Studio A, Miami



Studio A’s lush dancefloor enables the venue to switch-hit from rock to DJ crowds.

New Yorkers rock into Miami’s DJ-heavy scene.
By John Landers

South Florida’s nightclub scene has always been dominated by DJs and dance music. Fortunately for Miami clubgoers with more eclectic (and electric) tastes, Studio A has arrived.

Arrived, that is, like a renegade rockstar on the red carpet. Although the new venue may be physically located downtown on the same block as certain DJ-centric superclubs, the owners, staff and patrons of Studio A clearly inhabit a parallel universe where guitars and turntables go together like vodka and Red Bull.

Causing A Stir On The Sideline
The dramatic differences between Studio A and Miami’s more typical nightclubs start at the top. “Our business cards don’t have titles, because we’re all part of a team,” notes cofounder Pedro Mena. Along with a crew of creative partners including Fancy (the DJ impresario behind Fannypack and that electrobooty “Cameltoe” track), Georgie Seville (founder of the infamous New York glam rock Motherfucker party), and Robert Nowak (of the Lower East Side’s gritty Delancey Lounge), Mena has been happily subverting the dominant downtown paradigm since Studio A officially opened in early April.

Instead of fighting other Miami clubs for a dwindling supply of celebutantes and dance music purists, Studio A is reaching out to a new generation of 20-something music lovers who appreciate a wicked guitar solo as much as a funky beat. The fact that the venue has its own MySpace page, and over 1,200 hipster friends, is no accident.

Bringing rock shows and DJ culture together is nothing new for Mena. “I started a successful underground rock party in Greenwich Village called Shout! We broke a lot of bands that became known as ‘new rock,’ like the Strokes and Interpol.” Eventually, however, the New York scenester decided to return to his Miami roots.

“I noticed that there was a big void that needed to be filled,” Mena says of the local live music scene. The central location on North East 11th Street seemed like an appropriate site for a fresh venue. We definitely didn’t want to do it on the beach. We wanted to support the revitalization of downtown Miami and the nearby Wynwood art district.”

By bringing something different to the already crowded block, Mena and company aimed to attract a healthy assortment of south Florida hipsters and indie rockers, while avoiding head-to-head competition with established nearby dance-only venues like Space. The entertainment district’s special 24-hour liquor license helped seal the deal.

Studio A now resides in the same building previously occupied by Living Room and Fuel. The interior was given a major makeover, which included crystal chandeliers, a massive beaded metal curtain for the new VIP section and color-changing architectural LED lighting in strategic places. The resulting aesthetic is equal parts glitz, glamour and grunge, reminiscent of an era when groups like the Stooges played old theaters and dance halls.

The most vital aspect of the interior redesign was the 20-foot by 20-foot stage constructed along the back wall. “In conceptualizing the layout of the space, the stage was the focus,” Mena says. “The sight lines were very important. Anywhere in the room, we wanted an unobstructed view of the performers. You can be back at the bar, having a beer, and still see the stage clearly.”

Unobstructed stage views score with live acts at Studio A.

Working (It Out) With What Ya Got
Besides some abandoned furniture and bar equipment, the space contained a heap of leftover audio equipment when the Studio A team took over. The dusty, discarded gear turned out to be an unexpected blessing. “The building came with the existing sound system,” Mena says. “It was all Turbosound, really nice stuff.”

To put all of the pieces together along with a suitable live audio rig, Studio A brought in Bayside, N.Y.-based Surround Sound Innovations (, headed by Eric Presti and Mauro Amato. In addition to having considerable nightclub sound and lighting experience, Presti and Amato also shared a special appreciation for the rock and dance project. “I’ve been playing guitars in bands my whole life,” Presti notes, “and Mauro’s been a DJ his whole life. It was a perfect combination.”

Although the evolving layout limited some of their installation options, the SSI duo was undaunted. “We were lucky with Studio A, because the room sounded good to begin with,” said Presti.

An additional challenge was the budget, which was relatively modest by Miami standards. “These guys did not have tons of money, so we really had to work to make it happen,” Presti adds. “When I first went and did the site survey, I was going to go with a line array, but it just wasn’t in the budget.”

Instead, Presti and Amato assembled a sound system from a variety of sources. Rather than insisting on all brand-new boxes, the team made the most of what was available, refurbishing worn components and adding only what was necessary to get the job done. “You have to take your ego out of the equation Presti says.”

“They wanted something that was rider-friendly,” Presti explains. The resulting audio installation is actually two separate rigs, one for live performance and the other for the dancefloor, with some shared subwoofers. Response to the mix-and-match system has been overwhelmingly positive, from patrons and performers alike.

The sound system features a massive wall of subwoofers along the front of the stage. “We took eight of the dual 18s [Turbosound TSW-718 subs] and lined them up. That’s something I learned from back in the day; you really get a good coupling effect that way,” Presti says. “Then, on either side, we added folded-horn cabinets with 24-inch woofers. They’re just floor shakers. Rumblers. They go really deep, but that’s more for the disco.”

A secondary row of subs sits opposite the stage, firing across the dancefloor. “We couldn’t do the four corner thing because the traffic flow was bad,” says Presti. “The purpose of a club is to have people in it. You always try to pay attention to that.” The opposing banks of subwoofers create an intense but smooth low-frequency experience for patrons on the dancefloor, without adding unwanted decibels in other areas. “You want people by the bar to be able to actually order,” he says.

Primary dancefloor and front-of-house sound is provided by three-way EAW KF850 cabinets. “I bought an 850 rig, which is a rider-friendly rock and roll box,” Presti notes. “We flew two clusters, one on each side of the stage.” Working around the air conditioning ducts was a challenge, but the final configuration provides excellent coverage. “I also inverted the middle cabinet on the center of each cluster,” adds Presti. “You don’t get as much comb filtering that way.”

Never a Dim Moment
Amato was responsible for the most of the lighting rig, which features traditional par cans for stage lighting as well as DMX scanners, moving heads and color changers. “I love intelligent lights, but there’s something about cans behind the band,” says Presti.

“We had a really industrial space and we wanted to give it a warm, comfortable feel,” says Amato. “We did that with color-changing LEDs.” – on top of the ceiling panels, under the soffits and behind the fan vents. “And we hooked all of that up to LightJockey.”

Elation OptiLED instruments were carefully hidden to provide a pleasant glow, but positioned to avoid overpowering any of the direct lighting. “It’s such a big, open space,” Amato remarks. “Balancing the architectural lighting, the dancefloor lighting, and the stage lighting was tough, but it actually worked very, very well.”

Lighting technician Logan Landau does the majority of the programming, and ensures that each live act gets whatever look they want. Like many of those involved with Studio A, Landau has previous experience in both rock and dance clubs, so providing the right lighting at the right time feels completely natural.

“I’m really comfortable with LightJockey,” Landau asserts. The only difficulty: Operating everything from off stage left, in the DJ booth. “It can be a little deceiving. Sometimes a sequence that looks great from the booth doesn’t look so hot from anywhere else. I have LightJockey on my laptop, so I’ll go in, pull the DMX cable out, and program from the middle of the dancefloor.”

“I like to incorporate both the dancefloor and the stage lighting in a lot of my cues,” he continues. That way, even between live acts, patrons are visually reminded of the performance aspect of the venue.

Almost all of Studio A’s illumination can be operated from the booth. “The architectural lighting, even the LED lighting behind the fans, that’s all tied in to LightJockey,” Landau says. By coordinating the ambient color schemes with the action down on the dancefloor or up on the stage, the tech can create a rich, immersive visual environment.

As for the individual instruments, Landau has been particularly impressed with club’s Elation Professional scanners. “There’s no fixture profile yet in LightJockey for the Vision Scan 250, but it’s a really cool fixture. It’s got useful colors, including the UV filter, which is one of my favorites, and the rotating gobos are good.” The moving mirrors serve double duty, providing spot lighting for the stage during live performances and rocking the dancefloor when DJs are spinning.

A Happy Beginning
So far, Studio A has defied the south Florida scene cynics who thought downtown was already over-saturated with nightclubs. From the venue’s soft opening with the Brazilian Girls and Secret Machines, through the Winter Music Conference debut featuring She Wants Revenge and Peter Hook of New Order, to the grand opening with Juliette Lewis and her band Juliette and the Licks, Studio A has managed to create its own profitable niche in the Miami market.

So where does Studio A go from here? “We’ve always wanted to have a full functioning live music venue, seven nights a week. Live shows integrated with DJ parties. That’s ambitious,” Mena concedes. “But that’s our goal.”


12 - Turbosound TSW-718 subwoofers
8 - Turbosound TFL-760Hs horn assemblies
6 - EAW KF850 full-range speakers
4 - Crown Macro-Tech 3600VZ amplifiers
4 - Turbosound TSW-124 subwoofers
3 - Crown Macro-Tech 5002VZ amplifiers
3 - FMR Audio Really Nice compressors
2 - dbx 2231 dual 31-band graphic equalizers
1 - Aphex 622 dual channel dynamics processor
1 - ART Pro VLA stereo optical compressor
1 - BSS Audio DPR-404 quad compressor
1 - Crest X-Eight 40-channel mixing console
1 - Crown Macro-Tech 2400 amplifier
1 - dbx 1046 quad compressor limiter
1 - Klark Teknik DN 30/30 equalizer
1 - TC Electronics M1 multi-effects processor
1 - Yamaha SPX990 multi-effects processor

2 - Crown Macro-Tech 1200 amplifiers
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000MK2 digital vinyl turntables
2 - Technics SL-1200MK5 turntables
2 - Turbosound TCS-35 DJ monitors
1 - Denon DN-2600F dual CD player
1 - Elecro-Voice DX38 speaker processor
1 - Rane MP 2016a rotary mixer
1 - Rane XP 2016a expansion module

8 - Carvin TRx152 stage monitors
2 - Carvin DCM2570 amplifiers
2 - Carvin TRx18 drum monitors
1 - Behringer Super-X CX3400 active frequency crossover
1 - Crest Audio 4801 amplifier
1 - Crest Audio 7001 amplifier
1 - Crest Audio 8001 amplifier

20 - PAR 64 cans
12 - Elation Professional Opti-PAR 32 LEDs
12 - Elation Professional Opti-PAR 64 LEDs
6 - Elation Professional Stage Color color mixing PAR cans
6 - Optima Lighting Matrix 575 moving heads
4 - Elation Professional Protron Star strobe lights
4 - Elation Professional Vision Scan 250 fixtures
1 - Martin Professional LightJockey 2.0 control software
1 - Dell Dimension 3100 computer


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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications