Recently opening its doors as one of Melbourne’s newest cabaret and live music hotspots, Brunswick Ballroom is quickly becoming a hub for some of the best live entertainment Australia has to offer. Residing within the historic Metropolis House building on Sydney Road, the newly refurbished venue takes over from popular live music venue The Spotted Mallard, which closed its doors in 2020.
The location has a long history dating back to the 1960s, having served as a wedding reception centre, hat factory, nightclub, and even French restaurant, until being transformed into The Spotted Mallard in 2012. Determined to make the building’s new lease on life something special, the crew behind Brunswick Ballroom were quick to revamp the upstairs sound system, enlisting the expertise of Optical Audio Productions to oversee installation and operation of a fresh PA setup.
Installing a scope of high-quality hardware throughout the primary space, Optical Audio’s loadout includes solutions from NEXO, DiGiCo, Quest Engineering and Camco. The Front of House setup is comprised of a NEXO GEO M10 line array system, with NEXO’s PS8 point source systems as front fill, powered together by a NXAMP4X4. A series of Quest Engineering’s compact HPI5 speakers form a delay ring, whilst Quest’s QM12MP can be found on stage as floor wedges for foldback. An additional PA, used as the house background system, is comprised of Quest’s MX801 loudspeakers and MXS10 Subs. Camco’s D-Power series powers both the QM12MP’s and MX systems.
NEXO’s GEO M10 is a world-leading line array series featuring an exceptional size to power ratio. The system’s ability to deliver pristine, full-range sound across the entire upstairs area using only 3 cabinets per side, made it an ideal choice for the space as Jason Read, Optical Audio’s Technical Director explains:
“The venue is moderately sized but the new stage itself is quite intimate; there isn’t much space for ground-stacking and a limited area to conceal hardware. Using a couple of short M10 hangs -and some LS18 subs under the stage- was the most unobtrusive solution. The three-a-side M10 systems are enough to deliver the clarity and SPL required for the venue’s cabaret, comedy and live music, largely due to the amount of power you can get out of each NEXO box.”
Boasting a refurbished look inspired by Prahan’s legendary Continental Café of the ‘90s, the new venue seats up to 290 people, and includes the Brunswick Artists’ Bar downstairs as a secondary entertainment space. Jason goes onto speak about the reimagined venue, and the changes made to the upstairs layout since its transformation:
“The previous venue had a stage facing the bar, which in turn, meant the PA was facing the bar too. This new layout has the stage almost perpendicular to the bar, so our PA is firing ‘past’ it. I’m certain the bar staff are a lot happier with this layout, as it is much easier to communicate in the service area now. We’ve been able to fine-tune this separation between audience and service area even more thanks to the directional technologies in the M10 modules. The new stage orientation also means that the performance direction is in line with the roof beams, creating an opportune place for the HPI5 delays.”
At the rear of the venue sits a DiGiCo SD8 console, handling both FOH and monitor mixes for the stage. Based on the same versatile technology as DiGiCo’s previously long-running flagship console, the SD7, the SD8 provides the venue with a comprehensive solution to engineering Brunswick Ballroom’s eclectic and diverse range of performances.
Since taking over the lease in late 2020, the venue’s new proprietors had been working nonstop to bring their version of the majestic Brunswick space to life. The space was to open alongside 2021’s re-emerging live music scene, requiring Optical Audio to work within a carefully managed timeframe and budget. Solutions from Quest Engineering were chosen when professional, cost-effective systems were needed in addition to the primary PA hardware.
“The Quest MX and HPI series provided the quality and price point combination we needed for the background system and delay ring. We also like Quest’s QM12MP as it’s a very capable foldback monitor; we’ve come to rely on them for exactly these sorts of theatre and cabaret setups.”
With stunning stained-glass domes embedded in the ceiling, and a balcony with views of the Melbourne city skyline, Brunswick Ballroom certainly looks the part. With the addition of a brand-new sound system, featuring a symbiosis of world-class technologies, Brunswick Ballroom is now destined to take up the mantle as one of Melbourne’s most dynamic and exciting performance venues.