The Audiophile Installation
May 24, 2010 12:00 PM, By George Petersen
At Coda Jazz Supper Club, no compressors or gates are employed. “Compression and gating are not always necessary if the sound engineers know how to control and apply available headroom.”
—Michael Ricci, Ricci Sound
In an industry dominated by 8in. ceiling loudspeakers and in an economic climate ruled by cheaper= faster= better, the words “audiophile” and “club installation” are rarely used in the same sentence. But that’s not the case with San Francisco’s Coda Jazz Supper Club, a new venue that took an analog-only approach to its sound system—without breaking the bank.
System designer Michael Ricci of Ricci Sound saw the project as a challenge. “The venue was previously a restaurant/DJ club with no acoustical treatment or considerations about AC power. It was a noisy mess,” Ricci says. “I suggested an all-analog route, with a Midas Venice 320 console feeding a system with no digital system controllers or Class D amplification.”
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The focus was on sonic purity. The only digital component is a TC Electronic M-One XL that can be patched into the effects bus if needed. Also, no compressors or gates are employed. “That’s a major contributing factor to the fidelity of the install,” he says. “It’s all about headroom, and the system delivers more than 6500W. Compression and gating are not always necessary if the sound engineers know how to control and apply available headroom.”
The loudspeakers are all Bag End. Ricci worked closely with Bag End’s President Jim Wischmeyer and Jedi Audio Engineer Henry Heine. They suggested three Opal-I long-throw mains for LCR, two D18E-I double-18 subs, and PTA1200-RF powered floor wedges. Ricci liked the sound of the system, and he was equally impressed with Bag End’s level of customer service. “Without that support, I could not have installed this system on time or on budget,” he says.
The amps are Crown Audio and QSC, with Bag End’s Infra-MX2 dual integrator handling crossover duties and providing system protection. On system EQ is a Klark Teknik Square One (mains) and two dbx 231s on the monitors. For more stage space, JK Sound of San Francisco was brought in to fly the system (including subs), ensuring the load is properly distributed across the ceiling beams.
In keeping with the analog theme, don’t expect to find fiber optics or Cat-5 wiring. “We ordered a custom, oxygen-free copper, thin-strand snake from Radial. It wasn’t ready in time for the club opening, so we used a generic brand snake at first,” Ricci says. “Installing the Radial made quite an audible difference.
“[Working with the electrical contractor,] we segmented the motors and inductive loads on a separate leg that came into the main switch panel to keep things like the freezer and pop machine well out of the audio system. We ran a separate isolated ground wire to each outlet and used hospital-grade outlets with the extra ground lug. We added Furman power conditioning to the FOH feed and amp racks for low noise. It all cleaned things up nicely.”
Tight budgets often mean acoustics are shortchanged, but Ricci applied some high-end approaches, such as constructing the stage with extra reinforcing mass and floating the structure, decoupling it from the floor with thick rubber slabs, much like recording studio construction. He put a 12in. cutout in the back stage wall, filled it with Owens Corning 701 and 703 fiberglass, and covered it with felt to create an effective bass trap. Hung above the stage, he built custom 4’x4’ absorber/diffusers. “These work great and help control the sound pressure level of the stage volume down in the room,” he says. “It really makes it easier for musicians to hear each other on stage.”
The best part? The system works. Throughout the venue, I heard sound levels that were even, with great fidelity and consistent coverage; this enabled mixers to realize Coda owner Bruce Hanson’s dream of an audiophile listening experience that showcases the area’s diversity of jazz artists. Perhaps a dash of hi-fi in your next install isn’t such a bad idea after all.