Photo above: Julianna Barwick performing at Zebulon on L-Acoustics X12 stage wedges and ARCS WiFo and SB18i arrays (all photos courtesy of Zebulon)
One of the rarely discussed challenges of club installs is often one of the very first steps—educating the owners on the relative costs and benefits of truly pro audio gear. However, when Rat Sound Systems was tapped to install a new performance system for Zebulon, L.A.’s new “Frogtown” neighborhood live music hangout, the owners already knew they wanted L-Acoustics.
“Zebulon’s owners group is made up of three guys that have been in the club business for years,” says Rat’s Adam Figueroa. “They first opened Zebulon in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York, and have now moved that venue out here to Atwater Village in Los Angeles. They are very discerning about sound quality and came to us specifically looking for an L-Acoustics rig to attract a higher level of artists to the space.”
“When I was approached by the owners to help consult on the new Zebulon, their goal was to put together the best audio system possible,” recalls Matt Littlejohn, the venue’s audio supervisor and FOH engineer. “I agreed that L-Acoustics would be a perfect fit because I totally believe in their products and have had great results over the years with all different sizes of enclosures and setups, from small clubs to giant festivals. Also, the fact that Rat would be doing the install gave me a lot of confidence from an integration standpoint.”
Zebulon’s new audio setup is based on L-Acoustics’ ARCS WiFo system with two ARCS Wide and one ARCS Focus per side. Two SB18i are flown behind each array for low frequency support, while a four-mix monitor system using X12 wedges is found onstage.
Littlejohn notes that he was familiar with ARCS series enclosures prior to this project. “I’ve heard them flown at cool venues like the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and The Troubadour,” he says. “When Rat brought L-Acoustics in to give us a recommendation and ARCS WiFo was suggested, I was really excited because I had previously had successful experiences with them.”
With everything powered by five L-Acoustics LA4X amplified controllers housed in a rack onstage, there is also a zoned system covering the bar and lounge using compact 5XT and X8 coaxial enclosures. Those zones were equal in importance to the performance system because the space changes personality from a Frogtown bar and restaurant during the day into a hip performance space at night. “They needed to be able to have background music in zones during the day but then be able to very easily and cleanly become a live venue at night,” notes Rat Sound General Manager Paul Freudenberg.
The venue presented some special challenges. “The room is quite intimate, so space is at a premium,” says Figueroa. “The original design called for stage-mounted subs, but in terms of both sightlines and square footage on the stage, we ended up changing that and flying them.”
That, in itself, presented some challenges as the building has a bowed truss style roof. In other words, there is a curve to it. “It required a pretty creative rigging job,” says Freudenberg, noting that not only is there a curve, but the stage and audience area are on a diagonal to that curve. “Everything about this gig centered on collaboration. The nature of the space meant big collaboration with the structural engineer, and there was really just a great synergy between everyone from the owners to L-Acoustics to Rat as the installer.”
“The beauty of ARCS WiFo is that they are truly touring grade enclosures made from the very best components available,” Freudenberg shares. “They’re incredibly tight sounding and precise, but still light enough to be hung even in architecturally challenging spaces. All of that certainly plays into the overall sonic experience.”
“Zebulon is a vibrant and active space and really needed first-class sound,” Figueroa adds. “For a number of reasons—including coverage, sightlines, and reputation—the L-Acoustics systems were the right products and they definitely have provided that first-class experience.”
Littlejohn concurs: “I still cannot believe the amount of power we get from our LA4Xs using such little space, and I am also super-impressed by the X12 wedges, which are delivering great clarity with literally no hassle. The artists that perform here, as well as the owners and guests, are all thrilled with the sound. I know that people are happy to see a small venue that takes audio very seriously, and that has made the space a place that people want to play.”