Pioneer Pro Audio Masters Dutch Audio Challenge at Panama, Amsterdam

For 15 years, Amsterdam nightclub Panama has been at the forefront of the Dutch music scene. Offering an eclectic range of musical styles on different nights of the week, the venue is renowned for featuring world-famous DJs and local residents who draw huge crowds. The club’s programme is a microcosm of the city’s nightlife and is frequented by clubbers with an appetite for a flawless audio experience but as the clubs Manager Timo Lassche explains, “flexibility is also very important for us. One day we’ll host a business seminar with presentations and speeches, the next day we’ll have a pure techno night and the next day it’s a jazz party. For every event, the sound has to be fantastic.”

“We’d had our previous sound system for four or five years and it was still working well but we knew it could be better,” explains Lassche. “For starters, we were missing some bass and we wanted the music to be more focused on the dance floor but still sound good in the bar areas and on the balconies.” A number of audio brands were invited to demo systems at the club, but none of them hit the mark. Having been impressed by Pioneer Pro Audio’s systems at Booom and Sankeys in Ibiza, Café D’Anvers in Belgium and Magdalena in Berlin, Lassche asked a few of his industry friends for their opinions on the brand. “It’s super important for me that artists want to come to Panama because they like playing on the sound system,” he explains. “I spoke with a lot of different artists and I heard Pioneer’s name many times.” Panama’s team consequently bought their Pioneer Pro Audio system without requesting a demo but it was clear that the installation wouldn’t be such a breeze. Although the century-old former power station occupied by the club has a charming history, it is awkwardly shaped and is protected from being modified with damping material or even by fixing speaker brackets to the walls.

“We had to make the system work for all kinds of musical styles and even business events but there were many variables in the acoustic space,” explains Pioneer Pro Audio Manager Alex Barrand. To tackle the installation Pioneer Pro Audio collaborated with local company Discovery Sound & Vision, whose owner, Wim Kuin, recognised the same challenges. “The room is surrounded by balconies with a lot of space underneath where you have to try and get even coverage. The roof is about 20 metres high and is really thin so it creates unwanted reflections.”

The natural choice to suit the layout of the room was a system comprising twin 3-metre GS-WAVE stacks with tweeter pods above the dance floor and an assortment of XY Series speakers used for infills. The entire system was installed in a tight time frame, taking less than five days and was ready for the first ADE party. Portions of the stage were cut out on either side in order to integrate the GS-WAVE stacks, which were angled inwards. This directed the system’s main power and energy into the centre of the dance floor and avoided dead spots that would be caused by reflections from the balcony if the stacks were pointed straight forwards. The flexibility of the WAV-LENS, with its 35-degree tilting mechanism, also meant the best focus point for the high frequencies could be selected. XY Series speakers were placed at the back of the dance floor and in the bar areas underneath the balconies to create even coverage of the room. “The XY speakers give a very natural sound, so you can use them for all styles of music and audio. They’re not just for club music,” comments Kuin.

Barrand and Kuin created a custom bracket that would allow, for the first time, speakers to hang from the sides of the GS-WAVE stacks. With an XY-101 on the inside and an XY-122 on the outside of each stack, a stereo image is created in the centre of the dance floor to envelope the listening area for the audience right in front of the DJ console. For monitoring, an XY-215s sub with an XY-122 on top. was placed at either side of the DJ booth. There was some concern from the club that the 15” subs wouldn’t be powerful enough but those fears were put to rest on the first night of ADE, when it was clear there was more than enough low-end for the DJs. In fact, the solution was so popular it’s since been implemented in other Pioneer Pro Audio touring systems and installations. To enhance the monitors’ performance even further, another custom bracket was engineered by Discovery Sound & Vision. Fixed to the sub, it suspends the counterbalanced top speaker above, so each DJ can effortlessly tilt it at any angle necessary to direct the mid and high frequencies straight at his or her ears. “The speakers stay in the perfect position,” says Kuin. “The DJs love it.”

Of the finished system, Panama’s Manager Lassche says, “It looks impressive. When you walk in and see those stacks it really makes you pay attention. It’s warm and powerful but it has an edgy bass to it and that’s special. It’s rawer and sounds more underground than other systems, which is great for dance music but it also adjusts really well for different music genres.”

The dance music community has responded well too. Following the installation of the Pioneer Pro Audio system, Panama has been voted into DJ Mag’s prestigious Top 100 Clubs in the World poll for the first time, and is the second highest ranking Dutch club on the list.

“The system is totally adaptive for different nights at the venue,” says Pioneer Pro Audio’s Barrand. “We invested a lot of time in creating presets to enable the system to respond that way.” Those presets are accessed via custom control panels created by Pioneer Pro Audio in an open- architecture DSP software from DSS. Now, the Panama sound technician can simply press a button on an iPad each night and have the peace of mind that the system will respond to the genre of music the DJs will play.

Working relationships are incredibly important in the nightclub industry and for Panama’s Manager, Lassche, the experience of collaborating with the Pioneer Pro Audio team reassured him that the club had made the right choice. “With Pioneer, we weren’t just buying a sound system. We’ve got a partnership now, which is exactly what we wanted. We know that as technology changes, Pioneer Pro Audio can deliver the best sound at Panama, now and in the future.”