IOWA CITY, IOWA: The Union Bar in Iowa City, Iowa is the biggest bar in the Big Ten Conference and the weekly scene of parties that consistently earn The Union Bar a spot on Playboy’s list of hottest parties in the USA. DJs from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York City regularly fly to Iowa City to host the parties front-and-center from the dance floor’s stage, a stage now both flanked by high-fidelity, abundantly-powerful Danley loudspeakers and moved, literally, by a pack of beefy Danley subwoofers. Apart from the dramatically improved fidelity, which no longer causes patrons to equate “loud” with “painful,” the well-behaved pattern control of the Danley boxes allowed owner/operator George Wittgraf to direct sound away from the bar itself, making it easy for bartenders to hear drink orders where it used to be an often-unsuccessful scream-fest.
“The old system was loud in the worst way
possible,” said Wittgraf, who can be found at his beloved establishment six nights a week. “It was really harsh on the ears. That was a drain on me and my staff, who had to listen to it night after night, and it certainly wasn’t a selling point for our customers. The bartenders were especially frustrated because it was often impossible to hear drink orders and they went home with their ears ringing.”
Not one to do things halfway, Wittgraf poured countless hours into researching a better replacement for the system, which was then in the midst of its second decade of service. “I spent a lot of time on message boards, listening in, so to speak, on the conversations of people who live and die for sound reinforcement,” he said. “Any time Danley Sound Labs came up, there was like an air of respect and glowing reviews. I spoke to a few guys I know locally and they confirmed that Tom Danley is well known as a genius in the industry. They said I couldn’t go wrong.” Wittgraf purchased the new system “sound unheard” based on a faith in everything he had read.
The new sound system at The Union Bar is comprised of four Danley SH-50 and two Danley SH-96 full-range loudspeakers split equally on both sides of the stage for true stereo playback whenever the DJ’s setup allows it. Four Danley TH-115 subwoofers reside with the full-range boxes on top of the stage. Below the stage, two Danley TH-221 “Cine-Monster” subwoofers deliver crushing (but remarkably accurate) bass down to 22 Hz. “It’s true, we’ve had some issues with needles skipping because of the TH-221s, but that’s the kind of problem I want to have!” laughed Wittgraf. Powersoft and Crest amplifiers share duties providing power to the system, with a DBX DSP providing modest input and output conditioning. An existing twelve-channel mixer forms a front-end to the system and gives Wittgraf the flexibility to accommodate DJ sets with live drums, live guitar, or even, on occasion, full bands.
One of the first things Wittgraf did upon delivery of the new system was to play some of his favorite electronic music. “The staff and I noticed nuances in the music that we had never heard before, little background rhythms and sounds,” he said. “It was very detailed, and it didn’t matter if we were playing it quietly or going full-tilt. Critically, the sound remained smooth and not the least bit painful even when it was incredibly loud. I have a sound guy who has been working in this room for twenty years, and he laughed when he heard the subs fire up in this 116 year-old building: ‘The room’s making noises it’s never made before.’ The TH-221s move a lot of air!”
After settling into The Union Bar’s new sonic landscape, Wittgraf played with the pattern control of the SH-50s and SH-96s, both of which feature Danley’s remarkable drop-off outside the prescribed beamwidth, a drop-off that dips into low-mid frequencies where even conventional “directional” loudspeakers are effectively omni-directional. “I was able to keep most of the energy on the dance floor and away from the bar,” he said. “It is a dramatic difference from the old system, and it has made my bartenders much, much happier. Now, even when the party is raging, they can still easily hear drink orders and they don’t go home with fatigued, ringing ears.”
ABOUT DANLEY SOUND LABS Danley Sound Labs is the exclusive home of Tom Danley, one of the most innovative loudspeaker designers in the industry today and recognized worldwide as a pioneer for “outside the box” thinking in professional audio technology. www.danleysoundlabs.com