Honolulu's rRed Elephant provides a perfect sonic environment for both performance and recording.
Two engineers build a live venue with studio sound.
Owners Joey Wolpert and Paul Kreiling are blurring the boundaries between the recording studio and live performance space with new venue rRed Elephant in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 2,400-square-foot facility is equipped with a green room recording studio, plus 10,000 watts of sound and seating for 125. The unconventional space’s sound system was built with studio standards in mind, and employs a decidedly “dead sound” double-wall construction and a floated stage, among other acoustically friendly structural enhancements.
Wolpert and Kreiling – longtime engineers who once owned a Los Angeles recording studio – also head up Elepani Productions, a record label which operates from the club’s basement. “The idea of a multifaceted media operation is something I’ve thought about for years,” Wolpert says. The label focuses on the music indigenous to Hawaii and its people. Its development and growth is, according to the duo, the reason that the venue exists.
Wolpert, who moved to Hawaii in January 2005 for the rRed Elephant venture, has lifelong experience in the music industry, including stints in retail, production, engineering, and most recently as a product specialist and vice president at AKG Acoustics. Although he left AKG, he maintained a good relationship with parent company Harman Pro, and opted to use gear from their many brands for Elephant.
Catch The Bass
The Elephant music policy is broad: In just one week, the venue featured “ukulele master” Bill Tapia; a beat box competition; and Juxtapercussion, a drum troupe compared to Stomp. The sound system, therefore, had to be able to handle it all.
The speaker system features JBL’s relatively new VRX line, including four flown subs. “The JBL engineers feel that there’s enhanced bass when you have subs coupled from the floor onto a surface,” Wolpert explains. “When the subs are flown, they’ll be very close to the ceiling surface, as opposed to sitting on the stage surface.” Wolpert saw the value of decoupling the subs from the stage to reduce bass at certain frequencies, in order to achieve more of a control room sound, in terms of absorption and diffusion in the venue.
The partners worked out every detail to ensure that they’d achieve a sonic compromise between live and dead acoustics, in order to optimize recording conditions. “We have control-room-like acoustic treatment in the space in terms of absorption and diffusion, but the room is far from dead,” says Wolpert.
“The room’s biggest bass trap is our stage, which is 16’ x 12’,” he explains. “We used U-Boat Floor Floaters by Aurelex to decouple the frame members above the floor.” To further deaden the stage, they used fiberglass in between the frame’s gaps, combined with two layers of ¾” plywood on the top. “The gaps allow the omni-directional low-frequency sounds to enter,” Wolpert elaborates, “but fiberglass absorbs it so less comes back out.”
Elephant's iso-booth houses a Yamaha DM 2000 console and five JBL LSR 6328 studio monitors.
While the lighting system is up to standard for a live venue, with over 60 generic fixtures and a Leprechaun LP1500 series lighting controller, rRed Elephant’s intricate acoustic dimensions has made the room one of the most revered for live listening. The ceiling surface, which is 14 feet from the floor, was diffused using corrugated sheeting with a continuous S-curve pattern. This pattern repeats 10 times over the length of four feet.
Every wall except two surfaces in rRed Elephant is non-parallel, which Wolpert claims is unusual for a live space, and is – again – more characteristic of a control room environment. The very back wall and the wall opposing it, which is the back of the stage, are parallel, while every other vertical wall has no parallel surface opposite it. The walls are angled slightly, on both sides of the room.
“It took some configuring to learn the VRX boxes are very directional, especially vertically,” states Wolpert. The VRX 932 LA speakers, which are designed to work as a curved array, are not mirror imaged: The high frequency drivers are the same distance and angle from the walls closest to them on both sides.
The venue is currently bi-amped with one Crown I-Tech 6000 for the subs and one Crown I-Tech 4000 for the full-range enclosures, but a second I-Tech 4000 will be added for tri-amp configuration in the coming months.
Next? The World
“As a recording engineer, I’m a longtime fan of Lexicon processors,” says Wolpert. So he decided to use the Lexicon Zoom 9200 FX processor, an item touted by many as a secret weapon of high-end recording studios. He designed the presets for the 9200, and his fee was the unit. “Getting a reverb from a Zoom FX isn’t all that difficult, but it’s an unusual item because they never brought it to the market,” he says. “It’s got a lot of good functions. It handles hi-hats really well.”
Housed within Elephant’s green room (which is adjacent to the stage) is a full-fledged isolation booth with Pro Tools HD Accel recording system, five JBL LSR 6328 studio monitors, one LSR 6312 sub monitor and a Yamaha DM 2000 console. But the entire venue can be used for recording purposes.
“We remove all the chairs to tune the room,” states Wolpert. A Jenson-transformer-equipped radial splitting system goes to the front of the house, where a Radial V12 snake system provides inputs around the stage perimeter. The transformer left split goes into the green room for mastering. In the coming months, the transformer left split will be surround-sound-capable as well.
With an active interest in bringing music from Hawaii to the mainland and beyond, the duo is also developing a local live talk show for broadcast from Elephant. “We have live streaming, television and live DVD production in mind for the future,” says Wolpert, who expects to have video capability up and running by the first quarter this year, including multiple cameras and a functional editing suite. “The idea of doing a live music program like ‘Austin City Limits’ to spotlight Hawaii’s vibrant, local, live music scene, is not unlikely,” he says.