For artists and technicians alike, good memories start with great sound. That’s why Tommy Gawenda, owner of JT AV Corp., chose Lab.gruppen amps for his update to the audio system at Chicago’s heritage venue, The Vic Theatre.
With over two decades in the business and a solid background in touring, Gawenda knows the impact a solid system can have on a venue’s reputation and an incoming band’s satisfaction level.
“You want every piece of equipment in the system to be as strong as it can be. That’s not always possible economically, but if it is, you start updating.”
For roughly five years now Gawenda’s company has been the provider for The Vic. In that time, he’s been unfailingly proactive about keeping the system current – never shying away from an opportunity to swap out gear to ensure The Vic sounds consistently better.
“You can tell when a system hasn’t been touched in years,” he says. “Companies come out with new processors and amps every few years, and if you want your system to sound better, you should integrate them when you can.”
Located in Chicago’s Central Lakeview area, the 1400-person capacity theatre hosts an eclectic mix of live music shows, and, as The Brew and View, regularly transforms itself from venue to movie theatre to show an equally diverse mix of second and third run films and cult favorites.
With three bars open throughout the films, the crowd hollering out dialogue and, quite literally, ‘dancing in the aisles’ to classics like Grease, movies at The Vic are a far cry from your average multiplex experience.
While the former vaudeville house may have a new crowd, what has long distinguished The Vic since it first opened its doors in 1912 is the feel of the place. With its well-preserved vintage décor and excellent sightlines it is truly a classic venue.
Year-by-year, piece by piece, Gawenda intends to make sure the audio system measures up to the venue’s rich history and the expectations of its diehard patrons.
“It’s a pretty big system and a pretty big venue,” he says, “and I like to keep the system fresh, so to speak.”
For the overhaul of The Vic’s amp racks, which took place over the course of January and February 2010, Gawenda chose various Lab.gruppen amps.
For the EAW KF850 mains; three C Series C 68:4’s, two C 48:4’s and one C 28:4. For monitor world; three C 48:4’s, two C 16:4’s and one fP 2600 amp to drive the wedges, and one C 68:4 and one fP 2400Q for the side fills.
“I’ve been using Lab.gruppen amps for a few years now. I like the way they sound and I like the performance and the fact they consume less power,” he says.
But though their efficient power handling and compact footprint are a definite plus, the primary benefit here is a net improvement in the system’s sound, Gawenda emphasizes. “Number one is sound quality. Number two, efficiency, and number three, reliability – They never seem to go down,” Gawenda adds.
Rack space isn’t an issue at The Vic, but for other installs where it is Gawenda increasingly chooses Lab.gruppen as well. “I’ve started to use them more and more in commercial installation applications,” he says, at restaurants, nightclubs, and health club installs, like JT AV’s exclusive use of Lab’s at the David Barton Gym in Miami.
“Again, my first attraction to them is that they’re noticeably better sounding, but they’re also easier to deal with physically than other amplifiers.”
At The Vic the Labs make an audible difference, he says. “The Vic’s in house technician’s have both commented, since we’ve done this, on how much better the system sounds. It’s warmer and fuller.”
“The Vic had good acoustics to begin with,” puts in Jason Plahutnik, house engineer at the venue for roughly 10 years. This, however, was Plahutnik’s first experience with Lab.gruppen.
“When Tommy started bringing them in that was really the first I heard of them, but it definitely sounds better and the traveling engineers coming through definitely appreciate that.”
“I love the venue,” Gawenda continues. “And I want the artists to feel like the system has been good to them. That makes for great performances.” But beyond that, he says, “It’s a matter of pride.”