The new Bla Bla beach club leisure complex in Dubai brings together 20 bars, a beach club and three restaurants as the first independent property in the Jumeirah Beach Resort (JBR) area licensed for alcohol. Serving all of these, as well as several soundstages, are more than 200 Martin Audio loudspeakers supported by Powersoft amplification and Symeix DSP management.

Occupying 100,000sq-ft, Bla Bla is the work of Mohammad Islam, who worked with Autus Partners Management Consultancy co-founder Steve Taylor on the project. The Martin Audio solution was proffered by design consultant Bengan Hovgard, from Loud and Clear Audio Visual, and installed by Pulse Middle East. ‘We have worked a lot with Bengan, and he is familiar with CDD and its performance,’ says Pulse Operations Director, Greg Brown.

The new Bla Bla beach club leisure complex in Dubai‘I chose Martin Audio because the brand is well supported in the region,’ Hovgard offers. ‘The CDD range was suitable for this project as it is available in both indoor and outdoor version which enabled us to achieve the same look and sound throughout the venue. The CDD range also provided the best coverage for some of the narrower terraces and balconies in the venue.’

Pulse visited the site in June and accepted the audio contract the following month. ‘From then on, it was a fast-fit process between August and December,’ Hovgard says.

Martin Audio supported the installation, creating presets and custom EQ, while all the equipment, including Powersoft ampliciation, was supplied by local distributor, Pro Lab.

The consultant and integrators trawled the Martin Audio catalogue, coming up with CDD6, CDD8, CDD10, CDD12 and CDD15 models from the Constant Directivity series, with outdoor areas and those exposed to the elements using ‘WR’ weatherised versions. Indoors, SX118 subwoofers provide LF reinforcement for the pool stage, with SX112 in the surround areas.

Martin Audio Adorn A55 loudspeakers are sited in ancillary areas and on the cabanas outside, while C4.8T ceiling loudspeakers are used in the reception area. The Irish-themed Bar features Blackline X8 and X115 subs. Monitoring for acts appearing onstage outdoors is provided by LE200 floor wedges, while indoor stage monitoring is via the portable BlacklineX Powered series, which is sufficiently flexible to be used as both stage and DJ monitors and is not required to be as water-resistant.

In addition to the Irish Bar, Bla Bla’s themed bars include the Butterfly Bar, a Bali-themed beach bar by the pool, a Hollywood themed bar, a classic British pub, a Japanese bar among others, while the three restaurants feature Japanese, Italian and BBQ cuisine. Nightclubs exist on two levels, each with their own DJ booth.

The new Bla Bla beach club leisure complex in DubaiThe Graffiti Bar, with all the interior spray painted, includes white Martin Audio CDD6-WR loudspeakers. ‘We have graffiti-sprayed them to ensure they blend invisibly into the background,’ Greg Brown explains. ‘We had to be extremely careful to protect the grilles and ensure the water resistance wasn’t compromised.’

Every zone in the complex is networked and runs on a Dante backbone. ‘Any source can be played anywhere in the venue including from any of the stages,’ Brown confirms. ‘There are 140 channels of amplification and all routing is handled by Symetrix Radius NX devices.’

Brown reports that the CDDs have the versatility needed by the demands of the installation.

The venue opened in January but because of Covid restrictions, the live music component was removed and social distance rules applied. Since this is in a residential area volume levels are also an issue, although the pool stage is facing out to sea, and so the SPL can be cranked up in this area.

‘We have a great variety of Martin Audio speakers covering absolutely all the audio requirements at Bla Bla Dubai with exceptional quality,’ says Martin Chiervo of events management company Empire Stages, brought in to supervise the technical side of the operation. ‘From our main poolside stage, all the bars, reception and even down to the toilets, Martin Audio has shown it’s capable of delivering the best coverage to every single corner of our venue with pristine quality.’

The power factor

Driving the complex three-zone loudspeaker configuration are Powersoft amplifier platforms.

‘In terms of the amplifiers, there aren’t many products on the market other than Powersoft that can handle this quantity of channels with ease,’ says Pulse Middle East Audio Project Manager, Jacopo Fois. ‘There were so many different zones and speakers, but with the ArmoníaPlus software it doesn’t matter where you’ve assigned your speakers, you can see them as individual objects and adjust them without a moment’s thought.

Bla Bla's terrace (Pic: Andrew Morris/ProLab)‘This makes it very easy to return to the project later on to make adjustments, and for remote management too. You don’t have to find all the schematics and drawings and figure out what’s connected to where, you just open the file, go to the speaker and do what you need to do.’

With regional lockdowns still an issue that has necessitated that many workers stay at home, the ability to be able to work remotely on the Powersoft amplifier platforms was an advantage for Pulse in terms of time efficiency.

‘The monitoring tools in the amplifiers also make it very easy to manage such a massive system and troubleshoot issues when they arise – if there’s an issue with a particular speaker or speaker line, for example, it’s very simple to connect remotely, navigate to the speaker, check its signal and impedance graph, and identify the problem in a matter of minutes, without setting foot in the venue,’ Fois says.

The raft of Powersoft products specified for Bla Bla Dubai were distributed between three ‘A/V rooms’. In the first, Pulse installed 13 T604s, a Quattrocanali 2404 DSP+D, a Quattrocanali 1204 DSP+D and a Duecanali 804 DSP+D, while the second room’s audio system required four T604s, two Quattrocanali 2404 DSP+D, a Quattrocanali 1204 DSP+D, and a Duecanali 804 DSP+D. In the final room, Pulse used nine T604s, two Quattrocanali 2404 DSP+D, and a T304 for stage monitoring.

‘As there wasn’t a high demand for touring products at the time, the flexibility of the T Series amps really helped,’ Fois says. ‘Obviously they’re not designed for installation, but they still do a fantastic job. One nice feature was the ability to pipe control and Dante down one cable, which reduced the number of required network switch ports. With the sheer number of amps in each A/V room, this made a lot of difference between using one network switch in each compared to two.

‘Power sharing is a massive convenience on a project like this, from specifying the amplifiers themselves through to installing and configuring them,’ he continues. ‘With a bit of help from the power sharing calculator and a simple spreadsheet, it’s very easy to calculate the required quantity of amplifiers en masse, saving a whole load of time.

Martin Audio and Powersoft join Dubai’s Bla Bla club

‘In addition to this, we can be sure that we’re not wasting any power on each of the amps, by balancing the load between the four channels and making sure each amplifier is handling an even load.

‘No power is wasted, and no amps are overloaded, making it a very cost-effective installation, both at the time of installation and later on down the line when it comes to maintenance, as we can be confident these amps are going to last for years.’

Despite the three A/V rooms being located around the venue in order to minimise cable lengths, some of the long runs could not be avoided. Happily, the Damping Control on the Powersoft units allowed Pulse’s engineers to compensate, keeping a consistent subwoofer response throughout the venue.

‘On such a large installation, the physical size of the amplifiers was also important to minimise floor footprint in the venue,’ said Fois. ‘This meant that we could fit all 144 channels (or 175kWW of potential power) into three racks.

‘Power efficiency is another factor, with such a quantity of amplifiers throughout the venue and different zones operating at different times, the very low idle power consumption saves significant power over time, which is good for the environment as well as the client’s wallet. By the same token, the amplifiers’ heat efficiency is also significant, given that, in the Middle East, cooling costs can quickly add up, so the efficiency of these amplifiers saves on cooling too.’

Dubai's Bla Bla club (Pic: Andrew Morris/ProLab)Pulse created a signal processing ‘super matrix’ for Bla Bla Dubai with three Symetrix Radius NX series processors (one in each A/V room) provide the core of all the audio routing throughout the venue.

‘Setting the delays and gain in the super matrix itself would be a laborious process, thankfully the sleek user interface of ArmoníaPlus helped out with that,’ Fois says. ‘By mapping all the speakers onto a layout of the venue, delays and gains were set for each individual speaker, for each set of delays (the venue was effectively tuned five separate times), saved into individual files, and then these parameters were copied into the super matrix.

Although Covid-19 certainly had an effect on the installation, primarily by reducing the number of workers it was possible to have on-site, the team made sure appropriate safety measures were in place to reduce the risk of anyone contracting the virus.

The in-house staff at Bla Bla received training from Pulse on the Symetrix control system, which is how the will be interacted with system on a day-to-day basis.

‘Overall, they’re very happy with the audio installation, Fois reports. ‘Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much chance for a full-tilt shakedown of the venue due to the restrictions, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the venue in full operation with multiple bands and DJs and a crowd.’

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