Where’s the Bass?

The Fox 6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

The Fox 6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

Everyone knows that I like to keep things positive on Phish Thoughts, but there is one disappointing aspect to this summer’s Phish that needs to be addressed- the soundboards.  What has caused the degradation of LivePhish releases, making many virtually unlistenable?  Many fans have chimed in on this topic since spending upwards of $10 for each show they purchased, only to be greeted by a recording- well, that often sounds like a trio!  The result of these inadequate releases is that anyone relying on them to listen to the shows is actually missing most their musical dynamic.  Let’s look a little closer.

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

The main gripe from fans across the country has been the relative absence of bass in the LivePhish mix.  While varying from show to show, Mike has often been so low in the mix that his eclectic- and essential- offerings can barely be heard.  Because Trey and Mike play so closely off each other, enhancing each other’s lines, this causes Trey’s playing to make much less sense in the context of a “three piece band.”  It wasn’t until I listened to various audience tapes, matrix mixes, and “remastered” soundboards, that I realized how much the boards were lacking.  A lot of these jams were much better than reflected by the band’s own releases!

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

When listening to these different sources, one can hear the furious interplay between Mike and Trey, as their musical ideas constantly bounce off and wrap around each other.  This is my favorite aspect of Phish- when Mike and Trey play like they are glued at the brain- responding to each other’s subtleties coherently and masterfully.  Yet if one were to solely listen to Live Phish releases, they would miss this entire dynamic- completely diluting the music and prompting theories of whether Mike is now the one on drugs.  Truth be told- the band sounds great; the soundboards sound like shit.  But why?

When we think back to post-hiatus, when Phish still had the same crew (Languedoc et al) running the ship, the LivePhish releases sounded infinitely better.  Without knowing the exact process used to get these releases to the web, we can all tell there is a severe learning curve.  Phish now does an amazing job at getting their shows online within an hour of the final note- but at what cost?  Would it not be better if they took another few hours, or- gasp- a day to make sure that they are releasing a professional product worthy of listening for an audiophile?  As Speed Stick once advertised, “Anything else would be uncivilized!” Especially in today’s uber-technologicalal age.

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

Suffice it to say, these soundboard releases have not reflected the dynamic playing of the band in any room or pavilion.  Without any seeming adjustments or remixing, we are getting flat soundboard mixes that comes off as amateur for a band of Phish’s stature.  I don’t know if there was a different process back in ’03, or simply a more knowledgeable employee running the show, but the difference in quality is palpable.  Some fans have been so disenchanted that they have written petitions to the band asking for refunds on their purchases.  Their point has weight, as the official band that releases that are sold, are some of the lesser quality versions of the shows that are available for free all over the web.

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

In addition to a relative absence of Mike- something fans have brought up in the actual live mix as well- Trey and Page are often so loud that they are all you can hear.  I love Trey- and Page is playing as well as ever- but to hear the two without the backing of a thick rhythmic pocket is only half the picture.  Imagine if Michaelangelo had only painted half of the Sistine Chapel?  It wouldn’t quite have the same effect.  With a hypercritical fan base that has always looked to analyze the band’s every move, it is doing a disservice to the organization and to the fans, to continue releasing inferior mixes.

But one silver-lining in all of this is that people are listening to audience recordings again; genuine replications of how you experienced the show.  And a great audience recording will smoke a soundboard any day of the week.  With a fuller feel, more crowd ambiance and an authentic sound, audience tapes have come back with a vengeance this summer.  With the help of No Spoilers and the copious sources of every single show posted on etree , people have more than enough choices to sift through before deciding on what sounds best.

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

6.16.09 (B.Kisida)

While this was only the first tour back, and things will inevitably get dialed in, it would behoove the organization to reconcile this issue with this coming August run.  Without being a sound engineer myself, I can’t make any definitive suggestions, but couldn’t someone create a separate live mix for the tapes each night, or would that be too difficult?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But with crazy fans that are willing to go to a show, drive directly home and buy it online, the product Phish offers should be the one of the best available options.

The music is great and only getting better- now let us hear it!

What do you think about the recent soundboard releases?  Do you have any insight as to why there has been such a downgrade in quality?  Share your thoughts in Comments!



keurigb40Why wait and see what show is up for download each day on Phish Thoughts, when you can have it waiting for you to bump during your morning coffee, drop onto your iPod, and head out the door?!  Following the popular No Spoilers RSS feed, we will now be starting a “Download of the Day” RSS subscription as well.

The idea is that you use your torrent program to subscribe to “Downloads of the Day.”  Soon after I upload the show, your program starts downloading it automagically!

Head over to Phish Thoughts Torrent Tutorial for instructions on how to set this up!
Please note: this is a separate subscription from the No Spoilers subscription.  If you are already subscribed to that, add a new subscription for Downloads of the Day



6.5.2009 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < TORRENT

6.5.2009 Jones Beach, Wantagh, NY < MEGAUPLOAD

Official JB Poster

Official Jones Beach Poster

Saving their best effort for the conclusion of the Jones Beach run, Phish blew out this second set in a rainstorm, crafting the finest frame of the tour to that point.  A sublime “2001 > Slave” capped off the night.

I: Wilson, Buried Alive, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, I Didn’t Know, My Friend My Friend, Ya Mar, Theme from the Bottom, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Split Open and Melt

II: Down With Disease > Twist* > Piper > Backwards Down the Number Line, Free, Twenty Years Later > 2001 > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: A Day in the Life

* w/ “Oye Como Va” jam

Source: Telefunken m260

Tags: ,

148 Responses to “Where’s the Bass?”

  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    Thanks exree!

  2. Frankie Says:

    This is the source info for that Camden Matrix, which is the best i’ve heard of all the shows so far, for those interested… It is 60% SBD, 40% from two fob Schoeps sources. Magic!

    Live Phish Sbd (16/44.1 FLAC) + Schoeps mk41v (dina, fob, dfc) > kc5 > m222 > nt222 + mk5 (omni, 50cm, fob, dfc) > kc5 > cmc6 > lunatec V3 (analog out) > SD744T (16/44.1 FLAC)

    Pro Tools LE 8 (matrix, tracking, iZotope Ozone 4 mastering plug-in, loudness maximizer, MBIT+ dither)

    Pro Tools > WAV (16/44.1) > xACT > FLAC

  3. Lennon Says:

    “Has anyone received their phish lottery tickets for the second leg yet? I have Chicago, Gorge, Darien, SPAC coming in to me and haven’t gotten any yet.”

    I am waiting on my Gorge Camping tickets from ticketbastard. When I called them they said that they will be mailed out the last week of July. Said they can’t mail them until they receive them from the venues and that is when they are supposed to receive them.

  4. SteveO. Says:

    The new engineer, who’s name escapes me at the moment, works with Digidesigns boards (the makers ProTools and Avid). My guess is that he records the two track master to ProTools directly, it’s spot checked for a rough QA, bounced to disc, maybe with a little compression and EQ, converted, and it’s uploaded to Live Phish. They aren’t going for album quality, they just want to make sure that everybody gets to hear the shows. It could easily take days to get a good mix for a whole show. My bet is that they’ll pick one or two of the better shows, mix them up nice and master them, and release them on CD this fall (Bonaroo boxed set if the Boss agrees?). Did any body notice mics pointing towards the crowd at any shows? I believe they had some at Hampton.

    I thought the sound at all three Jones Beach shows was phenominal. No squelchy Trey like at Hampton and in the past, no boomy bass like at Hampton, it was nice and tight. Page had a nice presence, and I could hear both the kick and the ghost notes on the snare. All together, a really nice balance.

    While it’s essential to hear the bass and kick well, most engineers give you too much low end, losing all definition of sound.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    10-26: Phoenix…cricket Pavillion
    10-27: Hollywood Bowl
    10-28: Conan
    10-30 to 11-1: Indio
    11-2: Warfield
    11-4: Denver, Pepsi Arena
    11-5: Austin Music Hall
    11-7, 8: Atlanta, Phillips Arena
    11-10: Rosemont
    11-12: Hampton
    11-13,14,14: Philly, Spectrum
    11-17: Boston Garden
    11-18: Albany
    11-21,22: MSG

    ^^ got these dates from someone else as well- making them slightly more interesting. A few glaring question marks are:

    1.The Warfield (!) THE DAY AFTER the festival
    2. DENVER > AUSTIN overnight = 1070 miles = 16+ hour drive = never done
    3 AUSTIN > ATLANTA > CHICAGO > HAMPTON is just strange routing
    4. 2 days off in b/w Albany and MSG (Though maybe there is another show in there.

    That being said, Hampton > MSG looks SICK! (Then again, this could all be false) But I think the beginning and the end are plausible / likely. I got that Hampton date from a third party in Hampton….

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    that being said, shift a date or two around, and this could be the tour….

  7. Frankenstein Says:

    Seems like a ton of touring first time back…

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    right? I thought that when they announced summer!

    I had thought Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years Run- but apparently, it seems like it’s game on!

  9. lot rat Says:

    The Warfield would be a sick show and a tough ticket for sure. There is no way I would miss it.

  10. tim d Says:

    wow. cool review.

  11. hawkinbj Says:

    rumor has it 3am EST Phish.com

    Stay tuned.

  12. Robear Says:

    ^ Big thanks for posting the link for the Camden ‘matrix’. Can I say that the jam during Sand is why we travel so far for this band and love them so much? Wow. Is the first set available in that ‘remix’?

  13. Marshall Says:

    phish.com is down right now ???????

  14. cottle Says:


    i’ve been having difficulty getting on all yesterday afternoon/evening and this morning. I was assuming it’s my mediocre internet connection, but maybe it’s because they’re updating the site with new tourdates!!!!

  15. Kaveh Says:

    Anyone out there with taping skills want to direct me in the direction of starting to look for taping equipment? I would appreciate it very much. I’ve been doing my own homework on this, but would love some expertise and/or help.


  16. Robear Says:

    Any advice from you cats on a good set of speakers for my computer? I have a tiny little house, and not much room for a full system. Would like to get something to plug into my computer for music, and plug into my TV system for the occasional movie. My kids think I’m being rude listening on my headphones while they are here. Sorry if this is the wrong spot for this question, I’m new to this site.

  17. Robear Says:

    And, Happy 4th everyone! Big greetings and thanks to Colonel Joy and all the other Armed Service members. Hope to see you in Cali at a show some day.

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ Kaveh- check out taperssection.org or .com (not sure which one)

  19. Kaveh Says:

    @ Mr. Minor – it’s .com, and thank you, as I appreciate it.

  20. digs5446 Says:

    Fish Sauce Says: July 3rd, 2009 at 7:56 am:

    “where can i find these matrices you all speak of? i’m very interested in hearing what they sound like. ”

    I just want to chime in here with regard to the usage of the term “matrix”. I was confused about this and perhaps other are too -> normally when i hear the word matrix i’m thinking of an AUD/SBD matrix, but I’ve seen “matrix” pop up in the source titles/descriptions on etree and they’re referring to a multi-MIC matrix. For example my fave source for the Camden 6/7 show is a Schoeps 4-channel matrix…it’s not an AUD/SBD matrix at all, but rather a matrixed recording of 4 seperate mics.

    Apparently there are actual AUD/SBD matrices around the web, but I’ve seen none on etree…probably because etree discourages (or disallows?) the use of copyrighted material, which LivePhish SBDs are.

    Anyway, GREAT piece Mr. Minor, which has yielded a great discussion. I’m just so thankful for all the tapers, and the money i just spent on a 1TB hard drive was money VERY well spent! With anywhere from 3 to 13 sources per show, after some intensive comparisons on my noise-cancelling phones I end up finding tasty-ass recordings that tickly my fancy.

  21. Kaveh Says:

    For what it is worth, I did finally torrent the last night from Alpine off of Tomelope at http://thepiratebay.org/user/tomelope/. I did the matrix flac files, and I must say, when compared to the straight LivePhish release, having that 40% audience sound mixed in, makes for a great sounding show. It gives the sound a little more roundness and depth.

    Anyone else have a chance to listen to any of the matrix files that are up at this source? And what are your opinions?


    – Kaveh

  22. blinko Says:

    I too noticed how fucking loud page is this tour…and its great especially whne hes playing great. Mike is low on sbd but low live too….very saddening Im a Mike lover. But I did notice the fishman was pretty clear on the sbd. Maybe all the languedoc naysayer should rethink their stance. Maybe their just doing this for a while to get trey and page back because the other two are so good it doesnt matter. We need more mike

  23. Adam Schneider Says:

    Holy crap. That’s what is wrong with these recordings! They’ve sounded so flat and disengaging. It’s all Page and Trey! Terrible mixes. It sounds like some of the Languedoc mixes from the early 90’s. I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before.

    From the shows I saw this summer, I thought they sounded phenomenal, yet these boards sounded so 2 dimensional.

    I guess we gott bring back in a way People For A Louder Mike (on soundboards).


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