Sound at music venues ought to be the first priority, but often time it seems like an afterthought. Some clubs and concert halls sound great and others don’t do the music being played there justice. One has to take into account the space, the materials used to build the venue and crowds that can change how music sounds. Aures is a new venue in London opened in spring 2018 that put sound first.
Founded by Sam Davis, a 25-year veteran of the hospitality industry, the 300 person capacity venue hosts a wide variety of events. It comes with the world's first permanent 3D and true stereophonic sound system, which means there is good sound everywhere in the room.
We chat with Sam Davis to see how he built the venue, common mistakes others make when setting up sound and what you can do to see if a venue set up its system well. We also chat about the struggle many venues face to even stay open in London.
Where did the concept for Aures come from and why the location?
The concept of Aures London came from over 25 years in the hospitality industry and the lack of progression of all these years. Technology has moved leaps and bounds but it hasn't been transferred to the industry effectively. The need to be able to give the client the best that is available with the use of tech and science is the overwhelming driving factor. We always wanted a central location and Leake Street's diverse and eclectic art background fits very well with what we are about. We are not trying to be a pretentious West End club, we are in the business have giving sensory immersive service. Also when looking for a space for good sound you must first start with the space and the dimension of the room for the ideal relative to sound wave travel.
What are common mistakes clubs make when installing sound systems?
Too many low frequency based speakers, irregular speaker positions or irregular rooms. On top of that, they rarely use any sound wave management (acoustic treatment), which will often lead to bad sounding spaces. Lastly, people put too much energy in the room, so that it ends up being more about quantity (volume) rather then quality (clarity)
What can clubbers look for when assessing a venue’s sound system beyond just hearing it?
The first thing I would look for is the shape and size of the room in relation to how many speakers they have. Physics is an exact science, so if things are all scattered everywhere and the room has loads of hard surface and if the room is an irregular shape the sound waves will be going everywhere they shouldn't, which is to your ears.
How did you build the sound system for this venue?
We first based in on the room ratio (L x W x Hi). There is an ideal ratio if you want to have better sound. Ideally you don't want the dimensions to be the exactly the same otherwise you are going to get modal problems in the room. Once you get a handle on that, you work out the speaker placement and dispersion relative to the listener. Add acoustic treatment to areas that are causing problems and then get a hardware provider that also adheres to the science and you start fitting it out.
Why did you feel the need for such an advanced sound system?
I have always felt that too much focus what about everything else but the audio, the main reason for going to a dance or music venue. It should be all about the music and the artist playing. They spent hours, weeks, months, sometime years creating something and it is only fair to translate their work as close as possible to how they intended the music to be heard and that is why we felt it was time to bring audio into the 21st century.
Do you think 3D / adobe and other advanced sound systems will become more mainstream?
Absolutely, artists always are looking for ways to express themselves more effectively. What we are trying to do is give them the tools to go and conquer and brand new frontier. 3D is the best way of doing that. There isn't a more immersive way out there to release all the passion and feeling of the music in such and immersive way. 3D audio will eventually become standard similar to what HD & 4K has done with visual media. 3D audio is the Pandora's box for the ears and it give the audience something they can 't get at home.
What can be done to help fight the rash of venue closings across London?
Well that has a two-part answer. First city planning has had some negative effects. Too often you have new housing development right on top of a busy nightlife area. This eventually leads to more regulation of the venue, which stifles creative and the raw energy of the space, which is what most people want.
Secondly, you need music variety. It has lots to with our present pop culture and the music industry on the whole. Over the years, music taste especially has become to samey samey and formulaic. When you have load of venues all putting out the same style music, over time it starts to get stale and less interesting. Couple this with people having less disposable income due to wage stagnation leaving venues struggling to fill their space.
How can we fight the push towards more VIP bottle service at clubs that is killing dance floors?
Going back to the basics. Making music a delight to the ears acoustically speaking, music that you have no choice but to dance and it hits your soul in a new and immersive way. Have real dancers be part of your team not just scantily clad twerking girls! We have to focus on the audience who want to go out to dance and not just to be seen or Instagramed. Get away from the elitist style of going out and create natural organic energy in the space were the main focuses in music and how we react to it.
How did you get into the music business?
I have always been an audiophile, so I have just applied my knowledge to area that seemed to be neglected over the past years. It was a natural progression.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Wow, good question. I guess I would be still working for myself within science and how people react to whatever the service or product I am selling to try to educate and move the business concept forward.