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CLUB SOUND: Void Acoustics in Scandinavian night clubs

Andrew Low
CLUB SOUND: Void Acoustics in Scandinavian night clubs

The Norwegian town of Bergen is fairly low on the list of places you might associate with dance clubs sporting the kind of sound systems used by scientists to intentionally trigger earthquakes. But Bergen is, after all, Norway’s second largest city, at least in terms of its population, a fair chunk of which, it turns out, hankers for the kind of bass that could separate the Scandinavian Peninsula from the rest of Northern Europe.

This issue could not have been stressed enough when the management of the town’s 1,300 capacity Mood nightclub contacted local installation and events heavyweight Artistgruppen for advice. It was 2005 and, having just become the national distributor for Void Acoustics, Artistgruppen wasted no time in flying the club’s directors to London and Earls Court for the PLASA show, where the British manufacturer was earnestly represented with one of the most eye-catching pro audio booths there, backed up by a decibel-ridden demo room.

“After five minutes in the demo room, I had to leave because it was so loud,” recalls Artistgruppen’s general manager, Morten Paulsen. “The SPLs were so high, I just couldn’t be in there. I’ve worked in the pro sound industry since 1987, but this was just crazy. So I left, but after ten minutes they came out and, well, let’s just say we had a deal. We signed a contract as soon as we landed in Bergen and that became the first big system installation we did in the town.”

Although the first big Void installation for Artistgruppen, it was far from the easiest and its location within an old banking hall meant that the venue’s acoustic characteristics were anything but ideal, as Paulsen explains: “There wasn’t a 90-degree angle in the whole place, with circles everywhere. It was a real mess. When you play from the stage, you get reflections from all over and the concrete ceilings and pillars throughout made it one of the most difficult installations we’ve done.”

Mood’s acoustic problems went some way to explain why the club’s previous two sound systems had failed to deliver the kind of sound quality required in order to leave any lasting impression on Bergen’s clubbing fraternity. To ensure that this would be the system to finally put some solid SPLs in the room and punters on the dancefloor, Void Acoustics’ director Alex Skan flew in to lend an ear. Subsequently, four Air Motion speakers, four Paraflex 640 bass units and four Paraflex 360s were installed, amplified by Infinite 8, 6, 5 and 4 (two of each) with processing via Void’s LiveDrive.

As police threatened to close the club down on its reopening night due to the imposing sound levels, Paulsen realised that he had a serious system on his hands: “That was one grand opening,” he recalls. “The Mood installation was very loud. At midnight, the DJ did as he normally did and turned the system up to the level he was used to playing at. Some of the bottles and glasses behind the bar came off the wall. The Paraflex 360 subs that we put in there go from 30 to 60Hz and you certainly feel it more than you hear it – it’s incredible. It was an enormous system, but then they got what they were looking for.”

Paulsen is quick to point out that, with regular visits from high profile jet setting DJs, a world-class sound system was actually a prerequisite for the venue. These artists presumably spread the word about Void in their respective countries, but for Artistgruppen’s purposes, it was the word of the local DJs that counted and, to the company’s delight, it soon found itself signing contracts with venues throughout Bergen.

In the years and months that have passed since the Mood project, Artistgruppen has supplied and/or installed Void systems for over 25 establishments in Bergen – almost every licensed premises in the town. Most recently, the company fitted out Ricks, a local discotheque that wanted a powerful system on the dance floor, which also allowed clubbers to talk around the edges. To achieve this, ceiling speakers were directed toward the middle of the dance floor, with only one side stacked with Stasys 8 subs and powered by Infinite 8, 7 and 5 amplifiers. In the disco area, four Axsys 12 array elements and L2s enclosures were hooked up to Infinite 8 and 7 amplifiers and two DigiDrive processors. For the bar, smaller format Airtens were used alongside Mycro
bass boxes.

 “Unlike at Mood, we had no problems at Ricks, because after working with the speakers for so long we are very familiar with them and we tend to know exactly what is required for specific venues based on what kind of sound they want,” Paulsen explains. “It only took us two days to get the system in. The only problem really, was that it was a building once used by the Gestapo, with swastikas still on the walls. That was a little bit strange, but in terms of sound, it was all fine.”

­­In fact, the only problem the company currently faces is that after three and a half years, there is no one left in Bergen to sell Void systems to. “Now we have actually filled up Bergen with Void systems,” Paulsen continues. “There are very few clubs left in the town that don’t have Void in them. So, for the first time, we exhibited at the LLB trade show in Oslo in February. We had a lot of people interested because we brought the Air Motion system. When you go to a trade show everybody is just looking at the same black boxes, so we thought that we would bring the most amazing-looking system from Void. We also had some pictures of our installations in Bergen. And it worked really well – everybody came in and asked us what it was, and we were able to tell them. Now we are in contact with several companies that ...

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talk to us more about new systems in other parts of Norway.”

Paulsen is currently in discussions with what he refers to as a very high profile club in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, which has its eye on the coveted Air Motion mid-high elements and associated Paraflex subs. He feels that it is only a matter of time before the club buys them. As in the case of his previous customers, while people may be attracted by the stunning appearance of the speakers, what they will ultimately be sold on is their sound.

“We have a rental department for which we use Martin Audio, but for installation it’s always Void. The clubs want a fancy look and that’s where it scores a lot of points, because when a nightclub owner sees the speakers, he likes them right away. Then when you actually connect the speakers up and he hears the sound of them, they are two steps ahead of the competition. The price is very good but the sound of it is amazing. The high frequency is very defined and it doesn’t hurt your ears when you play it loud.

“We just have to work at it for a while longer,” he concludes. “More and more people around Norway are talking about Void after they have been and played on the systems in Bergen – bands, DJs and so on – they really like it. Hopefully in the next three to five years we can have big clubs in Oslo, Stavanger and Trondheim as well. This takes time; you need time for the system to become well known. But I am quite certain that it will be.”

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