Sound system for a small bar/restaurant/night club?
October 29, 2004 1:27 AM   Subscribe

How do I begin to go about specifying a sound system for my new, small (theoretical) bar, restaurant and night club?
posted by nthdegx to Shopping (6 answers total)
For the love of all things you care about, install *lots* of smaller, decent quality speakers rather than just a couple of huge bastards that the DJs keep trying to turn up to 11.

The music should fill the area with no particular source. No one should be forced to be either very close to a very loud noise, or a long way away from the music.

Lots of small speakers with a lower volume means that people in more of the place are able to hold a conversation without losing their voice before the evening is done.
posted by krisjohn at 5:44 AM on October 29, 2004

Grab lots of Numark catalogues - check their mixers, turntables and cd-player+mixers sets. Lower cost than most other brands, high quailty toys. ALso sold in box-sets, like two turntables+mixer at very prices if you want to start small (you can always get a better mixer later).
posted by dabitch at 6:06 AM on October 29, 2004

Things you need to think of:

The ability to turn seperately control areas of the bar/club - do you want to be able to turn the music up or off in one area without affecting another? Effectively, you want a pre-amp and then each zone should have a power amp connected to (as has been said) more smaller speakers than fewer larger speakers.

If you want thumping bass for a club, you want bass-bins, so you don't want to forget crossovers off the amps driving the dancefloor.

If you have a DJ, he'll want control over the amp driving the dancefloor. So will you. Put a master volume control behind the bar, but...
...then don't be a dick about it. DJs will hate for you for life if you turn it down.

Sources? CD? TV? DVD? etc. - switch boxes!

Some sort of autoplay system? You can buy/hire set-ups, or make your own with WinAmp and a decent crossfader, but whatever, there'll be times when you don't wanna bother changing discs all the time!

Spec'ing it all will be the fun part. You'll need to know how big the venue is, how it'll be laid out and what furnishings you are going to have before you can have any idea of the power you need. But the truth of the matter is, you can never have too much wattage (so long as your speakers can take it - if you're doing the lots of smaller speakers thing, keep a good mind on ohmage and resistance) - you can always turn it down, but crappy distorted sounds drive your patrons away faster than a fart in, um, a bar...

Don't skimp on cabling, particularly if it's gonna be plastered into the wall...

/me writes a book...
posted by benzo8 at 7:19 AM on October 29, 2004

Welcome to the world of XLR, where nothing you buy for under $1,000 has the plug type you want, and where everything you buy for over $1,000 is too complicated for you to understand how to hook up.

It's going to be a fun journey, and you'll learn plenty putting all this together. Just remember one thing: Don't introduce any unbalanced (ie: consumer level stuff with RCA outputs) components to your system. Just don't. Tracking down what's the problem becomes a bear and you'll just want to trash the entire heap.

posted by shepd at 7:33 AM on October 29, 2004

If you're really planning on opening a bar/restaurant/night club, you should hire a sound engineer to design the system for you, or at least consult on it. You wouldn't design the kitchen yourself if you didn't know how to run a commercial kitchen; same goes for your sound system. Doing it wrong and having to rip it all out will be far more expensive; plus an opening night with shoddy equipment will also sink your reputation instantly.

If there's a similar club/restaurant that has a sound system you like, there's no shame in asking them who set their system up originally. Even if it was a current employee, most sound engineers (well, at least at smaller venues in the US, i don't know if it's different in the UK) work on freelance/shift-by-shift basis and they can do work for other venues.
posted by bcwinters at 8:27 AM on October 29, 2004

I would read all the "backstage" info at the DNA Lounge's's a San Francisco club whose owner exhaustively documented the complete renovation and day-to-day operations of his club. The chronicle is long but fascinating reading, and gives you an idea of what you might be in for.
posted by Vidiot at 9:03 AM on October 29, 2004

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