Clear, and Cute
| Tony Andrews – The head
of Funktion-One talks about the speaker system you’re
all talking about, the Dance Stack.
By John Landers
Tony Andrews has been building speakers for a long time. One
of the true pioneers of concert and club sound, Andrews first
rocked the pro audio world when he and John Newsham founded
Turbosound back in the mid-‘70s. After developing several
generations of innovative (and often-imitated) concert speaker
systems, Andrews and Newsham moved on to establish Funktion-One
Today, Tony Andrews continues his quest for the perfect speaker
system. Under his direction, Funktion-One has earned an enviable
reputation for its unconventional, uncompromising products.
The firm’s touring speaker systems, for example, have
been embraced by exacting artists like the Chemical Brothers,
Leftfield, and Massive Attack. Funktion-One speakers have also
graced the Space terrace in Ibiza, the VIP area at the Homelands
festival, and Victor Calderone’s personal studio.
The latest Funktion-One speaker system, the Dance Stack, was
designed specifically for nightclub use. Already the centerpiece
of Miami Beach super venue Maze, the Dance Stack is generating
considerable excitement among club patrons and owners alike.
“It’s amazing how many comments we receive nightly
from guests,” says Maze co-owner Stacy Gallowhur. “It
was the single most important investment of our club build-out.”
Tony Andrews obviously knows his stuff. The new Funktion-One
Dance Stack actually embodies decades of successful speaker
system design. But why, exactly, does it sound so good? To find
out, we asked Andrews about the Dance Stack, Funktion-One, and
the current state of nightclub speaker systems.
What inspired you to develop the Dance Stack? The
combination of circumstances and events are as follows: My love
of dance music goes back to the original release of “Papa’s
Got a Brand New Bag,” so I have an intrinsic affinity
for dance culture. In particular, grooves which rearrange your
molecular vibrations in a positive manner, assuming sufficient
amounts of sonic power. Contrary to our traditional touring
roots it was the dance world that was first to pick up on the
excellence of our new technology. This enthusiasm inspired us
to orientate our technologies and efforts into a loudspeaker
system statement which the dance world would both understand
When did you start the R+D process? About 30
years ago. Seriously though, the Dance Stack project [was] formulated
in March 2002. The Infrabass 218 had just been born and dance
people were really enjoying our 15-inch mid-bass which we had
in our Resolution 9 for the Millennium Dome project. We developed
a 10-inch version of our eight-inch Axhead mid-range device
for a thicker, more impactful mid. We involved Dan Agne and
Dean McNaughton from Sound Investment in the conceptualizing
and evaluation of the prototypes, because of their enthusiasm
and their extensive knowledge of major club sound in the US.
Then we engineered the whole lot into one stack for placement
in a right angled corner of a space, delivering the right frequencies
at the right height for a no-arguments result.
How does this new system address the deficiencies of
typical nightclub speakers? If you mean by “deficiencies,”
screeching high-mid and flaccid, boxy bass, then we have reduced
the possibility of the first and eliminated the second. Screeching
high-mids are caused by a combination of things. The first is
large metallic diaphragm compression drivers with industry-average
crossover points. Ninty nine percent of the ones I have ever
listened to have a natural tendency to become extravagantly
fierce with all kinds of distortions and sonic artifacts. Frankly,
I believe they are virtually unusable, which is why there are
no such things in any of our products. Our unique technology
allows us to achieve these frequencies more correctly with good
old-fashioned organic paper cones! The other side of the problem
is that misinformed engineers often accentuate these frequencies
(2.5K - 4.5K) to give the system more “cut,” which
only adds insult to injury.
Moving on to bass, people love the physical euphoria of bass
frequencies, and there is no doubt in my mind that quantity
is no substitute for quality. By this, I mean that across the
two or more octaves that we generally term “bass,”
it is far more exciting and pleasurable if the bass is even
in power from 30Hz to 130Hz at a medium level, than a loudspeaker
running flat-out, producing a one-note, boxy honk. Our bass
technologies give us even power at all bass frequencies, tightness
at the upper frequencies and firm solidness in the infra/sub
bass, resulting in an overall musical bass.
According to the Funktion-One website, equalization
is “an unnecessary evil.” Given the correct crossover
settings and relative drive levels, how accurate is the Dance
Stack’s overall frequency response? There is
more to accurate response than measured energy at frequency.
Although the measured response of the Dance Stack is substantially
plus-or-minus 3dB from 35Hz to 17KHz, this does not take into
account the nature of the sound. The human ear is exceptionally
responsive to first sound arrival. Although time alignment is
very helpful in achieving simultaneous arrival of the frequency
bands of the system’s components, the dynamic of the frequencies
must also be even from all components. If this is not the case,
then certain parts of the spectrum will be perceived to be literally
behind others. We make sure that all our loudspeakers jump very
fast in unison.
Is a perfectly flat frequency response essential to
good club sound? Yes and no, because good dynamic response
and lack of distortion can give a pleasurable result despite
an uneven frequency response. Spikes and peaks are far more
annoying than deficiencies. Having said that, it is preferable
to have the frequency response as even as possible.
Nightclub sound systems are often “tuned”
to the rooms in which they are installed. Does the Dance Stack
need this sort of treatment in every installation?
Yes, but only in the bass area because of any environment’s
penchant for its own set of standing waves. These give a particular
frequency slant which may need compensating for.
The intrinsic distortion of loudspeakers is rarely discussed,
even in professional audio publications. What do club owners
need to know about speaker-induced distortion? It hurts
people! It causes long term damage to hearing. Patrons should
not be going home with their ears ringing. If a system is unbalanced
response-wise and inherently distorted then it cannot be loud
as well. Clean, even sound allows more level whilst remaining
pleasurable, without causing harm.
|How important is terminal SPL
in the nightclub environment? If you mean by this the
amount of noise that you can have out of a loudspeaker before
melt down, then it is irrelevant. What is probably far more
important is how loud will it go before distortion content becomes
Funktion-One has a reputation for building high-efficiency
systems. What makes the Dance Stack more efficient than the
average club speaker? Big question. In a nutshell,
the holistic combination of driver and waveguide for maximum
conversion of amplifier energy into acoustic energy.
The Dance Stack is an eye-catching speaker system. Was
its visual appeal part of the design process, or a happy accident?
Let’s say that we took advantage of the shapes that have
emerged from the function of our technologies. What I enjoyed
was not being size-constrained by the need for easy transportability.
I’ve read that the newly-designed Infrabass cabinet
is capable of reproducing frequencies as low as 20 Hz. Do nightclubs
really need bass that deep? Will clubgoers even notice
it? I’m not sure whether they need 20Hz, but you can’t
help having some of that if you are going to have a decent amount
of 35Hz. Clubgoers will absolutely notice it because it is so
physical you can’t fail to, even if you are deaf! However,
believe it or not, there are few tracks that actually have these
frequencies present and there are a lot of electronics in use
that don’t deal with infrabass frequencies very well in
the first place.
What other benefits does the Dance Stack offer to the
people on the dancefloor? Low-mids are dry and defined;
mid is clear; and high fre- quencies are transparent. Combining
this with our tight, solid bass and smooth up- per-mids gives
an enlightening experience.
What should DJs know about the Dance Stack in order
to make the most of its capabilities? Focus on keeping
the gain structure at around 75% of capability. Do not drive
the mixer into the red. Listen to the sound on the dancefloor.
For those of you who do not understand what I mean by driving
the mixer into the red, consider this: When you are driving
your car you would never arrive anywhere if you had your foot
on the accelerator pedal pressed to the floor. Why drive a sound
system this way?
You’ve been involved in loudspeaker design for
much of your adult life. What do you love most about your art/work?
I love the fact that we are still uncovering levels of clarity
and information retrieval that we have never experienced before,
and are able to pass it on to others for their pleasure.
You’ve stated that the pursuit of high fidelity
audio is a pursuit of purity, or truth. Would you elaborate
on this statement? Another big question. Let’s
just say that the intrinsic righteousness of this pursuit appeals
to my sense of direction.
The Dance Stack has set a new standard for high fidelity,
high volume nightclub audio. What’s next for Funktion-One?
We have been experimenting with surround sound for years and
are currently working on a product utilizing this experience.
We are also very close to a further breakthrough with our Axhead
technology and further possibilities with bass.
Any parting thoughts? Be discerning about the
sound you are listening to and look after your ears. If you
find they are beginning to itch, take this as a warning that
to remain in the environment will give you permanent damage.
After the health tip, I would like to leave you with these thoughts:
Would it not be better, wherever possible, for the DJ to be
sharing the same soundscape as the people, rather than being
isolated in their own sonic environment? Finally, when I see
the musical experience being used as a vehicle for a negative
attitude, I am caused to remember Shakespeare’s words:
“Music is the food of love.”