Why Was the Sound Quality So Bad For the Grammy Awards For Some Viewers?

grammys 2023 bad sound quality

UPDATE: Some viewers apparently had similar issues with the 2024 Grammy broadcast, with poor audio quality diminishing the telecast. I did not encounter these issues, but a few commenters did. It remains to be seen if the cause was related to a specific type of television or a particular audio setting.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: 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?! ⁦@RecordingAcadpic.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:

Bad Bunny (@sanbenito) opens the #Grammys with a party pic.twitter.com/CFS1cWi3CW

— 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.

Personally, I noticed that when I switched my television’s audio setting from default to the “Music” or “Movie” setting, the mix improved greatly, and the sound was much better. I suggest that folks who are having issues give this a try.

RELATED: Read about the top 30 music podcasts today.

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!

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

24 thoughts on “Why Was the Sound Quality So Bad For the Grammy Awards For Some Viewers?”

  1. My wife and I turned the show off after watching Stevie Wonder and Chris Stapleton sing. The sound was horrible!!
    This was done by professionals, wasn’t it!!??
    I’m sorry, there’s really no excuse for it.
    A very big disappointment.😠

    Reply
    • I’ve worked as an audio engineer in the television industry. The issue was immediately obvious. CBS did not have a conection to the performer’s hand-held wireless microphones, and was forced to use an off state microphone to get any audio at all.

      Reply
  2. I was listening / watching the Grammys on my Samsung TV via Xfinity, and the sound was so awful that I couldn’t tell that Stevie Wonder was singing Higher Ground until I turned on close caption!

    Apparently the show’s producers were only concerned with costumes and award speeches and couldn’t care less how the music sounded to viewers at home. This will be the last Grammy show I will ever suffer through unless the sound gets fixed!

    Reply
  3. I watched the Grammys with my brother and his wife. The horrible sound was a constant point of discussion— it totally ruined the Grammy award-winning performances. This is crazy for a show featuring music on a global stage. The bad sound made the whole show seem off, eliminating any possible excitement for the performances.

    Reply
  4. We were watching on cable (should have thought to change over to live streaming!) The sound was terrible! like during the performances I was in the restroom that was the furthest away from the stage.

    Reply
  5. Absolutely crappy sound quality. It sounded like the middle channel was gone or some sort of weird phase cancellation! I thought it was my TV / soundbar – but I checked other channels and they were fine. I coudn’t hear Thundercat’s bass solo at all. I had to switch off the show, because it was so annoying.

    Reply
  6. I thought the sound was horrible too. And couldn’t figure out why an award show about music couldn’t properly share that music with the TV viewers. I’m not a sound engineer, but in our case, it seemed like we were listening to a terrible car radio with the treble turned up to +10 and the bass turned down to -10. And yes, it was hard heard to hear/ understand the performers.

    Reply
  7. When I listened with my 5.1 sound bar I got the bad sound that many on twitter said they experienced (too little vocal on the center channel and too much auditorium echo on the rear channels).
    When I switched to the internal stereo speakers in the TV, then I could hear the performers clearly.

    Reply
  8. Our sound was horrible. We couldn’t hear any vocals from performers. The echo made it impossible to listen. We have a new Samsung and sound system, so it wasn’t in our end with Comcast. It was very frustrating.

    Reply
  9. The sound for all performances sounded horrible for me, too. Same issues everyone else mentioned. Singers were hard to hear and understand & the echo created timing issues, making everyone sound off. Watched on my LG TV via DirecTV.

    Reply
  10. It’s was awesome but sadly the sound was an atrocity. What a shame too. Couldn’t make any of the artist’s performances and 50 yrs of hip hop history literally went down hopelessly in the toilet. The sound engineers should be fired, never to work in audio again. EVER!!!

    Reply
  11. We recorded it and watched it on a Sony TV through the TV speakers. We’ve watched years of Grammy shows with no problems at all. To even imply this is a problem with individual tv sets is bunk. There was clearly an audio broadcast issue. They need to figure it out or they will loose viewers.

    Reply
  12. it was a real disappointment when incredible talent could not be heard. A response would be appreciated to the situation that affected so many for the celebration of some of the worlds best.
    Sandy

    r

    Reply
  13. Wow. 1) I’m sorry you had this experience. 2) We are trying to figure out why this is happening. 3) You and others who heard this are part of a minority of listeners.
    I am part of the mix team for the show, and I assure you it did not sound like this when it left our mix truck. In order for this to be better next time we need to know what happened this time. Was it a local cable provider or TV affiliate providing the feed? (There have been local/regional problems in the past.) Was it a brand of TV? If you can help me understand the particulars maybe we can get to the root of the problem.
    Our team is very professional, very experienced, and very concerned about this. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Glenn, thanks for commenting and looking into this. It does seem like this affected a minority of viewers. From the folks who have commented here and on Twitter, I haven’t detected an obvious pattern in terms of what tv people were watching on, or what city they were watching from. I was watching over the air CBS in Seattle with a Vizio tv, using the tv’s internal speaker. (I’m out of town until Friday, but when I get back home, I hope to watch the show again on Paramount+ on the same tv to see if it sounds better.)

      Thanks for your concern. The audio sounds excellent on the performance clips that have been posted online, so I’m sure your team did a fine job. Good luck figuring this out.

      Reply
    • Hello Glenn,

      I would be more than happy to help you try and figure this problem out. I am a broadcast/ touring audio engineer with over 20 plus years in the industry. Let me know how I can get in contact with you. Good luck brother.

      Jeff

      Reply
  14. The audio at the grammy’s was the worst I’ve ever heard for a live indoor event. I assume there was a different mix for FOH and the broadcast feed – and who ever mixed the broadcast feed either couldn’t hear what they were mixing or was a first time intern, or maybe didn’t care. I agree heads should roll…

    Reply
  15. I watched the Grammys and the sound was horrible. As a touring audio engineer and a broadcast engineer for over 23 years i was almost climbing the walls. I know what was going on and was super surprised they did fix it and decided to ignore the problem. I think given the magnitude of the show/broadcast this problem should of been fixed in sound check the day before. I was reading some of the comments and here is what I can guess what the setup was: There were two (or more) different mixes for the show. One of them would be what the audience hears inside the arena and the other would be inside the broadcast truck for what gets broadcasted out to tv broadcast providers. There would also be a tech side of stage mixing for what the bands hear (floor monitors or in-ear monitors). They all work independent from each other and can not normal effect each other. I could see and hear problems with all of the areas throughout the broadcast/show. There is no excuse for the broadcast (Your biggest audience) to have such a poor quality of sound. It speaks to the tech and his lack of knowledge.

    Reply
  16. We watched on a Visio, internal speakers, cable provided by Astound. The entire broadcast was marred by horrible, echo dominated sound. I’m broken hearted that this incredible, historic broadcast was ruined. Probably my last chance to hear Stevie, Smokey and many others play (in good sound quality), in my lifetime.

    Reply
  17. The sound in 2022 was just as bad. Was hoping 2023 would be an improvement and they would work out the glitches. Definitely terrible. Surely, all these sound professionals can solve this problem for 2024. Just listened to Rhianna’s Super Bowl performance. So much better. You would think if the sound can be good in a cavernous stadium you could get it right on a sound stage.

    Reply
  18. I watched the Grammies via satellite in Canada on a local Toronto Ontario station sound quality feed by the performing artists was brutal especially for a music awards annual special . Can’t believe that this happened for an event of this magnitude, it was so disappointing.
    Switched channel to CBS Boston feed at about half way through the broadcast but that didn’t help continued to play with my volume control on all live songs which at least made their sound fluctuations barely passable.
    Can’t believe that the technical expertise at either the event or at the outgoing feed couldn’t correct this on the fly . Wow !!
    Unbelievably disappointing !! Completely unacceptable an puzzling 😖 😵‍💫

    PS: believe this problem was experienced by many more viewers then they referred to on line.

    Reply

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