W. HOLLYWOOD, CA—To call The Troubadour legendary is almost an understatement. Opened in 1957 by the late Doug Weston, the iconic venue has seemingly hosted every performer on the planet in the past six decades, earning it a place in Billboard magazine’s 2014 list of top five must-play clubs in the country, an accolade that came hard on the heels of Rolling Stone selecting The Troubadour as one of the 10 most influential clubs in North America.
Rat Sound’s Dave Rat (left) and The Troubadour’s Oscar J. Narro, surrounded by the venue’s new L-Acoustics system But while the club, which has a capacity of between 300 and 400, made the transition from an analog to a digital FOH mixing console—an Avid Venue SC48, which also handles monitors—five years ago, the house PA system has been largely unchanged for over 20 years. Not only was the speaker system getting long in the tooth, but it was also not ideally configured for the room, so three years ago, production staff contacted Rat Sound Systems in Camarillo, CA, with which the club has a long relationship, and began to plan an upgrade.
The principal challenge was the layout of the main room, which is much wider than it is deep, with an off-center balcony. Further, the mix position, in a corner of the balcony by the wall, has long been off-axis to the stage right speaker hang.
Dave Rat, president of Rat Sound, and Paul Freudenberg, general manager of Rat Sound, considered various designs and orientations of different types of loudspeakers, and evaluated the options using L-Acoustics’ Soundvision software before selecting the optimum configuration. “We ended up with a solution of six L-Acoustics ARCS IIs flown in horizontal mode to cover the main floor and four ARCS Focus cabinets oriented in a vertical configuration, slightly offset to stage left from the positions of the main speakers to accommodate the offset balcony,” Freudenberg says. “The ARCS family’s directivity fits the low-ceilinged environment very well, and the 30-degree vertical coverage nicely addresses the balcony while also providing front of house with direct sound.”
The ARCS Focus is a relatively recent addition to the product line. “The beauty of that loudspeaker is that it’s a two-way, 12-inch array speaker that is compact but has a nice concentration of power. It’s lightweight, and has the special constant curvature characteristic that L-Acoustics pioneered with the original ARCS. That means that there’s a seamless integration between loudspeakers within the array,” says Freudenberg.
In addition to the left-right hangs of ARCS II and ARCS Focus boxes, Rat Sound’s solution also includes an L-Acoustics 12XTi coaxial covering a small balcony section at stage left. An L-Acoustics 115XT HiQ coaxial speaker provides center/down fill.
Four SB28 dual-18-inch subwoofers, stacked two high and positioned below the two main hangs, provide low-end reinforcement. The two stacks are immediately in front of the stage and accessible to the crowd, which can get rowdy, says Dave Rat. “We got to do some fun custom work, including creating cages to protect the subs on custom rolling plates.”
According to Oscar J. Narro, who has worked at the club for four years and has been production manager for the past two years, “Now that we’re a little more on-axis, you get more sound in your face at front of house, which is nice.”
He reports, “All of the guest engineers have been very happy that the sound is so consistent around the room now. But I think the biggest compliment was when our bartenders— people that don’t have specially trained ears—noticed the improvement in the sound.”
“We were very happy with what we were able to achieve with asymmetrical hangs of L-Acoustics ARCS II and ARCS Focus enclosures,” says Rat.
A pair of LA8 and two LA4X processing amplifiers drive the entire L-Acoustics rig, with LA Network Manager providing a control software/dashboard for the mixer. Narro notes that the system has plenty of headroom available: “The first show we did with it was a punk gig by Anti Flag. The engineer brought his SPL meter and started the show at 115 dB, C-weighted, at the mix position. We still had plenty of headroom; we weren’t even tapping the limiters.”
The FOH console provides up to seven monitor mixes into various EAW two-way wedges, including six MW12s, two MW15s and six SM84s. An additional MW15 plus a Micro- Sub are reserved for drum fill. A Crown Macro-Tech MA-3600VZ, an XTi 2002 and six Macro-Tech MA- 36x12 amplifiers power the monitor speakers, which are processed via two EAW UX8800 units.
Performers who have played the venerable venue since the upgrade have included Imagine Dragons, Lucinda Williams, Grouplove, Sam Hunt and Dave Alvin. They join a long, long list of artists that includes Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, James Taylor, Elton John, Billy Joel and the Pointer Sisters, who between them all made their live, West Coast or U.S. debuts at The Troubadour. Notable showcases have included Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Rod Stewart, all in 2013, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince (2012), and The Cure and Hall & Oates (2008).
Rat Sound Systems