Ambisonic Clubs – Just a Fad or the Future of Nightlife?

Mainstream digital media is still stuck in stereo. Most people cannot imagine how music would sound in a realm of multi-channel setups. Ambisonic music has a small, but dedicated fanbase consisting mostly of audio nerds- engineers, sound designers and music producers who are looking to innovate their craft. Right now, ambisonics are in their infancy when it comes to nightclubs and festivals. So far, there are only 2 organisations that have made strides in making the 3D club dream a reality.

Envelop San Francisco

Envelop’s SF space for ambisonic clubbing and events

Envelop Audio is a company that funded most of their ventures through Kickstarter campaigns. They released a series of free devices for Ableton Live, which help turn the DAW into an ambisonic production suite. They set a campaign goal of only 27,000 USD to build a space that will continue to be used as a 3D nightclub and a place for other ambisonic events, like sound baths and ambisonic workshops. The good thing about this club is not only that music lovers get to experience clubbing on another level, but the experiments and innovations within the space contribute to the further development of ambisonics as a field in audio engineering. The SF-based club has 32 speakers and 4 subwoofers to play with. There is a certain setup required to run all these speakers. The DJ must use Ableton and the Envelop 4 Live devices, as well as a touch-optimised app for controlling individual elements of a multitrack composition, just like a mixer would. From there, musicians can perform and mix their music from Ableton and control how much of which sound goes to which speaker. The great thing about Envelop is that the company found a solution on how to expand their reach and introduce more people to the joys of ambisonic music. This is done through their other, more mobile events, called Envelop Satellite and Envelop Pop-Up Events. Satellite is a large mobile space that can be assembled at different locations for important events, with full immersion which includes walls and a makeshift wall. Pop-Up is a more compact version intended for use at festivals or daytime events, even indoor! The system consists of an immersive listening space defined by 8 points of immersive sound and audio-reactive lights.

Envelop’s Satellite
Schematics of the Satellite
Drone shot from one of Envelop’s Pop-Up Events

Club “Audio” San Francisco

The second immersive club is oddly enough also situated in San Francisco, and is iconically called “Audio”. The debut 3D event happened in November 2017 with one of the currently most popular House DJs, Jamie Jones. The club partnered up with Funktion One (pioneers among live audio technology) to bring forth a multi-speaker setup where individual elements are separated similarly to Envelop’s setup.. On top of everything, there are fully functional rumble packs under the dancefloor to improve the immersion with bass frequencies. The venue packs 400 people and is claiemd to be a massive upgrade to the dance scene and the so called “altar for DJ Gods”.

Photos from the debut 3D Event. Source: Club Audio