Roxy Teams With Rat Sound Systems

To provide concertgoers with an epic live music experience, the high-profile Roxy Theatre teamed up with Camarillo, California’s Rat Sound Systems, to install JBL’s VTX A-series.

In 1973, a new landmark opened in the heart of West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. The Roxy Theatre was founded by LA entertainment giants Lou Adler and Elmer Valentine, along with stellar partners including David Geffen, Elliot Roberts, and Peter Asher. From the beginning, the Roxy was a cultural statement, with then-young comics including Jay Leno and David Letterman getting early breaks opening on the Roxy stage, and artists ranging from Frank Zappa to Chris and Rich Robinson recording live albums there. Five decades after its founding, the Roxy chose their longtime partner-in-sound, Camarillo, California’s Rat Sound Systems to install a system based on JBL’s VTX A8 three-way line array element.

“The ultimate impetus for installing a new sound system was the Roxy’s 50th anniversary in 2023,” explains musician and co-owner Cisco Adler, son of founder Lou Adler. “We asked ourselves how we could bring back the best of the Roxy’s spirit of the last 50 years. When my father opened the room, he wanted it to be the preeminent venue in terms of sound for the artist, as well as the audience, and we wanted that to still be the feeling to this day.”

While it was clear that the new system had to have fidelity, power, and coverage, it could not impede views from anywhere in the famed theatre, be it floor space or VIP balcony seating. The A8 offers a wide, 110-degree coverage area and up to 139 dB SPL maximum output yet is only 30 inches (761 mm) wide, thus providing a perfect match to the requirements.

“JBL was involved in the system design, and we put a little spin on things, mostly with the sub deployment,” said Adam Figueroa, Rat’s Head of Sales and Installations. “The stage is an odd size and requires some unique sub processing to get the coverage and response we were looking for.”

The final design specified 12 VTX A8 cabinets for the main L/R coverage, four VTX B28 dual 18-inch subwoofers, and a selection of AE Compact speakers for fills. Crown I-Tech 4X3500HDS DriveCoreTM four-channel amplifiers drive the system.

The layout of the Roxy stage posed a few issues for Rat to solve in deploying the system. “The fact that the stage is in a corner presented its own set of challenges, including sightlines and availability of rigging points,” Figueroa details. “We were able to do some infrastructure and rigging above the ceiling prior to needing the venue dark, and I really believe that led us to be able to get the rig installed in only four days with minimal crew.”

JBL worked closely with Rat to resolve every concern that arose, reports Figueroa. “We really appreciated how JBL's application team helped us along the way, considering this was our first VTX install,” he says. “We found a rigging issue when we assembled the arrays in our shop for testing, and JBL was able to resolve it for us almost overnight.”

Through this cooperative effort, the system went into place smoothly. “Our project lead, Greg Binkard, was able to finesse the hangs into a position that satisfied all the considerations. The VTX rigging hardware was very user-friendly, and the integration team of Greg, Aaron Silvey, Kevin Hamabata, and I enjoyed the ease of installation,” Figueroa said.

The Roxy was opened in 1973 by Neil Young, playing with members of Crazy Horse. While the JBL loudspeakers went into service in early September, the complete new sound system makes its debut when Young and Crazy Horse play the Roxy again—50 years to the day after they first opened the house. Adler could hardly be more pumped up.

“We’re thrilled, first and foremost, with how the system sounds,” Adler said, “and beyond that, we are thrilled with the partnership with Rat and JBL, who helped us in keeping the Roxy the best-sounding room in the world. That’s important to us, because, as my brother Nic says, ‘You don’t come to the Roxy to see a show, you come to be part of the show.’”