The Four Thieves’ Winning Formula is in the Gin



What magic was it that allowed four seventeenth century thieves to elude the highly infectious Great Plague of London while stealing valuables from the corpses of wealthy victims? No magic, of course; the answer is to be found in a house gin distilled in one of south London’s more unusual pubs: the Four Thieves in Battersea not only brews up to 40 casks a week of craft ale on the premises, it also houses its very own gin distillery, for which one of the key ingredients is lavender. Of the many plague legends that abound, one of the most plausible is that the oriental rat flea considered responsible for the spread of the disease was resistant to a herbal concoction containing, amongst other things, lavender – reputedly preserving the four nefarious thieves from fatal infection.

The floral theme continues at the pub that takes their name; located off Lavender Hill in a Victorian music hall that was previously the site of the original Jongleurs comedy club, the recently re-opened Four Thieves pub hosts highly accessible leftfield entertainment from stand-up comedians to live music and vintage DJs. And integral to that successful performance formula is a new sound system from established pro audio brands TANNOY and LAB.GRUPPEN, installed by Brighton-based professional audio contractor Alastair Dixon. The new owners, the Laine Pub Company, looked to Dixon, who had worked on several previous projects for them, to provide a versatile audio solution, as manager Dan Luker explains: “Alastair has worked with us for quite a while now, and we’ve always had really good service. He always knows exactly what he’s talking about, and understands exactly what we need. It’s an honest working relationship, which we respect.”

To cater for these very diverse atmospheres a highly versatile sound system was called for. Dixon specified TANNOY 18 VX 8 passive two-way loudspeakers featuring 8-inch Dual Concentric full range drivers distributed throughout the venue to provide the basis of a solid, full range acoustic output supplemented by 2 VX 8.2 bandpass subwoofers for additional low end. In the Boatroom, a small self-contained room with its own stage that caters for live bands, comedy and cabaret, the larger VX 12s and VSX 12.2BP 2 x 12-inch bandpass subwoofers provide substantially extended low end response. The whole system is powered by LAB.GRUPPEN 1U rack mount IPD1200 and IPD2400 amplifiers with on board DSP.

“TANNOY as a brand is one that I’m personally fond of, as I actually own some speakers as part of my home system,” says Luker. “I’ve been a fan for a long time so when Alastair suggested TANNOY I was more than happy!

“Every aspect of the TANNOY and LAB.GRUPPEN combination is well thought through and suits our purpose,” he comments. “The challenge for us was that we needed to use the sound system quite diversely. We have everything from live comedy – which needs a good crisp vocal balance to punch through – all the way through to nice warm music for DJs and live acoustic music that we mic up. We also put on five-, six- or seven-piece bands, and every Sunday we have jazz, so it really needed to be very versatile and deliver much more than simply background music.”

Each of these applications and zones required a slightly different audio treatment, which the new system caters for very easily. One area in particular needed slightly altered equalisation in order to improve intelligibility for customers ordering at the nearby bar and to avoid potential noise transmission issues from the wall-mounted speakers. “Because of the way the system is zoned with only a few speakers on each of the IPD amplifier channels,” says Dixon. “We simply rolled those off at around 100Hz and set the volume slightly lower. That would not have been possible with a conventional amplifier.”

“The system is sophisticated enough that we were able to roll off the bottom end – we also suspended them on wires to avoid structural transmission – so being able to selectively reduce the bass output was amazing,” agrees Luker.

“On top of that we were able to set up the limiters set up for a predetermined maximum level,” he adds. “Because the system is digitally locked down in a way that we can’t over-ride the sound level without an engineer coming out, we avoided having to install third party sound editing systems.”

“The LAB.GRUPPEN IPD series amplifiers are absolutely fantastic,” says Dixon. “For me they have really come into their own on this project with the flexibility to fine tune individual zones and even isolate and tailor specific speakers so easily.

“Turnaround was tight, as it always is on a pub project, but Paul McMullan from TANNOY and I were able to tune up the system with the Xilica Neutrino in no time even as the rip saws were still going in the final phases of construction!”

“The zonal control on the touch pad screen works really well,” echoes Luker. “It gives us the flexibility to be able to control every single part of the building – we’ve got four different rooms at the moment with multiple zones and five input sources all around the building, any of which can be routed to any of the zones and independently level controlled at the touch of a button – that ability to really quickly isolate and move those around means that we can do anything, like pop-up stand-up cabaret performances in any one room, and it’s all very easy to control.

“We’re really, really happy with the result,” concludes Luker. “It sounds nice and warm and filling, which is great in this environment where we can have a really nice full sound without people having to shout. We use the sound to act as invisible walls between tables – that’s how we set our sound levels throughout the night. We pitch the level so that if you’re sitting on an adjacent table you can talk to your friends without over-hearing what’s going on at the next table.

“You really need a good quality sound system to be able to do that.”


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