One year on from a US$1.6 million refurbishment, Zinc has consolidated its reputation as one of Dubai's leading nightclub venues.
The club's standout feature is its cutting-edge sound reinforcement system, whose development is testament to the vision of resident DJ and Crowne Plaza entertainment manager Greg Stainer.
Stainer says the decision to install the experimental sound reinforcement system as part of the club's major refurbishment was largely the result of his enthusiasm for the sound quality produced by ElectroVoice (EV) line arrays.
Line arrays use a linear grouping of speakers, outputting the same signal at a constant amplitude, to project sound over long distances. Stainer teamed up with EV and the company's UAE distributor NMK electronics to work on adapting the technology to a club environment.
"Line arrays are primarily designed for open outdoor concert environments with an array either side of a stage," explains Stainer. "We agreed that given the interior design of the club it would be best to split the array.
"As far as we know, Zinc represents the first installation whereby a 12-strong array has been split into four sections. We installed each section at equidistant points around the dance floor while a central stack of four double 18-inch subs was installed supplying the bass for the whole club."
Stainer and his team also installed audio control software providing access to each individual speaker using EV's proprietary IRIS-Net (intelligent remote integrated supervision network) technology.
Each speaker is connected to a laptop which monitors its output. If a speaker fails the adjacent speakers can be adjusted, compensating for the volume loss in that particular area of the club. After contributing to the design process via e-mail, EV representatives from the Netherlands travelled to Dubai to see the results.
"They had never seen the system installed in such a small venue. Now they use the set-up at Zinc to showcase the benefits of employing line arrays in a club environment," Stainer claims.
He adds that the interior design of the club and its physical constraints provided further challenges to the project team.
"Our goal was to install the best sound and lighting systems that would also maximise the space we had available for the dance floor and to create adjacent areas where patrons could chill-out away from the music," he explains.
"The line array is perfect in this respect as the sound it produces is very directional. In my opinion it's ideal for a nightclub; perfect sound on the dance floor, while the adjacent seating areas remain less exposed."
Acoustic challenges posed by the club's previous interior design have also been tackled with the metal panelling of old being replaced with wood and metal effect upholstery, which has eliminated most of the old club's echo and reverb issues.
The refurbishment also called for the redesign of the route from the lobby of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which houses Zinc, to the club's main entrance.
"We wanted to create a real 'wow' effect with the design of the main entrance," says Stainer. "Punters have to travel up two flights of stairs from the lobby to the entrance, so we decided to install a tower of LED lights in this area to give them a sense of anticipation as they made their way to the club."
The installation, which includes a two-storey column of 50x50cm LED panels (covering 80 square metres in total) that fills the central space in the stairwell with colour washes and other effects, certainly delivers on this ambition. The club also recently installed an ISDN phone line which allows it to broadcast its Thursday club night sessions live on Dubai's Radio 1.
"I was very taken with how straight forward doing a live broadcast actually was. I imagined satellite dishes and the like but all it required was the installation of a dedicated phone line," says Stainer.
Last year's refurbishment essentially involved stripping out the club and rebuilding from scratch. Stainer says that US$300,000 was spent on the new sound and lighting system and further innovations are planned.
"During Ramadan we're planning a mini-renovation of the club," he says. "We're looking at possibly relocating the trussing from the centre of the dance floor, to ensure we achieve the maximum effect from the existing lighting installation. We're also considering installing a laser system. However, the club has quite a low ceiling which could make it difficult for us to achieve a balance in terms of power output. If we go down this route we'll probably look to install a large number of low-output lasers in an array of some kind."
Stainer also plans to install a new DJ booth to replace the existing set-up.
"This time around [management] is letting the DJ design the DJ booth!" Stainer says. "Our focus will be on the technical aspects of the set-up, as opposed to concering ourselves with aesthetics or acquiring new technology," he adds.
"We've got two pioneer VDJs, three pioneer CDJs and two Technics 1210s, so in terms of conventional DJ equipment, we have everything we need. I'm also planning to install laptop ports so guest DJs can access the sound system directly. Most DJs that perform here use a laptop in some way. We will also provide space for a host of other equipment such as turntables and peripherals."
Stainer claims that the most important consideration in the design of the booth will be ensuring its long-term viability.
"You have to future-proof the booth. Many DJs turn up with their own effects units and laptops, while some even insist on bringing their own CD players," Stainer says. "Most of the new technology being released to market is very compact in size, so as long as you have enough room for the old equipment, you'll also have space for the new kit."
Stainer also plans to cover the front of the DJ booth with an LED-based display, which will be used to display effects and video graphics. He also hopes to find a way for the graphics to interact with the audio output. One year after taking a chance on the split array system, Stainer remains pleased with the results.
"In terms of audio output this place rivals massive clubs in Ibiza and the Ministry of Sound in London," he boasts. "The sound quality from the split array is so good it's like wearing a pair of Sennheiser headphones when you are on the dance floor."
2 x Pioneer CDJ1000 MK3s.
2 x Pioneer CDJ800 MK2s.
1 x Pioneer DJM 600.
2 x Technics 1210 MK2s.
1 x Tieline 1mix G3 (radio broadcast).
1 x Dell Latitude laptop PC running Artist (lighting) & Iris (audio) software.
8 x EV P3000RL precision series DSP-controlled.
7 x EV P1200RL precision series DSP-controlled.
3 x EV SX A100 powered monitors.
4 x EV X-Line double 18-inch Xsubs.
12 x EV X-Line XLD 281s.
14 x EV ZX1-100s.
8 x FutureLight PCC250 colour changers.
8 x FutureLight PHS260 moving heads.
4 x FutureLight PHS200 moving heads.
10 x FutureLight PSX250 scanners.
18 x FutureLight DJ Scan200s.
2 x DTS strobes.
2 x Antari smoke machines.
Approx 80 lineal metres full colour LED batons (ceiling coves).
Approx 80 square metres full colour LED panels (entrance tower).
1 x Midas Verona 320 mixer.
6 x Sony 42-inch plasma TVs.