Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work

The Funks Got It

Funk Box PDF

By Daniel Janssen

March 30, 2004

Meyer Sound Keeps Grooves Tight at Baltimore’s Funk Box

Providing a reinforcement system for small clubs often means making the best of an environment created with little or no consideration for sound. So for Dave Brotman, president of DBS Audio Systems in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, sound system design for Baltimore, Md.’s new nightclub The Funk Box was a real treat. At the outset of the project, the club’s interior space was a clean slate, and the fidelity of the performing acts was the owners’ top priority. Brotman was invited early on to work alongside Baltimore architectural firm Parameter in defining the room’s layout and surface treatment. And he was ultimately authorized to choose the sound system components that he felt could best meet his client’s requirements of sonic excellence and long-term value. With that in mind, Brotman built the system around self-powered loudspeakers from Meyer Sound.


Accommodating an audience of just over 400, The Funk Box is a live music venue for local, regional, and national touring bands of varying genres including Blues, Funk, Jazz, R&B, Jam, Rock, Bluegrass, Reggae, Country-Alt, Fusion, Latin, Salsa and Dance. Performers have included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Meters, Funkadelic, NRBQ, and Maceo Parker. “It's just about everything aside from the hard rock,” Brotman says. “It’s an amazing little space, and I think the word's really getting out about it.”


The Funk Box’s mains are four Meyer Sound MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers. A left and right cabinet flown at second-floor height covers the balcony, while another pair covers the first floor all the way back. “The reason I went for a mid-throw box in a small room was that the MSL-4 has a 40-degree horn, and I really wanted to have a very tightly-focused rig that I could just point and shoot. And that's what I love about an MSL-4: I just point them, and I can keep as much off the walls as possible. It just worked out really nice.”


The MSL-4 cabinets are supplemented on the low end by four USW-1P compact subwoofers that Brotman had built into the stage. “When you load subs underneath a stage,” he says, “you're typically going to get a lot of weirdness on the stage itself, but we tried to really, really isolate it well. I had the contractors build really thick compartments to isolate any bass bleed, and we treated those compartments with the same acoustic panel we used for the walls. The USW-1Ps are such tight little boxes that when they couple, they sound great.”


Financial considerations precluded the Funk Box from being able to totally outfit the club with brand new gear, but they wanted the system to be all Meyer Sound, so the monitor system is constituted of earlier, unpowered models: five UM-1C wedges with M1A processors, plus additional drum fill provided by a UPA-1C full-range loudspeaker set on top of a USW-1P. “It's really a great monitor system that keeps everyone super happy,” Brotman says. “Everyone's just ranting and raving about everything.”


The building, for many years home to the Eight by Ten club, was in grave disrepair when acquired by the club’s new owners. “Basically, the place was falling apart,” Brotman says. “So they tore down every wall except one and built it back up from scratch.” Despite the rebuild, the venue’s dimensions were still limited to those of the original building, about 26 feet wide by 70 deep. The audience is on two levels, the ground floor and a balcony that wraps around all the way back to the upstage edge of the stage.


Since the club is a narrow space, Brotman needed to mitigate reflections. “The upstage wall behind the band was treated with fire-retardant acoustic panel from the stage all the way up to the ceiling,” he explains. “And the house-left wall was treated with panels all the way back to the bar. Pretty much the whole second floor was treated as well. And all the way around the mixing booth.”


Even with the treatment, pattern control was crucial to keeping the sound directed toward the patrons and off the walls, which was one of many factors that led to the Meyer Sound purchase. “My company does live sound, touring, and festivals, from large arena rigs down to theater and corporate,” Brotman says. “We use 100 percent Meyer boxes; we have close to 100 of them. I've been using Meyer products since about 1993, and I’ve been a huge advocate of their rigs for a long, long time. So when I proposed a system for The Funk Box, Meyer was really the only place that I was going. It was more a matter of what box was going to work in the room.”


To bring the clients on board, Brotman says, he explained that “with this system there’s relatively no maintenance involved, the stuff lasts a really long time, and it holds its value. The owners are very much music fans, so we also had them come listen to a comparison demo we set up in my warehouse. I flew a couple of boxes, and some (other manufacturer’s) reps came in, and we sat for hours listening to CDs and A/B-ing both rigs. And then they made their decision.”


In addition to specifying and installing the system, Brotman’s company also operates it for the shows, so they have plenty of first-hand experience with its day-to-day performance. Brotman particularly likes the fact that it can handle any situation without breaking a sweat. “That club is going seven days a week,” he says, “and I didn't want to put a system in there that was just going to be working to its full extent all the time. As loud as it gets in there, no one's really pushing the rig too hard, maybe up to one fourth of its output. So the Meyer system is really super-efficient.”


Most important, of course, is the quality of the system’s sound. “It's working great,” Brotman says. “I've had just amazing reviews from everyone. From patrons, from every band member and sound engineer. Everyone that's been through that place has just been extremely happy. And it just makes my job that much easier.”


Brotman’s observations are seconded by BJ Lazarus, one of the club’s managers. “We love the sound because the artists love the sound,” he says. “We regularly have artists choosing to record their shows because they can tell during soundcheck that it’s a great room for making a live recording. And countless artists — national acts — have commented to us that this is the best-sounding club they’ve ever played in.”


 “We love the sound because the artists love the sound... Countless artists -- national acts -- have commented to us that this is the best-sounding club they’ve ever played in.”
- BJ Lazarus, The Funk Box


Featured Products

  • MSL-4 horn-loaded long-throw loudspeakers
  • USW-1P compact subwoofers
  • UM-1C monitor wedges
  • UPA-1C full-range loudspeaker
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