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Tic-Tac-Toe, Three Clubs in a Row

San Francisco-based integrator JK Sound took its expertise on the road to help a hometown club owner expand into the state's capital. The results have been good for everyone.

One nightclub's ceiling sports a sistine chapel–inspired painting of God giving Adam an electric guitar. Another features a 7,500-gallon aquarium where mermaids and mermen perform aquatic ballets. You might think you're in Las Vegas, where "over-the-top" is taken for granted. But you'd be surprised to learn that you're in Sacramento, Calif., the state capital known more for political mayhem than hard-core clubbing. Three new venues, opened in January and backed by a $5.7 million subsidy from the Sacramento City Council, now anchor the newly revitalized K Street Mall in the city's downtown.

Each of the three venues, all owned by San Francisco nightclub operator George Karpaty, has a very different décor. Pizza Rock delivers a full-sized Peterbilt semi-truck half-way through a wall, which serves as the DJ platform. The Dive Bar's dressing is more literal than its name suggests, with a massive aquarium where costumed divers swim among the fish and play off the crowd. A sophisticated 30-something crowd enjoys a more upscale experience in the disco-restaurant District 30, with its videowall technology. But what all of these venues share, in addition to their role in staging the comeback of Sacramento's historically dodgy downtown, is a huge emphasis on audio performance.

"The biggest challenge here was doing all three venues at the same time," recalls Brad Katz, lead systems integrator for JK Sound, which had previously worked with Karpaty on the Ruby Skye club in San Francisco. He says that the project's complexity was compounded by a constantly evolving sound system designed to take into account a new speaker product from EAW, the QX Series. "It had all of the usual challenges of doing a high-profile systems installation, except times three," he says.

Playing the Angles

District 30 was the first venue to be integrated. First, JK Sound sound designer and contractor Michael Lacina recommended that the team implement some acoustical treatment in the form of Tectum cloud panels suspended from the ceiling. Then the main sound-system components were installed. District 30's dance floor is surrounded by four EAW QX596 high-output three-way loudspeakers. Katz describes the dance floor as a parallelogram, with two sides facing each other and two not, resulting in both acute and obtuse corner angles. Speaker placement, therefore, was critical in order to avoid reflections.

"The acoustical treatment helped, but it was mainly about angling the speakers correctly, about how far to go into the corners because the corner angles are different from each other," Katz explains. The initial locations for the Hilti Unistrut grid hanging system were determined by sight, based on hours spent poring over the architectural plans, as well as projecting the height of the acoustical clouds in an effort to keep the speakers below them. But it was time well spent—the initial fly points proved to be mostly spot-on, and it only took a little extra finesse to get the speakers hung.

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