Ministry Of Sound, London



In the new design Martin Audio arrays bask in Ministry’s limelight.

The legendary nightclub gets a new speaker system.

By John Landers

Ministry of Sound isn’t a superclub. It’s a multi-national nightlife lifestyle marketing monster with a house music heartbeat. Since its birth in 1991, the clubland brand has expanded in every conceivable direction. The distinctive Ministry of Sound logo can now be found on clothing, portable MP3 players, car stereos and DVD players, as well as a growing number of brick-and-mortar franchises around the globe.

The spiritual center of this ever-expanding operation is, of course, the original venue at 103 Gaunt Street, Elephant & Castle, London. Unlike some high-profile superclubs, the Ministry of Sound’s exterior is low-key, almost nondescript. “It’s a difficult place to find,” explains David Bradshaw, the nightclub’s Head of Production. “It doesn’t have big, cheesy signs. Nothing at all.”

It’s an example of effective anti-marketing. “You don’t stumble across Ministry of Sound. You have to be coming here,” notes Bradshaw. “You could walk by the club and not know that we’re here during the daytime. We’re not on a busy street. We’re not in a busy part of town.”

Still, the club has no difficulty in attracting thousands of patrons every weekend. The majority of Ministry of Sound faithful make the weekly pilgrimage for one thing: the music. Sure, the club has a funky interior and intense lighting, but it’s the sound that seduces the masses.

“A Low-Down Kick In The Chest”
“It’s all about the music, really,” Bradshaw states. “Everything else is secondary here, and it would be silly to pretend that it wasn’t that way. The focus is definitely on the sound and having a good time.” To make the most of the music, the venue’s multi-room sound system was recently given a major overhaul by Absolute Audio Systems, Ltd. (, a relatively new British sound company.

“This is our fourth year as Absolute Audio Systems,” says Chris Preston, the firm’s Senior Project Design Manager, “but we’ve been in the industry for probably 25 years now as individuals.” Competition for the prestigious superclub sound job must’ve been fierce. “As a young company within the industry, it was a great accolade for us to be involved with the Ministry of Sound,” observes Preston.

The previous sound system was a mixture of name brands and club sound design concepts. “In the bar, we used to have a full-size line array,” says Bradshaw. “You could argue that it wasn’t the right product for what we were doing in the club here, but we were restricted massively by the fact that we only have one point where we can put any weight on the roof.”

When it came time to consider new components, the brand of choice seemed obvious. “We already had some Martin Audio kit here in the DJ booth, some Blackline F12 speakers, which actually got here just a few months after I arrived. Over time, I bought some stage wedges off them as well, and they’ve been fine,” Bradshaw recalls. The combination of reliability, sound quality, and support convinced him to go with Martin Audio for the Ministry of Sound sonic makeover.

“We went with the W8LCs, four on each side, which are just particularly good, I have to say,” says Bradshaw. In addition to the compact series enclosures, the installation over the bar also includes some W8LM boxes. “Fill at each end was an issue before, and I had to attend to it. We threw up two of the mini-sized Martin line array cabinets” to complete the coverage pattern, he says.

The resulting sound is exactly what Bradshaw wanted, especially towards the lower end of the audio spectrum. “The W8LCs have a good, low-down kick in the chest, which I never got from the [previous] boxes,” he asserts.

Even with the extended low frequency response of the Martin Audio line array, Bradshaw wanted more. “At the other end of the room, we have the Martin S128, the twin-18 Blackline sub, which is really good. In a stack of four, it’s breathtakingly good,” Bradshaw chuckles. “Changing a direct radiating cabinet for a direct radiating cabinet, running on the same amplifier current with the same processing, it should be pretty much the same, but the Blacklines sounded a lot better. I don’t have a good explanation for why they sound better, but they do.”

Rob Hofkamp, Martin Audio’s Director of U.S. Operations, isn’t surprised. “I always tell guys, bring on six of the competitors’ subwoofers, and I’ll put four of ours down. Not to be arrogant about it, but Martin Audio has been building subs for 35 years. One of our claims to fame has always been our low frequency performance.”

The sound is the décor.
Some of the club’s “funky interior and intense lighting.”

Bangin’ The Box
As for the Ministry of Sound main room, lovingly referred to as The Box, Bradshaw opted for a more conservative approach, retaining the best components of the existing sound system. In addition to EAW tweeter arrays, the dancefloor is surrounded by six custom speaker stacks featuring Martin Audio horn-loaded high-mid enclosures, JBL-loaded low-mid cabinets, and ElectroVoice-loaded bass boxes. “It’s a mish-mash of a system in The Box,” Bradshaw admits, but musicality, not brand loyalty, is what matters most at the Ministry of Sound.

The intimidating five-way stacks now boast Martin Audio subwoofer transducers, too. “As of last week, we’ll have changed all of the subs in the Box,” says Bradshaw. “Not the actual cabinets, but the drivers have been changed out to Martin 18s, which are very good.”

Other than the pretty-is-as-pretty-does speaker stacks, the main room is mostly empty, devoid of creature comforts or distractions. “No bars, no seats, no toilets, nothing. You’re in there to dance, or not,” says Bradshaw. “It’s a low, sweaty box.”

The primary visual focus is the DJ booth, which has been equipped with two Allen & Heath DJ mixers. “On Saturday, which is a house night, the guys will play on the rotary Xone:V6, while on the Friday night they’ll play on the linear Xone:92,” explains Bradshaw. “Both mixers are positioned differently to accommodate various styles. The 92 is between two turntables, a turntable on the left on the right, but the V6 sits in front of three turntables.”

At the opposite end of the room is a stage, which hosts an increasing number of live performances these days. “We’ve done an Eminem afterparty here. We’ve done Metallica. We’ve done [British television show] ‘Top of the Pops,’” notes Bradshaw. “The DJ booth, which isn’t a bad place to monitor from, also features an Allen & Heath 32-channel live desk for front of house mixing.”

In fact, the growing emphasis on live performance will likely prompt additional audio changes to the venue in the near future. “In the U.K., there’s been a resurgence in guitar-based music,” Bradshaw says. “We’re looking to launch a Thursday night and do live music. Not on our current sound system, which is completely unsuitable for that, but I’m sure Martin Audio will get a few more quid out of us again for a mini-array in our main room.”

Happy Happy Joy Joy
For the time being, though, everyone seems delighted with the recent upgrades to the Ministry of Sound system. “I’ve had comments from people that I wouldn’t expect to get comments from, as well as all of our regular DJs, which is important to me. For these people to make a comment noting that it sounds better, not that they complained about it beforehand, is important for us,” says Bradshaw.

Absolute Audio’s Preston seems quite satisfied with the installation, too, as well as the chosen brand of loudspeakers. “We were all very happy with the result,” he attests. “The Martin Audio Compact and Mini line arrays, along with the S218 subs, perform well within the main bar area, providing high quality, extremely clean audio coupled with good coverage.

“The Blackline range has a broad family of speaker enclosures to suit most installation requirements, therefore they were the natural choice for DJ referencing, The Baby Box, and the main VIP room. The new AQ Range was also chosen to play a part in the audio upgrade, too, with the AQ6s and AQ8s being used within the corridors and outside in the courtyard.”

Martin Audio’s Hofkamp sums it all up like this: “We’re excited to be involved in the project. It is truly a superclub, and the fact that they’re as happy as they are is a testament to how good the products are, because they could buy anything.”


But What About The…
Ministry’s décor and lights.
The Ministry of Sound crowd, like the venue itself, has matured somewhat over the past 14 years. In response to the changing demographics of clubland, certain changes have been made to suit a wider range of patron preferences. While Ministry remains a haven for punters intent on largin’ it on the dancefloor, recent refits have included the addition of an upscale cocktail bar, and reserve-able tables for clubbers who need to rest their feet once in a while. For corporate events, the venue can even accommodate up to 250 seated dinner guests. Still, the emphasis remains on the music, not plush furniture or opulent interior design. “I would say [the décor is] minimalist,” says Head of Production David Bradshaw.

As for the venue’s lighting, Ministry utilizes a mixture of fixtures, most of which are made by Martin Professional ( The club was one of the first to take advantage of the powerful MX-10 Extreme, and the moving mirror units continue to dominate the big Box room, along with some MAC 250 Krypton moving heads. The main bar features MAC 300s, as well as more MX-10 Extreme scanners and MAC 250s. As for the diminutive Baby Box, that room is equipped with an unusual but effective combination of Wizard intelligent effects and MiniMAC Profile moving heads. Jem haze and fog machines are used in every room to maximize the impact of the different lighting systems.

1 - DPR-402 compressor/limiter
1 - Soundweb sw9088iis DSP hardware
1 - Soundweb sw9008iis output expander
6 - MA-5002VZ amplifiers
Martin Audio
8 - W8LC compact line arrays
4 - W8LM mini line arrays
4 - Blackline S218 sub-bass systems
1 - MA 1.4 amplifier
1 - MA 2.6 amplifier

1 - Soundweb 9088iis DSP device
1 - Pulse 650 amplifier
1 - Pulse 1100 amplifier
Martin Audio
4 - Blackline F15 systems
4 - Blackline S218 sub-bass systems
2 - Blackline F8 ultra-compact two-way
1 - Digam 7000 amplifier

4 - Soundweb 9008iis output expanders
2 - Soundweb 9088iis DSP hardware
1 - Soundweb 9000iis DSP network hub
3 - Pro 9001 amplifiers
3 - Pro 8001 amplifiers
3 - Pro 7001 amplifiers
3 - Pro 4801 amplifiers
3 - Pro 3301 amplifiers
3 - CTs 600 amplifiers
2 - CTs 1200 amplifiers
Martin Audio
4 - Blackline F12 compact two-way
passive systems
6 - five-way stacks
6 - quad-UHF packs


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications