Last Updated on September 2, 2023 by Scott Shetler
The 2023 Grammy Awards were historic for winners like Beyonce, Harry Styles, Lizzo, Bonnie Raitt, and Kim Petras. But many viewers of the show were frustrated that live performances on the telecast suffered from poor audio quality. During the entire broadcast, fans said, an echo rippled throughout the Crypto.com Arena and performer vocals were difficult to hear. It sounded as though audience mics were drowning out the singers’ mics.
I was one of the many viewers who noticed a shockingly bad audio mix that lasted during the entire 3.5-hour show. To be clear: This wasn’t a slightly bad mix. It was completely unlistenable. We could barely hear any performer vocals. Bad Bunny might as well not have been singing at all, because his vocals were buried beneath the percussion.
The shoddy audio mix was stunning. As one viewer put it, “The Grammys sound like when you film a concert from your iPhone and post it on IG stories.” It really was that bad.
Yet, even as hundreds of folks complained about the audio issues on Twitter, millions more watched the show with seemingly no issues at all. No other media outlets have reported any problems with the sound. And video clips that have been posted online from the broadcast sound flawless, with no audio problems at all.
So what the heck happened? Were there real audio problems during the broadcast? Or was it possible that this issue only affected a small number of viewers, perhaps folks who owned a particular television model, or had a particular audio setting on their tv sets?
Review of the Possible Audio Issues at the 2023 Grammys
Bad Bunny opened the show with a raucous performance featuring creative choreography, but from my living room, his words were almost entirely buried by the percussion. He gave his all, but there was nothing he could do to overcome the bad audio mix.
Brandi Carlile came next. She had previously delivered two of the best performances in Grammy history, but this time around, as she belted out her powerful lyrics, her words were flattened with an awful reverb, and her voice was overpowered by the instrumentation.
Legends Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson performed next, and theirs was the worst performance yet, through no fault of their own. The echo in the arena caused drum beats to appear off cue, in between beats, and the voices of Wonder and his backing group were muffled and difficult to hear.
For those who didn’t hear any problems while they watched the Grammys, listen to this. This is how the audio sounded for many viewers:
For a night about music, the audio for the #GRAMMYS broadcast is awful. All these amazing artists and I’ve been to middle school band performances with better sound quality. What is going on?! @RecordingAcad pic.twitter.com/PGXDy06xeC
— Ellen Kuwana, MS (she/her) (@EllenKuwana) February 6, 2023
That’s exactly how I heard the performance as well. I could barely hear Stevie’s voice. When Chris Stapleton joined the performance, I couldn’t hear his vocals at all.
Is it possible this only affected those of us with Vizio televisions, who were listening through the tv speaker rather than an external sound system? That seems highly unlikely… but who knows?
Incredibly, the situation never improved during the entire broadcast. The background vocals and the choir on Mary J. Blige’s performance of “Good Morning Gorgeous” were twice as loud as her own singing.
Even host Trevor Noah and the award winners suffered from an echo on their voices as they spoke. Many viewers could barely hear James Corden over the applause when he announced Beyonce’s record-breaking 32nd career Grammy win.
It seemed that the folks inside the arena could hear things perfectly clearly, but the fans at home were obviously having trouble.
Hundreds of people on Twitter wondered what the heck was going on, and whether CBS and the Recording Academy even knew there was a problem.
Hope the #Grammys musical performances sound great in the theater because they sound like 💩 on TV.
— Jessica (@bayjb) February 6, 2023
The #Grammys sound like when you film a concert from your iPhone and post it on IG stories.
— Peter Kash (@PeterKash) February 6, 2023
Sound engineers everywhere are having anxiety. Hell, I booked bands and has to set up sound equipment in college, and I am having anxiety about the sound! #GRAMMYS #Sound If it’s the venue, couldn’t they have installed sound-dampening fabric panels to help w echo?
— Ellen Kuwana, MS (she/her) (@EllenKuwana) February 6, 2023
Congratulations to all the fine nominated artists. But I’m sorry that the sound at the #Grammys2023 is so poor. #GRAMMY We’re hearing the tinny & echoing sound in the hall, complete with all extraneous noise and distortions, not clean & clear through the soundboard. Bad choice.
— Cubachik (@Cubachik) February 6, 2023
I know I keep complaining about it, but what in the actual fuck is wrong with the sound engineering for the #Grammys??????? All of the live performances sound so fucking shitty.
— Kat Hazzard 🤦🏾♀️²⁸ – One Direction Encyclopedia (@Kitty_16) February 6, 2023
A handful of folks on Reddit also noticed the exact same sound issues. Among their comments: “Sounds like I’m in the hallway in the auditorium.” “The sound is like they are miking the ambient sound in the theater and they do not have a direct feed from performance sound board directly to the TV network.” “Like the mics from performers and the stage aren’t connected to the broadcast network somehow… It’s just the ambient sound of the theatre!”
Why Did So Few People Complain About the Audio?
While hundreds of folks on Twitter and Reddit did mention horrific sound quality at the 2023 Grammy Awards, there were millions more who watched and apparently had no issues at all.
This leads one to wonder if it was an issue with folks’ individual audio equipment, or their actual television sets, that might have been the issue.
Here’s a clip posted from Bad Bunny’s performance. This clip sounds perfect. His vocals are loud and crisp. This does not sound anything like what I heard from my tv set during the broadcast:
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 6, 2023
Speaking for myself, I watched the Grammys last year on this very same television set and had no problems then. So it’s mystifying that the broadcast sounded so bad this time around.
The Recording Academy has been posting performance clips on its website today. Watch this one of Steve Lacy singing “Bad Habit.” The sound quality is absolute perfection.
The same goes for this Kacey Musgraves performance. These sound infinitely better than what many viewers heard on the air.
The fact that online clips from the ceremony sound fantastic has to make folks wonder what is going on.
Why Was the Sound So Bad at the 2023 Grammys?
It’s not clear why the audio was so bad for so many people. Fans speculated about the reasons why there might have been such an awful echo / reverb effect on the sound all night:
It’s a nightmare. They have the room mic’d too high and have the audio from the performances basically just being run from ambient sound in the arena.
Someone should be losing their job over this. I hate to say that, but it’s inexcusable for a show this big.
— Ludakit — Offical “DGD” Determiner (@Ludakit) February 6, 2023
There’s too much “room” in the mix on The Grammys. It’s making the performances in particular extremely muddy.
How can a show about music have such bad sound?
— Mark Matusoff (@mmatusoff) February 6, 2023
The sound quality of the #GRAMMYs is absolutely hideous. In 30 years of watching award shows, this might be the worst I’ve ever heard. The echo in the arena is insane. The vocals are buried way too low in the mix for these first two performances. They’d better fix this asap.
— Total Music Awards (@TotalMusicAward) February 6, 2023
The main theory was that the Grammys were using audience microphones, or they were using too many speakers inside the arena, which cause the reverb / echo effect.
Strangely, none of the journalists attending the Grammys (or even those commenting on Twitter) made any note of the audio issues. So it seems this issue might have only affected a small number of viewers.
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CBS and the Recording Academy never addressed the steady stream of viewer complaints during the show. We’ll keep you posted if and when the Recording Academy acknowledges there was a sound problem, or offers any other explanation for what might have happened.
Did you hear any sound problems while watching the 2023 Grammy Awards? If so, leave a comment and let us know whether you were watching via cable, streaming, or over the air / antenna!