The 9:30 Club, Washington DC's premier music showcase nightclub, recently completed a comprehensive upgrade to its sound system. Clearly not resting on its laurels after winning the trifecta of nightclub awards in 2008 — Pollstar's Nightclub of the Year and Most Attended Club in the Nation awards plus Billboard's Top Club in the World citation — the 9:30 Club's new system ensures its top-club status well into the future.
The 9:30 Club production team consists of (l-r): Jeff Kane (audio), Amber Ree Soesbe (production), Mike Geske (lighting), Sean "Gus" Vitale (audio crew chief and head engineer), Gradon Koch (audio) and Ed Stack (production/general manager. The groundbreaking installation — the first of its kind in a club — is designed around the fully integrated J-Series linearray speaker system from touring system designer/manufacturer, d&b Audiotechnik.
Sean "Gus" Vitale, the 9:30 Club's longtime chief audio engineer, specified the J-Series after hearing it in action at the 2007 Virgin Festival (which featured Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys and headliners The Police). The club entered into planning discussions with 8th Day Sound, who had provided reinforcement for the V-Festival, to adapt and install the J-Series at the club. Given the unique challenges involved, experts from both the Installation and Touring departments of 8th Day Sound worked with the club's engineering staff to design and install the system, which made its debut in September.
The club's J-Series system features dual flying columns, each comprised of two J12 cabinets at the top and six J8s following, plus a complement of three B2 subwoofers stacked at each side of the stage. Also mounted on the club's movable speaker truss are two Q1 loudspeakers that provide nearfield fill for the stagefront floor, plus two Q7 cabinets mounted outside of each column for nearfield balcony fills.
"By configuring the arrays 'upside down' (with the 120-degree cabs at the top and the 80-degrees underneath), we are able to provide both the wider balcony areas and the main floor with excellent, controlled horizontal coverage," explains Vitale, "which we can now achieve at lower SPLs." Of course, the high-headroom JSeries is more than capable of cranking out those higher SPLs, Vitale notes with a nod and a wink.
Also new to the 9:30 Club's system, a Digidesign D-Show Profile digital console now sits alongside the club's Audient Aztec 48-channel analog console at front of house. Stage inputs are split to the club's Yamaha PM5D-RH monitor console and to the FOH position. In a unique twist, the stage-to-FOH run is then split to the Profile's Mix Rack (48-channel microphone preamp unit) and the Audient, so inputs are continuously mirrored to both consoles.
"The small footprint of the two consoles allows us to offer touring engineers the flexibility to choose between a traditional analog console and the Digidesign, at the flick of a switch, literally!" says Vitale.
By all accounts, reviews of the new system have been overwhelmingly positive.
"It's probably one of the best, if not the best, installed club system in the U.S. I don't think any engineer is going to have a bad day on that rig," contributes Evan Kirkendall, front-of-house engineer for All Time Low.
"Beyond sound quality, we chose d&b and Digidesign for their universal acceptance in the industry," adds Vitale. "By having best-in-class systems, our venue intends to remain that 'sigh of relief' for engineers when they spot us on the tour schedule. The 9:30 club owners and management have been fantastic in providing its technical and production staff with the tools required to continually demonstrate the club's commitment to excellence, a commitment that extends to audience members and touring acts alike."
For more information on the 9:30 Club, visit www.930.com
PAR contributor Steve Murphy has over 25 years production and engineering experience, including Grammy and Gold/Platinum credits. www.smurphco.com