Visiting the Gibson Garage should be on any guitarist’s bucket list. The iconic instrument maker’s new experience centre features a central concert stage ringed by retail of all Gibson brands, repair and restoration, and even a custom shop where customers can work with a luthier on a bespoke guitar. To ensure a seamless sonic experience throughout, Gibson turned to Nashville integrator Systems Innovation, who installed a complete QSC solution, including a Q-SYS Core 110f processor at the system’s heart to distribute audio. The stage – featuring powered K12.2 and K10.2 loudspeakers with KS212C cardioid subwoofers – can receive audio from the Core or the TouchMix-30 Pro digital mixer. In parallel, the Core feeds satellite rooms via an eight-channel CX-Qn 4K8 power amplifier driving passive speakers including 20 surface-mount AD-S.SAT and five AD-S.SUB, two AD-P4T pendant loudspeakers, and two AD-S802Tcolumn loudspeakers, as well as six CP12 portable, active loudspeakers. Strategically placed Attero Tech panels provide both input to the entire system, with volume and audio source independently controllable in each room from Q-SYS Touch Screen Controllers.
“This system was a fascinating challenge and we’re delighted with how it turned out,” said Justin Eby, who headed up the design for Systems Innovation. “Gibson wanted to be able to do any scale of event within the room capacity and had so many use cases.”
“We needed it to be scalable and to operate around the clock,” elaborated Mark Agnesi, Director of Brand Experience at Gibson, “from playing our master soundtrack of Gibson artists during the day to transforming the Garage into a full-on concert venue at night.”
“When Gibson first approached us, they thought the stage was going to be mainly a singer-songwriter affair with smaller bands,” Justin continued. “The TouchMix, with its input presets and ease of use, is perfect for that. Once the place opened, they saw the potential for big-name artists and larger events, for which they’ve been bringing in production companies. If a company sets up a larger-format mixing console, they can plug into any of the Attero Tech patch points via analog or Dante. If it’s Dante, we have a preset that gives them direct control of every one of the main loudspeakers. But, since the Core 100f has DSP that handles room tuning EQ and all the time delays for the satellite loudspeakers that is totally unaffected by anything happening at the console level and engineers don’t have to reinvent that wheel at each show. Even the stage lighting is controlled over Q-SYS.”
At the same time an artist is playing the main stage, guests might be auditioning a guitar in one of the surrounding rooms or even choosing the exact wood for their instrument from the motorised displays in the custom shop. “Obviously, you want the main space to vibe,” said Mark Agnesi. “You want vibe in the other rooms, too, but you don’t want it to overpower. So, it’s very cool that the panels let us dial in each room to its specific needs.”
Powering the satellite areas is the job of the CX-Qn 4K8 amplifier. Each of its eight channels feeds the loudspeakers in a different room via a 70-volt line. “With 70-volt, it’s easy to add and subtract loudspeakers without maxing out the amp,” noted Justin. “One output equals one zone – think of a home theatre surround system, only with the stems being different rooms instead of channels in a movie. Each zone can contain any number of loudspeakers. The signal is monaural because first, the rooms are oddly shaped and second, people are walking around.”
Despite the system’s structural complexity, it needed to be simple to operate by employees who might not be trained sound engineers. The Q-SYS touchscreen interfaces offered that flexibility, as Justin explained: “Originally we programmed a lot of advanced functionality into the touch panels, such as a little mixer where you can adjust everything. But given the wide variety of people using it, things needed to be simpler, so we just set up an interface with presets.”
The TouchMix-30 Pro is configured similarly to handle spur of the moment jams. “Let’s say we have an artist back in the green room who spontaneously decides to go out and play a few tunes for the crowd on a Tuesday afternoon,” said Mark. “We have a preset for guitar and vocal. We have a preset for two guitars. We have a preset for a trio, and for larger bands. The ease of operation for getting a mix dialed in is very quick and efficient.”
Speaking of the green room, this backstage area for artists and VIP guests includes a secret vault of historic guitars plus additional connectivity options. “The green room is its own audio zone,” said Justin. “It can play the main stage signal or overall background music. We also added Bluetooth so guests can stream songs from their phones, and even a phono-level input for the turntable they have in there.”
Of course, all the input presets and routing options in the world don’t necessarily add up to the audio quality necessary for the premium experience Gibson sought to create. Between exacting room tuning via the Core 100f and Systems Innovation’s careful loudspeaker selection, their expectations were exceeded.
“I was terrified of this room at first,” recalled Mark. “It’s a cavernous concrete space with pillars every 10 ft or so, and the entire back wall is glass. I was dreading what could happen in there sonically. Instead, I’ve been honestly blown away. We’ve had performances from our press days all the way through Summer NAMM. We also had our Gibson Live Around the World show on grand opening day, which combined acts there and remotely from Gibson showrooms around the world. The QSC system works. It works incredibly well.”
For both Gibson and Systems Innovation, their satisfaction with the equipment itself is matched by their experience of QSC as a company. “The QSC reps are so helpful,” praised Justin. “If I need assistance spec’ing gear, doing EASE models, or whatever it is, they always have my back.”
“QSC has been a great partner throughout this whole process,” concluded Mark. “They immediately understood our vision. They absolutely delivered on their promises, helping us create a truly world-class experience space.”