From its origins as a single wine store, San Francisco’s PlumpJack Group has grown into a multi-faceted hospitality and lifestyle business. In late 2015 it opened Verso, an event space and night club where sound quality had to be guaranteed for all events.
PlumpJack wanted something better than what major US nightclubs were delivering, selecting loudspeakers from Alcons Audio.
PlumpJack Group’s business now includes wineries, luxury resorts, restaurants and clubs, as well as retail outlets. Established in a former printing works in San Francisco’s Mission Street, Verso is designed to switch quickly from hosting events to a nightclub.
Bradley S. Katz of the city’s JK Sound had previously worked with PlumpJack on another venue, MatrixFillmore, and was asked to look at Verso as a result of that venue’s success. “Verso was to be a more ‘serious’ venue and the AV design had to reflect their vision of a truly unique experience,” he says. “We won the design and installation contract for the sound and lighting after a series of demos, and I personally saw the job through to completion.”
Katz first heard Alcons pro-ribbon systems at a demo by David Rahn of Alcons US. “I was thoroughly impressed. The sound quality stuck in my head and made me really want to work with them,” he says.
Katz and the JK Sound team set up two demos, one of which was at a PlumpJack company party in the unfinished Verso venue. “We set up a few systems and it gave everyone involved a chance to listen and compare them,” he continues. “Alcons came away the clear winner.”
He continues, “One of the key design elements was that the space had to move seamlessly from a corporate event to a full-on nightclub experience, without re-configuring it. Every seat was potentially a ‘big money’ seat and every bit of floor had to be able to be part of the immersive nightclub or corporate party experience.”
To achieve this, Katz specified a four corner dance system comprising four Alcons pro-ribbon VR12 loudspeakers as flown main loudspeakers, with two Alcons BF302 MKII dual 15-inch units for bass and four BQ211 21-inch subs.
Compact VR8 pro-ribbon units were installed as fills for the dance floor and DJ monitors, with TS7 ultra-compact, two-way loudspeakers to cover the seating areas. A Sentinel3 and two Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controllers were provided to power and control the system.
“One of the bigger physical challenges was working around the floor-to-ceiling beams and retrofit A-frame steelwork for earthquake protection,” says Brad. “The solution was to install the main Alcons system at the corners of the main dance floor, making a compact yet powerful space. I then covered the fill zones with stereo pairs, the idea was to both concentrate the energy in the center and radiate outward.
“Club-goers need to feel clean bass as much as hear it, so I used the combination of 15-inch drivers for punch and 21-inch units for depth. The whole system was engineered to have enough headroom that meant it could run at even its maximum level without adding distortion or negative harmonics.”
A combination of Alcons brackets and custom rigging ensured that the system is both safe and aesthetically pleasing, while bespoke movable mounts help the VR8 DJ monitors to always be in the right place.
“The DJ booth is small and its configuration changes with almost each artist. The compact Alcons VR8 were a great fit, they just needed a small custom stand that could easily be moved and adjustable, thanks to the slick Alcons bracket,” says Katz. “By keeping everything very compact, we got the monitors down low and angled up, creating great sight lines which match those throughout the venue.”
A custom audio processing setup ensures tracks on MP3 files, older and lo-fi mastering all sound superb and the Alcons system is the final link to ensure that Verso customers enjoy the experience.
“The audio chain is a mix of ultra-clean digital master clocks and conversion with a studio-grade tube stage to add depth. But of course none of that matters if your speakers don’t have the resolution to hear it - and this is where Alcons really shines,” says Katz. “With Alcons you hear everything, good and bad, so you better make it great. It pushes you to make the rest of the system sound equally good.”
The system has proved so successful that, when DJ Tiësto was booked to play Verso as part of the San Francisco Super Bowl 50 celebrations, Katz and Rahn used Alcons products to provide a very powerful yet compact monitor rig.
“We mounted two Alcons LR14s per side with a yoke bracket on the custom monitor stands and set two Alcons BF151 MkII on the floor of the booth. Once we turned it on, I knew we had something special,” says Brad. “It was huge and crystal clear, by far the best monitor rig I’ve ever heard. The ultra-low latency of Alcons processing is a huge asset for DJ’s, as it has to match their zero latency headphones.”
DJ Tiësto, his audio engineer and all the other performers that used the system were so impressed with it that the team at Verso quickly realized it was a big enough asset to the venue to purchase the rig as it stood.
With a happy client, Katz is unequivocal in his praise for Alcons systems. “The client has been thrilled with both systems. I consider Verso a cutting edge showroom of what’s possible in venue design… and we are just getting started. Alcons has exceeded all expectations.” he says.
“The client has suggested there was a little too much low-end from the monitor system subs - but coming from only two single 15-inch loudspeakers that says a lot. You really have to experience it all to understand just how good it is. It’s what I consider a whole new paradigm.”