as well as increasing accessibility options worldwide.

Are you ready to experience live music in a 5.1 surround sound?

Experiencing live music in a 5.1 surround sound environment is a captivating and mesmerizing audio experience.

With the speaker configuration creating a three-dimensional sound, it gives a sense of space and direction to live music. It will tingle the senses of fans like no other. It’s time for entertainment venues, artists, and bands to enter the world of surround sound live performances and give people what they’ve been missing, forever.

Hear and experience Déjà Vu 5.1 surround sound for yourself!

Listen and hear her for yourself. Download our demo version of Déjà Vu to hear her in action for yourself. 

Click here or the banner below to download a demo version from one of our partners, Angry Audio, and take her for a spin for yourself.

2 Comments

  1. G on August 4, 2023 at 11:20 pm

    What is the point of 5.1 in a concert venue unless your the seats in front of and behind Foh position if your far left or right your only going to get that audio feed so all the bass rig or half the orchestra . . Seems to me 5.1 and atmos is for when your home sitting in the best seat in the house , not in the nose bleeds top of the auditorium at the back

    • Mark Tennant on August 5, 2023 at 9:27 am

      Hi Gavin,
      Thanks for reading and appreciate the comment. Yep, really good point you make. We recently worked with a local band and pulled off a pretty decent sounding 5.1 surround sound concert here in Cleveland at the Beachland Ballroom. It was very well-received, the room was full, and the crowed enjoyed the sound.
      Your points about positioning are valid.
      In an expansive venue, the configuration and calibration of the audio system, coupled with acoustic design, can substantially influence how sound is perceived from different points in the space. Our primary goal was to distribute sound more evenly throughout the venue and enrich the overall auditory experience. It’s a challenge for sure, and an ongoing field of research and innovation that we continue to explore.
      Of course continuous advancements in audio technology and acoustical engineering may soon make it possible to create an almost perfect surround sound experience for every seat in a concert venue. And we’ll be there testing and testing.
      Again, thank you for your comments. We appreciate the feedback!

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