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.
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.
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,”
Subwoofer towers below, supertweeter
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
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.”
16 - EAW DCS2 subwoofers
4 - EAW Avalon DC1 speakers
4 - EAW DCT2 supertweeter arrays
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