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FBT Gives Historic Bar a Fresh Sound

When Craig Kruckeberg purchased a Minneapolis honkytonk in a building that was built in the 1800s, he faced a few challenges that would have stumped a lot of professionals. Thanks to FBT and Dave Bartholomew, Sales Manager and Project Manager of Allied Productions & Sales, a killer sound system didn’t have to be one of them.

Lee’s Liquor Lounge is a tiny, old staple establishment in the Twin Cities, and it was a real challenge to figure out what to use in there for an effective, kick-ass sound system,” said Bartholomew. “I ended up using three Verve 112ma’s for the mains and 4 Subline 15sa’s ­­– two on each side; that’s FBT’s crazy power 15” subwoofer. I used the monitor version. They make a regular version – what you’d call a point source that has a horn and woofer – but I didn’t want that because, while it wasn’t very deep in the room, it was very wide. And it wasn’t right for line array, either. The Verve that’s a monitor can also be used as a main, but it has the ability to be used on the ground and is a coax; the horn is in the middle of the woofer in this configuration – it kind of aligns everything. And since the coverage is 90 degrees, conical, it has a wide coverage pattern. By using three of them, left, center and right, it solved the problem.”

Bartholomew, who has been in the audio business for over thirty years, says there were plenty of other reasons why he and his Lead Installation Tech and Rigger, Cody Anderson, chose FBT for the job.

“When you consider the bang for the buck,” he added, “ FBT is way better than any other product I’ve found. It gets tremendous output and the sound is impeccable. It’s louder than other brands, but it’s also more efficient. With the high SPL rating that they have, what their equipment will do at 500 watts, it takes other manufacturers 700 or 800 watts to get to that same level. The best thing is, though, when you read FBT’s specs, they’re spot-on accurate. Here in the states, a lot of brands seem to want to throw a lot of numbers around that don’t necessarily mean anything. They’ll always put what the peak output is instead of the RMS or the continuous rate, which is more useful.”

Allied was originally one of Bartholomew’s clients.

“They hired me to start a sales installation side of the business about 10 years ago,” he said. “I used to tour, but I wanted to spend more time with my kids and kind of fell into sales. I know tons of people in the industry and always give a fair deal. Since we did Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall last spring, that’s really brought us to a whole new level. Cody Anderson, my installer, makes all that possible, too; he’s a brilliant engineer and rigger.”

Bartholomew also cited FBT’s superior Italian design and durability as reasons why he’s selling so much of the product here in the states.

“The brand really does sell itself,” said Bartholomew. “Every time I demo one for a client, I end up selling the equipment right then and there.”

The previous owner of Lee’s Liquor Lounge had been looking for someone to take over the bar since 2012. Kruckeberg, already the owner of a successful business called Minimizer, didn’t need to buy the bar, according to his right-hand man on the project, Jim Pedersen. Shortly after hearing news that another local postwar bar was closing, he felt compelled to secure the stability of what locals describe as a historic watering hole. The bar has since become a passion for Kruckeberg, who also runs a successful manufacturing company. Kruckeberg hopes to preserve the business and pay “good wages” to its staff and the bands that play there.

Pedersen says the goal of renovations wasn’t to modernize the bar; it was to improve on a great venue that locals have come to enjoy for its great music, proximity to Target Field (home ballpark of the Minnesota Twins) and its welcoming environment. Much of the bar’s décor is still intact, from classic wood paneling, a checkered linoleum dance floor, a stuffed mountain lion and even a shrine to Elvis.  

“We wanted to be authentic, to keep the historic feel of the building,” said Pedersen, “but improvements were definitely needed. The floor was pretty warped, for example. At one point we had eight guys just trying to remove three layers each of laminate and plywood, and all of the nails and staples in every layer. It took about four days just to get down to the original surface so we could put down a really nice new ¾-inch white oak floor.”

Dave Bartholomew had great suggestions to improve the sound, too,” he added. “We knocked down a half wall that was right in front of the stage because it was blocking some of the sound and kicking it back…  We got rid of a few booths that were really just being used as coat racks to make more room, and we also opened up the ceiling above the stage and put great lighting above it. Of course, we also added the new FBT speakers.”

Pedersen says the new system has made all the difference in the world.

“The sound is great,” he said, laughing. “You know, with the system we had before, I thought I was getting old. I would ask people, ‘can you even understand the vocals of the lead singer?’ Turns out, the sound was just really terrible. With these new speakers, customers who’ve been coming here for years –before we ever took the place over – are raving about the sound.”

Bartholomew credited FBT with the drastic improvement.

“Whether you’re talking about instruments or vocals,” he said, “FBT spits back exactly what you put into them. The clarity and quality is just amazing. I owe my love for Italian Speakers to John Krupa, who is the owner of Italian Speaker Imports and sole distributor of FBT here in the states. He was the one who explained to me that the Italian government backed transducer manufacturing after the Second World War, and that the quality and engineering was top notch.”

Allied Productions & Sales is based in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, and has an additional office in Denver, Colorado. In addition to being a busy and respected production house, installations make up a large part of their business.  They are responsible for providing audio to the Minnesota State Fair, annually, which happens to be the second largest state fair in the country. They’ve also been responsible for all Microsoft store grand openings in the U.S. and Canada. Whether the project is large or small, Bartholomew says the company is dedicated to providing the best possible products to their clients.

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