Audio

Sound System Design Example

 

Trollers Pub in Horseshoe Bay.

6422 Bay Street
West Vancouver, BC
V7W 2H1

Ph: (604) 921-7616

Intention:

I will design a sound reinforcement system  set-up for acts consisting of simple one person “Singer Songwriter” style up to trios, spoken-word acts such as comedians and Em-Cees.

About the establishment:

Trollers is a small community pub in Horseshoe Bay. It’s a nice lively place to enjoy a beverage after work, or a light meal with friends. It over looks the ferry terminals on Horseshoe Bay and the grand vistas beyond.

It has a different revenue focus depending on the time of day, and time of week. Primarily a locals lunch crowd from Monday to Friday, a  brunch with families Saturday and Sunday,  after work people looking to wind down Monday to Friday and night revellers Friday and Saturday evening. Peppered throughout this there is a group of folks from the ferries; keeping to the ferry schedule and showing generally when they have to queue for an upcoming boat.

The usable square footage is approximately 625 square feet with some interesting challenges in the act-vs-audience placement area. Namely a round bar area, a series of unmovable booth seats, and an unfortunately placed post.

The pub has a total capacity of 132 people, with 20 of that number out on the front patio. Inside they have bench and bench hybrid seating for  approximately 18 people, 4 single four-tops and 2 deuces. In addition to this they have bar seating for approximately 16 people at the “round bar”, seating for 10 at the actual bar, seating for another 16 at a non-service bar towards the back of the pub near the pool table area, which in turn has seating for approximately 18 around the two adjoining walls.

For details see “Existing Floor Plan”

Types of entertainment:

Recently I went to a Rockridge High-school P.A.C. Fundraiser there. Set up for an auction, and a silent auction, there was no real focus on entertainment. There was however an emcee. They basically took over the pool table area, and used that for both the auction and a base of operation for the emcee and auctioneer. From talking to the proprietors, I discovered that this use of the room is not all together uncommon, however in keeping with the pub motif, they have block out times for any live entertainment, or room bookings during a major sporting event.

Beyond this there have been some live music acts, most notably “Spirit of the West”, however mostly the music is single singer song writers or Jazz trios such as “Less is More”. Also there has been Comedy nights, and the proprietors are considering Karaoke. In regards to the latter, they are sitting on the fence though, weighing the revenue potential to the cost of the Karaoke equipment. For the purposes of this assignment I have chosen not to include Karaoke as they seem to be leaning towards either a stand alone, “all in the box” unit or a person/company that will bring their own equipment.

It would seem that the base clientele is a bit older. In fact there is a retirement complex within walking distance. So short of having a “wedding style” D.J. set up for a function,There was no D.J.’s or producers that I was able to find booked or previously booked.

Stage and Sound Spacing:

It is an odd room with many challenging hard elements.

They had previously set up at the back, just north of the pool table, but that interfered with the television, (nice) and the pool table itself. This is a major revenue generator for any pub, and so for this reason alone not to be trifled with. Also there is quite a lot of seating in and around the “stage” that would become unusable. Lastly when speaking to the proprietors they mentioned that there was a focus problem. Folks generally wanted to sit, relax and watch the show, but from a lot of angles in the room this was not possible.

The area I will focus on for the stage is the same they have been using successfully for a while now. This is the area right to the left as you come in from the main entrance. The bench seats, (for twelve people) that sit directly in front of said entrance on the way to the kitchen unfortunately cannot be moved, but can offer a quieter, more private seating area. The deuces and four tops can be arranged in any configuration in front of the performance area, and there are two sets of double sliding glass doors leading to the patio, so egress is not a problem.

Sound Reinforcement equipment Needs:

One word: Portability.

The revenue focus here changes so frequently, and the space is at such a premium that whatever the set up is, it has to be portable.

There is a ceiling mounted 6 point speaker system that is already installed and operated by a sound reinforcement system in the office, but it is very old and very underpowered. Generally it is used for background music and television over dinners etc. and I’ve made a decision to leave it alone. For what it does it serves it’s purpose, the staff can operate it easily and there is no daily set up or break down required. It isn’t, however suitable for the needs of this project.

The sound By-Laws for the area prohibit loud noise in the streets, as it is technically a commercial/residential area, so speakers for the patio are not a consideration.

The Roll of Live Sound in Troller’s Business Model:

This is a fairly tricky subject matter. No discussion can be had without first addressing the biggest problem facing all potential live venues first. That of liqueur laws.

It used to be that one could go out and not worry about walking over the (not so?) fine line between public drunkenness, drinking and driving and sobriety. Rightly or wrongly the laws have become so inflexible that even a second drink within an hour for most can have serious legal repercussions. There have been many attempts to work around this. Proprietors establishing shuttle services, television ads extolling the virtues of designated drivers etc. Unfortunately none seem to be sticking. I spoke to John, the proprietor of Trollers, and he has had a shuttle service in place for years now, and so far has had three uses.

It’s not entirely the reason for the decline of patronage in these establishments, high alcohol prices the cost of fuel and many other bullet-points all factor in as well, however it is a cornerstone of decline.

The whole allure of meeting as a community that the bars and pubs used to offer has shifted. Now one would be more inclined to head to a Starbucks than the local watering hole to meet up with friends.

This puts an unreasonable burden on the owners. Profits in any bar, restaurant, pub etc. are obviously very important for survival in an industry where the margins are razor thin, and costs don’t lessen. Alcohol sales can be and generally are  the deciding factor between success and failure.

One way of monitoring incoming money need is by tracking guest cheque averages. This is a way of  finding how many people need to walk in and put down a pre-determined amount of money to offset the operating costs  going out to suppliers, staff, utilities etc. It’s based on menu costs-vs-buying history, and is generally tracked annually. Owners use it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to determine the feasibility of say, hiring an act for an evenings entertainment in hopes of boosting patronage, leading to higher profits or indeed any profits, as in the case of a notoriously slow day.

In my youth I worked managing the Red Robin downtown. At the time the G.C.A. there was roughly $8.50 to $10.00. About the cost of a burger and a pop, (try as they might, teenagers don’t buy a lot of beer).

The rent of the suite, (in the Carlyle building at Thurlow and Robson) housing the restaurant was a whopping $48,000 a month. This made the rent alone $576,000.00 annually. Adding to that the costs of a very large staff, food costs, advertisement, insurances, maintenance, Corporate dividends etc. Terry Bubb, the owner of Red Robin Canada figured he would have to make upwards of $3,000,000.00 to see a profit. This means that 300,000 people would have to yearly walk through the doors to justify keeping them open.

Trollers is not so grandiose. John and I didn’t talk much about the restaurant’s financials, except to say that for a day that featured  live music in the evening, he would have to turn a profit of roughly $12,000.00. He has basically the same needs as that Red Robin did, albeit on a much smaller scale, but he would also have to factor in the costs of the entertainment as well, an extra price he put at somewhere between $600.00 to $1,000.00.

Simply put, if your operating costs are “X” for the day, and only “ y ” amount of paying people walk through the door, on paper it’s left to a few very rich and thirsty patrons to justify the operating costs.

I asked John the proprietor to, (without going into specifics) give me a ballpark figure as to what his G.C.A. need would be to operate on days with a night of live entertainment if he could look at that particular day singularly. Without missing a beat, he shook his his head and said $50.00, with at least a 2X table turn around on all tables, (table seating is different than bar seating due to food sales.) for the event/occasion during the evening alone. In short, based on previous costs of hiring an act, and all the ensuing costs of promotion etc. 240 people would have to come to the pub and put down $50.00 each to justify the day, let alone the nightly entertainment.

This is a bit hard for a sleepy neighbourhood pub. It would require that day to be at total capacity twice, which as I mentioned, due to factors such as B.C.’s new liqueur laws is unrealistic.

I think it’s fair to say that Trollers, like most drinking establishments of it’s kind, doesn’t look at live entertainment as a driving force for revenue. It’s more passive. Having live music from time to time goes to it’s being a choice in the back of peoples minds when they get a yen to go out and do something fun. It’s a quick solution for that group outing or office party that came up at the last second and there is a need for speeches and such. It’s being that perfect set-up for a travelling comedy show. Having the ability to accommodate live entertainment gives them an edge.

Budget for A New Sound Reinforcing System:

At the heart of this new system the price has to be reasonable. Trollers does not make money hand over fist, nor would they be using it all the time, so an expensive system would be over-kill. However there is another key factor. Portability. The room is such that it cannot be permanently set up. Also because it needs to be set up and broken down by, (presumably) waitstaff and musicians it must be simple. Very simple.

With this in mind, I have chosen as my first piece of equipment the Fender Passport 500 Pro.     

                                                                                                      

   At first I was dubious. I’ve had the misfortune of using similar devices before and the quality was so horrible as to not be useful for even a lecture. That is all apparently in the past however. I took my time and went on blogs and such from as far away as the U.K. And believe it or not it was generally well received.

It offers six mic/line inputs all with phantom power and a 20dB pad, also two stereo inputs with 1/4” connectors. On the output side it has a class D 500watt  power amp. and speakers that can cash the proverbial cheque.  For a full listing of it’s attributes, including video, (promotional) please go here:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PassPro500

At the end of the day I can get this unit new for $999.00, so job well done.

The following is a list of equipment with price and model numbers.

First we need microphones. As I have used one personally for years, I have chosen the Shure Beta 57a, dynamic cardiod. I would need two of them at a cost of $160.00 each.

    Next we need a monitor. According to the blogs, this is connected through the Passport Pro’s stereo out, and I have chosen the Yorkville 50 watt powered monitor. I would need one of them at a cost of $385.00.

   Now we move on to a Subwoofer. The Passport Pro has a separate sub out, and I have decided on the Yamaha HS10 powered subwoofer. Again I would need one of them at a cost of $499.00.

   Lastly we need an Effects device of some kind. I was sitting on the fence with this one. There is only one way to send and return a device of this nature on the Passport Pro, (using the Pre-out Power amp in feature) and there is no way to separate the channels you want to go to and from. Apparently on the previous model of the Passport Pro there was an Aux send, but it was taken out as it was one of the least used features. The concession here was to have something useful for when the entire rig is used for a P.A. only and there are separate amps for guitars etc. So what to choose?

Of all the detrimental comments I read in the blogs, reviews etc., the one thing that came up time and time again was the lack of a decent reverb. In my mock-up this effects device would be used as a reverb unit, however it also has a full list of other attributes as well.

I have chosen the Electro Harmonix Voice Box – Harmony/Vocoder petal, (VOICE BOX). I have one of these myself and it works quite well as long as you don’t over use it. I would need one at a price of $245.00.

As far as everything else is concerned, I would need:

ñ Mic Stands – 2@ $47.99

ñ Music Stand – 1@ $39.99

ñ Light – 1@ $38.25

ñ D.I. Boxes – 2@ $58.99

ñ Guitar Stands – 2@ $9.99

ñ Speaker Stands – 2@ $54.95

ñ Studio Desk – 1@ $120.00

ñ XLR Cable – 6X15ft.@ $21.99

ñ 1/8 to 1/4 Aadapter – 1@ $6.99

ñ 1/4 Speaker Cable – 1X10ft. @ $13.99

ñ TRS to XLR Cable – 2X6ft. @ $21.99

ñ Guitar Cable – 4X20ft. @ $34.75

Budget Run-Down:

Here is the full list of costs to a final budget total:

ñ $999.00

ñ $160.00 X2 = $320.00

ñ $385.00

ñ $499.00

ñ $245.00

ñ 47.99 X2 = $95.98

ñ $39.99

ñ $38.25

ñ $58.99 X2 = $117.98

ñ $9.99 X2 = $19.98

ñ $54.95 X2 = $109.90

ñ $120.00

ñ $21.99 X6 = $131.94

ñ $6.99

ñ $13.99

ñ $21.99 X2 = $43.98

ñ $34.75 X4 = $139.00

Total: $3325.98

Tax @ 12% = $399.12

Grand Total = $3725.10

Conclusion:

To say that this sound system will directly improve incoming revenue is naive. To be perfectly honest, it would be foolish to say this about any small pub or restaurant of this ilk. As I mentioned previously, the idea here is to give the establishment a tool for when they’re figuring out how to re-market, re-invent, or up-sell themselves. I started with the P.A.C, gathering because this is a good example of  what one might do to reach outside of the box for new revenue streams. Having the desire to do this is one thing, but if you don’t have the proper equipment to do so, than you’re sunk before you even leave the harbour.

The budget is somewhat small as it is, but if one wanted to make it smaller, than items could be easily taken away. The Passport 500 Pro is designed to be a stand alone product. If one were to strip away everything else, (subwoofer, effects box, monitor and even microphones) than it could still be offered in a business model. In short, the whole cost could be stripped down to $1000.00. This would require rental equipment of mics and chords etc. and wouldn’t be “Plug in and Go” ready, but since musicians and the like are used to dealing with the lack of equipment, and their own favoured equipment, this is quite plausible.

I would however, hold out to keep the microphones and their chords in the budget.

As far as upgrading is concerned, I really don’t see a need. The Passport 500 Pro is at the top of it’s class already. To upgrade would mean to change the entire concept to a mixing board with stand alone devices etc. And due to reasons I’ve stated previously, (portability, non-technically minded people etc.) this set up wouldn’t fit the business model. I suppose you could be bourgeois and buy only the top of the line chords, upgrade the mics etc., but the one thing I learned in the construction industry is to go middle of the road. Everything I chose for this assignment was not the cheapest for quality and reliability reasons, however also not the most expensive. At one point the quality ceases to be an issue and you start paying for a brand name, and none of the shirts in my closet need to have “Polo” written on them.

One addition I was contemplating was a lighting rig. Nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated to operate. I wanted something in a kit form as far as packaging is concerned, but try as I might nothing was really popping out at me. There are lots of Disco Balls and fog machines to be had, and a lot of D.J. marketed items. Even a runway lighting strip for amateur modelling showcases, but they were all quite underwhelming. Truly, if there was extra money to be had, than I would rather see it go to talent or an audio engineer. What a novel concept eh?

Existing Floor Plan

Re-Design for Live Audio

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