The science behind stage acoustics

At Stagefreight, we know how important stage acoustics are to a good show. The team of drivers that provide our stage transport services are happy to support backstage teams during setup, and we offer to check and sort sound during live events. We also handle setup and checks for Ramfest: this charity event has been running for about a decade, and we’re very proud to be a part of it!

To help your shows sound better than ever, we’ve put together this new guide to the basics of stage acoustics. We’ll also cover common fixes for bad sound, and which venues are famous for their exceptional acoustic build.

The general science behind stage sound

The key to a good musical performance is finding a venue that can reflect sound effectively. Soft materials absorb sound, while hard materials reflect it. If you compare how your voice sounds in a living room to how it sounds in a bathroom, you can see (well, hear) this firsthand.

As a result, modern music venues minimise the use of soft materials and prioritise hard ones. The shape of the venue is also important; according to Classic FM, music halls with a shoebox shape have very good acoustics. Their research with Professor Trevor Cox (at the University of Salford) explains that a good venue needs to facilitate clear sound, and helps the audience feel enveloped by the music they’re listening to.

It’s also important to consider the musician’s experience. When there are multiple musicians on stage at once, each one needs to be able to hear the others, and play at the same volume.

However, a good music venue doesn’t need a shoebox shape (or even walls) for great music. We’ll have a closer look at a range of venues later in the article.

Timing of reflections

Music venues don’t just need to reflect sound properly; they also need to reflect sound at the right time delay. When a sound bounces around a venue, there’s inevitably a slight delay between when a musican plays a note and when the audience hears it. Different performances, in turn, benefit from different delays.

According to Meyer and Hansen’s Acoustics and the Performance of Music, an orchestra sounds best when there’s a delay of between 17 and 35 milliseconds. Soloists benefit from a slightly longer delay; anything between 20 and 100 milliseconds is suitable. Conversely, a delay of 10 milliseconds sounds bad regardless of musical quality.

Stage acoustic orchestra layouts

Another thing that can affect sound quality is the position of individual musicians. Meyer and Hansen make the following recommendations:

Strings (like violins and basses) should be placed at the front of the orchestra.

Woodwinds (like clarinets and oboes) should sit in the middle of the orchestra.

Brass and percussion instruments (like trumpets and kettledrums) should sit at the back.

The position of the orchestra as a whole is also important. If an orchestra is too far from the back wall, for example, this can make it difficult for the conductor and audience to hear some of the musicians properly.

There are three popular orchestra layouts which reflect Meyer and Hansen’s guidelines. These are known as the European, American and Alternative American layouts respectively.

The American layout is a highly popular one and we’ve created a graphic to highlight how the orchestra is generally arranged using this layout.

american layout of an orchestra
The American layout of an orchestra

Common stage acoustics fixes

As the recent Spice Girls concerts have demonstrated, getting sound right at a concert can be difficult. This is a significant problem at outdoor events, since there are several factors that can impact the sound the musicians produce. Fortunately, there are several things we can do to mitigate this as well.

A hard back wall for the stage helps to reduce sound splashback for the microphone.

Ceiling baffles and banners can help to decrease the echoes that rigging produces.

Acoustical wall panels can nullify sound bounce back from theatre balconies.

Ceiling reflectors above the orchestra can further improve sound quality. Heavier reflectors can absorb higher-frequency sounds.

Upper walls and balconies can be adjusted to bounce sound back towards the audience.

Famous concert halls with great acoustics

Now we have a better understanding of stage acoustics, we’ll look at some concert halls that make orchestras sound amazing.


The Musikverein is located in Vienna and was constructed in 1867. The venue is famous for the organ in its Golden Hall, which was first played in 1872; in total, four different organs have been used in the Musikverein since its opening. The venue has seen over 37,000 performances in the last 75 years alone, and its annual Vienne Philharmonic New Year’s concert is a highlight of its season.


This Dutch venue was built in Amsterdam in 1886, though its grand opening came two years later thanks to poor infrastructure. Its construction was a response to the lack of quality music venues in Amsterdam at the time. Today, it is one of the world’s most famous concert halls.

Ironically its brilliant acoustics are more by luck than design; according to the official website, 19th century knowledge of acoustics was practically nonexistent. As such, the architect drew heavy inspiration from existing buildings with great acoustics; the venue’s Recital Hall and Main Hall are near-exact replicas of other venues in Amsterdam and Germany. That doesn’t stop over 700,000 people visiting the Concertgebouw each year.

Malmö Live Concert Hall

This Swedish venue first opened in 2015, and consists of three interconnected buildings. Serving as a concert hall, hotel and exhibition centre, the building has no front or back, allowing people to interact with it in many different ways. The concert hall also hosts the Malmö Symphony Orchestra; founded in 1925, the orchestra has won prizes in the Cannes Classical Awards and the Diapason d’Or!

Bridgewater Hall

Opening in 1996, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall is an international concert venue. It hosts three resident orchestras, whilst offering a diverse range of live performances. The architects Renton Howard Wood Levin—who had a reputation for buildings in the performing arts sector—was responsible for the design. However, they worked closely with professional services firm Arup, due to their experience in acoustic consulting.

The Bridgewater Hall uses solid, reinforced concrete in most of its structure. The building as a whole also sits upon hundreds of isolation bearings, meaning there’s no rigid connection between the building and the foundations. These design choices provide the building with superior acoustics, as well as protection from outside noise and vibrations.


This Parisian venue opened back in 2015, though the project was announced nine years before that. It was designed by the award-winning French architect Jean Nouve, in partnership with lead acoustician Sir Harold Marshall.

Rather than mimicking common designs from other concert halls, the PhilHarmonie’s Symphonic Hall was designed from scratch. It uses cantilevered balconies and and an outer chamber to enhance the sound quality. The hall is also soundproofed against the road traffic outside, and the stage can be adjusted to accommodate many different performance types.

Famous open-air stage designs with great acoustics

Of course, you don’t have to go indoors to enjoy great music. There are plenty of open-air venues for music fans to enjoy.


This outdoor music venue in Sweden is quite literally out of this world; the surrounding landscape was shaped by a meteorite, which hit the planet 360 million years ago. It became a lime quarry which later fell into disuse, and was rediscovered by Margareta Dellerfors—a former opera singer—in 1991. Today the venue hosts between 20 and 25 events each summer, and is famous for both its quality acoustics and stunning natural scenery.

Slane Castle

Located in the Irish town of Slane, Slane Castle has become a famous music venue thanks to the natural ampitheater formed by the castle grounds. Up to 100,000 audience members can attend a show at once! Its current design dates back to 1785, although a large part of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1991.

The first music show at Slane Castle took place in 1981, and the venue has attracted musicians like The Rolling Stones, Queen and David Bowie. U2 have also performed at Slane Castle on three separate occasions, and wrote their famous album The Unforgettable Fire whilst taking up residency at the Castle.

Hyde Park

The largest of London’s Royal Parks, Hyde Park has hosted outdoor concerts since the 1960s. Its first concert took place in 1968 and attracted the likes of Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull, as well as 15,000 fans.

Since then the park has remained a very popular music venue, hosting multiple musicians and festivals. Highlights include Party in the Park from the late 90s, Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park and (more recently) Barclaycard presents British Summer Time.

Though it’s easy for music fans to overlook, acoustics are an essential part of great music performances. Today’s music venues go to extreme lengths to get musicians sounding their very best.

We at Stagefreight know this and do our part to make your show as memorable as possible. Our drivers are experts in multiple aspects of event transport, including fast loads, strategic unloads and arriving on time, every time. Where necessary, we don’t just offer stage transport; we become an extension of the backstage team, using our expertise to ensure your shows are a success!

You can learn more about what we do by visiting the About Us page, or call us directly on 0113 797 898.


Theatre, stage and live event exhibitions of the world

Theatre, stage and live events bring joy to millions of people, but there’s plenty of hard work behind the scenes before that happens. Professionals in these industries need to know about the latest technologies, and network with like-minded pros to keep their professional edge.

Stagefreight has experience in multiple sectors, providing both exhibition and theatre transport services. We know how important theatre, stage and live event exhibitions are to theatre backstage teams. That’s why we’ve put together this new list of exhibitions for people in the theatre, stage and live event industries.

The Media Production Show

Tuesday 11th–Wednesday 12th June 2019

sound mixing board

This free annual event in London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre focuses on the technology behind content creation. It’s organised by publishers of market leading titles such as Broadcast Intelligence, KFTV and Screen International.

150 exhibitors present products and services connected to pre/post production and content distribution. The 5,300 attendees can also enjoy a free programme of seminars, where 200 industry superstars will be sharing their insights and knowledge.

Products and services at this event are organised into several distinct zones. Learn about post-production and rebuilding the internet for video at the Technology & Post Creative hub, or discuss podcasting and women in sound at the Audio Theatre. There’s even a Broadcast Sports zone where you can explore fan engagement, as well as AI and machine learning in sport.

For more details on this event, go to the official site here.


Tuesday 18th–Thursday 20th June 2019

This biannual international trade fair takes place in Berlin, with an emphasis on theatre, film and event technology. Attendees can learn more about stage machinery, lighting, acoustics, makeup and furnishings. There are also several different sectors represented, including film, decoration, events, safety and museums.

Organised by Messe Berlin GmbH and Deutsche Theatertechnische Gesellschaft, the event offers several distinct exhibition sectors including light, sound and security, and also covers newer technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality. There are more than 100 workshops, roundtables and presentations to choose from, as well as live demonstrations of sound systems and other new technologies.

274 companies will exhibit this year, 81 of which come from 21 foreign countries. There will also be over 6,500 attendees from 57 different countries. For more details on this exciting event, head over to the official website.

Event Production Show

Every February

Dedicated to live events of all kinds, Event Production Show at Olympia London brings together professionals from multiple event sectors. It’s suitable for concert promoters, festival organisers, production companies and even local authorities.

This year’s show offered over 200 exhibitors, allowing you to plan every part of your next event. It also offered a series of presentations and panels from 76 speakers discussing outdoor events, particulary independent festivals. The Networking Bar acted as a central hub for the show, allowing attendees to network with other event teams. There were also forums to discuss the matters the industry faces in the near future.

This year’s event is now over, but you can read all about it (and prepare for the next one!) at the official site. With over 6,000 attendees at 2019’s event, we’re sure you’ll be in good company.

Plasa Show

Sunday 15th September—Tuesday 17th September 2019

stage with crew, performers and spotlights

This flagship international event is dedicated to the entertainment technology industry. It’s a showcase for the latest developments in lighting, live sound, rigging, staging and AV equipment!

More than 200 brands will exhibit at this year’s show, with over 9,000 professionals attending. Visitors can also enjoy seminars and workshops across four theatres, while over 80 professionals will be presenting at this event.

With new product launches and groundbreaking technology by leading brands, as well as a full programme of thought-provoking content, this exhibition is a great choice for professionals in this industry. It takes place at the Olympia exhibition centre in London; you can learn more about it here.

Venues + Events Live

Wednesday 18th–Thursday 19th September 2019 (Old Billingsgate, London)

Monday 23rd–Tuesday 24th September 2019 (Manchester Central)

This events show focuses on a variety of venues, as well as restaurants, hotels, bars and event suppliers. It’s a great showcase of creativity, and sets out to inspire all kinds of event organisers. It’s known as an unmissable exhibition for people who organize events for a living, and has grown so much that it’s now also exhibiting in Manchester.

The event is free to attend, with more than 250 exhibitors showing their wares across five floors. You can attend talks from experts and celebrity speakers, or develop new skills in hands-on masterclasses. When you’re ready to take things a little easier, the expert tasting tutorials are waiting for you!

Offering broad appeal (and events in both London and Manchester) this show can inspire virtually any event. More than 6,000 people—including top-tier corporate event managers and event buyers from multiple industries—attend London’s event, while Manchesters expects over 2,500. For further details, visit the site here.

LDI Show

Monday 18th–Sunday 24th November 2019

This exciting event takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Running since 1988, LDI (or Live Design International) focuses on live audience experiences. More than 80 countries, 300 exhibitors and 14,000 professionals attend each year, coming from theatre, concerts, festivals, clubs and even theme parks.

14,000 attendees can take advantage of hands-on product demos (the main attraction) and experiential networking events from more than 390 exhibitors and even industry training. There will be more than 100 cutting-edge training sessions to take advantage of, too; previous training events include safe laser operation, the fundamentals of entertainment rigging and tracking in three dimensions!

Learn more about this event here.

Live Event Expo Tokyo

Wednesday 5th–Friday 7th February 2020

purple fabric suspended in air and manipulated by fans

This is Japan’s largest exhibition for the live entertainment industry. Running out of the Makuhari Messe convention centre it focuses on B2B relationships, bringing together people working with LED displays, pro audio, stage art, merchandise production and digital entertainment (i.e. VR, AR and projection mapping). If you work in concert venues, theatres or amusement parks, the Live Event Expo is a great choice.

Japan’s central location in Asia’s entertainment market makes the show a must-see if you’d like to work in this region. A recent addition to the show is a zone dedicated to increasingly popular eSports (video games played competitively, often for huge cash prizes). Attendees can learn about eSport event operation, broadcasting, IPs and much more.

2019’s show attracted 25,872 visitors—an increase of 1,996 over 2018’s show. Next year’s show promises to be just as diverse and engaging an event! You can get further details on this show here.

Expo-Scène 2019

Monday 25th–Tuesday 26th March 2020

Taking place at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal, this is a major Canadian event dedicated to industry professionals working with sound, lighting, video and multimedia technologies. More than 75 exhibitors attend, while more than 1,800 people visit from North America alone.

In addition to the exhibition stands, there are several workshops for attendees to take advantage of. Previous subjects include AV network fundamentals, modern workplace solutions and eco-responsibility in the arts. There are even charging stations and free chair massages to keep you energised!

Get ready for next year’s event by clicking here.

Prolight + Sound

Sunday 31st March–Wednesday 3rd April 2020

This annual event bills itself as the most important international meeting place for people working with entertainment technologies. It covers areas like audio, lighting, stage and set construction, as well as events equipment and systems integration.

Although the event takes place at Messe Frankfurt in Germany, 63% of exhibitors (and 50% of visitors) come from outside Germany itself. The event also offers a Business Matchmaking programme, which helps to put you in touch with relevant professionals in your industry. Professionals from across the sector attend, including wholesalers, retailers, technicians and even DJs.

As well as a great networking event, Prolight + Sound offers free lectures on several topics. These include event management, security, and health & safety at events. There are also open-air presentations; check out PA systems, LED walls and mobile marquee systems in a realistic environment!

For more details on this event, visit the official website.


Wednesday 1st–Saturday 4th April 2020

concert with crowd, scaffolding and lights

This American event is hosted by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and takes place in Houston. However, it tours the USA on a regular basis. A wide range of people will be attending, including designers, venue managers, business owners, educators and students. It offers a diversity of talent including experts from academic institutions) that few other events can provide.

Exhibiting companies cover several different professions, including video projection, special effects and scenic elements. The organisers work to keep booth rental costs low, while more than 3,000 professionals and 1,000 students attend the event itself.

Exhibitor highlights include a dark zone to showcase lighting and special effects. There will also be shows focused on costume rentals, makeup and related services.

For more information on this exciting event, visit the official website.

We hope you found our theatre, stage and live event exhibition roundup interesting. With events across the world, exhibitions in these industries have something to suit every area of interest! If you’re thinking of putting on a similar exhibition—or using all your new theatre tech to put on a show—Stagefreight has a broad range of event and theatre transport experience.

We can handle all the necessary paperwork and documentation if you’re thinking of exhibiting abroad. When you need something transporting, we can provide branding options for all our exhibition trailers. Our drivers can even support you throughout an exhibition, working as you need them to.

Take a look at our latest case studies to see what we can do, learn more about us on our About Us page, or just call us on 0113 797 898.


Eurovision Stage Design Highlight Reel

If you like your pop music with a hefty dose of cheese, the Eurovision Song Contest is probably on your radar. Running every year since 1956, the international music event is famous for its diverse lineup, dubious music… and the UK’s terrible success in the votes.

Since we’re the experts in music event haulage, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on Eurovision’s unsung hero—the stage! We’ll be taking a closer look at this year’s stage design, as well as how the design of Eurovision stages have evolved over the last few years.

Where is this year’s show taking place?

Following the victory of Israeli singer Netta, 2019’s contest will take place in the city of Tel Aviv, with 42 different countries competing. Netta will reprise her Eurovision performance, alongside the likes of Madonna, Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot and Eurovision alumni Conchita Wurst. The final will be broadcast on BBC One, on Saturday the 18th of May.

What’s this year’s stage design?

Eurovoix, who provide in-depth Eurovision coverage, have unveiled the stage design for this year’s show. Featuring a striking geometric design and a diamond-shaped stage, it’s an intriguing setting for this year’s performances.

The heavy use of triangles in the design isn’t by chance. It takes inspiration from the Star of David, which in Judaism has come to represent the reciprocal relationship between man and God. Other parts of the stage are reportedly inspired by the 12 sons of Jacob, who are key figures in Judaism.

The stage was designed by the German production designer Florian Wieder, who has designed the Eurovision stage on five previous occasions. He’s also designed stages for MTV and Britain’s Got Talent, as well as performers like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez & U2. The Israeli stage will have at least 7,500 seats, as well as a standing area for fans.

Wieder himself has a Jewish background, and has promised a stunning Eurovision show this year. He’s also said that the opening ceremony will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. Keep an eye out for it when you tune in next month!

What have the last few stages been like?

Of course, this year’s stage isn’t the only one with some creative flair to its design. Prior stages have drawn on a range of cultural ideas and pushed the technological envelope. We’ve explored Eurovision stage designs from the last four years below.


The singer Salvador Sobral won Eurovision 2017 for Portugal with his song Amar Pelos Dios. As such, 2018’s show took place in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city.

Lisbon is located on Portugal’s coast, and Portugal as a whole has a rich maritime culture. As such, Florian Wieder—who also designed this stage—drew heavily from that history during the design process.

Four ideas shaped Lisbon’s Eurovision stage—the sea, ships, maps and navigation. The stage’s design mimics the organic shapes of a sweeping wave, as well as the ships Portugal is famous for building. The radial lines of a map were another source of inspiration, as was the armillary sphere; this is a man-made object that models celestial bodies. An armillary sphere appears on the Portuguese flag as well.

Capturing Portugal’s heritage, whilst also boasting a modern style, the 2018 stage is another great example of thoughtful design. See it in action below:


Thanks to Jamala’s politically-charged song 1944, 2017’s Eurovision took place in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. Another project of Florian Wieder, 2017’s stage drew from two sources of inspiration—the year’s theme of Celebrating Diversity, and Ukraine’s central location in Europe. The circular stage also allowed fans to be as close to the performers as possible, offering both practical and symbolic benefits.

What’s just as impressive is the amount of hardware needed to bring the show to life. 180 kilometres of cable were used for the show, with about a third of that being used on lighting alone. The stage was also surrounded by 1,000 square metres of LED screens, 56 projectors, 258 speakers, 212 microphones and 30 cameras. All the production materials were transported in a whopping 230 trucks, with 250 stage hands involved in loading and unloading it.

With seating for over 7,500 attendees, we can safely say this was an unmissable show. But don’t just take our word for it! See the stage in action here:


Thanks to the efforts of Måns Zelmerlöw, 2016’s Eurovision took place in Sweden’s capital Stockholm. Designed by Frida Arvidsson and Viktor Brattström, the stage pushed the boundaries of what viewers could expect.

Arvidsson and Brattström actually designed 2013’s stage as well, which featured a softer atmosphere without pixels or projections. For 2016’s stage, the pair took a very different approach; they created a multi-tier wall of LEDs which performers could actually move about inside. Once fully assembled, the wall used almost 5,400 pieces of scaffolding in its construction.

Lighting was an essential component of this stage’s visual appearance, and over 1,800 light fixtures were used in the final design. 45 people were involved with lighting during the broadcast, while 37 people handled video as well. Indeed, the stage design wasn’t lacking for spectacle; 30 flame units and 20 CO₂ units were installed around the stage itself.

With 10,500 spectators, 172 trucks and 168 stage hands, this is a show with some impressive manpower behind it. Enjoy the show yourself here:


The 60th Eurovision Song Contest took place in Austria’s capital, thanks to Conchita Wurst’s memorable performance of “Rise Like a Phoenix”. A crack team of designers was on hand to design the stage. Eurovision veteran Florian Wieder worked alongside lighting designer Al Gurdon (who’s worked on both American Idol and the Super Bowl halftime show) and Kurt Pongratz, who was responsible for conceptual design and visual staging.

The trio had their work cut out for them thanks to the stage’s ambitious design. 1,288 freestanding cylindrical LED pillars surrounded the stage, with large LED screens on both the floor and back wall. Measuring 44 metres wide and 14 metres high, there was plenty of room for each performance. 26 cameras captured every moment, while approximately 10,500 standing fans attended the show itself.

See the stage in action for yourself by watching the UK’s entry, “Still In Love With You”:

Whoever wins (or loses) this year’s Eurovision, we guarantee it’ll be a show stopping night. If you want to put on your own extravagant live event, get in touch with Stagefreight for an expert music event haulage service.

We know how important timing is for a live show, and our experienced lead driver will carefully plan trailer arrival to keep everything on schedule. We’ll plan the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient route to your event, and we’ll even help build the stage with your team upon our arrival.

For further details about our music event haulage, browse our services page or call us today on 0113 797 898.