West London based audio specialist Encore has designed and installed a brand new d&b J-Series sound system into the newly revamped Fridge in Brixton - one of London's best known and loved live music venues.
This is the result of the venue's original creators Andrew Czezowski and Susan Carrington forging an innovative new partnership with the prestigious Alchemea College of Audio Engineering. Alchemea, has developed an intensive hands-on 4-month Live Sound Diploma Course, with the aim of giving students unprecedented levels of real practical experience. All 'live' training and study will take place at The Fridge, bringing live sound engineering courses into the real world.
Encore's John Tinline explains that sound engineer AIan Hopkinson (Big Nobby) has been working with Neil Pickles, a director of Alchemea for some time in an advisory role as their Head of Live Sound. He was given the challenging task of specifying a system that would both attract promoters and bands back to the newly kitted out Fridge, and simultaneously be suitable for realising the Alchemea Live Sound Diploma's educational requirements.
The primary objective was accommodating his design requirements in a system that would offer both digital and analogue - cutting edge and classic - equipment training options for the students, and satisfy the technical requirements of visiting live sound engineers, their artists and the DJs who regularly host the venue's club nights.
Neil Pickles comments, “We have always found that students like to learn the basic concepts on analogue consoles, where everything is laid out in front of you and not in hidden sub menus. Once they have grasped these key concepts, the transition to digital seems to be so much smoother with that basic knowledge in place.”
John Tinline comments, “This Encore PA design will enable them to learn on the industry standard traditional equipment, like the Midas XL3, which they will still encounter for some years as working engineers in addition to the latest technology, digital consoles, amps and line arrays with delays. Apart from that - there is no use turning out sound engineers who have only worked on one level of kit - the system had to sound fantastic, be appropriate for the room and come in on budget .... That's why Big Nobby came to us".
Hopkinson - who continues as Head of Live Sound for Alchemea at The Fridge - specified that the system should be a d&b J-Series - having used it very successfully touring with Tool.
He also wanted to ensure that promoters, artists and engineers unable to bring in their own PA due to no roof weight loading for flying at The Fridge would be more than happy with the house system.
Encore won a close run competitive tender to get the contract and then worked out how to complete the installation and get the best possible sound.
The no flying scenario presented an interesting sonic conundrum, namely ground stacking the J-Series. Careful positioning is crucial to this exercise to preserve the integrity of the line array, but it was a task dexterously achieved by the Encore team, with kick-ass results!
Per side are 3 J8 elements, one B2 and 2 J-SUBS, with a further 2 J8s a side to cover the balcony area, located approximately 10 ft above the stage level on a scaffolding gantry.
Alchemea has supplied the DigiDesign Profile console that controls FOH. This will provide the very latest in digital education to the students and also incorporate a Pro Tools HD system for recording and “Virtual Soundcheck” playback. Onstage, they really wanted a high profile analogue console, preferably a Midas XL3 - arguably “the classic” industry standard console of its era.
These are now like gold dust, but as luck would have it, Encore had extracted one from The Forum a year or so previously, which Tinline decided to fully service and keep at the warehouse "just in case" (Encore also has XL3 in constant use for the Prodigy's monitors).
"This was totally serendipitous circumstances," remarks Tinline, "Normally we would specify a digital console for an installation like this, but It was obviously all meant to happen!"
Outboards for the XL3 are 10 channels of Klark Teknik DN360 graphic equalisers, 4 dbx 160 compressors, 4 channels of Drawmer ds201 gates, a Yamaha SPX990 and a Lexicon PCM70 reverb - again all solid industry standard devices."This is a very smart move to teach sound engineering students about what they will come up against in the real world, when they are doing club tours and the like," says Tinline, "A lot of so-called 'technical education' overlooks facts like this!"
For the monitor system, Encore has also supplied 10 d&b Max wedges, and a full package of mics and stands, including Shure, AKG, Beyer and Sennheiser. These were chosen to offer all the options to visiting bands playing the venue and as good standards for the students to learn.
Apart from their ability to offer all the kit, it was Encore's renowned service and attention to detail that sealed the deal and as a result, regular live music concerts are set to return to The Fridge for the first time in 15 years.