Opening The Vault

As the latest nightclub to come onto the scene in southern California, The Vault 350 in Long Beach boasts audio, lighting and visual systems that leave many long-established venues in the region in the dust. In fact, the audio setup alone rivals that of venues many times the size of the 1,500-capacity, 3-level club.

"I designed the rig to be 140 dB at the back wall," explained Pat Pennington, erstwhile production manager at the club and the principal audio and lighting designer for the venue, in collaboration with Jim Bowles of Sound Marketing and Michael Warren of MW Audio. With so much headroom, he continued, "At 89 dB, it's like a CD in your face."

Audio gear at Vault 350 includes 56-channel Soundcraft Series FIVE consoles at both front of house and monitors as well as BSS Audio DPR-404, 422, 504 and 522 dynamics processors; dbx DriveRack 480, 160A and 106 compressors, and 2231 graphic EQ; and a Lexicon 960L, plus four PCM81 and three PCM91 reverbs. Sound coverage of the 25,000-square-foot venue is provided by a JBL VerTec VT4888 line-array system driven by Crown Macro-Tech amplifiers capable of delivering 100,000 watts.

"The reason I designed the rig this way was so that we could attract everybody. The rig is rider-proof," offered Pennington, who has designed audio systems in some of the area's best-known showcase clubs.
He continued, "The reason I went with VerTec was the dispersion. One of the key issues is that it's a left-center-right design. With the power behind that rig, with the center cluster for the vocals, it's just amazing."

But with Pennington's system designs at the House of Blues West Hollywood and Billboard Live (now the Key Club) at least a decade old, Vault 350 represents the current state of the art. "With JBL's help and support we put a million dollars into the audio side. I dropped a quarter of a million on the lighting rig. There are over 90 fixtures," he said.

The lighting and video equipment includes nearly 70 Robe intelligent lights and an integrated multimedia center that combines three Panasonic CCD cameras, two Eiki 10,000-lumen projectors and 12-foot screens on either side of the stage. "Michael [Warren] gets credit for the video, with TGK," Pennington acknowledged. MW Audio, together with TGK Audio Visual Solutions, of Ventura, CA, installed everything under his direction, he said, working heroically after delays in the project, which involved a major build-out of the venue's shell to support the equipment. "They did an amazing job. We got held back by the city, and put the entire system in-permanently installed to code-in about three weeks."

Jim Bowles at local distribution company, Sound Marketing, based in Canoga Park, also got a shout-out from Pennington. "Jim was essential on the audio design," he said.

Pennington also collaborated with Warren and MW Audio on another local venue, the Malibu Inn, which, like the Vault 350, is owned by Mitchell Stewart. Another system to rely on Harman Pro products, the rig at the Malibu Inn includes Soundcraft MH4 consoles, Crown amps and JBL AE Series speakers.

But, in Pennington's opinion, everything pales in comparison to the Vault 350. When it's mixed right, he said, "I think it's the best sounding room in California."

Steve Harvey ( is editor-at-large for Pro Sound News and also contributes to TV Technology, MIX, and other Future titles. He has worked in the pro audio industry since November 1980.