The iconic Sugar Hut nightclub, bar, and venue, made famous through its association with reality TV programme ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ (TOWIE) returned to TV screens earlier this month boasting a brand new refurbished look featuring Void Acoustics kit!
The venue has recently been acquired by the same experienced club operator who also owns London superclub Studio 338 – a massive music and arts venue on the Greenwich Peninsular and sister club ‘The Bridge’ (also in London). The team are familiar with the Void brand and have an excellent working relationship with the Void team. They have consistently chosen Void as their audio system of choice for the last decade, starting with their install at Studio 338, which currently boasts a 4-point Air Motion system covering their large capacity multi-room club including one of the largest outdoor terrace arenas in Europe as well as a Loft Room and VIP level. All sadly out of commission at the moment due to the Covid-19 crisis, however, hopeful of a resurgence in early 2021.\
In the meantime, Sugar Hut has been celebrating ten years of the iconic reality TV show TOWIE. In fact, it could be argued that Sugar Hut itself is one of the programme’s stars in its own right! And it is clear the venue’s re-opening with its refurbishment has been eagerly anticipated and well-received.
“Being familiar with Void and the aesthetic quality of their products combined with their excellent audio credentials, it was an easy decision to specify Void throughout our Sugar Hut refurbishment” explains Larry Field, a technical manager and sound engineer for Studio 338 and Sugar Hut.
Acoustic challenges abound at Sugar Hut because it is located in a listed historical building, which, by its nature, provides a challenging layout. It is a beautiful, maze-like 15th-century coaching inn with hundreds of years of history, and an incredible courtyard. Larry expands on some of the other challenges by explaining that
“from a sound perspective there are also local residents to take into consideration – it is so important to keep the Brentwood community ‘on side’ from a noise pollution point of view. This can be particularly challenging with a historic building because we obviously want to provide our guests with as much acoustic impact as possible. Whilst it is fair to say that the building is extremely well built, nonetheless we have to remember that it is over 600 years old! So we don’t want to test too much bass in the walls and the frames of the building as ‘bass’ didn’t really exist back then!” he laughs.
“But joking aside, a very serious part of our installation process is rigorous external testing to ensure we are getting the best quality sound inside the club, with absolute consideration to the outside world at the same time.”
With all these extra challenges to consider, for Larry and the team, the sound quality remains a crucial USP for all their venues and so there was even less room for compromise when specifying the audio installation. Enter Mike Newman, Sales & Marketing Manager for Void Acoustics who explains more.
“When we first discussed the brief with Larry, he made it very clear they were wanting to transfer the template of the high-spec audio requirement from their flagship venue Studio 338 to Sugar Hut, along with the Ibiza-style theming. So immediately it was clear that Void’s timeless white speakers were going to feature heavily in order to achieve the ‘Ibiza-esque’ feel and ‘wow’ factor to the club which their existing clientele has come to expect from Studio 338.”
Sugar Hut boasts three rooms over two levels surrounding the old horse and carriage courtyard. These are complemented by quirky corridors opening into private VIP rooms on the entire upper floor level. Each space has its own unique design. The high-end aesthetic of Void Acoustics fixtures perfectly complements the exclusive nature and style of Sugar Hut.
“In fact” explains Larry, “because we all love the aesthetics of Void fixtures, we wanted them to be considered a feature of each room design, almost in juxtaposition with the wood beams and historical aspects of the venue. In this way, we were choosing to have the white Void systems stand out in each room as part of the design whilst also satisfying the quality acoustic requirements of each space.”
The long main room has a capacity of around 350 people in normal circumstances, and so the Void system is evenly spaced throughout to ensure smooth audio coverage. The room benefits from better soundproofing than other areas in the venue and so the system here is able to reach levels of around 102db SPL. This is achieved with a specification including 2x Void Acoustics left-right Tri Motion with 3x Stasys 218 subs (including one at the rear of the room for a more even coverage of bass). Tri Motion speakers, placed just in front of the DJ booth with an LED wall backdrop lighting them up are a focus of the room.
These were chosen to provide continuity with the look and feel of Studio 338 where there is a similar room set-up. Also included in this room are 4x Airten fill speakers fully branded with the Sugar Hut logo and these serve the VIP pocket areas with time-aligned sound completing the room with full surround sound. It’s a room full of impact with a strong image statement and the Void speakers complement this perfectly. On the ground floor of the venue is the Stable room – where the main set up is a 4 point Airten speaker system.
The main challenge here is that the room looks out right onto the high street and that, combined with being a smaller capacity room means the sound limitations are increased. A Venu 115 sub is wall-mounted just under the front Airten speakers to keep the sound tight together and to meet stringent listed building criteria. Another area of concern cited by the building regulations and historical foundation teams which the Void and Studio 338 teams needed to address, was the perceived impact on the 600-year-old plasterwork in this room which was originally where horses were housed overnight.
Larry picks up the story here, explaining that they allayed concerns with the recommended installation, but with a grin says “I have to say, with respect, that it was a first for us having the issue of horsehair in 600 year old plaster as a problem!”
The final area in Sugar Hut is the VIP area on the second floor of the venue. Once more, due to the local residents, the sound limits are more sensitive. The team’s main specifications are Airten speakers with a Venu 212 sub placed under the DJ booth which helps to keep the overall volume consistent and helps reign in the temptation to push the sound levels. The audio team designed a configuration to overcome the limited mounting positionings and smaller spaces available to create a visual impact as well as a great sounding system. The room also includes a Stasys 118 sub along with 2x Venu 12s leading towards the bar with 4x futuristic-looking Indigo Series to cover the sound for guests ordering drinks. The Indigo Series speakers provide a perfect solution in these small spaces as they are small and can be mounted high on low ceilings.
“This venue has been a perfect challenge for our client Studio 338 and our Void Acoustics design team,” reflects Mike.
“We always aim for near-perfect acoustics with all our installations and we’ve enjoyed the challenge of maintaining the wooden-beamed quirkiness and historical importance of the building whilst delivering an intimate Ibiza-style atmosphere that Larry asked us for.”
“We had challenging room layouts, the sound level challenges, and the historical nature of the listed building to address. Along with important preservation, teams to keep happy,” sums up Larry.
“And so with the design and audio capabilities of the Void speakers, they really were the obvious choice for this installation. We’ve managed to keep much of the traditional look and character of the 600-year-old listed building intact, whilst enhancing it with a modern feel. The speakers offer impact upon arrival, and the systems specified for each room are punching above their weight and they look great everywhere. The eagle-eyed will have seen the speakers featuring in shots on TOWIE the other week on the TV! In addition to which working with the team at Void is always a pleasure. Their professional approach, their fluent and depth knowledge of the science of audio, and the flexible approach to solutions and problem solving is second to none.”