Whilst in London for the Launch of the brand new Chord Poly we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit a place that has been on our must see list ever since Kevin and Lynn from Living Voice told us about it, and their involvement with it.

Spiritland is a music brand built on a deep love for the music and attention to detail, with food, drink, retail and radio elements all operating every day in their home on Stable Street in the incredibly hip part of Kings Cross.  Spiritland has hosted a whole of Djs, Launches and more with some of the last year’s highlight’s being:
Record launches: Gorillaz, the xx, Bonobo, Depeche Mode, Kasabian, Spoon, Jeff Mills. Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Illum Sphere, Mr Bongo
Musical programme – over 400 DJs and music lovers have played at Spiritland including Andrew Weatherall, La Roux, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Norris, Felix Dickinson, Jonny Trunk, Severino, Roger Sanchez, John Gomez, Justin Strauss, Sal P, Phil Mison and many more. That’s an enviable list of Dj’s!
Spiritland Talks: a series of cultural events with Bill Nighy, Nick Hornby, Madness, Dennis Bovell, Joe Boyd, Pete Paphides, Roddy Doyle, Bill Brewster, Miranda Sawyer and John Doran.
Private events: The Lisson Gallery, Argent, Converse, Kiosk magazine, Deutsche Bank, Universal Music, Warner Music, Airbnb.
Radio studio: Live and recorded shows for Spotify, Whistledown Productions, The Guardian, BBC Radio 3, Pixiu Productions, Rinse FM, Mixcloud, Unbound, James Lavelle and others.
The place is a very cool open plan space with a distinctly industrial feel (think pipes and wire work exposed in the roof space) but it also manages to feel warm and inviting. The clientele are in the main youngish looking, keep in mind this old codger has just turned fifty, and very on trend in the clothes department. There is clearly a push to the more affluent market and this is understandable in this area that has a very arty vibe to it. A range of snacks, small plates and more substantial dishes are served throughout the day and there’s a good selection of beers and cocktails to tempt. Spiritland also sells a range of headphones in the “venue” as well as records, music books and interestingly Teenage Engineering pocket synths.
However the thing that we were here for was the sound system that, it has to be said, on paper at least, looks absolutely fabulous. Walking in the door, and having been a DJ for several years int he early 90s, is the DJ Booth. It is the stuff of dreams, particularly the solid brass mixer that is made of solid brass and is a collaboration between Spiritland, Pentagram and Isonoe…it took 2 years to make. The mixer is all rotary and looks the dog’s danglies…i was dying to have a play on it and the modified Technics 1210s. Also in the booth is Kuzma Stabi turntable that gets used at 6pm when Spiritland plays one selected album from start to finish. 
Look beyond the booth and the tables and seating and there is the heart of the sound system. This is no of the peg club PA, rather it’s a high-end home system modified for this particular environment with speakers being by Living Voice and amps by Atelier du Triode and Canary Audio. It’s playing cool lounge music whilst we are there at low level and it sounds like a refined system, perhaps too refined for this kind of venue, with the emphasis very much being on the tops, mids and upper bass, but Paul Noble (Artistic Director) flicks a switch and there is bass aplenty, even at these low volumes. He mentions that as the night progresses the volume goes higher and we’d have loved to have stayed but had prior engagements. This is not a place for dancing; it’s not a nightclub by any stretch of the imagination! It’s hard to define what Spiritland represents but i’d go for a hipster eatery and bar with music and the system being a big pull factor; a place where people go to listen to tunes on a high-end system bit also where they can have a bite to eat, drink and meet friends. 
System

The Living Voice Spiritland speaker system is a 4 box 5-way design that uses horn loading for all but the very lowest frequencies. It is based on over 25 years of R&D, sharing technology from the Living Voice Air partner (1991) through to today’s Vox Palladian.

A horn loudspeaker, by its nature, is highly efficient. It is essentially an acoustic amplifier. The electronics in Spiritland therefore only need 30 or 50 watts of output power to fill the 100 seat venue, despite the high levels of ambient noise that you would expect. “Not many people use horn loudspeakers in their homes any more because of the size and the cost, but a horns’ ability to reproduce natural dynamic range makes it the ideal solution for an ambitious project” says Kevin Scott of Living Voice continuing “It is a technology that can lend the music a life and believability -one that big reflex systems simply cannot achieve. The principle of horn loading is highly appropriate in this environment allowing the use of the highest quality amplification uncompromised by the need for high output power levels. The significant advantages of Class A valve amplification can be fully realised”.

The Spiritland speaker is a one-off Living Voice design, a bespoke creation commissioned specifically for the individual needs of this listening club, built to suit the style and sonic requirements of the venue. A brief summary is here….

The mid – bass driver is a Vitavox AK151. This is a 15″ straight sided paper cone unit designed specifically for front loading with a horn geometry. This very stiff and light (42 gram) cone and voice coil assembly is driven by a powerful 2kg magnet made of AlNiCo. This driver is coupled to the throat of a folded exponential mid bass horn with a 1.9 metre development operating over a bandwidth of 70Hz to 400Hz. This is essentially the frequency range of male voice, kick drum, tympani, tom drums and snares.

The mid frequency driver is also from Vitavox, the classic Vitavox S2, also with a powerful AlNiCo magnet. This uses a featherweight 2″ anodised aluminium dome diaphragm with a thickness of just 50 microns. This driver is coupled to a mechanically damped cellular aluminium horn, which also has an exponential geometry. This operates over a bandwidth of 400Hz to 5kHz. This is essentially the frequency range of trumpet, flute, piccolo, cymbals as well as female voice.

The high frequency drivers are a pair of Living Voice modified JBL 2405 slot dispersive ring radiator drivers. One fires forwards and the other fires backwards creating a uniform distribution of ‘presence-band’ sound in the room, and equalising the power response in this critical bandwidth of 5kHz to 15kHz. This covers the upper harmonics of instruments and defines the physical position of instruments in space.

The ultra high frequency unit also uses an AlNiCo magnet to control a tiny 30 micron thick aluminium ring diaphragm. The sound is radiated through a small exponential horn to generate the frequencies from 15kHz to 40kHz – way above that of human hearing and beyond the range of most musical instruments. It provides important subliminal information about the nature of the acoustic in the recording venue, as well as additional ‘spacial’ information.

The sub bass speaker units are not horn designs. Instead they use two parallel 18″ JBL drivers loaded to a 500 ltr vented tuned enclosure, to cover just the lowest  two octaves; 20 – 70 Hz. These are driven by a purpose designed 500 watt Living Voice bass amplifier. This system covers the lowest frequencies reproducing ambient environmental noise and contextual information from the recording venue. It provides a foundation and underpinning to the music.

So, there you have it. I’m not sure the style of music being played whilst we were there really appeals to me but then we’re not really the target market for Spiritland. What I admire about the project is that they have put themselves out there and not been afraid to expose people, if not quite the masses, to a high-end audio system in an environment that is something out of the ordinary.

Spiritland has also announced the opening of  its new central London space – Spiritland Headphone Bar on New Burlington Street, Mayfair, W1. This is a small shop, nestled between the luxury shops on Savile Row and Regent Street and selling a whole host of personal audio gear where the public can sample headphones ranging from £150 to £4000.
“There isn’t a more engaging or involving way to listen to music than through one of the carefully selected 20 headphones and earphones, by high end brands such as Audeze, Chord, Sennheiser, Astell and Kern and more.  This specially curated selection of personal audio will enable each music lover to enjoy music in the most sublime way – on the move or in the comfort of their own home. Come in and hear music as it should be heard. “  – Paul Noble.
To compliment the selection of headphones, Spiritland Headphone Bar sells amplifiers and digital audio players.

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