Apr 1, 1998 12:00 PM, Joe Kamenstein
In its heyday at its former location on Broadway at West 75th Street, NewYork's China Club was known as a late-night meeting place for celebritiesand those who wanted to be around them. One of the main reasons the clubattracted so many of Manhattan's beautiful people was its stature as one ofthe city's best sounding and most famous live rock music venues.
Reborn less than 30 blocks south of its former location, the China Clublives and thrives again, reopening in the newly restored Times Square areaat 268 West 47th Street. The crowds have come back in droves to the newmidtown locale, mainly because its owners have stayed true to the club'sreputation as an energetic live music showcase.
In the midst of its third decade presenting live music in Manhattan, theclub held on to the one time-tested tradition in its new environs that isthe foundation of its frequently praised, permanently installed audiosystem-loudspeakers from JBL Professional.
"In a word, the sound is simply amazing," observed George Georgiades,president of Sound Communications Consulting, who not only oversaw thedesign and installation of the JBL system at the new China Club, but he wasalso the sound man at the 4,000 ft squared (374 meter squared) originallocation. Georgiades had installed a JBL system there as well, establishingthe club's stellar reputation as a haven for quality sound by musicians anddenizens alike.
The new China Club features components from the JBL Sound Power series.Like the rest of JBL's Installation Range, Sound Power systems incorporatea variety of unique features. On either side of the China Club's 18 foot(5.5 m) radius stage, which is a larger version of the previous one, residetwo four-cabinet stacks of JBL Sound Power 225-9 double cabinets, each witha pair of 15 inch (381 mm) loudspeakers and a 4 inch (102 mm) compressiondriver. The SP229-9s provide a large amount of bandwidth and maximum SPLwithin its easily clustered trapezoidal enclosure. The SP-225-9sloudspeakers are equipped with a passive crossover that can be switched tobi-amplified use by an internal selector. By choosing the bi-amplifiedmode, optimum system performance is achieved through the use of JBL'sDSC260 digital system controller for crossover, signal alignment and EQfunctions. Additionally, four SP225 Sound Power loudspeakers are hung in a90 degrees coverage configuration and work above the club's spacious dancefloor.
Serving as rear fill loudspeakers on the decks where intimate booths andtables reside are four JBL SP212-A Single-12 cabinets. These loudspeakersfeature JBL's proprietary optimized aperture symmetrical radiator (OASR),which is a new design in pattern control. The 1 inch (25 mm) exit 2426Hcompression driver features a pure titanium diaphragm and is the acousticmotor that runs the OASR, which provides dispersion control in each axiswhile maintaining low distortion and clear transient highs. The SP212-Aloudspeakers also feature the 2206H cone transducer, which carries a powerrating of 600 W with minimal power compression. Driven by a dozen of JBL'sMPX 1200 power amps, the loudspeakers envelope the club's 16,000 ft squared(1,486 meter squared) area in sound with low noise and crystal-clear audiodetail. A 48-input Soundcraft Series 5 mixing console handles FOH andmonitor mixes via the submixes from the board.
"The Sound Power box is fantastic in its voicing and projection. Both thelive bands and the recorded music are incredibly clear and articulate,"said Georgiades.
Working with the club's in-house audio staff, some of the installation wasspecified by the noted New York-based outfit, See Factor Industries. Thesystem was installed by a team of local audio pros including John Pernal,Harvey Strausser and Chris Snook.
The Sound Power series offers eight full-range loudspeaker systems in sixconfigurations and two powerful sub-bass systems. The loudspeakers offercomponents that incorporate JBL's advanced network topology (ANT), whichprovides a smooth power response curve and a stable load on the output ofthe power amp.
Additionally, ANT negates the need for a power-draining resistive networkfor the high-frequency transducers. Sound Power components also use VGClow-frequency transducers, and key Sound Power models are available with 60degrees or 90 degrees coverage angles. All Sound Power loudspeakercomponents feature two Neutrik Speakon connectors, which loop the signalthrough the system components.
The new club's acoustical design was formulated by Al Fierstein ofAcoustilog in New York. While discussing the system's design, Georgiadesnoted an interesting circumstance that came up during the course of theinstallation.
"To counteract the diffusion of the low-frequencies, such as the kick drum,Al hung the entire sheetrock ceiling from isolators," explained Georgiades."What that does is make the ceiling a resonator, part of the sound of theclub. We put some spray-type acoustical treatment on it, and that made itcomplete. The amazing thing about this is that the system worked so wellwith this resonator approach right from the start. We didn't have to makeany compensation, which means we didn't have to make any compromises.
For much of the China Club's glitzy clientele, price has never been aproblem. The club kicked off its second incarnation with one of theall-star jams for which it became famous in the 1980s, featuring Kissguitarist Ace Frehley and Leslie West of Mountain and "Mississippi Queen"fame.
Since the reopening, the celebrity and sports crowds have returned inforce. For example, Oscar-winner Michael Douglas recently enjoyed thelate-night set featuring a star-studded "jam" band fronted by RollingStones backup singer Bernard Fowler following the Stones' Madison SquareGarden concert. Also, during this year's Gotham-hosted NBA All-Starweekend, rap master Puff Daddy and basketball Shaquille O'Neal (himself arapper of some note) hit the China Club stage for a few numbers, much tothe delight of the club's inhabitants.
Whoever decides to use their connections (or wait in the ridiculously longlines) to enter the new China club, one thing is assured, regardless of thecrowd's fame quotient. "In a club like this," proclaimed Georgiades, "thesound here is as good as it gets."