The New Press Room: How's it Sound?
By Mike Guy
There isn't any question that The new Press Room is a vast improvement over the old one. The space is modern without losing the pub feel, the food is far better, they still have PBR on tap, and nobody is scared of the bathrooms.
The old place had a sound to it (and a smell). Music played there sounded like your favorite pair of jeans felt the day after you washed them. The lower ceilings combined with brick and wood everywhere gave both upstairs and down an intimate sound, like being inside of a sometimes overly smoky acoustic guitar. The downside was that between talking, clinking glasses, rocking tables, and other barroom noises, unless you were sitting within 20 feet of the players, it could be hard to focus on the music.
My first show at The new Press Room was a bit of shock and awe. Clean glasses, bathrooms with doors that close and good food combined with such crisp and clear sound resulted in sensory overload. It wasn't until my second or third show in the new place that I started my amateur critique of the sound. The first impression was that the new room upstairs was a tremendous improvement in every way, and I naively attributed that to some form of acoustic room treatment magic and a large check written for a modern sound system.
After talking with Ryan Parker about the new system, the sound of the room and having occupied several different seats, and at the bar, for shows, the initial thoughts have evolved, but the sound of the new room upstairs is unquestionably a vast improvement for listeners.
When young, most of us move from one apartment to another often. It does not take long to realize that the same music played through the same equipment sounds different in every room you set it up in. The crazy among us move the speakers around in search of the best sound the room has to offer without any regard for aesthetic value, let alone feng shui (unless maybe if you look at the speakers as windows). I've found that long rectangles and high ceilings are the hardest to make sound good. If you ever have to put the speakers on the short wall of a long rectangle, rent a different apartment. That is the problem that Ryan and others trying to mix the sound in the new room have to deal with.
Someone did have to write a large check because the technology in the new room is substantial. The array of speakers and amplification combined with a hi-resolution digital sound mixing system provide Ryan and his peers the best tools available for extracting the best sound possible from the new room.
You'll see Ryan or others mixing sound at the shows walking around with a tablet. Those folks used to sit at the soundboard and turn knobs and sliders in an effort to get the best sound their ears could define. Many factors go into where the knobs and sliders are set. The best sound an engineer was capable of was probably heard in his seat at the mixing console. The tablet changes all that. It lets the engineer adjust the sound from any place in the room and even divide the room up into different zones and mix them separately, like having different zones in your heating system. That versatility allows Ryan to overcome some of the room's limitations, but of more importance to the group of listeners as a whole, he can improve the sound for everyone in the room. That means if the seats are sold out and all you can get is a seat at the bar or standing room, the sound will be far better than it could ever be enjoyed in the old room. Now you can actually sit at the bar and enjoy the music. There's still some noise, but hey, it is a bar. In the past, if I went to see a show and couldn't get a seat at one of the tables nearer to the stage, I wouldn't stay long. In the new room, I have no problem sitting most anywhere in the room from a sound perspective.
The new-tech Press Room provides the listener with the potential for as good a sound as can be found in the best jazz clubs. Ryan and the others leverage that technology to overcome the physical limitations of the room, and by providing better sound to more of those attending, give everyone in the room a better listening experience and value for their entertainment dollar.
No, I won't tell you which seats I pick. You'll have to go to a few shows, listen carefully, and figure out what you like.