I was at a gig recently in De Barra’s in Clonakilty and the sound was remarkable, not that it’s not always good, but right from the off this was really special. Each note was crystal clear hanging in the air independent of the one before and after that it could almost be visualised moving over the crowd like water ripples; that’s the collision of a number of factors. First, the artist, Paul Tiernan, is an accomplished musician who can squeeze the sweetest tune out of his guitar. The house sound system is critically suited to pick up every detail and nuance of a stripped down solo performance, the sound engineer was doing a good job, the number of bodies in a venue at a gig affects how the sound travels and, as opposed to the echoes of an empty hall, this was set up for a full house and we were in the sweet spot.
There is no doubt that acoustics can be a slippery bar of soap to get a grip of and while it can broken down to a science it needs some intuition to polish it up.
Toby, of ‘Hatchett Furniture & Sound’, has been moving his business into the sound side of it through a natural progression over the last number of years. A guy that you would describe as ‘handy’ (or annoyingly good at everything) he began his training as a boat builder in Southampton. These skills took him around the world working in New Zealand and South Africa but by the time he got home to England he’d had enough of toxic preservatives and standard boat designs and wanted to express himself, designing and making creative furniture. Somehow he and his wife Jess eventually found themselves at home in Timoleague with a workshop to make it all happen. While specialising in fitting bespoke kitchens they managed to incorporate a couple of annual side projects into their shared passion for music, festivals and good clean fun.
They built their first cabin to be dismantled and transported to festivals and set up as a venue for djs and the crowds that follow them and called it My House. Now when I say cabin, I mean a really cute octagonal structure, half open, half closed and done up to give the feel of a 1920s radiogram. This obviously requires a sound system to fire the whole thing up, huge big black modern speakers that to Toby didn’t quite fit in, but what can you do? This kit is rented and you can’t send it back re-designed like it belonged on the Titanic… So he set about making his own.
Very simply, speakers are made up of Tweeters, Mids and Subs for the high, middle and low notes, each with its own amp of different sizes, which are governed through a processer, all of these components need to be matched to each other to get the best out of the sound; the better components you use, the better the sound quality will be. The sounds from the speakers need to be separated so you don’t get them crossing over and cancelling each other out. That then needs to be set up to suit the size of the venue, the number of people that the venue will hold and the type of music that will be played on the system. A system that will pump out deep bass notes unfazed at a club venue may not necessarily get the best out of an acoustic set at a live venue.
And so the whole process began, from the first system he made My House grew to accommodate live bands and grew to be more than one venue and more systems of different sizes for different purposes had to be made; the learning curve, as always, became steeper and the results more rewarding. Due to all kinds of ambient factors, most of us can be quite unaware of the ‘sound’ we are listening to, alcohol doesn’t help, but listener fatigue is a major issue and ‘turning it up’ is never the answer. People do often notice when the sound is bad, but you can tell when it’s good – the dancefloor stays full.
Toby has installed his latest commission in Connolly’s of Leap, and sound aside, it is a thing of creative beauty, it has a physical presence adding to the ambience of the venue with signature style grills that have an old style feel. The proof of this pudding is that the word is already spreading amongst recording artists of a certain calibre that this is a place for them to go to check out the sounds, and we all get to go to hear them play.