Feature: Space invaders
Feature: Space invaders
Sue Su drops in on the first club to open in Guangzhou’s new CBD, which has been installed with a Funktion-One Vero system
Since opening the first Space Club in Chengdu, Roger Luo has gradually unfolded a blueprint for his entertainment empire. The formation of the Space Plus Group has seen successive club openings in Chongqing, Shanghai, Kunming, Changsha and Nanjing, each defining a new landmark on the local entertainment scene. Additionally, the Space Plus Group owns multiple music festival brands including Transmission and Fusion EDM.
An impressive track record, but Luo's ambitions go beyond this. In May 2020 the Space Plus Group opened its doors on Tiande Plaza in Guangzhou’s new CBD, launching the Spaceland concept of bringing together various entertainment outlets in one place. “What is being built here is a large nightlife entertainment complex,” he explains. “We hope that this place will prove to be a successful case study as per the government’s policy to stimulate the nighttime economy, allowing people to participate in entertainment activities in the complex from 6pm to 2am. I believe this is the future of clubbing and entertainment.”
Spaceland covers an area of about 14,000m2, occupying the 2nd to 4th floors of Tiande Plaza. This includes two large clubs, six bars of different sizes and styles, some small live music venues and music-related stores. There are also plans to offer DJing courses in conjunction with technology brands. At the heart of Spaceland is the Space Plus Club Guangzhou, located on the third floor. As the flagship and largest club in Space Plus Group, its goal is to be ranked among the top nightclubs in the world.
Luo, who lived in Melbourne for eight years where he studied DJing and music production at the DMC Records school, prides himself on his understanding of music, always putting the sound systems at the very centre of his clubs. After meeting with Funktion-One founder Tony Andrews at Prolight + Sound Shanghai 2016, he decided to work with the brand's local distributor Phoenix Audio, making Funktion-One his only choice for clubs in first-tier cities.
The Guangzhou club is a fan-shaped construction: wide at the front and narrow at the rear, varying in width across the 38m length from 42m at the DJ booth to 18m at the back of the club, with a ceiling height of 10m. Like all other Space Plus clubs, there are no internal pillars. Funktion-One’s vertically arrayable Vero system was chosen for the main sound reinforcement system, delivering point source sound while also drawing on the advantages of a vertical array.
“Funktion-One's point source technology has effectively helped us solve the problem of this venue,” says Chris Zhang, director of Phoenix Audio. “The fan-shaped structure, with its wide front and narrow rear, brought many challenges. In order not to interfere with the lighting effects, the speakers needed to be placed as far as possible to either side. Using the Vero system allowed us to keep the distance between the two arrays as wide as possible while maintaining a clear left and right stereo image. Vero overcomes the propagation characteristics of conventional point source speakers, retaining the advantages of point sound sources, with long-throw ability and flexibility.”
The arrays, flown on either side of the DJ booth, consist of three Vero V60 mid-high loudspeakers with a horizontal coverage angle of 60° on the top, three V315 mid-low cabinets in the middle, and a V90 mid-high cabinet with a horizontal coverage angle of 90° at the bottom. The system is powered by four Lab.gruppen PLM 20K44SP amplifiers.
Two EVO 7E horn-loaded three-way speakers are installed beside the Vero hangs as side fills, with two EVO 6Es installed in front of the DJ booth as front fills. For low frequency reinforcement, a total of 12 F124 subs have been divided into three groups and stacked under the DJ booth to form a subwoofer wall. To further supplement the low frequency in the audience area, a total of eight double 18-inch BR218 and 12 single eight-inch BR118 subwoofers have been distributed throughout the venue. The double DJ booth is equipped with Funktion-One's PSM318 DJ monitors. The EVO7s, EVO6s and PSM318s are driven by a total of 10 Full Fat Audio amplifiers including 8004, 6004, 8000 and 6000 models, while the subwoofers are driven by seven Funktion-One E90 amps.
“This is a standard music festival system,” continues Zhang. “Roger defined two very important concepts when he opened his first bar in 2015. The first was to turn the club into a live EDM festival, and the other was to let the dancefloor dominate his clubs. After that, big party clubs with high ceilings began to boom in China, while EDM entered the mainstream culture for young people. He has always been a leader and demands the most advanced technology. This new system is a world-class music festival setup. At the same time, it is also a very simple system, but because there aren’t many speakers the interference is reduced, and the result is clean and uniform coverage.”
Despite the fact that Zhang describe the new setup as a simple, its efficiency gives it impressive headroom and durability. “We’re using the system at less than half of its capacity, but even so, it operates at high SPLs and the sound is very transparent,” comments Zhou Honghai, technical director of Space Plus Shanghai and Guangzhou. “The coverage of the entire sound field is uniform: no matter where you stand in the venue, it is very comfortable to listen to. It also has very high sensitivity, with adjustments as small as 0.5dB or even 0.3dB adjustments able to be clearly heard. This is something that many conventional speakers cannot do. It has excellent transient response, directivity is precise and it meets coverage requirements. Compared with other brands I have used before, Vero's coverage, sensitivity, SPL, uniformity and accuracy are all the best. When guests and industry peers come to visit, they are also very happy with the result.”
Zhou is also pleased with Phoenix Audio’s work from an operational viewpoint. “The entire system is very safe; the power box made by Phoenix in the early stages of installation calculated the maximum current and power,” he says. “The system has never overheated, and the wiring is very tidy, clearly and carefully marked. I can carry out troubleshooting within one minute, and this really helps us deal with problems efficiently on site.”
Phoenix also provided a 16-channel Waves eMotion LV1 mixer package for the club, including Axis One SoundGrid computer, SoundGrid Impact Server-C server and SoundStudio STG-2412 stage box. Signals from the Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS2 DJ multi players in the two DJ booths are processed by the mixer before going out to the club system, and Zhou is impressed by the eMotion LV1's plug-ins, low latency and user-friendly operation.
As the club is located in the city centre, with a residential area and five-star hotel nearby, strict noise restrictions are in place. To comply with these, as well as achieving good acoustics for the club, absorption panels and fibreglass panels have been installed on the ceiling and the interior walls of the club, as well as the exterior. After acoustic treatment was carried out, sound reflections in the venue were significantly reduced, with average SPLs of 105dB(A) possible without disturbing the outside world
Space Plus also needed to impress clubbers with striking visuals. The club interior has been finished in a steampunk style by an interior design company which has worked with the group in the past. Two overlaid transparent LED screens 32m wide by 10m high display bold images to accompany the EDM, while 360 fixtures from PR-Lighting’s Smart 480 and PR 6000 series, together with 196 wash lights from Yaji, more than 400 par lights from both brands and 22 M6-W10000 lasers from Laifeiful, are installed throughout the club. Video and lighting are controlled by two grandMA2 lighting consoles.
Phoenix Audio used Ease Focus simulation software to design the sound system for the club, and Zhang met with Funktion-One co-founder Tony Andrews in the UK to finalise the design. Then, as Covid-19 began to disrupt plans, everything from construction to delivery, setup and opening became uncertain. Fortunately, the long-term relationship between Space Plus and Phoenix Audio was able to drive the project ahead after confirmation that the club would open at the end of May 2020. Phoenix's team went into overdrive during April, flying in the system from the UK and completing the installation within the tight schedule.
Space Plus has quickly established itself as an entertainment destination since China began emerging from Covid-19 restrictions. “I think we’ve managed to grow the entertainment market in Guangzhou,” claims Luo. “Nightclubs used to be located along Yanjiang Road, an older district, but we’ve focused on the new CBD, bringing a new concept here.”
Luo continues to expand his entertainment landscape, with the next Space Plus expected to open in Bangkok in early 2021. If Space Plus Guangzhou is anything to go by, Luo will continue to push the boundaries of clubbing, not only in China but beyond.