Adam Billingham checks out the exclusive Tape club in London and has a listen to their studio’s PMC monitoring system. 

As well as a music and HiFi obsessive I have been DJing and producing dance music for over 25 years so when the call came in from HiFi Pig Towers for my first assignment, to attend the launch of the new PMC QB1-XBD-A monitoring system at Tape Studio in London, I dived at the opportunity faster than Tom Daley in some particularly snug Speedos.

Tape is situated in Hanover Square in the heart of London’s Mayfair. It is unique in the fact that as well as a nightclub and private members club it also has a state of the art music studio. The main club is an impressive set up with a dancefloor for around 200 punters, a large DJ booth in the centre, a VIP area with comfy seating behind the booth and a good sized stage for live acts and performances. Clearly no expense has been spared on the design, lighting and main soundsystem (top of the range D&B Audiotechnik) and I guess the young, wealthy and beautiful people of WC1 would expect nothing less. The ceiling is lit with an impressive array of RGB lighting, the bar has large LED screens behind it with various funky projections and all around the club are strategically placed dance podiums for the paid or drunken extrovert dancers, I was tempted to bust out my best moves but thought better of it. The whole club had somewhat of a 70’s New York feel about it and that’s a very good thing indeed.

Behind the main club there is another room which is the Tape Members area. This is a 100 capacity room with the same quality and attention to detail as the main club. There is a bar, a small raised area which can be used as a stage, behind it is a brilliant wall of old retro tape machines and leather Chesterfield banquette seating all around. At one end of the bar is a door sized, triple glazed glass screen where one can see into Tapes studio and I got my first glance of what I had come to see and hear, PMCs incredible monitoring system. For audio nerds like myself this was like staring into the wardrobe and glimpsing into Narnia for the first time.

Tape Studio features the only PMC QB1-XBD studio monitoring speaker system in the country and to be honest when I walked into the studio I was quite surprised by the relatively diminutive size of the room for the size of the monitors, about 14’x10’. Was this going to be a case of overkill? My fears were soon put to rest. Chatting to Tapes head studio engineer, Heff Moraes, who has worked with the likes of Trevor Horn, Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox, mixed 9 number one singles, 10 number one albums as well as winning a Grammy and 2 Brits it soon became clear that Tape wasn’t some rich investors fancy, Tape means business. Heff explained that they get a lot of artists from the US who come to the club and like to use the studio when in town. A lot of the artists tend to be Hip-Hop, modern R&B and pop producers making music for the dancefloor and in the US bass is important! One of the producers said he loved the club and studio but felt the previous monitoring system wasn’t up to accurately producing the thunderous low frequency levels required, he had used PMC in the States and suggested that Tape look into it. Tape contacted PMC and a plan was hatched to install one of the best monitoring systems in the UK.

The QB1-XBD use Advanced Transmission Line Technology (ATL). Transmission line technology isn’t a new thing, the enclosure uses an acoustic transmission line within the cabinet, as opposed to a ported or sealed cabinet. Instead of reverberating in a fairly damped enclosure, sound from the back of the woofers is directed into a long folded, damped pathway within the enclosure, which allows greater control of the speaker energy when compared to conventional cabinet designs. This ATL technology allows for exceptional low frequency extension with no colouration, fantastic tonal balance at all levels, higher SPLs without compression or listener fatigue and is more efficient. The very affable Peter Thomas, chief designer and founder of PMC explained to me that it was only relatively recently that modern manufacturing techniques were able to allow them to create a transmission line monitor speaker of the quality that they were happy to put the PMC name to. The PMC team also worked closely with Heff and the Tape engineers to ensure that the room QB1-XBDs were being put in could handle them, after all there would be no point having such a high end system if the bass bounced around like a cricket ball in a lighthouse. All sorts of clever and invisible bass trap technology had been hidden in the ceilings and the walls of the studio.

So how did it sound? Well absolutely mind blowing. Unfortunately, the small studio was fairly busy with people wanting to listen and ask questions so I only had the opportunity to listen to a couple of tracks, a drum and bass track and a reggae track but I can tell you of years of listening to systems at HiFi shows and PAs in clubs I have rarely heard anything which to my mind sounded so clean and accurate. The volumes I listened to were at sternum vibrating levels yet the sound was so clean you could still easily have a conversation with the person next to you. The separation was so good that not only could you hear the separate sounds, but it almost felt like you could hear the individual frequencies in each sound. The high frequencies had a beautiful crisp shine without a hint of fatigue. The midrange is incredibly balanced with superb sense of imaging and the bass? Oh that bass. It’s the kind of bass you’d take out for dinner and ask its hand in marriage at the end of the night. Despite the bone shattering volumes it was taught, crisp with the kind of punch you’d expect from Anthony Joshua and the precision of a laser guided missile. What can I say, I’m in love!

PMC and Tape have done an incredible job of producing one of, if not the best sounding small studios in the country and I only hope some of our brilliant UK producers and artists get to use it, we can’t let our American cousins have all the fun. As for me, I cannot look at my Yamaha NS 10’s anymore, they know something is up but alas they have nothing to fear, I feel it might be quite a while before I have the 100k plus to replace them with the QB1-XBD.

Adam Billingham

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