I often come across fellow DJs and producers that passionately chat about how they need high quality files to play out in clubs, then proceed to rattle on about bit-rates, killahurtz and frequencies. In the studio I’m the same, I care about sound, buy high-end equipment in order for me to create the very best music possible with the sound quality being at the top of my list. An age old internal joke between musicians is that we spend all this care, attention and thousands of pounds spent on studio equipment that gets lost when it reaches the end user that listens to the music on a pair of iPhone headphones. I see similarities between this and equipment in some clubs.
While these DJs are convinced their 24Bit 96k files are sounding great on the sound system, some often disagree and feel it’s the placebo effect taking place. Yes you have your full fat files, but then they head out into a club mixer full of dust and beer that’s never been serviced in its life. This then heads along poor quality cables into a bunch of amps again have never been serviced for years. The amp then feeds the sound system that’s never been tuned in its life, nor had constantly tweaks as the bins break in order to tune it for the room. To top things off it’s rare to see professional acoustic treatment in a club. Add this all together creates a recipe for muddy sound and phasing.
Over the last decade I kinda feel sound quality took a back seat, there’s no hiding the fact this is another side effect off the back of the EDM explosion. The typical EDM DJ’s rider would be more concerned about their visuals being displayed on high-spec LED screens, confetti & CO2 cannons, drinks rider and specific hotels. Sound would be way down on the list of priorities, the results of club finances that have been forced to spend elsewhere. Hopefully this will all change. I’m getting excited about the underground resurgence that’s gaining momentum, as per other specialist musical cycles I’ve lived through, this comes with a bunch of artists that care about sound. One memorable cycle was off the back of huge commercial raves with big productions, a new breed of clubs opened, going completely against the grain, the selling point was a dark room and very high quality sound systems that became an instant success for music lovers. This club was called The Ministry of Sound that arguably created a new breed of clubbing around the world in the 1990s.
I feel these days are heading back again, the specialist DJs are requesting high quality equipment that takes priority on their riders, sound system companies are once again feeling the love along with the DJ kit world that are making more professional focused equipment. It’s all down to demand from this new specialist world that’s growing.
I have to admit, I can tell the difference between 24Bit file and 320 Kbps Mp3, but that comparison only comes true on a high quality sound system that’s been professionally installed, well maintained, tuned and acoustically treated room, like the Ministry of Sound Club. With others it’s really hard to tell. With DJ riders changing in this new specialist world, along with a new generation of promoters that share the same care and musical passion, I believe we’ll yet again see more and more clubs change and adapt, after all, the sound quality is a major part of our arsenal that brings our music to life and makes an impact on the dance floor in an environment they were designed for. To me, it shouts louder than any visuals can.
– John ’00’ Fleming