Why Line Arrays don’t belong in Night Clubs

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To understand this more clearly, you have to wonder why line arrays were created in the first place and why they are now the standard speaker system format used in Touring, Rental and Production markets and how these applications are different from nightclubs. The driving factor behind line arrays, is a more cohesive acoustic alignment of several speakers unified to perform together as a whole, while at the same time providing a very significant labor savings to the rental or production company in their quest for fast set up and take down. What used to be cumbersome and heavy speaker systems that were difficult to move and align, has been put through a “potato slicer” and cut into smaller pieces like French fries, so it is a fraction of the weight and bulk and easier to suspend and “stack” into proper alignment for a unified wave front. This makes life a lot easier for the rental and production companies to set up and use, saving them time and labor with better results. Line Arrays have become Audio Fashion in the rental and production world and for good reason.

If you own and operate a nightclub, here is where it starts to get tricky. The unification of small to medium format line array systems based on 6” to 8” low-frequency transducers in either single or dual configurations per box and all depend on arraying a minimum number of modules to achieve the coupling requirements to be effective in low-mid frequency output. Smaller speakers like 6”, 8” or even 10” low frequency speakers can actually have output similar to that of larger 15” units when added together in quantities and unified. For most compact line array manufacturers, the minimum module is (4) boxes working together as one. This makes sense when you consider the typical VERTICAL COVERGE ANGLE is from 12° to 15° for each of these compact systems. So, using (4) together would provide from 48° to 60° of vertical coverage, which happens to be similar to the typical 45° vertical coverage pattern of any industry standard 2-way single or dual 12” or 15” speaker system traditionally used in nightclub installations for decades. In order to match this basic 45° vertical pattern requirement and low- mid impact of dual 12” or 15” woofers, a minimum of four (4) compact line array boxes would be needed. This is where the issues begin to very negatively impact nightclub sound. Arraying (4) of these boxes also means adding 4, 8 or even 12 High Frequency drivers that are contained as 1,2 or even 3 in EACH line array elements by design. This works very well for a rental or production company when covering an outdoor event or other large space where they need to have an authoritative presentation with overwhelming clarity to get the job done quickly with compact speakers used in short term event.

These are the most compelling reasons NOT to use line array in a nightclub. The low-mid frequency band pass is where a great amount of the system’s perceived “warmth” is heard. With line arrays, the redundant high-frequency drivers in these systems produce much more high-frequency energy than typically needed in all but the most arena like venues. It becomes very difficult to maintain a warm spectral balance with these systems by their very nature. To make matters worse, the “end result” after price reductions demanded by owners, often end up with their vendors offering only 2-3 small format line array boxes, below the minimum modulus recommended by line array manufacturers. When this happens, and it happens in most cases we have seen, it becomes nearly impossible to balance these systems into any degree of warmth from low-mid frequency energy, making for a bright and metallic sound that fatigues listeners into shorter stays and less revenue for operators. Having (4) 8” woofers in compact enclosures, is not like having one or two 15” woofers in full size full range enclosures. We like to say that an 8” woofer is just that, an 8” woofer, no matter who makes it, the warmth and impact of a 15” transducer will NOT be replaced by a few 8” woofers in compact line array boxes deployed in less than the minimum module recommended by their manufacturers. Unfortunately, very few sound vendors really understand or care about this condition as much as they care more about making a fashionable cool line array sale.

Nightclubs do NOT share rental or production audio requirements. They are liquor revenue dependent spaces with very different needs that are very often misunderstood by inexperienced sound designers, vendors and even DJ’s and their tour managers in some cases. Nightclubs are not festivals or events, their needs revolve around the sale of alcohol and the duration of guest stays to maximize revenue. The brash and metallic sound that fatigues listeners when line arrays are miss-applied has a price that is paid in sales
and revenue loss for the duration of the business. That’s a big price to pay so your sound guy can be fashionable. INFINITE is not in the rental or production speaker business. We make speaker systems for permanent installation in Nightlife and Hospitality. Our product is optimized and purpose built for these applications. Our product is heavy and bulky and not easily transportable, and we are just fine with that. Our speakers are designed to sound hearty, heavy and warm like successful nightclub are supposed to sound. There are no handles, wheels or cover latches on our speakers; they are made to be INSTALLED not truck packed. We don’t sacrifice Low-Mid Frequency extension for compactness. We couldn’t care less about size and weight. How often do you move a nightclub sound system once installed? Here are (2) of our INFINITE Large Format Big Club boxes that represent our approach to Nightclub Sound done right.

Infinite’s CDX-15V Speaker
Infinite’s Hybrid Array X90