TPi looks at the rich and chequered history of a London landmark, and how it has been brought up-to-date with a new audio upgrade...
In a world in which notable landmarks are being demolished to allow for car parks and new branches of Tesco, the Scala in London’s King’s Cross is to be cherished as one of a dying breed of entertainment venues — one that boasts a fascinating history and looks forward to a rosy future.
Constructed in the early part of the 20th Century, it was nearing completion when World War One began and was conscripted as a manufacturing plant for airplane parts. At the end of the War, it became a local labour exchange for demobbed soldiers.
In April 1920, it finally became the King's Cross Cinema. The following 70 years saw it change names to the Gaumont and Odeon, as well as its focus, screening films ranging from mainstream to art-house to adult. In the summer of 1972, the King’s Cross Cinema played host to the only UK concert by maverick American rockers Iggy & The Stooges and the famous cover shot for their seminal Raw Power album sleeve was taken on that night. In 1974, following a petition from local residents to revoke its late night license, the venue closed.
Some five years later, it reopened as Britain’s first — an audio-visual ecological experience — but this venture proved unsuccessful, and in 1981 the cinema returned to Scala. However, in the early ’90s, the Scala Cineclub went into receivership as Warner Brothers sued it for illegally screening Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
The venue ended up closing down again in 1993, but reopened in March 1999 as Scala nightclub. The cinema had been refitted, with the lower seating area incorporating the new stage, DJ booth and dance floor, while the upper seating area incorporated a second room and a DJ booth.
Now a truly multi-purpose venue, the Scala has in recent years hosted such live acts as Kaiser Chiefs, Klaxons, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Moby, Super Furry Animals, Chemical Brothers, The Doves, Dido, Outkast, Lionel Ritchie, Stereophonics, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Suede, Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters and Joss Stone.
In its current incarnation, the building has four main levels and accommodates events for up to 1,145 people. There are three bars, two dance floors and a stage for live performances.
Last year, the owners of Scala decided the sound system in the main area needed an upgrade, so resident sound technician George Gregori contacted LMC Audio Systems to design a system using new Turbosound products that would work with the lively acoustics of the room.
To bring it bang up to date, Scala’s 21st century sound system needed to be capable of sound reproduction for dance music and live bands at high SPL with low distortion. “When considering a new sound system, the venue needed a system both versatile and robust across all music genres for both live and club events, and most importantly one that delivered clarity and quality,” explained Gregori.
“Since most of our week is taken up with quality live music and the weekends with high profile club nights, it was very important we got this right. The new Turbosound system has delivered all of this and more.”
The original Turbosound Floodlight loudspeaker system was stacked on the stage so, for the new system, a flown array was the way forward.
Working on this basis, Jeff Woodford of LMC Audio Systems specified the Aspect TA-500 three-way point source enclosure with the two-way mid-high TA-500HM hung underneath as a down-fill.
“This combination gives great front to back coverage with the TA-500HMs focused on the sunken dance floor and the mid/HF section of the TA-500 focused at the raised FOH position and elevated dance/viewing area at the back of the room,” said Woodford. “Low bass for both areas comes from the TA-500’s punchy low frequency section. Sub bass for the FOH system is delivered by six TSW-218s stacked on stage three per side.”
As part of the new sound system, Scala was keen to provide the back of the room with additional sound reinforcement for the club nights that play dance music. A weighty, all round sound was required. So in both corners of the rear raised dance floor area, a single TSW-218 subwoofer with a self-powered TA-500DP are deployed to give the full, deep and rich sound required around the room.
The loudspeaker system is controlled by a pair of Turbosound LMS-D26 digital processors positioned within the FOH booth for easy system monitoring and adjustments. Output from the in-house Midas Verona console is taken into one controller for left, one for right, with the six outputs controlling the FOH — sub, bass, mid, high and rear fill subs — and full range to the TA-500DPs.
Amplifiers for the system are the Turbosound T-Series, placed in a separate amp room behind the stage. A rack of two T-25s and five T-45s power the FOH system, and in the FOH booth a single T-45 powers the rear fill TSW-218 subs. Total system peak power is 27kW with 18kW of sub-bass.
The main room drive and effects rack features BSS graphics, a dbx comp/limiter, Drawmer comps and gates, and Yamaha and t.c. electronic DSPs.
On stage, the monitor system comprises an Allen & Heath GL3300 24:8 desk feeding six Crown-powered Turbosound TFM-330 wedges, and a full stock of mics includes standard models from Shure, AKG and Sennheiser.
Visiting lighting designers and operators can take advantage of an in-house rig that includes Robe Spots and Washes, Clay Paky scans, High End Dataflash strobes, and numerous PARs and Molefays. Avolites Pearl consoles and Anytronics dimmers round off the spec.
Returning to the audio install, LMC’s Jeff Woodford said: “When approached by Scala to design a new system, I knew that keeping with the Turbosound name the club would benefit from a high audio quality and well-designed product range. The Aspect series Polyhorn provides a point source array with the kind of controlled dispersion that Scala required, so this was my first choice for the venue. Coupled with the TSW-218 subwoofers, the Aspect TA-500s deliver an engaging, passionate sound, just what is required for one of London’s leading music venues.”
Since installing the system this February, the likes of Sheryl Crow, Roni Size, Nouvelle Vague and Spoon have played sold-out shows at Scala. Lee Hazell, operations director at Scala, concluded: “The feedback from both industry and customer has been amazing.”
www.turbosound.com • www.lmcaudio.co.uk