Sep 01, 2001

Music Venues

Velvet Jones Adds Series TWO

--Touted as the best club sound system between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Santa Barbara venue Velvet Jones is fast becoming a hotspot for bands touring the West Coast to play. This is due, in large part, to a recent retrofit of the venue's system, which now employs NEXO Alpha loudspeakers, BSS Soundweb processing and a 40-channel Soundcraft Series TWO console.

Velvet Jones, an intimate 300-capacity venue just 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, commissioned Kurt Metzler to design its new system, which was ultimately supplied by Luner's Pro Sound & Lighting of Ventura. Metzler recalls, "In order to accommodate fairly large regional touring bands in addition to Santa Barbara's local signed and unsigned bands, I knew the club would need a desk with at least 40 channels. The console would also have to be able to provide a minimum of five monitor mixes from front-of-house, seeing that there was simply not enough room on stage or backstage to position a separate monitor board.

"After taking size limitations, audio quality, reputation for reliability and budgetary constraints into consideration, I specified a Soundcraft Series TWO. Aside from fitting the club's needs by offering professional facilities like variable high-pass filters, eight mute groups, eight auxes and an integral meterbridge, the console has a high-end look and feel that I don't believe any other desk in its price point possesses. In the end, I recommended Soundcraft, BSS and NEXO equipment because I knew this combination would sound great as well as give the club years of excellent performance without trouble, not to mention easily meet or exceed any tech riders."

Once the Series TWO was installed, it didn't take long for Garrick Lewis, house sound tech for the club, to become a Soundcraft fan: "Although we expanded our front-of-house booth by over twice its size during the retrofit, it's still relatively small, so I was very pleased to find 40 input channels on such a compact frame. In my opinion, anyone complaining about the knobs and buttons being too close together or too small simply has fat fingers! They work fine. I also like having the oscillator test button right next to the talkback. It's good to keep everyone focused during sound checks," he jokingly adds.

Bob Stout, one of Velvet Jones' three owners as well as the club's music coordinator, appreciates the Soundcraft desk for its high level of acceptance. "In handling the booking for our club, I am in contact with a lot of bands that might not normally play a small venue like ours," Stout says. "But when I mention that we have a large-format Soundcraft Series TWO and are flying NEXO Alpha E Series speakers, my phone conversations with band managers that can, at times, be difficult to relate to suddenly become much easier. And, on the night of a show, when the touring sound engineer climbs into our house sound booth and sees the Soundcraft lit up like the inside of a cockpit, suddenly it's no longer the end of the world that the 'two dozen white handtowels' on the rider have been replaced by 24 clean bar towels.

"We recently had a very popular West Coast band play our room, but as a club, we were regrettably too busy with in-house business to properly promote the night to the public. I wasn't so much worried about not meeting the band's financial guarantee as I was concerned that they would not want to come back. Well, we did fine, even without adequate advertising. After the show, I heard their manager say that it was the best sound they'd had in a smaller venue, and he called two days later to book another date."

The FOH mixing booth is located on a mezzanine over the dance floor just in front of the stage. Here, the Series TWO is housed in a custom enclosure featuring a six-inch armrest and shelf for live nearfields on which reside NEXO PS8s with subs down below. "The console surround makes it feel like you're sitting at a very expensive board in a high-end recording studio," notes Metzler.

In addition to the nearfields, a pair of NEXO Alpha EMs and B118s are now flown in front of the stage, supported by two dual 18s built into the bottom of the stage and six NEXO PS10s - four on the floor, and two in yokes on light bars facing the rear of the stage in stereo. A custom NEXO 15-inch sub is also positioned under the drummer's area of the stage, which acts as a shaker in live mode and turns the stage into a popular place to dance in DJ mode.

"NEXO was the obvious speaker choice because of quality and quantity of sound," comments Metzler. "With the Series TWO at 'O' VU, I measured 127dB 'A' weighted peaks at the back of the dance floor, which was frightening. I thought I must have had the processor improperly set up or the amp gains wrong (26dB), but I didn't. I had to back the system down a bit. Wow!"

Because the club uses its new system to accommodate live sound, DJ mixing and background music routed to a variety of zones, the decision was made to implement BSS' Soundweb technology. "It all came down to being controlled by Soundweb, which represented the most comprehensive and painless way of rerouting and modifying all of the system's parameters, including EQ, crossover, delay and control changes. All of these settings, plus volume levels, for each configuration had to be able to be changed instantly from a single panel that would be simple enough that the janitor could run it. We ended up installing a BSS 9012 - a five-way switch and rotary fader mounted on a wall plate - as the user interface and it works wonderfully."

Metzler sums the entire system up by adding, "This is a club that has the tools to give an audience a concert sound as good as almost any place, but just north of LA in a very intimate and comfortable setting. And when the word spreads, I wouldn't be surprised to see top-level bands starting their tours here in beautiful Santa Barbara at a little club that carries a great big sound."

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