08 September 2017

Iconic Nashville club installs d&b and a full house reputation

Like all living things, reputations have to be nurtured lest they wither away. Since taking ownership of 12th & Porter in 2015 Nathaniel Beaver of Infinity Hospitality Group has burnished the already outstanding reputation of this historic Nashville club, investing in acoustic treatments as part of an extensive interior renovation program, and most recently installing a state of the art sound system. Lloyd Smith, the resident technical director at 12th & Porter, turned to Nashville based integration and production company Morris to help make their goal of creating the best sound in town a reality.

“As far as I know, no one else in Nashville with a club this size has a d&b audiotechnik system,” said Smith, “and definitely not one that sounds so phenomenal.” Smith, a graduate of The College of Saint Rose, Albany NY, worked in New York recording studios and ran live sound before relocating to Nashville. “I never wanted to restrict myself since this industry is ever changing and the lines between live and studio aren’t as defined as they used to be. I moved to Nashville because the music industry is thriving here.” Seems like he’s found the ideal venue.

The choice of a d&b system was driven entirely by the desire to nurture 12th & Porter’s reputation, as John Mills of integrators Morris discovered when first called in to assess the venue. “When Nathaniel first came to us he said very clearly, ‘I want every seat in the house to be the best seat’. I told him that could impact the cost, and he said, ‘just do it right’.” How Morris came to be there in the first place deserves a bit of explanation.

“When I first arrived in Nashville I worked various live gigs and also worked as a salesman and integrator with a large music retailer,” Smith explained. “I met Steve Land from Morris at that time and he later introduced me to the Morris team. Morris really blew me away. This company is a great collection of professionals from around the industry.

“When I took up the role at 12th & Porter the inherited house system was over-powered, poorly implemented, and generally ill-suited to the room. Having hosted early shows by the likes of Kings of Leon and Keith Urban, 12th & Porter has some prestige history to live up to. Nathaniel had already renovated the club architecturally when he asked me what we should do to fix the sound issues. My first thought was Morris. When Nathaniel said he wanted a quote for the best sound possible Steve suggested d&b and I agreed. I had used a d&b J-Series before, hardly the PA you’d want in this room, but I liked the performance. I also knew this was a premium brand. I had some reservations as to whether we could really afford it, but Steve introduced me to John Mills from Morris, who came down, made an assessment, and suggested a couple of proposals. We went through them all and eventually came to a point where John said, ‘this is absolutely your best option if you’re true to your beliefs’.”

After settling on the specific d&b audiotechnik system, it was time to address the venue’s unique challenges. “The listening area is irregular, so the pre-existing straight left/right system could not effectively cover the entire space,” Mills explained. “We took a different approach to fulfill Nathaniel’s goal of making every seat in the house the best seat. We used a d&b Y-Series line array specifically to cover the floor, and then worked in the other areas with fill speakers. On the floor, the tighter horizontal dispersion Yi8 cabinets at the top of the array keep energy off the walls to the rear of the listening area, while the wider Yi12 hung below covers the front area of what is a relatively short, wide room (40’ wide by 50’ deep).

“The fills were quite complex,” Mills continued. “Because 12th & Porter is a relatively small space, the entire floor area is premium for paying customers, so the regular mix position is on the corner of the balcony. To make it even more difficult, the L-shaped balcony extends toward the stage on one side, just six feet from the Yi line array, yet outside of the field of dispersion. To address this, we put up a Y7P as fill; this is a point source variant of the Y-Series which exhibits the same tonal character as the main system. This solution translates well in the space, making it easier to mix from this unique location.

The rest of the fills, which are d&b 5S and 8S, reach the positions where the array is not visible. Regarding the subwoofers, the initial idea was to do a horizontal array, but the stage could not structurally accommodate this. Instead, we installed four d&b 18S-SUBs each side, which created the low-end weight needed for DJ and EDM acts.”

Mills and the Morris team installed the system just before Christmas. “We have been doing shows and events almost non-stop ever since,” said Smith. “I must admit that first time behind the console I was nervous, but truth is I haven’t touched anything on the system EQ side since that first day. Feedback stability is great; this is a small room and it’s real easy for performers to step right out into the field of the system. We check for that before the show and if we have a performer using a wireless mic who likes to work the stage that way John has built me a preset in the d&b R1 Remote control software to alter system performance for that. It’s night and day. This is a small room with a basic left/right setup and eight fills around the awkward spaces, yet the coherence is amazing, it blows my mind. It’s so clean, no phase issues at all. John and the guys from Morris did that.”

“The response from performers and their management has been great,” concluded Smith. “The system is most certainly rider friendly, and Morris have done a great job. We’re consistently getting more full houses, and I’m hearing good outcry from the professional world here in Nashville.”

Nathaniel Beaver was equally pleased. “When 12th & Porter wanted to guarantee having the highest quality sounding room in Nashville, we knew that d&b was where we needed to go to find that product. We not only got what we requested, we got a sound far exceeding our lofty expectations.”