Ministry of Sound power up with XTA

Posted by | October 23, 2019 | , | No Comments

A name so synonymous with the world of dance music and the club scene needs minimal introduction. However, a little context is always good, so let’s go back to September 1991 and south London. A cavernous derelict bus garage opens up to play the best of the Chicago house music scene in a style that draws inspiration from New York’s huge venues. Within a short time, it becomes famous not only for innovative dance music, but was also, in their own words for being

“…the world’s first nightclub with a room built purely for exceptional sound quality.”

That room was, and still is, known as “The Box”.

Eighteen years on, we were approached by Ministry of Sound to be part of a full overhaul of the mega-system that powers “The Box”. This has a system consisting of six “dance- stacks” comprising Martin Audio active subs (ASX21), passive bass (AS118) and 3 way full range cabinets (W8C). The top cabinets were driven via a combination of original BSS Soundweb processors feeding a mixture of Martin Audio branded and Crown amplification.

Nodd McDonagh, Consultant Operations Director, explains how the update came about:
“The system in the Box takes such a pounding and is famous for delivering exceptional quality each and every night the club is open – this room is never closed! We realised that to maintain this reputation, something had to change and that was the amplification and processing. Austin Derek, who’s been responsible for all of the club’s audio throughout the years, flew over from New York specially to advise, oversee and overhear (!) the proposed changes. We would keep the fantastic Martin Audio speaker system and choose the best amplifiers and processing available, period.”

L-R Davide Rapicano – Richard – Jason – Santi – Austin – Nodd

As is often the case, with long term installations, this system had been adapted, added to and modified since the original specification, resulting in some very interesting signal paths and unnecessary processing! Jason Kelly, Technical Sales Manager for XTA, commented on the original installation during the first phase of the refit: “The message from Nodd and the technical team at Ministry of Sound during our early discussions was a desire to return to a ‘purer’ signal path, from the artist to the audience.”

The initial plan was to upgrade the amps and processing for the two front stacks of the system, as this would allow comparisons to be made over a few weeks to the rest of current system. The subs would remain active (more on that later!) and the XTA amplification would drive the full range stacks.

Jason squeezing his way into the world of networks and amps. He never made it back.

“We left two APAs for evaluation and these met with such an enthusiastic approval that something quite unexpected happened!” continues Jason. “Even given the immense power amplification built into the ASX subs, the decision was made to ‘de-activate’ them and replace the drivers and processing with passive drivers so they could be driven from APAs as well as the rest of the system.”

This was not a decision taken lightly – the ASX’s integral power amplifier is capable of 8.5kW peak, and the DSP has a feedback loop including a pressure sensor to reduce non-linearity and get the best out of the driver and amplifier. Converting to external processing and amplification meant removal of this driver and replacement with a new 21” [driver] that would still match the cabinet’s characteristics. Jason Beard, R&D manager at Martin Audio was brought in to advise on this adaptation and specify a new Martin Audio driver to fulfil the job.

“To maintain the highest audio quality, and prevent multiple conversions from the analogue to digital and back again, the entire signal path is now networked audio via Dante, and a DPA100 heads up the system as both the bridge from analogue to Dante, and the front of house processing,” explains Jason Kelly.

Austin commented, at this stage, with just TWO APA in place:
“You’ve smashed it out of the park with those amps!”

Jason Kelly continues: “With that sort of response to the initial APA update to just two of the six stacks, the choice of using them for the subs as well is great! The DPA ahead of the APAs also allows for wireless FOH control via an iPad for EQ tweaks.”

Before and after APA in the control room!

In total, 8 x APA-4E8 amplifiers now drive the entire system, capable of a total peak output power of well over 150,000W. In this configuration, they will be responsible for all speaker processing and stack alignments, receiving Dante from the network with the DPA100 as the bridge from the DJ mixers.

Nodd says of the system: “The aims were decreased complexity, the ability to monitor remotely, and of course it had to sound better…I can safely say that all three were met in spades – it sounds incredible! The system received its inaugural christening on the 30th March with a special celebratory Night in Paradise event featuring NYC’s Paradise Garage legends David Morales, Jellybean Benitez and Joey Llanos, all playing in The Box, which ran non-stop from 8pm until 6am – I can’t remember it sounding this good – a huge performance upgrade!”