Sounding out Vector Arena's acoustic woes

By Joanna Hunkin

"Dreadful", "terrible" and "absolutely appalling".

These are just some of the phrases that flooded nzherald.co.nz this week, describing the sound quality of Vector Arena.

The comments came after we called for readers' reviews of last weekend's Bob Dylan concert and Tuesday night's performance by The Cure.

While many fans were delighted by the visiting artists, a marked number of emails expressed disappointment and anger with the sound quality at the venue.

Vector Arena general manager Guy Ngata said he was surprised by the comments, as the venue had employed audio engineers to resolve any sound issues.

"There is a small area where there is an issue, which we have been mitigating since the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"We have been draping that area under the advice of Marshall Day Acoustics and we are working on a long-term permanent solution," said Mr Ngata.

Allegations of poor sound quality and mediocre acoustics have plagued the venue since it opened in March, however, complaints appeared to have died down in recent months.

Chili Peppers sound man Dave Rat contacted the Herald in April, expressing his concerns over the venue's acoustics.

However a spokesman for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, who recently performed at Vector Arena with Burt Bacharach, said the sound quality was excellent and they had received no complaints following the concert.

"Our listeners are used to the best acoustics in the country, they are really quite fussy. If there had been any sound issue, we would have heard about it."

Likewise, there appears to have been no criticism of the sound at any of the Pink, Gwen Stefani or Guns n' Roses concerts.

Acoustic engineer Chris Day, of Marshall Day Acoustics, said there were issues when the centre first opened but they had been addressed and he was surprised by the latest spate of criticism.

"There were some glass balustrades that were causing echoes but those have been treated," said Mr Day.

"We haven't done extensive testing or listening but based on the last six concerts that have been in there, we haven't heard any feedback. We assumed we had fixed the problem."

Mr Day said there were three main components which could contribute to a poor listening experience - the sound mix, the sound system and the venue.

"One has to wonder, particularly if it's happening with some bands and not others, if it's the former two."

Manolo Echave, the concert promoter for Bob Dylan's New Zealand tour, said the sound quality was up to the artist's sound engineer, who tours with the performer.

"How they mix the artist is a totally subjective exercise," he said.

Mr Echave pointed out that a large portion of New Zealand audiences were unfamiliar with arena shows and were still adapting to the experience.

Only three official complaints had been made regarding the Dylan concert, each relating to the poor sound, said Mr Echave.

"[Bob Dylan] has a long history of what his fans would call 'muffled vocal period' during his performances. The sound equipment could make no difference to this particular quirk."

150,000 concert-goers have passed through Vector Arena's door since it opened five months ago.

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