In the new design Martin Audio
arrays bask in Ministry’s limelight.
The legendary nightclub
gets a new speaker system.
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
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. (absoluteaudiosystemsltd.co.uk), 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
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.”
sound is the décor.
of the club’s “funky interior and intense
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
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
“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
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 (martinpro.com). 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
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
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
4 - Blackline F12 compact two-way
6 - five-way stacks
6 - quad-UHF packs