The unseasonably hot night of Wednesday, April 18th saw the launch of a new sound system at Mayfair’s Tape London nightclub. Great: what’s this got to do with The Ear, you might ask? And rightly: last time I looked, we hadn’t been taken over by International DJ magazine.
But Tape is a venue with a difference — how many nightclubs do you know with a built-in state-of-the-art high-resolution recording studio, and a sound system to match?
If you think about it, it’s not such a strange combination – if anything, it’s odd that there haven’t been more venues that expressly combine a studio and nightclub before. As far back as the early days of the developing rock and pop music scene, major artists would cut acetates or test pressings of their new tracks at their favoured recording studios, and then take them down to the big nightclubs of the day to gauge their public reception, as Paul McCartney and John Lennon were wont to do at Leicester Square’s AdLib club and later the Scotch Of St James in the sixties. A decade later, Kraftwerk formed close friendships with international club DJs who would spin into their live mixes the latest meticulously produced output from the group’s Kling Klang studio in Düsseldorf while members of the secretive quartet assessed whether they needed to tweak their tracks still further. The relationship between recording studios and palais de danse, nightclubs and dancehalls grew even closer as mass club culture took off from the late eighties onwards.
In this context, Tape London’s on-site recording facilities, designed by renowned studio construction consultants Munro Acoustics, are the logical final step in a long process. The recording studio’s A-list clientele (recent clients to have flown in to use Tape’s facilities include will.i.am, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Wiz Khalifa) have only to take a few steps outside the studio control room’s heavily soundproofed door to try out their productions on a full-size club sound system, and those artists who have come to play live at the club (such as Lady Gaga, P Diddy and The Weeknd) are attracted to the studio’s top-flight facilities in turn. As Tape London’s in-house Grammy- and Emmy-nominated recording and mix engineer Heff Moraes likes to put it, the recording studio attracts artists to and supports the club, while the club attracts artists to and supports the recording studio: a rare example of a truly synergistic commercial relationship.
With the club being seen as an extension of the recording studio and vice versa, even greater care has been taken over the choice of sound systems at Tape London than is usual in nightclubs. The main DJ/dance area has a fine-sounding d&b audiotechnik sound system, although such systems are not uncommon. However, the exclusive members’ area at the back of the club, through which you pass to reach the recording studio, hosts something a bit special: twin BB6 active loudspeakers made by PMC. The main monitors in Tape’s recording studio control room, are, if anything, even more desirable: a pair of PMC’s flagship QB1-XBD active studio loudspeakers. To give you an idea of the might of the system, each loudspeaker channel is fed with 8,825 Watts of Class-D power, most of which drives the eight 10inch bass drivers per channel.
Mixing desks ain’t what they used to be!
For hard core pro audio kit spotters, Tape studio use Waves Digigrid routing (for remote mic control and routing between studio and 2 club areas) Avid Pro Tools, S3, Dock, HDXI/O. They have opted for the Grace M905 monitor controller which is a doddle to switch between the PMC QB1s and their result6 two-way actives desktop monitors. Tape’s Mic cupboard features some gems: Telefunken AK47 MKII, Slate Digital VMS and a stack of the obligatory Shure SM57s. Lovers of boutique kit will see the cracking Lisson Grove AR-1 vintage style tube compressor based on the classic Altec compressor and a Joe Meek SC2.2 by compressor by Russ Long among many other studio toys! The irony is that even though there are vintage tape machines all around the club you won’t find one playing through the system.
Not surprisingly, the quality of the sound we heard on the launch night in both the studio and club areas was amazing, with clearly defined, powerful but natural-sounding bass audible even at the low output levels used in the early part of the evening. As the evening went on, the levels rose, but the quality of the reproduction in the venue was never less than excellent. If this is the kind of system we might hear in nightclubs in future, and sounds the death knell for the flabby, busted-bass-bin low-end of music venues of the past, bring it on.