Upward Mobility in the Club World

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Steve La Cerra



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Maybe it's because high-end audio technology is finally reaching lower price points or simply because generations of outdated, ratty P.A. systems are falling apart, but the result is the same: The overall quality of installed club and theater systems is improving. As line arrays replace conventional boxes and digital consoles become the norm, more acts are content to leave their systems in the truck and run the house rig. We took a sampling of rooms across the country and found some pretty serious audio systems that have become a permanent part of the club tour circuit.


First stop is Biloxi, Miss., where after surviving the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, the Hard Rock Live Biloxi built a new room and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Technomedia to install the new L-Acoustics P.A. According to production manager Maxie Williams, who has toured with Marilyn Manson, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains, “When they hired me, they came to me with the equipment list and asked if I thought it would work for this room. It was awesome, huge overkill for the room! I told them not only will it work, but it will be phenomenal because I won't have engineers coming in here starved for headroom.”

The new system comprises 13 V-DOSC line array cabinets per side, but the room's size and capacity (1,500) requires only eight boxes per side. “We have seven V-DOSC front-fills on the downstage edge, plus fills that underhang the balcony, time-aligned to the main P.A.,” he says. “Everything is powered with the L-Acoustics 48A amps made by Lab. Gruppen, so there's plenty of power. Stage wedges are Clair 12AM with the proprietary QSC/Clair power amps. Sidefills are Clair R4s and the subs are Clair, and we have a complete set of Shure Beta Series mics.

“I have a rack built into the amp room for the 16 monitor mixes,” Williams continues, “and it's set up so that you can do soft patches at the monitor desk. Most of the system is on fiber. The only place we use copper is from the stage to the mic preamps. We have two 48×16 snakes made by Optocore, which include the mic preamps and A/D converters. Once the signal has been converted to digital, it goes directly to the cards in the back of two Yamaha PM5Ds — one for house and one for monitors. Optocore makes its own expansion card for the 5D, so we load the software, pop the cards in and the 5Ds remotely control the Optocore pre's.”

Williams admits that the system did need a few adjustments. “Originally, the floor was painted concrete. It was flooded by Katrina, so I thought if we ever come back after Katrina, we ought to put a light carpet in here. They ordered a shallow grade of indoor/outdoor carpet for the room. A lot of the room was treated with 4×8-foot sections of 2.5-inch insulated acoustic panels, but the front of the balcony was Sheetrock: hard and reflective, and you'd get slap from the balcony back to the deck. I suggested we cover the entire front of the balcony — the surface that faces the stage — to get rid of the reflections. It's those little things that really help the engineer. When the room is empty during soundcheck, it sounds pretty good, and with 1,500 people in here it sounds even better.

“The coolest thing is in the morning at load-in to watch the house and monitor engineers walk in the door. Every engineer says the same thing. They look left and then look right on the deck and invariably say, ‘Dude, you think you got enough P.A. in here?!’”

Rising above the New York City skyline is HighLine Ballroom; its Yamaha PM5D-RH board has mixed McCartney, Santana and more.

Rising above the New York City skyline is HighLine Ballroom; its Yamaha PM5D-RH board has mixed McCartney, Santana and more.


Meanwhile, in a green space 30 feet above the streets of New York City in an area known as High Line Park, a new venue called the HighLine Ballroom has hosted acts such as Paul McCartney, Carlos Santana, Amy Winehouse, Mos Def and James Blunt since opening in April 2007. Outfitted with a Yamaha PM5D-RH at FOH and a Yamaha M7CL desk at monitors, the venue's P.A. was intended to accommodate a wide range of artists. Amit Peleg is the president of Peltrix (Purdys, N.Y.), and was responsible for the new system's design and install.

“We chose JBL VerTec speakers, dbx DriveRack processing, Crown i-Tech amps and Yamaha PM5D-RH [FOH] and M7CL [monitor} consoles because, based on artist riders from all genres of music, those are the most frequently requested brands and models,” Peleg says. “You can never please everybody. But with these models, we hit the majority. And if those brands are not their first choice, most can live with it. It is virtually impossible to hang or stack ‘guest’ P.A. here because of either weight-load limitation or stage sightline, so we had to install a system everybody could work with.”

“We installed a very flexible wiring system that allows guest engineers to insert their own consoles, both for FOH and monitors, without affecting the house configuration,” he adds. “In addition, a recording truck can be parked outside and be up and running with a single snake run in a few minutes.”

The house array is all JBL VerTec, including six VT4888DPs, four ASB6128Vs and two ASB6128 subs, as well as VP7212/95DPAN fills; delayed balcony arrays comprise two VT4888DPs and two VT4882DP subs. Outboard gear at the house position includes a Tascam DV-RA1000 and two dbx DriveRack 4800s; an additional DriveRack 4800 located in monitorland provides processing for the sidefills and drum mix. Processing for the monitor wedges is via DSPs built into the Crown iTech amps.

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