Ruby Skye, San Francisco



Ruby’s famous proscenium shakes under the DC1 speaker (at left) from EAW’s Avalon series.
Dave Vann photo.

JK specs EAW for San Fran’s hottest dance club.

By Linda Seid Frembes

Constant improvement is a common theme in the club industry. While to some owners that may mean finally giving the bathrooms a good scrubbing, to Ruby Skye owner George Karpaty that means spending $60,000 on new carpeting and even more on a totally new sound system. Karpaty opened his $5 million San Francisco club six years ago to cater to the upscale dance club crowd and to the top DJs in the world, and he hasn’t let either party down yet.

Located just off Union Square and housed in a historic theater built in the 1890’s, Ruby Skye is a treat for the senses. Ruby’s interiors were designed by Pamela Pennington Studios and feature Art Nouveau architecture coupled with custom-built furniture and lighting fixtures imported from Israel. “We created distinct areas for lounging, dancing and large corporate events,” said Karpaty.

The 40’ x 40’ dancefloor features 40-foot ceilings and wall-to-wall visuals. An 18’ x 20’ flat screen display hangs in the middle of the room. On the far end is the stage and above on the cat walk is where a regular rotation of acrobats, trapeze artists and other performers entertain the crowd. Above the dancefloor, club goers enjoy access to another bar, a VIP suite and custom-designed booths on each side wall that go for, the low price of $340 a night. The four distinct areas also include a secluded space upstairs called the Jungle Room, which was recently remodeled. Guests in the Jungle Room can enjoy a good stogie and cognac away from bustle happening below. In total, Ruby Skye’s 15,000 square feet was the ultimate in perfection . . . Or was it?

Speakers in architecture.

Lackluster Sound
So the obvious question was “Why replace a sound system that seemed okay to world-class DJs like Oakenfold, Sahsa and Tiesto?” Karpaty’s answer: “The sound was the only lackluster part of the club. We wanted a new system because we want to constantly improve. We are always changing the walls and the décor, and it was time to change the sound.”

To do so, Karpaty turned to JK Sound in San Francisco who did the original audio installation six years ago. “The main impetus for installing a new sound system in an already successful club was to make certain that no DJ in the world would hesitate to perform on it,” explained Michael Lacina, president of JK Sound. “The goal was to make a statement: the system was to be unique and without peer.”

But in order to accomplish this goal, Lacina had to address the club’s acoustical issues which were further complicated by the architecture. The 40’ x 40’ dancefloor made for a perfect cube shape — a nightmare when dealing with sound. Since the club’s ornate décor wouldn’t accommodate acoustical treatment panels very well, Lacina decided to solve the problem by turning up the volume. “I learned long ago that if you have enough system headroom and can focus the energy properly, you can make the room go away. You make the direct sound so intense that the reflected sound is irrelevant. But to do that without making the system painful is the trick. My experience is that listening to very loud distorted sound for even a few minutes can make your ears ring for the rest of the night. So our design criterion was simple: install a system with enough headroom that it will always stay below the threshold of distortion,” he explained.

Lacina’s design centered on the EAW Avalon series loudspeakers, but with one twist. Lacina worked with EAW to custom build Avalon cabinets with EAW KF series woofers and four-inch titanium diaphragm high frequency KF series drivers. “We used the KF series woofers in part because of the high power handling capacity, but also because of the stiffer, heavier cone which was less prone to distortion,” he continued.

Continuing down the path of zero distortion, Lacina and Karpaty wanted the best sound processor available which meant paying a visit to Irvin Grinberg at the San Francisco offices of Australia-based Lake Technology. After some back-and-forth discussion and listening, Ruby Skye became the first nightclub in the Western Hemisphere with Lake Contour Pro 26 processors for its speaker control system. Lacina noted: “We used the Lake like any other processor, using SIA Smaart software to set crossover parameters and basic EQ curves. But where the Lake stood out as a tool was when it allowed us to stand on the packed dance floor and draw audio EQ curves in real time on a tablet PC. See it, hear it.”

The final piece of the puzzle was the amplifiers. Lacina chose Lab.gruppen FP2400 Quad amplifiers for the tweeters and highs; Crest Pro Series 7001 and 9001 amps for the mids and lows, and QSC PL6.0 amps for the subwoofers. “The result added up to 20,000 watts of amplifier headroom, and that means we are way below the threshold of distortion in the amp racks,” commented Lacina.

Subwoofer towers below, supertweeter arrays above.

Count Down
With the design decisions made and the gear on its way from around the globe, it was time to do the install. Tackling a major overhaul like this is tough enough, but the high profile nature of the club and the fact that the new system would debut on New Year’s Eve to a sold-out show with Bad Boy Bill added even more pressure to job.

Ruby Skye closed the Saturday before New Years Eve and team arrived early the next morning to rip out the old system. Welders were called in to create new platforms for the four Avalon DC1 loudspeakers that anchor the main system. The challenge was to accurately direct the energy from the three-way DC1 speakers down towards the dancefloor and underneath one corner of the balcony that was directly across from it. “Otherwise the horn would be shooting into the sweeping curve of the opposing balcony corner, and reflecting back out across the room,” Lacina explained.

While the platforms were welded, a separate balcony system was installed using the previously existing fly points from the old system. Two EAW-customized Avalon DC1 speakers were hung, along with two EAW DCT2 super tweeter arrays and four EAW DCS2 subwoofers. On ground level, the old subwoofers that were built into a bunker under the stage were removed, but there wasn’t enough real estate there for the new system. Instead, four “subwoofer towers” consisting of four EAW DCS2 subwoofers each were erected in each corner of the dancefloor, along with four DCT2 super tweeter arrays hanging above.

Brad Katz, system engineer for JK Sound, helped tune the system and worked with Lake Technology technical support to perfect the loudspeaker processing. “The whole system works without strain. The consistent remarks from club goers, promoters and DJs is that the system is really loud and full, but it doesn’t hurt the ears,” said Lacina. “That’s the magic that makes Ruby Skye’s sound system so seductive.”

Karpaty added: “I liked the Avalon because it was customized and I liked how hard the EAW team worked to close the deal. They were willing to go the extra mile. The first several DJs to use the system were big names and they all loved it.”

With 1,500 to 1,700 people visiting the club a night, Ruby Skye remains a top tier destination and an exclusive place for DJs to spin. Karpaty proudly adds that he still employs 85% of the club staff that opened the club six years ago. He added: “Whether you’re the first guest or the 1,700th, everyone is treated well here.”


Main Level
16 - EAW DCS2 subwoofers
4 - EAW Avalon DC1 speakers
4 - EAW DCT2 supertweeter arrays

Balcony Level
4 - EAW DCS2 subwoofers
2 - EAW Avalon DC1 speakers
2 - EAW DCT2 supertweeter arrays

Processing & Amplification
5 - QSC PL 6.0 amps
4 - Lake Contour 26 processors
3 - Lab.gruppen FP2400Q amps
3 - Crest Pro 7001 amps
3 - Crest Pro 9001 amps


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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications