Moments in Music: 8 Sound Systems that Changed the World
There’s one thing all good parties have in common.
From the quality of the audio format to the speakers, everything matters.
The sound system is the centerpiece of the party. It not only makes the experience more immersive and physically intense. It also prevents your brain and ears from getting tired or even destroyed by the music.
For a while club owners stopped caring—spending more on the bar or lighting rigs than the sound. But great sound matters again. It’s making a huge comeback.
High-quality sound for music has become more accessible then ever through innovations in mastering and home recording. So sound system culture has had to evolve to keep up.
The old schoolers know all about this: subcultures from reggae to disco to drum ‘n’ bass have obsessed about the quality of their sound systems for decades.
There’s a handful of sound systems out there that changed the way we experience music.
You try to achieve the best possible sound for your own tracks right? So you should know how they’re getting played too. Knowledge about playback situations is a valuable tool in the studio.
So get you started here’s the 8 most iconic sound systems in the world and why they matter.
1. Rosner Custom Sound
Alex Rosner studied engineering but had a strong love for all things hi-fi, which lead him to start building sound systems in 1959.
Rosner Custom Sound is all about reliability. Each sound system has several amps in case one of them fails—a novel idea back then. “I must have built about 400 systems, and not one of these systems ever failed completely” said Alex Rosner.
Rosner also developed an early mixer prototype that inspired the Bozak CMA-10-2DL, the first commercially available DJ mixer.
His custom sound systems were made famous by David Mancuso’s legendary New York City venue, The Loft. Mancuso’s Loft is the cradle of modern dance music—it was the most famous party of the 1970s New York.
Rosner set up a custom sound system with Klipschorn speakers. Mancuso also had Rosner build a groundbreaking setup: four tweeters above the crowd each facing one of the cardinal points: north, south, east and west. This was later imitated by many clubs for its immersive quality.
What’s special about Rosner sound systems: it’s an audiophile’s sound—detailed, polished and clear. As Mancuso put it: “Loud is good, but there’s this thing called too damn loud.”
Clubs that had Rosner sound systems: Copacabana, Directoire, the Ginza, the Limelight, Max’s Kansas City, and more.
2. Long Sound systems
Richard Long started out working under Alex Rosner. But eventually, the student became the master and Long started his own sound system business.
The Paradise Garage (1977-1987) became Long’s business card and playground. This legendary New York club was where Long brought new clients, tested new speaker units, and catered to Larry Levan’s sonic fantasies.
Long was a masterful carpenter who built wooden speaker boxes by hand. He also paid special attention to room acoustics, making adjustments as needed.
Justin Berkmann founder of Ministry of Sound best explained it: “Richard Long and Levan were constantly trying to improve it by tuning and retuning. Rather than EQing the system, they EQ’d the room. So they took the whole concept of a sound system and turned it on its head by fitting the room around the sounds rather than the other way.”
Only one Long sound system is left in the world and it’s at a bumper car arcade in Coney Island.
What’s special about Long sound systems: Huge and round bass. Hard-hitting sound. The low frequencies were felt more than heard.
Clubs that had Long sound systems: Paradise Garage, Studio 54, Area, Bonds International Casino, Zanzibar in Newark, The Box and Warehouse in Chicago, the Colosseum in Tel Aviv, Dorian Gray in Frankfurt, and more.
3. Funktion One
Tony Andrews spent the 70s touring with bands and working on their sound systems. In 1977 he co-founded Turbosound, a sound system rental company who worked with bands such as Pink Floyd.
Soon Turbosound soon started manufacturing their own sound systems. Their TMS3 all-in-one speakerboxes fueled many UK raves in the 90s. But due to some internal disagreements, Tony Andrews left the company and founded Funktion One.
Andrews is a colorful character. His spiritual belief that music is “a vibrant vehicle of new consciousness” infuses his 40 years of technical experience with sound systems.
Leticia is a lover of acid basslines and hypnotic techno. She DJs and produces under the name softcoresoft. Writer at LANDR.
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