Bird’s Basement in Melbourne has quickly become Australia’s premier jazz venue, equipped with a “pristine audio” system comprising GEO S12 and M Series.
Made famous in the 1950’s, for being Charlie Parker’s resident jazz club, Birdland New York has recently taken a step out of the Big Apple to set up a new venture in Melbourne. Bird’s Basement has been designed to be a stage of past, present, and future jazz legends.
The owner of Bird’s Basement, Albert ‘Albare’ Dadon is not only the very successful property developer, but also a very successful touring jazz fusion musician. When the contract to specify and install the club’s system was won by Factory Sound, the Projects & Installations Manager Jonathan Sinclair described the challenge. “Essentially we were building ‘Albare’s place’, his baby, his home turf, and it needed to fall into his vision every step of the way. Luckily we all share Albare’s insatiable desire for pristine audio – there was never any discussion about best value, only best result.”
Jonathan worked with Albare’s touring engineer, Joe Petrolo, who was the conduit to all the key technical decisions. Together Jonathan and Tony Lofts – also of Factory Sound – selected NEXO as the manufacturer for the project. “This was going to be a heavily used, heavily critiqued venue and we needed to have faith that the technology would work flawlessly,” said Jonathan.
With the decision to go with NEXO made, the team then worked with the manufacturer’s Australian distributor, Group Technologies – specifically Drew Menard – to design a system that was capable of extremely high dynamic range and sound quality, ensuring that every seat had a stereo image and that the system itself had the smallest possible footprint.
The shape of the room is quite awkward, it was designed to fit as many seats around the stage as possible – as is typical in a traditional jazz bar – but that doesn’t make it easy to achieve an even coverage. The solution was to split the audio into smaller ‘groups of systems’.
NEXO GEO S1230 line array modules provide the front left and right, GEO M620s are used as front central fills and PS-10R2s have been installed in the wings and as stage foldback. The systems share NEXO LS-600 subwoofers that have been carefully time aligned to bring a coherent end result.
“One thing which impressed all of us was the performance of the GEO M620s, which we used for front fill, as well as the delays in the far corner section. They are a truly wondrous bit of kit for live performance and even though those seats are furthest from the stage, all the reports from guests have been incredibly positive. The vibe is maintained perfectly,” added Jonathan.
NEXO NXAMP 4X4C and 4X1Cs are used to power the entire system. This was a convenient, simple and reliable, choice that gave Factory Sound a turnkey solution to handover to the venue after installation, which was headed up by Factory Sound’s Lucas Howlett.
The main challenges of the audio install came with the shape of the room and its acoustics, and the low ceiling. To combat the later, a mirrored black ceiling was created using barisol – a stretched plastic membrane. Surprisingly, it is all one piece and was custom installed in one session, due to the fact that had any dust made contact with the membrane during the fitting process, the barisol would have been damaged.
Underneath the barisol acoustics panels were implemented, and to enhance the acoustics even further, vertical diffusers down the walls were also installed. Jonathan added: “Glass features offset all the absorption and the result is a room which needs very little EQ, has an extraordinary gain before feedback, but still has life and presence. It’s a very easy room to mix in. When the subwoofers get up and going, watching the ceiling membrane resonating is hypnotic for us sound guys.”
The concluding point on the entire installation, Jonathan said: “I was particularly happy with was how versatile the PA ended up being. We have thrown any number of music genres at it – and without exception it ate it up, even at drastically loud, and just as importantly, very soft SPL. The live shows, whilst predominantly jazz, do range, so this is pleasing – and in my opinion proves it is indeed the ‘right rig for the room’.”
with thanks to Rachael Rogerson @ mondo*dr for text and photo input.