Located in the basement of the five star Kurhaus hotel in Scheveningen, the Netherlands, lively bar Crazy Pianos is unique with its evening entertainment being provided by pairs of pianists who play requests from classical to rock’n’roll, get the audience to sing along and generally clown around.
The entertainment might be light-hearted, but the business of Crazy Pianos audio system is very serious indeed. A Yamaha DME24N and DM1000 console are at the heart of a remarkably flexible system which is designed to give the club’s clientele the best possible audio experience.
The system was designed by Jeroen ten Brinke of Audio Design International and installed by More Stage Services. With Crazy Pianos manager Bjorn being a serious audiophile, updating the venue’s eight year old sound system had to be done to the highest possible specification.
“When Crazy Pianos installed the first system, eight years ago, they didn’t know how successful the bar would be. So they rented the equipment,” says Jeroen. “But with the bar proving extremely popular, the owner Bjorn wanted to buy a system. And because Crazy Pianos has been such a success, it had to be of very high quality.”
Jeroen chose a Yamaha DM1000 digital console, with control by a DME24N Digital Mixing Engine driving JBL VP series self-powered loudspeakers via a CobraNet network running on 1.33 mS/ 96kHz. “It’s the first such system in the world!” says Jeroen.
The system uses a simple MIDI controller on stage to select each of eight levels (or states) which are pre-programmed in the DME24N & DM1000 and which set the entire system, appropriate to the time of day and clientele that is in the bar at any given time.
During the day, the system is set to Level Eight, which plays recorded background music from an MP3 player. In the evening, when the pianists perform, the system can then be switched through six more levels, depending on how busy the club is. For example, Level One is for the beginning of the evening, with perhaps a few customers eating meals but no great amplification of the piano and vocals needed. Levels two through six then raise the amplification amount, as more people come in, up to a sound level of around 105dB for when the place is packed.
“The DME is the brains of the system and allows us to make complex system changes very easily,” says Jeroen. “For example, on Level One the loudspeakers are all at the same level throughout the venue. But as the levels increase, the amplification is increased more in the speakers which cover the dance floor than in other areas of the club.”
He continues: “We also use a lot of the effects in the DME - especially multi-band compression, delays and reverb to heighten the atmosphere. There are also ambient microphones in the club which, as the levels increase, are fed along with the main mix to loudspeakers on the terrace outside the club. This means that customers on the terrace enjoy the full ambience of what is happening inside, not just a dry mix of the music and vocals. It makes it a much more inclusive experience for those who want to sit outside.”
The final (seventh) system level is used when Crazy Pianos is hired for corporate events. Opening the vocal microphones for speeches and presentations, it kills all the reverbs, monitors and also mutes the ambient microphones and those on the drums, so a presenter isn’t having to battle with feedback or the rattle from the snare drum, etc. It also opens lines to a MiniDisc, DVD and CD players in the system rack, for use in presentations.
“Using this simple MIDI control, the entire system is switched by those on stage, but it also features a large display which makes it easy for the Crazy Pianos management to see which state the system is currently in,” says Jeroen. “That’s where the Yamaha DME24N really comes into its own. Without it, it wouldn’t have been possible to do such complex switching and level changing from such an intuitive user interface.
“It is small in size, easy to operate and it works at 96k sampling rate, which we specified. It’s the only machine that could do what we wanted.”
The system is also deliberately set up so that no resident sound engineer is required. “Bjorn wasn’t keen on having a resident engineer,” smiles Jeroen. “His view was that if you employ one, you will need two because of the long working hours. And one of them will want to go on holiday or will be off sick at some point, so you have to employ three. And so on.
“Then one might mix better then the other and there will be discussions! Bjorn’s feeling was that if it doesn’t sound good without anybody mixing, it has to be the musicians that don’t sound good!”
Therefore the system itself is locked away, the only part that can be seen and touched by staff is the MIDI controller and display.
However, the system can be fully remotely controlled by Jeroen from anywhere in the world, using an internet connection to ‘take over’ the desktop of a PC which is connected to Studio Manager, to the DME software and the Hi-Q network. “I can monitor and, if necessary, take control of the entire system with streaming audio from the PFL bus,” he says. “I can also talk back to the club! It’s very useful of there are any little problems.”
“The club is very satisfied,” he concludes. “Bjorn has very high standards when it comes to sound and he says it sounds perfect. Everybody’s really happy with it, the reaction has been universally positive.”