A brief history of Audiophile PA!

Intro

Thanks for visiting the CODE Acoustics blog! The idea for this post came about when we were building our hybrid Hifi / PA sound system as part of our ‘What can Hifi learn from PA?’ blog series. This started after I visited Glastonbury Festival in 2017, with part one below:

https://code-acoustics.blog/2017/06/30/glasto-2017-what-can-hifi-learn-from-pa-pt1/

The speaker in question is our Big Evolving Sound System (or BESS for short) and can be seen below:

BESS FINAL

If you fancy finding a little out about this project, it’s covered in part four of the series:

https://code-acoustics.blog/2018/07/10/what-can-hifi-learn-from-pa-pt-4-put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is/

The idea was … surely we’re not the first people to try and make a PA system, with the sound quality of a studio monitor, or high end audiophile speaker?

Luckily we’re not, and the systems I came across have pretty cool stories behind them.

Who we are

If you’ve not heard of CODE, we’re a small high end Hifi company based in Woking, England. My name is Ceri Thomas and I’m the founder and chief designer:

me small

The original Audiophile PA system

You may have heard of David Mancuso’s legendary Loft parties? If not, check out this great article below:

http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2018/02/the-loft-nightclubbing

David Mancuso

David lived in a rundown and unloved suburb of Manhattan in the 1960’s. He started hosting house parties for friend, and before long, it was ‘the’ party to go to.

The parties had three key ingredient; an inclusive attitude, dancing and great music, hand selected by David.

loft 2

Over time word really spread and his parties have become a thing of legend:

Loft

Klipschorn

 

David was not only into his music, but also his Hifi, and selected the classic Klipschorn corner speaker shown below as the cornerstone of his PA system:

https://www.klipsch.com/products/klipschorn-floorstanding-speaker

Klipschorn

There isn’t time to cover it properly here, but it’s a really interesting design that basically couples the bass driver to the entire room, turning it into one giant bass horn.

corner horn diagram

This model was first launched in 1946, and has now been in continuous production for over 70 years. You can’t say that about many, if any other speakers!

If you fancy a pair, they’ll set you back a not insubstantial £16k (!) in the UK:

https://www.henleyaudio.co.uk/products/Klipschorn

Lucky Cloud

Sadly David passed away, but you can experience one of his Loft style parties in London, hosted by Lucky Cloud Loft Parties:

https://www.facebook.com/lucky.cloud1/

I was very lucky to go to their summer party in Haggeston recently, and It’s pretty unique: A room full of friendly, welcoming people, who just want to have a great time, listening to fantastic music, played through a decent system. But most of all, they’re there to dance:

Lucky Cloud

One great quirk is there is no mixing by the DJ’s. They play one great song after the other, and usually in the small gap between them, the crowd break out in spontaneous applause to show their appreciation.

Not being stuck to one beat-per-minute (BPM) as in lots of house and techno clubs is quite a liberating experience!

You can read a really good piece on Lucky Cloud below:

https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/3123

Japan

The Japanese take their PA seriously and ‘Audiophile bars’ have been around for a long time. Check out this great article below:

https://www.residentadvisor.net/features/2724

How about this for a bar system?! Using some studio quality, high sensitivity Rey Audio speakers:

Tokyo-Audio-Bridge

I also need to mention Space Lab Yellow. This was a nightclub founded in the 90’s in Tokyo by Daizo Murata. A man who had a vision to create a space that inspired DJ’s to perform at their best, whilst creating a pleasant environment he would like to visit.

The sound system was installed by Rey Audio, who were a start-up off-shoot of the world renowned TAD Laboratories.

Here’s a great piece about the club:

http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2015/01/nightclubbing-yellow

Yellow

The system apparently cost circa £250,000, which back then was a pretty heavy investment! Yellow was a firm favourite with the DJ’s who would often turn up to play for an hour or two, then end up playing the whole night!

Despacio

Despacio was the brain child of LCD Soundsystem’s front-man James Murphy, renowned sound engineer James Klett & 2ManyDJ’s David and Stephen Dewaele.

It consists of 7 of the stacks you see below, powered by 50,000 watts of amplification (not including the 21″ subs!) provided by high end American firm, McIntosh:

https://www.mcintoshlabs.com/products/amplifiers

LCD Sound System 2

You can find a really good in-depth write up here:

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/despacio

And a Youtube video here:

Like Yellow, the founders had a vision … they wanted to use the system in Ibiza, outside, while the sun was setting, playing 45 rpm vinyl at 33 rpm to create a more mellow sound.

Space – Ibiza

My last pick is a ‘proper’ PA system. You may not be able to say it’s truly ‘audiophile’, but it’s the best quality PA system I’ve heard to date.

The club sadly no longer exists, but I think it’s fair to say it’s definitely made it’s mark on clubbing culture. The founder Pepe Rosello was also passionate about sound and believed a great sound system was essential to connect the audience to the music.

This was the mighty main room system:

space

Below is a promo video for the Funktion One / Space partnership. If you go to 8m 50s you can see Funktion One’s Tony Andrews doing the final set-up:

If you’d like to find out a little more about Funktion One, we cover some of their tech here:

https://code-acoustics.blog/2017/06/30/glasto-2017-what-can-hifi-learn-from-pa-pt1/

Conclusion

Super high quality PA is few and far between in my humble opinion, but if you’re willing to go searching, I think you’ll be richly rewarded.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog! If you have any comments or suggestions, please just get in touch via the email below:

info@code-acoustics.com

Ceri Thomas
Founder & Chief Designer
CODE Acoustics

https://www.code-acoustics.com
https://www.code-acoustics.blog
https://www.facebook.com/CodeAcoustics/

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