By Carlos Sanchez
When audio and speaker designer Craig Bernabeu – who’s more popularly known as SBS Shorty – requested I spin some tunes over at Club ANALOG BKNY, I had already sensed I would be venturing into something potentially groundbreaking and historic (knowing Craig’s previous accomplishments with sound systems at other clubs). Before the event date, I went down to the Gowanus section of Brooklyn to “case the joint” as is my normal procedure. This gives me a better feel of the club’s atmosphere and sound system. I was immediately captivated by the layout which he and owner Mike Bruno had re-designed this 5,000 sq ft warehouse-styled space into. The layout is aimed toward expression through urban club oriented dance music as opposed to the standard live cabaret-like environment, which had characterized the location previously.
But it’s the sound system that is the most impressive of all.
Locked away from prying eyes is a sound room that boasts some of the most sophisticated hand-made (by Bernabeu himself) electronics I’ve ever seen in a club setting. In this room lies a variety of SBS Designs’ Class A/B designed amplifiers, analogue processors and crossovers, hence the name Club Analog BKNY. In fact, there’s enough to make your head spin and boggle your mind when you consider that each have a specific job: creating a level of sonic performance I’ve not seen or encountered since the late Richard Long system that was used at the legendary Paradise Garage. Like the Paradise Garage, these electronics power four sensitive stacks of SBS Designs’ loudspeakers that are housed in their own dedicated cabinets (that includes a Sub Bass, Bass, Mid-Bass and Low-Mid cabinets). Stacked atop each other, they stand over 10 feet tall and find optimum performance on each corner of the dance floor.
The tweeter arrays are wisely located directly above the dance floor as to add sparkle and “life” to each record played.
Above the tweeter array are multi-colored laser lights. Yes, there is a laser light show happening right above your head throughout the night.
This very space bought back vivid memories of the many endless nights spent in nightclubs such as, Reade Street, Tamberlain and Malcolms. In fact, before becoming the most famous DJ in the world at the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan actually got his feet wet spinning at The Soho (and prior to that, he and Frankie Knuckles had shared turntable duties at Continental Baths). Coincidentally, the Soho was also one of the spaces where legendary audio designer Richard Long started honing his audiophile craft and showing off his talents.
There was a host of other clubs that all had notable sound in those days but the two that stood out the most in my opinion, was the Loft hosted by DJ David Mancuso and Nicky Siano’s Gallery. This, dear readers, was decades before the age of digital audio systems, where clubs sported really great sound that was tempered with the likes of Altec Lansing’s Voice of the Theater loudspeakers. Others would boast the Klipsch Corner loudspeakers. Not long after, huge custom-made loudspeaker enclosures were being introduced onto the club scene, connected to powerful and clean sounding amplifiers with unusual names likes McIntosh, Phase Linear, Crown and BGW to name but a few.
I learned early on what good sound systems could do in terms of amplifying and reproducing some of the most incredibly engineered recordings of the day. I’m not saying that I am technically astute; not at all. However, it is my understanding and avid love of the music that inspires me to write about what I’ve been experiencing at Club ANALOG BKNY.
The Listening Sessions:
Since the opening of ANALOG, I was asked to attend private listening sessions at the club along with other specially invited guests. Generally, these intimate sessions are for gauging a sound system’s strengths and weaknesses by listening to our favorite recordings. Whether it’s vinyl, Lossless WAV files or CDs, my personal reference collection of music specifically chosen for this system, enabled me to critique the system on an intimate level.
While engaging in a series of weekly listening sessions, I noticed stark and sometimes subtle differences to the sonic ambiance of this large and open dance floor. Different playing styles and different sized audiences can impact the sound of a system greatly, believe it or not. Listening to other notable DJs like David Morales, DJ Spinna and Louie Vega spin in this same exact space elicited a wide range of differing sonic perspectives. As skillful and diverse as their individual talents are, they were able to manipulate and tease the sound with specialized crossovers, EQs and mixer settings, enough to bring the crowd into a complete frenzy.
At the end of each of these prominent deejays’ sets, they all deemed the sound quality at Club ANALOG BKNY as exceptional. Louie Vega said that playing on the SBS Shorty system allowed him to hear instruments in Georgio Moroder’s classic club thumper Evolution that he never heard before. Stereo Times’ publisher Clement Perry, took special interest in the SBS Slammer Sound System after his initial experience.
Clement attended another party event at ANALOG only recently and said that Louie Vega’s opening vamp to Joey Negron’s remix of Willie Hutch’s legendary Brothers Gonna Work It Out left him mesmerized. The bass and drums were, in his own words, “powerful, tuneful and so thunderous he thought it was thunder rumbling outside!” That indicates to me that the SBS system conveyed clean and taut bass notes in a way that very few have achieved at such high decibels.
Placement of the four ‘SBS Slammer’ system 1-V3 stacks, are perfectly positioned to create an optimal surround-sound experience. Each week, ‘Shorty’ implemented upgrades to the system that have increased the stereo-effect from four loudspeakers, while never negatively impacting transparency and overall musicality. As a test, we listened to a variety of music sources like CD, Lossless WAV files and vinyl and surprisingly, the sound quality remained adequate no matter the quality of the source. In fact, the soundstage from numerous vantage points on the dance floor remained holographic.
Personally, I can’t remember hearing and perhaps more importantly, feeling what I experienced here at Club ANALOG BKNY since my days at the Paradise Garage. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to stand directly in front of a stack 10? loudspeaker enclosures, have a normal conversation with someone, while inviting the bass to roll right through me!
It takes an enormous amount of time, talent, energy and experience, not to mention a sizable monetary budget, to take something as potentially mediocre as just another club sound system and make it rise into the ranks of “legendary stature” in only a few months. The real message here is that good sound does make a difference. It even makes a huge difference even to those who really don’t know or give a damn.
I watched many of those patrons, and just like back at the Paradise Garage, they too began to dance to a different drummer. Thankfully, someone as talented as a Richard Long and now SBS Shorty has cared enough to show us the difference. Now, once again SBS Shorty demonstrates what meticulously caring about quality can do to create the ultimate dance experience. Any self-appointed audiophile or died-in-the-wool club head could really appreciate what Craig “Shorty” Bernabeu has created here at Club ANALOG BKNY.
You don’t even have to take my word for it. Put on your most flexible and relaxing footwear and come on down and hear it for yourself!