I’ve experienced a few sound systems in my time – as a music fan, attending and promoting events. Funktion One on numerous occasions. V.I.V.E.K’s own at the legendary SYSTEM. A few others at various dances in the UK.
One of the (many) highlights during DMZ’s 8th birthday was the system they’d used. Great Suffolk Street Warehouse’s main room is a truly vast space – but this system filled the room and then some. I’d heard the words ‘RC1’ uttered with reverence a few times over the past year – but to experience it for the first time was something I’ll never, ever forget.
As Drew Jones said in his Spectrum review of Youngsta’s ‘Contact’ from a few weeks ago:
“The sound system of choice was the well-known RC1, regarded so highly due to the high levels of bass and volume, but also due to the quality of sound it offers. As this was my first experience with this system and having heard stories from friends who went to DMZ 8th birthday and various other events, I had high hopes before entering the venue. With the system warmed, the volume crept up and the potential was fully unleashed. At some points, it felt as though you were inhaling and virtually suffocating on bass, which although sounds unpleasant, wasn’t by a long shot. I’ve experienced the Iration Steppas’ sound system, the rig at V.I.V.E.K’s SYSTEM, along with various other powerful rigs and I can honestly say I’ve never been blown away to this extent. Even trying to look at your phone was a hard task, due to the bass rattling your pupils.”
The RC1 is truly something special. With that in mind, I got in touch with Jon Evelegh, the one man(!) who is responsible for one of the best systems I’ve ever heard, to find out more…
Hi Jon, how goes? Pretty good thanks, and yourself?
All good thanks dude! To start. Your background – can you explain a bit about your history? I enjoy music. I started DJing when I was at school and occasionally feel inspired to compose the odd track. I have also always been interested in all aspects of engineering and electronics, and am a pretty good boffin at it. At an early age I was often designing and building custom audio equipment of all sorts.
How did you get into sound system culture? Which genre are you most keen on? Dubstep? DnB? Reggae? I started running a small disco size setup, but soon started upgrading to bigger and better. I loved the reaction from a crowd when a good bassline dropped on a decent sounding rig. I began volunteering as a roadie, working at larger events with big rigs, and gradually built up to running big rigs myself. Volunteering as a roadie is definitely to be recommended for anyone looking to learn about sound systems, and with the weight of some of the gear it probably counts as a pretty good weight training session as well!
I don’t have a particular favourite genre of music, I enjoy most styles as long as the specific tracks are good ones! It’s not all about bass, I really do appreciate a good quality and well balanced sound, but I must admit I do enjoy music built on a solid bassline that you can really feel.
At what point did you decide you wanted to build your own system? In the past, I ran and worked with various different rigs but none of them gave me what I wanted. I could set a rig up to sound really nice with a heavy solid bassline, just how I felt dance music should sound. Then, as I turned it up during the events, the heavy solid bassline would just fade away as the bass speakers struggled to keep up – leaving the music sounding a bit lightweight. This seemed to be a common problem to all the rigs I worked with.
What I needed was a rig with bass speakers that could produce heavy solid bass, but at much higher volume levels than “normal” bass speakers. This is where the project started, initially simply as an attempt to use my skills to try and design the world’s most evil bass speakers. As they say – if you want a job done properly then do it yourself!
How do you build a sound system? What are the most important points to be aware of when doing so? Wow, that’s a big question. How many books do you want me to write on that one?!
Fundamentally I guess you have to decide what you need it to do, then design and spec it accordingly.
Other than all the auxiliary bits and cables, there are three main parts to most systems:- the processing/control gear, the power amplifiers and the speakers.
The processing/control gear and amplifiers are really just tools that make the system work, most of the real sound and character of the system results from the design of the speakers.
With regard to building speakers, in my case I wanted to build a system which outperformed the “normal” systems, which took a lot of research and development. If you just want to build a reasonably good rig then there are lots of plans and advice available, especially nowadays with the internet forums.
Once you have a speaker system/design worked out then you need to choose the right amplifiers and processing/control gear to get the best from those speakers. It all seems straightforward in theory, but with most custom systems it takes a lot of trial and error with different combinations of equipment and adjustment over a period of time to get it performing just as you want it to.
The RC1. Can you give us a brief overview? RC1 stands for Radical Concept MK1. It is a high power speaker system capable of producing music louder than conventional systems, while retaining good quality and clarity without distortion – and without “screaming” at you like some systems do when they are turned up. In a practical sense, we have never yet had to run the system near its maximum volume – the levels at our events are usually dictated by how loud the crowd or promoters want it – or sometimes unfortunately by the neighbours!
Can you explain the process you went through when creating the RC1? What sets it apart from other systems? As I mentioned earlier, it started as a quest to design the world’s most evil bass speakers. This was not easy, it took years and dozens of experimental prototypes before I came close to the recipe for the RC1 bass bin. I had to try to think about what I wanted to achieve, then work backwards to see how it could be done. In the process I had to redesign speaker drivers to perform as I need them to and design some other unique technology, including active cooling systems and so on. There are so many variables in speaker design and each one has some affect (for better or worse) on the result. It was definitely a man on a mission!
Once I was happy with the design of the bass speaker, I designed the mid/top speakers to match so that a complete system could be made. The mid/tops were originally designed quite quickly as I was impatient to build the rig and see what these new evil bass bins sounded like, but I have since totally re-designed the internals of the mid/tops to vastly improve their performance and make the entire rig sound as good as it does.
The RC1 sounds good on any style of music (my opinion – obviously I’m not biased…!), but RC1 really comes into its own on dance or bass driven music, where not only its clarity at loud levels, but its ability to accurately produce extreme levels of bass, really sets it apart from other systems and makes for quite an experience!
DMZ 8. Contact. Hospitality. The RC1 has travelled across the country to some of the best dances – what logistics go into transporting it around? Have you got any plans to take it international? Logistics is certainly a significant issue. With a disco rig you put in a large car. With a bigger rig you have to use a van. I didn’t really think about it when designing the system, but now that it has grown we often end up taking out rigs weighing several tonnes that can fill a few vans. You could use a large lorry, but it is more complicated with operator licenses, and then access to venues and parking can be hard, so we usually hire in as many large vans as needed and go as a convoy.
I would like to do something international, but we haven’t yet. It’s always fun going to a new place and “surprising” everyone with the sound system. I remember Chris Goss from Hospitality once referred to it having the “Fuck Me factor” as soon as you enter the room, which I think is a nice and descript term!
What do you do in terms of engineering at an event? What happens in terms of maintaining the system? It depends on the type of event. Live acts can take a lot of engineering, but most events we do have DJs and MCs performing. At these events, you initially need to adjust the system to sound balanced in the venue, and then you have to build up to and maintain the correct volume level. This is quite hard to judge sometimes, although I usually ask the event organisers for guidance on how loud they want the event. Although people often want the music really loud, there is a line between pleasure and pain and it’s so important to keep the right side of it or you can ruin the night.
There is always maintenance to do back at ‘Bass Camp’ where we keep the rig. We test the equipment between events, have to do any repairs as necessary, clean dust out of amplifiers, organise PAT testing of equipment etc. You wouldn’t believe the things we find in or on the speakers, some of them none too hygienic!
The RC1 is still a work in progress and I am frequently developing it further and continually doing experimental testing.
[Photo by Ben Donoghue]
Any last words? Any shoutouts? I would like to thank all our supporters, fans, crew and clients for the support to date. I have only been running the RC1 Sound System for about a year and a half, and the response we have had in such a short time has been overwhelming. I’m not quite sure where the RC1 project is going, but I’m still developing it and enjoying the ride wherever it may take us!
An extra special shoutout has to go to chief roadie Stuart, who has been involved with the RC1 project right from the start, and has been long suffering enough to put up with me and all my various insane and noisy projects for many years!
When you’ve built a sound system that can do this, you know you’re doing something right. Jon’s work with the RC1 has, in just 18 short months, cemented his reputation (in my eyes anyway) as one of the unsung heroes of electronic music here in the UK. His system and his team are almost unparalleled – and I can’t wait for the day when the RC1 team can take the system abroad and introduce dubstep fans to the full Radical Concept experience! There’s really no other way to enjoy the music.