When Catalina Popescu and her late husband, Bob, launched their Catalina Bar & Grill on Easter weekend in 1987, it was with the dream of reviving the Los Angeles jazz scene by attracting international artists and nurturing local talent. In late 2017 one of those musicians returned the favor by making an introduction to QSC that resulted in a major upgrade of the venue’s sound system, which now features QSC E Series E12 12-inch, two-way passive speakers and E18SW subwoofers together with E10 passive stage monitors, all driven by PLD4.5 power amplifiers.
“I’m a regular performer there and knew the system needed a serious overhaul,” said L.A.-based musician J. Wayne Linsey, who uses QSC speakers in his keyboard rig. “I like the clarity and footprint of QSC speakers. I thought the company might have something that would fit the needs of the club, so I made the introduction.”
The club’s house engineer, Jeffrey “Woody” Woodruff, provided QSC’s design team with blueprints of the room and the positions of the previously installed system. QSC recommended five of the company’s new E12 speakers—a pair hung above the left and right front corners of the stage plus one above the center—to cover the main dining section of the supper club. “This allows us to put a little extra lead vocal or lead instrument into the center, just to give a little more focus,” Woodruff said.
Two E18SW 18-inch subwoofers, positioned at the upstage left and right corners replace the six previously installed subs. Three additional E12 speakers were also installed as delays to extend even coverage throughout the L-shaped room. “The E18s couldn’t be better and just fill in the lows a little bit,” Woodruff said. “And the transition between the E12s and the E18s is very smooth—the combination is great. It’s a very natural sound that just lifts what is coming off the stage. And the delays fill in around in the bar and back toward the booths, so you don’t notice the transition between the zones.”
Overall, compared to the old speaker system, Woodruff said, “It’s like a blanket was lifted off the whole thing. Everybody is noticing the clarity of the QSC system. And now I have hardly any EQ on the house speakers, only on individual voices.”
Not only does the E Series rig offer better clarity and efficiency according to Woodruff, but it is also more compact than the previous main system speakers. “The old speakers hung down an extra foot or 18 inches and were too close to the musicians and the vocalists, and would cause feedback loops.”
Ever since the first night that it opened, when Dizzy Gillespie and his band attracted a crowd that reportedly included the likes of Miles Davis, Benny Carter, and Cedar Walton, the Catalina Jazz Club has made an indelible impression on the jazz music scene. Over the years, initially at its original location and then on Sunset Boulevard, where it relocated in 2003, the venue has hosted a who’s who of legendary musicians, including Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Ray Brown, Joe Williams, Max Roach, and Carmen McRae, to name only a few.
Drummer Dave Weckl, who, like Linsey, utilizes QSC as part of his regular rig, has played at the Catalina many times and immediately noticed the improvement when he performed with the Mike Stern Quartet in December, after the new E Series rig had been installed. “We were all very pleased with the new system,” he said. “It's a night-and-day difference compared to what was there before.”
“I think the new system makes a huge difference compared to what we had,” Catalina Popescu said. “And as we go, it’s going to get even more adjusted. It’s a huge addition to our room.”
“The Catalina’s L-shaped room is challenging to any sound system or mix," Weckl continued, “Especially the bar area off to the side of the band. But we were told from people sitting over there that it was the first time they had heard good sound from the system, and that it was an enjoyable mix. I look forward to my next time there.”