MARTIN AUDIO CRANK IT UP
When Future 3000 plc purchased Censo - Candu Leisure's flagship Bournemouth venue - they wanted to establish the most potent dance system on the south coast.
Both the operating company and their audio contractors Complete Production Solutions Group (CPS) have a long history of working with proprietary Martin Audio dance systems, and as the new venue (to be named Crank) was taking shape, Future 3000 MD Richard Carr could already see the opportunity to replicate his epochal dance brand Slinky by again employing the Martin Audio principle to boost a new Friday night called Bedbug. In short, he wanted to create the ultimate clubbing experience.
With Armand van Helden booked for the opening night, Martin Audio's national sales manager Simon Bull proposed a custom stack system, with raw aggression as its imprint.
CPS director Richard Colegate had already seen how effectively a perimeter of six carefully-optimised stacks had transformed the Ministry of Sound's dance experience and jumped at the opportunity to apply a similar treatment to the 1,100-capacity Bournemouth club, which now operates on three levels.
'As we have Martin Audio systems in a number of Future 3000 clubs - and the dance system benchmark is at the Ministry of Sound - we decided to adopt a similar model but for a different size and shape,' he rationalised. 'It was important to concentrate the sound onto the dancefloor and minimise the spill.'
The solution proposed by Bull, and Martin Audio systems support engineer, Peter Child, was for four ground stacks, one in each corner, and like the Ministry, it would use elements of Martin Audio's Stadium series. Following discussions with CPS and interior designer Christine Johnson from Wicked Designs, Martin Audio produced these finished in custom white cabinets with silver grilles and silver horns.
A pair of S218 (twin 18in subs) support an AS118 folded horn, which handles the low-mids, while an AM906 mid-high sits at the top, fitted with a special Powerdrive bracket to steer the beam down towards the dancefloor, thereby avoiding primary and secondary reflections.
Fitted with protection limiters, it is a carefully evolved system as Richard Colegate and project manager Simon White explain. 'We spent a lot of time with Peter and Simon from Martin Audio tweaking crossover points and so on - and it was also important that the system looked as well as sounded aggressive.'
Aside from audio optimisation, the physical dimensions of the three-tiered stack were crucial, with each measuring 2571mm high (offering just 60mm clearance to the ceiling).
The final touch is a special bolt-on section at the rear of the S218's. This not only enables them to sit flush with the cabinets perched on top for the purposes of stacking alignment, but it also provides a ready cable management system and ensures that no Speakon cables are hanging out of the back, in proximity of the dance crowd.
The dance stack is driven by an XTA 448 processor, and a set of dedicated dance settings were created, with Peter Child carrying out the final tuning on site.
'The result is a system that produces phenomenal SPL's even when substantially backed off,' says Colegate. 'We have set it at a comfortable level but the rig is 'effortlessly loud' in that as the volume increases it still sounds like a whopping great hi-fi system. It's an invigorating and stimulating system.'
All the inputs are fed into a Yamaha DME 64 Digital Mix Engine, which handles the routing, the EQ and time alignment, with an ICP1 intelligent remote control situated behind the main bar.
The primary system is run four-way active - powered by 3 x MA9.6K, 1 x MA1.6s and 1 x MA1.3s. The DJ monitors are powered by a MA1.6s and the AQ's are fed by a combination of MA1.3s, MA1400 and MA900.
For statisticians, there are a total of 23 amplifiers housed in two 42U rack units feeding 3.5km of speaker cable across the three floors. And with this huge draw on amplifier power (plus additional services such as air conditioning for the Amplifier Room) it has been necessary to install a new sub-main, upgrading from a 100A three-phase supply to 300A three phase - with 125 amps dedicated to the amplification room alone.
Off-dancefloor at balcony and basement levels are a large number of Martin Audio Blackline and AQ series speakers receiving the source signals (although the basement operates its own stand-alone system, and its own distinct night).
Since the balcony level also acts as a viewing gallery, CPS have been careful to ensure that all spectators would receive an evenly-distributed stereo imaging. This is created by four Blackline F12's, which are cleverly positioned at the corners of the void on the upper floor level, firing up at the first floor balcony. Precisely time-aligned with the main PA, they freshen up the spill from the stacks and provide clear, intelligible, information to anyone looking down onto the dancefloor.
'Everything upstairs is time-aligned back to the dance stacks,' says Richard Colegate. 'Wherever you stand you have stereo signal coming straight at you.'
At one end a pair of F15's and groundstacked S218 subs are positioned by the bar, reinforced by AQ6's (in the booths), as well as AQ8's and F12's, and at the far end of the gallery the retained VIP 'box' is serviced by a pair of AQ12's and an AQ210 ultra-compact sub, built into the booth seating to create (literally) some low-end rumble.
The sound upstairs is powered by a combination of MA1400 and MA900 amplifiers.
CPS' accomplishments are put into perspective by the fact that they supplied, installed and tuned the entire system - including fitting out two DJ booths and providing a laser and LED parcans to complement the existing lighting - inside just six weeks during which the club only ceased trading for 11 days.
The £700,000 conversion has seen the removal of the old Moroccan-themed white-linened tented area upstairs, and digging out the basement to create a new dance tier.
CPS have equipped the basement, which is highlighted by a beautiful LED-lit bar front, with a combination of Blackline F15/WS218X subs (as the primary dancefloor source), F10's (for DJ monitoring) and F8's (pointing towards the booths) - once again making mischief by equipping the three booths down the right flank with AQ210 subs, built into the seating carcass.
Says Simon White: 'This solution works brilliantly with the AQ210 subs which produce a phenomenal amount of energy, recessed under the booth seating, working in combination with the F8's.'
In fact there has been a fair degree of custom mixing and matching colours to suit design themes (the AQ boxes in the more colourful environment downstairs appearing in Blackline black, while some of the F15's are finished in the factory-fit grey of the AQ series).
In the main DJ booth are four CDJ 1000's and two Technics SL1210 Mk5 decks with Pioneer DJM 800 and EFX 1000 plus a Rane Serato Scratch Live - all fed straight into the DME. The downstairs spec includes an Allen & Heath Xone:92 mixer.
Summing up, Richard Colegate says, 'We have been working with Future 3000 for several years, and while some of the clubs we took over have got Martin Audio systems in them this is the first project we have worked on direct with Martin Audio - and Simon Bull and Peter Child were fantastic.'
The club's Monday night DJ, Adam Lewis describes the new system as 'amazing', stating that he has never heard a system to rival it, while Jim Beedham, Future 3000's operations director, added, 'This has all happened incredibly quickly. We started looking at this around May, purchased it on July 1st, traded it for six weeks and refurbished it in September - including developing the basement. We are in so many different markets but felt there was potential to develop the dance culture.
'The interaction of the DJ with the dancefloor was paramount, and it has worked fantastically.'
And with major names like Pete Tong, Sander Kleinenberg, Judge Jules and Hed Kandi all appearing, and the Twiceasnice R&B nights downstairs complementing Bedbug above it, they can rest assured in knowing that none of their acts are likely to complain about the sound.
But the final word comes from Jim Beedham who summed up the entire experience, stating: 'These Martin Audio dance stacks exceed our expectation - both sonically and visually; there is nothing like it on the south coast.'
Further information from:
Maureen Hayes, Martin Audio Jerry Gilbert, JGP Public Relations
Tel: +44 (0)1494 535312 Tel: +44 (0)1707 258525
Fax: +44 (0)1494 438669 Fax: +44 (0)1707 267140
Pics: The custom built floor stacks at Crank