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Sun 17 Oct 2010 04:00 AM

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Sounding off

Industry experts reveal the secrets behind a good sound system.

Sounding off
A good sound system can make all the difference to people who come to enjoy the music being played - revellers dance the night away at Warehouse.
Sounding off
Le Méridien Dubai Assistant F&B director Thierry Kremper: Speakers are very important.
Sounding off
You need to consider where all your speakers are going to be to cover the full range of your space, explains Boudoir club director Simon Robinson.
Sounding off
Sanctuary’s Ryan Marginson: Sound systems are arguably the most important part of a club.

Industry experts reveal the secrets behind a good sound system.

It is music, rather than money, which makes the world go around, if club
owners, DJs, and sound system manufacturers are to be believed. And why not? In
the money-making industry of clubs and bars, there is no doubt that a venue
renowned for its live acts and slick DJ set will attract a big crowd and ensure
a venue’s place in the clubbing hall of fame.

It is no surprise, then, that the magic behind the music is a hot topic for
discussion; even above musical preferences, light shows and crowd control,
industry experts are all talking about sound systems.

Sound systems are arguably the most important consideration for a nightclub,
says Sanctuary production manager and lighting designer Ryan Marginson.

“If you run a club, sound is the most important feature of the club – there
must be clarity so that the DJ can project his music to your customers, and the
speakers need to be able to project properly,” he states.

This is supported by Boudoir club director Simon Robinson, who adds: “To be
the best you must have the best - details really  are the key to good
night clubs and sound is a very important factor for our guests who love to
dance.”

The reputation of clubs is such an important factor, insists Marginson, that
club owners must be prepared to invest money in the right equipment if they
want to make an impact.

“A lot of clubs look at sound as the most important thing and leave lighting
and décor till last. But often in Dubai
people do things the other way round. When it comes to nightclubs, the sound
system budget shouldn’t be an issue because your reputation is on the line. A
restaurant is only as good as its chef and a club is only as good as its sound
system,” he says.

And more than just making an impact, a bad sound system can actually put
people off a nightclub or bar, agrees GSL Professional marketing and PR manager
Glen Kershaw.

“There’s nothing worse than sitting in a bar and hearing distortion while
you’re trying to have a conversation. It’s nice to have a chat with friends and
family and not really notice the music but you know it’s there. Your ears will
pick up distortion in a second,” he says.

And to ensure that your sound systems perform effectively, Boudoir’s
Robinson underlines the importance of paying attention to the layout of the
venue.

“You need to consider where your speakers are going to be, to include the
full range of your space, also bass boxes are a concern as they vibrate and you
wouldn’t want that Martini falling off your table - so it is very important to
get all those factors right at the beginning,” he explains.

And ensuring that the sound system is placed in the correct place in the
club to create maximum effect involves a great deal of planning, adds
Marginson.

“It comes down to communication, people need to be on board from the design
phase - everyone needs to sit down together and discuss the design plans and
the kind of sound system that will be used with the concept creator,” he
explains.

“The actual design layout of the club is based on where the designer wants
things to go. Some venues will work together with a designer so that they can
maximise sound quality in the club. You also have to consider things like
walls, for example if you have a hollow wall, this will affect the sound
quality; and this is what it all comes down to - the sound quality,” states
Marginson.

And every detail of a club’s sound system is important, says Bang and
Olufsen Enterprise managing director Flemming Nielson.

“The interior of the room also plays an important role in the sound system
of a club and in the choice of the right sound solution. Sometimes the design
has to be invisible and blend into the interior, while other times it has to be
striking or have an eye-catching design. In both scenarios one thing is clear;
the sound solution has to deliver an outstanding listening experience,” he
says.

And hiding speakers away isn’t purely aesthetic, explains Marginson. Having
speakers which are concealed from customers can prove to be a practical
consideration as well as a design-related one.

“The designer wanted the speakers to be hidden in the roof so you don’t
actually see them, and we also have the low frequency speakers in the walls.
Concept designers wanted to conceal the speakers - why would you have a speaker
out in the open which can be tampered with by other people in the surrounding
environment?” he asks.

In addition to the aesthetics of the design system, Nielson explains that
being able to play around with the use of sound is becoming a popular demand in
the use of sound systems.

“The possibility of being able to move the sound into the bathroom or divide
every zone in the venue, e.g. the restaurant, into different volume zones can
also be a feature,” he explains, “The different volume zones mean that you can
adjust the sound level for each individual zone having different volume levels
within the restaurant.”

And with many clubs and bars spending money on live acts, it is now
important for venues to invest in a sound system which has the capacity to
cater to a variety of acts.

Le Méridien Dubai
Assistant F&B director Thierry Kremper agrees that the mixture of music
played at Le Méridien’s Warehouse has an impact on the kind of equipment the
venue invests in.

“We have a five piece band and resident DJs Johnny Bailo and Tushar so we
have a separate mixer for both, due to their respective needs - the live band
will need a16 channel mixer for microphones and instruments, then the DJ has a
separate professional DJ mixer for CDs and so on,” he says.

‘But the most important thing to us is the speakers and the amplifiers which
support them, as these are really the elements that make the sound quality,” he
adds.

It is also important for clubs to ensure that they are keeping abreast of
changes  and developments in sound systems; as with in-room technology and
online networking solutions - sound systems will adapt and new designs or
features will emerge on to the market.

“Designs change all the time with sound systems,” explains Kershaw.

“Software upgrades and cabinet designs are just a few examples to enhance
sound to the best of its abilities. Our latest subcompact Vertec system is a
good example of great sound from such a small cabinet and well thought out
design,” he adds.

However, although there is clearly a need for venue owners to understand the
importance of a sound system, and as such be prepared to invest in quality,
Marginson argues that the quality of the speaker does not always ensure the
quality of the sound in a club.

“In terms of quality, some people will say that one brand is so much clearer
than the other but I always listen to debates like this and laugh,” comments
Marginson. “It comes down to who is tuning your system - you can make an
18-year-old sound system sound great by tuning it to the right bandwidth. You
will find that people often install a great set of speakers and don’t tune them
properly,” he reveals.

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