Its real name is Atlantis, but the locals know it as simply ‘tis. The Basel venue has maintained a reputation as one of Switzerland’s largest and most popular music halls for over 60 years. The recipe for this longevity? Keep abreast of changing times and tastes and evolve with them via equal measures of culinary and entertainment treats. Founded as a café in 1947, ‘tis became a jazz restaurant in 1957, then morphed into a rock club featuring concerts by Black Sabbath and other mega stars in 1975. In the late ‘90’s ‘tis revitalised for the DJ generation. Today, it continues to thrive as a club, lounge and restaurant, writes Dave Robinson.
Now another round of modernisation has taken place. Atlantis host Jürg Wartmann and resident DJ Cedric Eichenberger were committed to replacing their 10-year-old audio system and maximising the potential of their precious asset. Their goal was not only improving the sound in the club, but to feed the music to the popular upstairs gallery and other key zones. Beyond club nights, a full range of concerts, carnival and business events needed to be accommodated. Equally important to sound quality, the system in the restaurant area needed to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Dirk Noy, general manager of WSDG Europe and a longtime fan of the venue, was enlisted to collaborate on the sound upgrade. Noy worked alongside Jürg Arpagaus from Audio Partner (a specialist in noise limiting and recording) and Alain Müller and Christoph Ritter from system installer M&R Multimedia Productions. The comprehensive sound system design was developed by WSDG engineers Gabriel Hauser and Carlo Fickler.
The most visible (and audible) components of the new system are the loudspeakers. The front system is comprised of two JBL AM6212 – and a 12''/ 3'' Application Engineered Series two-way speaker which was determined to be optimal choice for the application in a comparative hearing and measurement test. The gallery – critical for ceiling height – and the auxiliary zones are covered by a total of 12 JBL AC 28/26 systems – very compact, horizontally installable dual 8''/ 1'' two-way systems. Kling & Freitag 15' subwoofer systems were installed under the stage. Signal processing and distribution is handled by a BSS Soundweb London with a BLU-160 and BLU-BOB Break-out Box. Various distributed zone volume controls and a selector switch for operating mode are provided for simple system control. The amplifier rack is stacked with eight Crown I-Tech HD devices.
Love the people next door
Graced with beautiful, centuries-old architecture, 'tis is a privileged place. However, this historic distinction is accompanied by certain ‘sensitivities’. "The beautiful old buildings in the neighbourhood are residential," Noy points out. "And, while no one can expect total silence in the midst of a city centre at night, maintaining peace and quiet was critical."
To accomplish this, WSDG recommended the Martin Audio Engineer – an innovative audio processor, which employs ‘Residual Pitch,’ a proprietary psychoacoustic effect which permits the audience to ‘discern’ low frequency energy not actually produced by the system. The overtones of this missing, suppressed or ‘phantom’ fundamental frequency lack a specific sound component but the brain perceives the pitch of a tone by the ratio of its higher harmonics. Ultimately, listeners in the club are unaware of the ‘Residual Pitch’ effect, but the club’s neighbours benefit from a subtle adjustment in volume. The installation is a first for the processor in Switzerland.
As a ‘fail safe’ loudness emergency brake, the install includes a Cesva LRF-05 processor and limiter which receives its sense input from a black box that provides isolation from audience noise and simultaneously records noise levels for logging purposes, a legal requirement in Switzerland.
Because ‘tis is open six nights a week, the install by M&R Multimedia Productions had to be meticulously planned and implemented. M&R project manager Christoph Ritter reports the primary challenge was the time constraint – the entire installation had to be accomplished within 48 hours. "At 5am Saturday night we began dismantling the old equipment. By mid-afternoon, all the loudspeakers and old amplifier racks were dismantled. By Monday evening, we had installed 18 new loudspeaker systems, set up and rewired the new amplifiers and system racks and completed fine tuning," Ritter says.
WSDG, M&R and Audio Partner collaborated fully on the system calibration and measurement. "Despite the extremely tight schedule we could play background music as early as noon on Tuesday and launch full power Club Night on Friday," comments Alain Müller of M&R Multimedia Productions.
The following weekend ‘tis reopened. And once again, Atlantis was ready for the next generation of Swiss revellers.