Devon Allman & Duane Betts:Fast Forward to Yesterday

I’m typing with one eye swollen shut on this rainy Super Bow Sunday. After having a suspicious, discolored, quarter-sized portion of skin removed from above the right corner of my right eye the previous week, I went back to the ophthalmologist to have the hole fixed on Friday afternoon. It’s pretty amazing that the doctor was able to rotate a piece of skin from my temple into the open space. I’ll spare you the gruesome photos, but I look like someone socked me in the eye — the whole area is black and blue. My temporary new face is so different than the old one that my new iPhone refused to open using facial recognition! My dermatologist is being overly cautious as melanoma runs in my family — my father died at age 43 from it — and I’ve had a number of areas removed from other areas of my body (much better to have a few scars than let it get loose). Things are all good but the whole experience was pretty stressful. I’ll cover up my eye during my classes tomorrow. I wouldn’t want my students to think I got beat up.

To many audiophiles, the holy grail of our obsessive hobby is to recreate the experience of a live concert. Seasoned readers already know that I don’t believe that — I would much rather feel the intimacy of being very close to — and surrounded by — the performers. My productions reflect what I prefer. Many listeners feel that they rival the experience of a live performance. My personal taste notwithstanding, recreating the sound of a live performance is considered a baseline for many audiophiles and reviewers.

The Devon Allman Project with special guest Duane Betts

But is the “sound” or “fidelity” of a live concert actually worthy of reproducing in you living room or home theater. Based on my experience aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines “Pearl”, I would categorically say no! I attended over 20 performances during my week aboard the “Southern Rock” cruise. There were intimate performances by Tommy Townsend and Hal Bruce and full out concerts by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hachet, and The Kentucky Headhunters — and just about everything in between. With virtually no exceptions, I had hearing protection during every one of them. The unattenuated sound blasting from the mammoth sound systems and subwoofer cabinets was dangerously loud and piercingly harsh. And no, this assessment is not because my tastes favor more acoustic music and I don’t like loud music — I’ve turned up my system beyond reasonable many times. Just ask my wife or the neighbors.

The sound pressure level coming from two large columns on either side of the stage and the side by side subwoofers was intolerable and IMHO dangerous. Maybe the audience was numbed by the $600,000 worth of alcohol they purchased during the week but I fail to see the enjoyment in hearing the reverberations of the concert long past it ended. Certainly, this is not the goal of recreating a performance at home.

I’ve heard incredible live performances AND amazing live recordings — I know that it’s possible to bring a great artist into your listening area. But loud isn’t necessarily better. Music can make its impact without permanently injuring your ears. In reality, music should have nuances and subtle variations of dynamics. However, live music like most commercial releases — is heavily processed and lacks these things.

There was only one of the on board concerts in the main hall when I felt the level was acceptable. And it was the best concert of the entire “Southern Rock” cruise, which almost didn’t happen. Devon Allman and his special guest Duane Betts were last minute replacements for The Dicky Betts Band. Dicky, one of the original members of The Allman Brothers Band and was responsible for a number of their hits — like my favorite “Blue Sky”, suffered a stroke back in August and had to cancel his participation on the “Southern Rock” cruise. The operators scrambled and booked Devon and Duane as his replacement.

A moment after their interview with Duane and Devon

Greg Allman is Devon’s father and Dickey Betts is Duane father. You can pretty much guess how their careers came about. I listened to them being interviewed and attended both of their concerts. They played a great mix of Allman Brothers songs and a bunch from their own upcoming album (which was recorded in Muscle Shoals using 2″ analog tape!). For an old guy like me, it was a flashback to my first listen of “Eat A Peach” in Ann Arbor, Michigan my first year of college. They were great — but I still wouldn’t want the sound of their concert in my living room!

I had the chance to briefly chat with both Devon and Duane about my production of The Allman Brothers Band DVD “Live at the Beacon Theater” (for which I received a Gold DVD) and their 2003 release on Sanctuary Records “Hittin’ the Note”. They were very gracious but not interested in a 5.1 surround mix of their new project — I tried.

So let’s abandon the notion that live concerts or performances represent the finest music has to offer. Live sound is always amplified (even jazz and classical gets power in large venues) through compromised PA systems. Well recorded music at home bests that every time.


My brother Lee and his beautiful family.

My younger brother is in need of some help. This isn’t the place or platform to relate the details of his current situation but I know some of you might consider making a contribution to the GoFundMe campaign I started for him once you read the narrative I authored.

I wouldn’t make this appeal if I didn’t feel his circumstance was compelling and the person worthy. If you want to read more, please click the link below and consider making a contribution.

To thank anyone that makes a donation of $100 or more, I will send a signed copy of my “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound” (with Blu-ray Demo disc) AND a FREE copy of the latest AIX Records sampler— a $25 value. If you contribute $50 – $100, I’ll send the eBook, downloadable files, and the AIX sampler. Finally, for a donation of $25 – $50, you’ll receive the eBook and demo files.

I will cover all shipping expenses for domestic orders. International shipping will be additional.

Click here to be taken to the GoFundMe page.

Please do not share this link. Thanks for your consideration.

11 thoughts on “Devon Allman & Duane Betts:Fast Forward to Yesterday

  • I’ve attended many live popular music concerts over the years and fully agree with you on the excessive volume levels at most. Even when I was very young I never appreciated any levels that made me reach for hearing protection. Why would I want to destroy the frequency response balance of the live experience by having to stick plugs in my ears? A sad but unfortunate necessity. 🙁 . I am a bit surprised that the country music being performed was all at extreme levels. It’s been my experience that in general C&W concerts are presented at lower levels than rock and other forms of popular music. But to be honest I don’t attend nearly the amount of live music at this stage in my life as I did when I was younger, maybe things have changed.
    Too bad Devon and Duane weren’t receptive to doing a 5.1 recording session with you. Your Mark Chestnut blu-ray is one of my absolute favorite surround productions. It is rare in the extreme to be able to obtain popular music surround recordings miked and recorded in a perfectionist manner.
    Thank you for the very special work you do!

    • Thanks Sal. Remember this was the “Southern Rock” cruise not country, which happened last week, I think. This was a rock levels.

      • Tom Leahy

        I’ve experienced medical issues of my own, and of my older brother. Been to the hospital so frequently, that I should get frequent flyer miles. I’ve seen and heard of the demise of many friends the last few years. This seems to keep tumbling through my mind in quiet times. Goes with the territory when we get to an advanced age (69). I can appreciate your situation, having been there myself.
        Keep the faith, and continue the struggle, we have no choice. It’s clear that you have great affection toward your bro, and his beautiful family (thanks for the photo). Also the photos of the innards of your equipment are very good. Smartphone pics or old school SLR? The clarity reminds me of some of my older photos taken with my ol’ Nikon F.
        Well, time to sign off, as it’s getting misty, damn, again.

        • Thanks Tom. It seems all I do is visit doctors these days, get scans of various types, undergo surgery for this or that, and wait until the other shoe drops. All you can do is what you can do. Thanks again.

      • It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced loud, Rock levels – mid 70s, Heart, but wearing earplugs actually made the band sound better, plus I got a few slides with my trusty Nikon F.

  • John Deas

    Hi Mark,

    My personal opinion is that live and recorded music are of equal importance but totally different beasts. I love live music because of the….well I don’t really know because live music itself is so variable from a single guitarist in a local pub to a stadium gig – the occasion, the lighting rig, the massive PA system, the interaction and antics of the players – can’t honestly say I go for the sound quality as such. I’ve been to many concerts were the sound quality was awful but still a great performance.

    Recorded music I love the intimacy, the accessibility of playing what I want and when, the sound quality and musical creation obtained whether a simple recorded performance or a completely digital/studio manipulation of samples and sounds. If the main quest of audiophiles is to recreate a live performance I think they wasting their time. If you want the real sun go outside, don’t try and get it from a lightbulb.

    • John, you’re right. A live concert is a very different experience involving the interaction with the audience, spontaneity, virtuosity etc. Recordings and live performances should be judged differently.

  • which ear protection do you use?

    • 3M EAR yellow triple gasket. Used to use the Howard Leight, but they were taken over, so different
      product, but those are Very good, just a pita, since they’re all foam. Can’t hear the Jets at all, as the ‘ol
      ranch is under a runway pattern, about 1.3 miles from O’HARE.

  • Soundmind

    As usual I have a different slant on things. I guess I don’t see the world the same way other people do. That’s okay for me, it doesn’t bother me in the least and if it bothers other people, well not my problem.

    As I child I was exposed to all kinds of music. And I liked many of them. Popular songs of that day were pleasing, melodious, some had clever lyrics, and were usually recorded with live unamplified bands. I still enjoy those kinds of pop music. But I was also exposed to what I thought of as more serious music, what you would call classical music and what I now refer to as “adult music.” It seems to me everything including adult music has seen better days than they do today. Rarely there is a bright spot or two among performances but I don’t know of anyone writing anything anymore that I’d care to listen to.

    I have enjoyed both live and recorded music all of my life. The most exquisite music heard live is something memorable and for me life enriching. The acoustics of where it is heard makes as much of an impact on the quality of sound as the performance and the composition itself because it alters the sound I hear. Some places are better than others. When there is a rare combination of composition, performance, and acoustics that work in synergy to enhance enjoyment that is a rare and special occasion. I have trained my mind not to react emotionally to many things including music, fiction, machines, and much more. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it as much as everyone else, but I enjoy it in a different way. I appreciate the sounds, the interesting melodies, tonalities, harmonies, rhythm. And I also can appreciate the qualities of envelopment and reverberation the right venue imparts.

    It is for this reason that I took on the challenge of duplicating these sounds by other means. One day when I was 25 years old I was an audiophile one moment and not an audiophile the next moment. I suddenly understood something and saw where things went wrong. That was 45 years ago and I’ve been experimenting with my ideas ever since. I have what I wanted and I’m totally satisfied with it. I always will be. It creates what I want to hear. No point in looking any further when you’ve found what you were looking for. This strange machine defies all of the rules other people take as gospel. Its ideal source is the RBCD digital compact disc. It does not rely on expensive equipment. I have many sound systems in my house I’ve re-engineered to my own liking but this one in particular is in a world of its own. I hope others find what they are looking for. It seems to me most people who consider themselves audiophiles are rarely happy with what they have for very long. They always seem to be looking for something better. 45 years ago I put all that behind me and never looked back.

  • Robert McAdam

    I concur Mark in fact I find in general most concerts borderline if not too loud, don’t go if we think its an issue. The audio gear available today is capable of tremendous sound levels with virtually no distortion. The most memorable concert where sound was just about perfect in the venue was Joan Baez’s album release tour 4 years ago. I’m an old rock fan and do like it loud but aircraft takeoff levels are over the top and doing permanent damage. Worst for loudness was Beth Hart’s tour about 4 years ago and we left. It was like the mixing desk man turned all the volumes up to max. I complained but dismissed. The levels were so high that you could only see peoples lips moving but hear no vocals. The owner of the venue did comment it was a problem with US sound mixers with US touring groups in particular.


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