Hidden high above the streets of Manhattan’s bustling Tribeca neighborhood lies an extravagant three-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot penthouse oasis. Featuring a view ranging from Central Park to the mouth of the Hudson River, this unique space provided the perfect canvas for a recent collaboration between the custom integration firm Audio Command Systems, design firm Meyer Davis Studio, and contractor Silver Lining.
Meyer Davis Studio rarely tackles residential projects, typically focusing on big amenity spaces such as hotels and restaurants. “They are a one-off firm that has worked on some of the finest hotels,” Audio Command Systems CEO Robert Kaufman told Connected Design. “So, when they decide to tackle a residential job, you know it has to be an amazing one. They are one of the best design firms in the world.”
Don’t let the chic residential decor fool you into thinking that this was a run-of-the-mill project on the integration front. This penthouse also doubles as a play place for New York City high society, and features all of the functionality one would expect from an exclusive nightclub.
Bumpin’ Yet Discreet
The client for this project, a successful businessman with a serious passion for scratching records, wanted to “be able to replicate a Studio 54 quality sound in his apartment,” said Kaufman “without the place looking like an industrial nightclub space.”
The client isn’t someone who DJs casually around friends and family. No, instead, according to Audio Command Systems Director of Sales William Hipp, “some of the biggest names in stadium level performance DJs are his friends and when they come [to New York City] they spin at his house.” As a result, the Audio Command Systems team needed to achieve perfect sound quality.
At the same time, the team needed to honor the job done by the design team at Meyer Davis Studio to preserve the sleek, residential feel of the space. The resulting product, which was developed throughout 30 calls with the client, features five zones of audio and uses both commercial and residential technology to accomplish the tough task of creating a multi-functional space that serves as a living room, cinema and nightclub.
Naturally, blending a living room, cinema, and nightclub into the same space posed a unique challenge for the team at Audio Command Systems. Their solution for retrofitting the space with the specific components needed to support each mode was to get creative in how they disguised the tech.
For example, hiding the Stewart 165-inch Cascade screen system in the thirty-foot ceilings required a custom projector lift from Future Automation, and the whole apparatus needed to be mounted precisely to navigate the large custom lighting fixtures. Even getting the screen into the apartment was a challenge, which, according to Hipp, included having to “disassemble the screen” and send it to the top floor of the building “basically on top of the elevator.”
Setting up the audio for both cinema mode and living room mode was complicated by the curtain wall building construction, which left no place to hide the three Wisdom Audio SCS-2 subwoofers. According to Hipp, “a lot of different people,” including the subwoofer manufacturer, general contractor, and architect “had to come together to face that challenge to hide the subwoofers to make them both useable and serviceable.” The result was a custom platform with special chambers engineered to house the speakers.
Bringing Resi-Mercial to Life
Creating a nightclub on the top floor of a Manhattan sky rise posed the obvious risk of creating some very pissed-off neighbors. Making sure this dynamic wasn’t an issue was one of the first things the team tackled while doing their initial due diligence on the project.
When discussing how it was feasible to put nightclub speakers in a New York City penthouse, Kaufman told Connected Design with a smile “[the client] took advantage of the fact that the neighbors aren’t above him.” But just to be sure the team went to the apartment of the neighbor below and did a “decibel test to make sure that they weren’t hearing any of the bass.” Fortunately, the floor of the client’s apartment was made of poured concrete, which protected sound from bleeding through, and Audio Command Systems did “further isolation of the platform” for good measure.
Once the issue of noise complaints was off the table, the team transitioned to the task of repurposing commercial audio systems for a residential space. As Hipp explained, the difference between loudspeakers designed for a commercial setting versus a residential setting is significant. “The product for the commercial environment is typically more robust: Bigger, louder, and more capable,” because of the need to cut through ambient sounds such as bar noise.
However, nightclub speakers tend to prioritize volume at the expense of sound clarity, a dynamic that risked becoming particularly pronounced in the perfectly isolated environment of the client’s penthouse. There isn’t that masking “noise floor that you would typically have in a club setting,” explained Hipp. “Some of the issues that you don’t hear in the club because it is so loud become particularly pronounced in the residential space because everything is so quiet.”
When comparing integrating commercial and residential solutions from a technical perspective, Hipp told Connected Design, “The equipment and technology are very much parallel. High-level DSP processing has been in the high-end residential world for a long time so there is no challenge in the programming or implementation of the technology.” Instead, the challenge comes from managing client expectations. According to Hipp, while it is possible to “transfer the technology into the client’s home, it is not possible to transfer the environment that goes with it.”
Perfecting the DJ Setup
The DJ system the team used consisted of three Void Acoustic Airten Speakers, which operate in tandem with a QSC Core 110 Signal Processor, and a Pioneer XDJ-XZ DJ Console. Kaufman raved about the three Void Acoustic Airten Speakers, “These are incredible speakers that we very rarely get to use on residential jobs. They look like missiles.” He isn’t kidding, the Void speakers look like jet engines hanging from the ceiling and fit with the client’s wish to only leave visible tech that added to the decor of the space.
To optimize the speakers’ performance in the residential setting, Audio Command Systems took great care to blend the club audio with the distributed audio systems by perfecting the system’s DSP Processing, which allows the system to enhance frequency ranges and adjust to instantly sense and remove unwanted noise.
A Moment for Reflection
Going after a truly one-of-a-kind project like this that requires perfection across different levels can be a daunting prospect for many integrators, but it is a dynamic that the team at Audio Command Systems welcomes. According to Kaufman, “We’re not the everyday company that’s gonna go after every same little project. We are creative and we have the engineering and resources in-house to do big, complicated projects.”
Audio Command Systems:
694 Main Street
Westbury, NY 11590
Phone: (516) 997 5800
Audio Command Systems (South)
6630 East Rogers Circle
Boca Raton, FL, 33487
Audio Command Systems (West)
1527 Pontius Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (310) 444 3882
Meyer Davis Studio
180 Varick Street, Suite 404
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 627 5574
2091 Broadway, Third Floor
New York, NY 10023
Phone: (212) 496-7800
1 Sony 85-inch 4K LED Display
1 James SPL5Q-LCR speaker bar
2 James 63 CUBE
4 Sonance VP66R
1 JL Audio D108
1 Sony STR-ZA3100ES receiver
1 Sony VPL-VW915ES
1 Future Automation custom projector lift
1 Stewart 165-inch Cascade screen system
3 Sonance R1C in-ceiling
4 Sonance VP66R in-ceiling
3 Wisdom Audio SCS-2
1 Sony STR-ZA3100ES receiver
3 Void Acoustics Airten Speaker
1 Void Acoustics Venu 212 V2 LF Enclosure
3 Void Acoustics amplifier
1 QSC Core 110 Signal Processor
1 Pioneer XDJ-XZ DJ Console