Austin, TX – Downtown Austin watering hole HandleBar has a lot to offer anyone who wanders inside, from live DJs five nights a week to friendly bartenders, craft cocktails, and 20 carefully selected beers on tap. But since its 2012 opening many of its patrons were skipping out on the diverse offerings of its main bar for its expansive, but limited service, roof deck. “At first we couldn’t figure out why no one wanted to hang out in the main bar, where we have all of these great drinks and amenities that aren’t available on the roof,” says owner Brett Vance. “But we were realizing that a big part of it had to do with a really bad sound system.” In May, Vance reached out to BASSBOSS president David Lee to help oversee a complete sound overhaul that would endear HandleBar’s main floor bar to patrons and also mark BASSBOSS’ 30th major installation on its home turf.
Starting on the Ground Level
HandleBar’s previous aging sound system, which was cobbled together from bits and pieces of various sound equipment that had been taken out of service from other neighborhood bars, was not performing up to par. “Even when it wasn’t that loud it hurt your ears,” Vance recalls. “We’ve got concrete surfaces on all sides, so the natural acoustics certainly weren’t helping either. As a result, on a weeknight we might have 200 people upstairs but only 20 in the main bar, which was a real problem because if you passed by the bar on the street you might look in the window and think there’s nothing doing.”
BASSBOSS’ David Lee knew he could achieve superior sound with BASSBOSS products, while using significantly fewer speakers. He designed a system featuring two SSP215 Powered Subwoofers and three CCM112 Powered Monitors for mid-highs in the main bar, supplemented by two SV8 Powered Micromains for additional fill, placing one at the far end of the room and one in an adjacent room. The roof received a sound overhaul as well, with an installation of four weatherized SV8 MicroMain loudspeakers —replacing no less than eight bulky, unattractive plastic outdoor speakers that hung in place there before.
Getting a Handle on the Room
Given the challenging room acoustics, correct speaker placement was essential — especially for the subwoofers. “I wanted to provide the best overall coverage and the least dead spots without putting too much energy into the neighboring club that HandleBar shares a wall with,” Lee explains. “When I modeled the room looking for placement options for subwoofers, it became clear that a cardioid pair of subs in the ceiling offered the best option for even coverage and minimal impact on the dividing wall. We also wanted to keep as much floor space as possible available to HandleBar patrons, so flown subs was a win-win for sound and space concerns.”
HandleBar’s concrete ceilings were not equipped with power outlets and the cost and time to install power in the speaker locations was out of the budget. For the four outdoor speakers being installed on the roof, each of which required remote amplification, Lee chose BASSBOSS RP models. “RP stands for Rack Power, an option in which the amplifiers and dedicated processing that are normally in the boxes are supplied in a 2-space rack chassis,” said Lee. “We make this option available so we can offer the consistency and simplicity of powered and processed speaker systems in situations where the amplifiers can’t be co-located with the cabinets. Once the speakers and amps were installed, the only tuning necessary was to align the cardioid subs. The rest of the system needed no additional tuning. The bulk of the time involved in finalizing the system was dedicated to remote control and preset programming.”
The SSP215 subwoofers that are flown in the ceiling measure only 17-1/4” high, so they are unobtrusive between the ceiling beams. Each sub features two 15” woofers driven by a 2400W RMS Class D amplifier, giving HandleBar’s DJs plenty of low-end on tap. Their extremely flat frequency response from 35Hz to 100Hz help them transition smoothly to the midrange and high end provided by the CCM112 and SV8 loudspeakers. “It’s a much fuller sound,” says Vance. “You can really feel the music now instead of just hearing it. And the DJs love it. They have big smiles on their faces when they are playing on this system. ”
The versatile and compact CCM112 Monitor is able deliver ample midrange and high end performance thanks to its true point-source design, delivering a broad 80-degree conical coverage pattern and all the SPL that HandleBar needs on the main floor. On the roof, the SV8 Micromains deliver a level of bass performance and overall output that compares to many 12” speakers on the market. “It sounds fantastic on the roof, too,” Vance says, “and we’ve got fewer speakers up there than before. They’re really inconspicuous,” noting that they don’t detract from the seesaw, spring horses, and other fun playground paraphernalia HandleBar has installed on the roof.
To accomplish the desired system functionality, a Symetrix Prism 8x8 was installed to provide individual level control of each zone, including a subwoofer level control, input selection between house sound, upstairs and downstairs DJ inputs and TV sound. Basic functions are on wired remotes with additional wireless remote control functionality reserved for the owners. “I can easily adjust the overall volume based on whether we have a DJ or are just playing background music, and I can also tweak each speaker level individually and create exactly the sound I’m looking for,” Vance says.
A Sound That Feels Right
For Vance, the BASSBOSS upgrade has completely changed the tenor of HandleBar’s main bar. “One of the best things about HandleBar is how friendly and interactive our bartenders are, but before BASSBOSS people felt like they couldn’t communicate over the speakers and it really killed the vibe,” he says. “Now we have plenty of power but it sounds rich, deep, and musical instead of uncomfortable. You can see the difference just standing outside the bar and looking through the front window and seeing everyone inside partying and having a great time!” Vance is so impressed that he’s chosen BASSBOSS systems for his next business endeavor, a new HandleBar in Houston, TX. “We’re already talking to David about getting BASSBOSS there,” he says. “I can’t imagine settling for less.”