The high-end bar and club scene is still alive and kicking in Dubai, as befitting a city synonymous with wealth and luxury, even in these troubled economic times. Taking care of many of the latest venues is British founded and run company Em-Tec, with help from the best of British sound manufacturers, Funktion One, MC2 and XTA.
Em-Tec is led by Alex Bracken and Andy Williams. Alex has been established in Dubai for almost a decade, running several entertainment-related businesses, whereas Andy is a much more recent addition to the 200,000-strong, ex-pat population, arriving three years ago. He brought with him almost 20 years of music production experience, gained with house legends K-Klass, a group he formed in the late 1980s that enjoyed underground acclaim and commercial success. They hail from the same hometown. “We’re from Wrexham. When Andy was in K-Klass, being a local Wrexham lad – supporting your hometown and its faces – I would end up on the guest list. We were mutual friends with someone who ran the Cotton Club in Wrexham, which was the first house club in North Wales,” reveals Alex.
Fast-forward two decades, and the pair are firm friends. Each has particular skills that merge into a formidable partnership – Alex’s business-sense and knowledge of the local market and Andy’s ear and dedication to his art. “Andy’s got the best ears. He truly understands the stuff that I’m okay at,” explains Alex.
Both are disciples of the Tony Andrews school of audio appreciation. More than that, they are fans of Funktion One. Alex continues: “We work with the best, really. We didn’t want to get involved and become a normal distributor with five or six different manufacturers, and just selling. It comes from a passion because we’re both from that background. There’s stuff we’ve said ‘no’ to, it’s not about the money. It’s about whether people are really interested in doing it right. If we get that quality of people, then we move forward with it.”
For Em-Tec, ‘doing it right’ means supplying the right products, the correct quantities, meaningful technical support and a responsive after sales service. A certain level of education is involved too. Andy and Alex have picked up the Tony Andrews-endorsed ‘No MP3s!’ banner, and they’re flying it with vigour.
During Ramadan (1 August – 31 August 2011), the integration specialists completed six venues – Jules Bar, Warehouse, One Up, Horizon, Monte Carlo Beach Club, and Alex’s own venture, The Stables.
Though they are run by different operators, Jules Bar and Warehouse both make up part of Le Méridien – a five star, resort-style city hotel, liked for its relaxed feel and multiple entertainment options. Both venues carry a regular programme of live music, with performances every night, and both have been installed with audio solutions that suit their direction.
Jules Bar provided Em-Tec with some acoustical challenges, which needed to be addressed before an effective audio configuration could be devised. The abundance of hard surfaces and glass frontage meant that conflicting reflections could result in noise, and negatively impact the customer experience. This was addressed with thick, acoustic curtains and drapes. The space is split, with a performance area at the front of the venue and the bar with mingling zone to the rear. Two Funktion One Resolution 1 enclosures hung horizontally at either side of the stage, combined with an F218 bass unit, make up the main PA. Infill reinforcement comes from two F101 speakers facing the bar. The system is powered by a Funktion One branded amplification and managed by the X04 management system – from XTA in collaboration with Funktion One – which offers four inputs and eight outputs.
Across a sub-tropical outdoor setting, Warehouse further enhances Le Méridien’s appeal with a dual-floored dining, drinking and entertainment venue. It manages to mix live music with a luxurious design ethos, and the Funktion One sound system works for both elements of the mixture.
With the restaurant on the ground floor, the upstairs bar is a freer setting for kicking back and enjoying music, whether it’s from the DJ booth or live set-up. Once in the bar area, patrons are met with the notable sight of four powered Funktion One Resolution 2 enclosures, which are flown at complementing angles above the stage. Bass reinforcement is supplied by an F221 enclosure, boasting two 21-inch neodymium drivers, powered by an E45 amplifier – designed and manufactured by MC². An E15 amplifier powers the two Funktion One F88 speakers that supply audio to a seating area near the stairs leading up to the first floor.
Amongst the various reasons why the Em-Tec guys are fanatical about Funktion One, is the quality that runs throughout the product range. Though some people, they feel, try to pigeonhole the UK manufacturer as offering only ‘big club systems’, with each installation they are demonstrating that this simply isn’t the case. Talking about Warehouse, Andy says: “Each speaker, as you move through the product range, has the same sonic qualities. So you can move from one area of a room that is serviced by Res 2’s, to another part which has F88’s, and the sound remains constant. Some places you go from one area to another and it’s like you’ve gone into a different venue.”
This is demonstrated perfectly at One Up. One Up is part of the Boutique 7 Hotel, which is located in the Tecom area – opposite Dubai Media City. It is a bar with multiple rooms, offering lounge socialising, sports entertainment and more energetic pursuits. The main room is kitted out with two Pioneer CDJ-900 CD decks and a DJM-900 DJ mixer, as well as a small stage that accommodates live vocal performances. This stage has two F101 speakers flown above it, while the opposite corners are each adorned with a Funktion One F81 speaker, which, despite its size, is capable of impressive results. The 8-inch and 1-inch drivers offer 90° dispersion and 100W of RMS power. A Funktion One F218 bass enclosure – with two 18-inch drivers – reinforces the lower frequency response with large quantities of tight, punchy bass.
Elsewhere in One Up, another six F81’s have been installed. Amplification is handled by Funktion One branded amps and some QSC, with processing from an X04 management system and zoning through a Formula Sound ZMR-243 mixer.
One Up’s Entertainment Manager, Tony Smith, explains: “We decided on Funktion One because we’d heard good things about it. We listened to it in other venues in Dubai, and it produces a really good sound. We’re really happy with it. We trust what these guys say and the quality of the product speaks for itself.”
Also kitted out in this amazing month long installation marathon was Horizon, which is part of the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort. Ramadan took place during August 2011, which offered an (almost) ideal opportunity to fit out venues, because no licensed venues are open during that period. As it fell this year, it also offered some very high temperatures and plenty of humidity, which didn’t affect the air conditioned interiors of Dubai, but made outdoor working conditions extremely challenging.
The scenic surroundings of Horizon received an audio configuration comprising four horizontally flown Funktion One Resolution 1 enclosures and a F212 Minibass. DJ monitoring duties are handled by two F81’s. Like the other venues, a combination of F1 amplifiers, and an X04 loudspeaker management system, brings the speaker system to life.
A two hour drive from Dubai, in the direction of Abu Dhabi, gets you to Saadiyat Island. Monte Carlo Beach Club opened there at the beginning of September 2011, and has been causing a stir ever since. It is the first beach club on the island, and has been designed to ‘celebrate fine living, culture, wellbeing and health, reflecting the values and heritage of Monte Carlo SBM sister hotels and clubs in Monaco’. With its outdoor swimming pool, surrounding cabanas, private beach bungalows, spa facilities and access to 9km of natural white sand beach, the private club is a true destination venue. And the ambitious development plans for the area will only enhance its appeal further.
There are various restaurants within the complex, but Em-Tec’s focus was on the beach bar, where people unwind during the day and party in the evening. To help facilitate this, the system integration specialists prescribed 10 Funktion One F101 speakers for the sheltered areas and two Funktion One R2SH speakers aimed at an uncovered patio space, which leads to the sands of Saadiyat Beach. The R2SH is the skeletal version of the mid-high section of the Resolution 2 – it is small but potent with its delivery.
Bass responsibilities are fulfilled by two F118 Mk2 bass enclosures and a pair of MB212 Minibass enclosures – the smaller iteration of Funktion One’s Infrabass technology. And the familiar combination of F1 branded amps, with the X04 speaker management system. DJs play through two Pioneer CDJ-900 CD decks plugged into a DJM-700 DJ mixer.
“As a leading brand within our company portfolio, Funktion One fits extremely well with all other areas of our business, complementing our company ethos and providing us with excellent products and expertise,” explains Alex. “Funktion One also pays particular attention to the integrity of the entire signal path to ensure that the full potential of their loudspeakers is realised. In this regard they are able to supply UK manufactured OEM amplification from MC², loudspeaker management systems from XTA and DJ mixers from Formula Sound. This gives us the ability to specify complete system solutions of the highest quality.”
Thanks to mondodr.com and Venue magazine for their kind premission to edit and publish this article.