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The Viper Room Nightclub Carries On Legacy of Great Sound and Diverse Music with Sennheiser

Andrew McMahon (Jack's Mannequin / Something Corporate) performs at The Viper Room through a Sennheiser e 935 (photo courtesy Genie Sanchez)
West Hollywood’s The Viper Room routinely hosts performances by over 150 performers a month. As one of greater Los Angeles’ more illustrious nightclubs since 1993, The Viper Room has been an evening destination point for many of Hollywood’s elite and was once owned by mega-star Johnny Depp himself. The club continues to host a ‘who’s who’ of musicians passing through Los Angeles, as well as up and coming independent acts and still maintains a reputation as one of the best sounding venues in West Hollywood — partly as a result of its usage of Sennheiser microphones.

Five years ago, Matthew Andrade began working at The Viper Room and within six months, he was promoted to production manager and head engineer. Andrade says he always wanted to work at The Viper Room, having attended many shows there while also enjoying the sound. “When there was a possibility of working here, I jumped on it,” he recalls.

After quickly rising through the ranks to become head engineer, Andrade essentially disassembled the sound system – carefully evaluating every component and connection – before embarking on a new vision to make the sound of The Viper Room even better. “I really wanted to extend our legacy for great sound and build a new vision,” he says. “It was very important for me to uphold the reputation of quality The Viper Room has, as well as share that vision with the other engineers and technical personnel who work here.”

Andrade, who was educated at Los Angeles Recording School and played in a band for over a decade, was originally introduced to Sennheiser microphones while admiring their sound on the drums: “I had a chance to audition Sennheiser drum microphones while working at other venues and I noticed that there was a difference in clarity, and it was very audible.”

Now, The Viper Room features a full complement of Sennheiser mics – not only on the drums, but on vocals and other instruments as well. This includes six e 935s and one e 945 for the vocals. “I especially like the e 935s, which have a very rich sound that is not boxy or nasally as many other mics I have used.” says Andrade. “I don’t have to run the gain very hot on these, which allows me more headroom so I can push them without getting feedback.”

The Viper Room’s collection of Sennheiser microphones help the low frequency and percussive elements translate throughout the room, which Andrade acknowledges can be difficult to mix in from his side-facing loft upstairs in the rear of the room. He uses the combination of the e 901 and e 902 microphones on the kick drum. “I love the combination of these two mics, as well as their proximity effect,” he says. “You can get more or less low end based on how close the beater is and simply adjust this as needed.” It is simple to set up and make adjustments to the e 904s microphones, which clip conveniently on the rim of the toms. “There are three adjustments you can make to lower or raise these mics,” observes Andrade. “Those parameters are really useful in helping me capture the right sound. The small footprint of these mics also means that I can use them when space is at a premium.”

He also uses a Sennheiser e 905 on the snare and a pair of e 914s small diaphragm condensers as overheads – which come in useful especially during recordings. “We have a Pro Tools set up where we send a stereo feed from the board and the recordings sound very, very good. I really like the high pass parameters and 10-15 dB padding on the e 914, since this gives me a lot more flexibility at the outset.” Finally, it is a common sight to see Sennheiser e 906s on the guitar amps and MD 421 IIs on the bass amps. “The thing I love about the e 906s is that you can just hang them over the side and they sound great,” says Andrade. “This eliminates mic stands and other hassles.”

“With Sennheiser microphones, I get a ‘whole body experience’ that you can feel, especially at the low end,” Andrade concludes. “I really make an effort to understand the sound and vision all the artists that play here really have. I want to stay true to the sound, and with Sennheiser, I feel like I am able to do that at a high level.”