Club ERA

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:53

(Photo by Jonx Pillemer)

Back in the ‘70s before there was such a thing as the line array there was a revolutionary loudspeaker manufacturer called Turbosound. Turbosound was founded by an innovative audio enthusiast named Tony Andrews and sound engineer John Newsham and given the state of loudspeaker technology of the time; Andrews deeply questioned the merits of the status quo. His goal: to create loudspeaker systems that lived up to the way the artist and record producer had envisioned.

One of the answers to these burgeoning questions led to a device dubbed the Turbo phase device, a remarkable innovation that found its way into many of Turbosound’s loudspeakers such as the famed TMS-3 which became a staple in the rock n’ touring world and the highest selling full-range PA cabinet just a few short years after its release. Indeed, Turbosound is famous for many innovations such as their TMS series, the UHQ system or FLASHLIGHT, as it was known, and the FLOODLIGHT system. Indeed, the famed Glastonbury festival would not have been the same without Turbosound’s involvement. However, this story is not about Turbosound. This story is about Andrews’ and Newsham’s follow-on company founded in 1992: Funktion One.

Funky background music

I make no apologies for mentioning Turbosound. It is both a direct and indirect part of Funktion One’s history because, as they say, in order to know where you are going, you need to know where you come from. Indeed, much of what Andrews and Newsham learned during their tenure at Turbosound is what Funktion One has built upon and, some would say, improved upon. Funktion One’s approach, as with Turbosound, is to create the most linear sound reproduction system possible without any extraneous processing or EQ. Their design philosophy aims to bend the boundaries of acoustical physics and traditional loudspeaker design instead of jumping on bandwagon fads such as the line source and over-the-top processing. In fact, they don’t even manufacture a line array and choose instead to stick with the proven reliability of high quality point source systems; a refreshing twist in an industry dominated by countless line-array systems.
Funktion One dubs themselves as “English inventors and manufacturers of professional loudspeaker systems”. Their mandate is simple: achieve the best possible audio quality. This may seem rhetorical but Andrews takes this very seriously and it is evident in their approach of the avoidance of both system EQ (which causes phase shift and headroom issues) and mid-range compression drivers (which cause distortion). Since I couldn’t put it better myself this excerpt from the Funktion One website sums up their approach quite poetically:
“We understand sound to be the most important of our senses and in fact, the root of the structure of the entire Universe. As such, we try to pay the amazing acuity of human hearing the respect it deserves by providing products that deliver as much resolution and detail as is possible. We also pay considerable attention to the emotional effect of not just music, but the sound itself, what you might call it ‘quality’. In a world where everything is ‘dumbing down’ and finesse and subtlety are rapidly disappearing, it is a source of pride to us that we are continually going in the opposite direction, expanding the envelope. On a spiritual level, good music and good sound has the effect of opening peoples’ minds and deepening their consciousness which can only be good for the planet.” – http://www.funktion-

Club ERA – Cape Town

After visiting Prolight and Sound 2013 in Frankfurt I was intrigued at the, well, funky design of Funktion One products. They just seemed out of the norm and, as I was to find out, their reputation precedes them wherever they go because they are known for one thing and one thing only: supreme sound quality. Currently their products are primarily used in the EDM sector but they are not limited to it. Saying that, if you’ve ever taken a trip to Ibiza or any up-market clubs in Europe you’ll most certainly run into one of their systems.

This made me wonder upon my return to South Africa if their products were available here. In short? Yes, indeed they are. Phuture Sound is the local distributor, headed up by owner Anton Sinovich and he is an avid Funktion One devotee.

“I used to be a DJ and every time I went clubbing in London or elsewhere I found I would either be completely fatigued and tired at 3am or full of energy and ready for more,” explains Sinovich. “The clubs where I ended up with very little fatigue and lots of energy comes the end of the night all had Funktion One systems installed. I became convinced this was the reason.”

Sinovich was contacted by US-born Cape Town entrepreneur and club owner Giovanni Agusta to construct a state-of-the-art, up-market dance club with a heavy focus on the audio system. “Only the best would do,” according to Sinovich. The result was a club called ERA that is quickly making waves in the Mother City and making a reputation as the best sounding club around. This is no doubt as a result of the Funktion One system installed there. But there’s more to this.

In the unfortunate and usual approach, a club is constructed with the audio system being an after thought and left with the scraps of the budget left over from shop fitting and décor. This trend is curious given that a dance club’s pivotal draw card is the music. Era’s approach was the other way around: construct the club and the acoustics around the audio system.

“We were fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to get involved with the club really early on, in its conceptual stage,” explains Sinovich. “This meant the sound system was not implemented in isolation to the club as an afterthought.

Rather, we could literally design the club around the sound system, co-ordinating the balance between the sound, acoustic treatment, numerous visual effects, general interior architecture and design of the club in line with Giovanni’s vision for ERA. You can put the best sound system in an inappropriate or badly designed acoustic space and you will not get the best out of it.”

ERA is housed in an old art gallery in the Cape Town CBD and its 700m2 floor space is split between an upstairs ‘music appreciation room’ and deli (also an over-spill space for the downstairs area) and a basement section nicknamed ‘the bunker’, which comprises the main dance floor. The installation was performed by Phuture Sound and its associates while the room acoustics was designed by Dino Moran, an experienced DJ and producer with a flair for dance club acoustics. Tony Andrews was also on the scene after the installation was complete to give a final tune to the system and advise on potential tweaks of the acoustic environment.


Upstairs comprise four zones:
• Zone one: Main floor (music appreciation room)
• Zone two: DJ booth
• Zone three: Deli entrance
• Zone four: Bar

The main floor system comprises four 425W, two-way Res1 enclosures corner mounted two per side in front of the DJ booth and two BR218 dual-18-inch subwoofers. The Res1s feature a 350W Funktion One-designed 12-inch neodymium driver with a usable operating band of 25Hz to 520Hz and a five-inch HF driver coupled to their Axhead-loaded waveguide that extends up to 16kHz. This is in stark contrast to traditional two-way designs that employ compression drivers to handle the top end. It is Andrews’ assertion that, with the right design and waveguide, the five-inch driver handling HF is vastly more efficient and exhibits far less distortion so therefore is more efficient while supplying superior sound quality. The systems are powered by MC2 E100 amplifiers and driven by a Funktion One X04A processor.

Zone two, the DJ booth, received a single F81 monitor speaker and a MB112A subwoofer. The F81 is a 100W compact enclosure with eight- and one-inch drivers optimised to Funktion One specifications and the MB112A is a single-12-inch, 250W subwoofer. The system is powered by a 150W HiFi amp into 8Ohms.

Zone three, the deli, received a distributed system featuring four 150W, two-way F101 enclosures (10” LF, 1” HF) and two MB212 dual-12-inch subwoofers, powered by an FFA F40-DV amplifier. The FFA was chosen because of its multi-channel operability and the fact that is has on-board DSP for configuring delays, EQ and other necessary processing without the need of outboard drive units.

Zone four, the bar, received two F101s driven by a 200W HiFi amplifier into 8Ohms.

The downstairs section of the club is the main attraction and where the majority of the sound was installed. It too comprises four zones:
• Zone one: dance floor
• Zone two: DJ booth and lounge (green room)
• Zone three: booth entrance
• Zone four: bar / dance floor overspill
• Zone one, the dance floor, was designed to house the main chest-thumping audio system and is three-way. It is set on a rectangular grid, with the mid / high enclosures mounted in each corner and firing into the centre of the room while the mid-bass and bass enclosures fire away from the DJ booth. Two 325W Res3 SH-Ps (10” MF, 1.4” HF) are the main mid / high enclosures and are mounted in front of the DJ booth while Res2-SHs are mounted in the rear corners of the dance floor, firing as back-fill. The mid-bass band is handled by two horn-loaded 800W dual-15- inch F215 subwoofers, stacked on top of two 1500W dual-21-inch BR221s.
In terms of amplification and processing, two X04 processors handle main system processing while an FFA 60q-DV DSP-loaded amplifier handles the Res2-SH back-fill. The Res3-SH and F215s are powered by MC2 E100 and E45 amps while BR221 is powered by an MC2 E90.

Zone two, the DJ booth and lounge, received four two-way 350W F1201s (12” LF, 1” HF) and one BR218 powered by MC2 E25 and E45 amplifiers, respectively. Zone three, the booth entrance, received four F1201s powered by an FFA F40q-DV amplifier / processor.

Zone four, the bar / dance floor over spill area, received two F55 ultra-compact dual-5”60W enclosures, powered by the FFA 60q-DV amplifier installed into zone one.

The wrap

Club ERA seems to be a first in South Africa with its attention to acoustic detail and utmost sound quality. However, not only have the sound system and acoustics been highly spec’d but there is also a refreshing mandate that it enforces on its DJs. “Era is in our opinion the first club that is purpose built around music, sound and crowd enjoyment on the continent that got it right,” says Sinovich. “It is Phuture Sound’s first club installation. ERA also has a music policy that bans DJs from ‘spinning’ MP3s; only pure audio source material like WAV and vinyl is acceptable and deserving of such a pure sound system. It’s a bold step.”

A bold step, indeed.