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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Sep 2019 > DESPACIO


With the hotly anticipated return to London this summer for Nile Rodgers’ Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre, we clamber under the hood of James Murphy and Soulwax/2manydjs’ Despacio sound system to learn how it sets dancefloor pulses racing – at strictly no faster than 120bpm…

Humans are about 70 per cent water. So I suggested that if we had a thousand leather bags, we could fill them up with water, then hang them on racks all over the dancefloor to tune the room and hear how it would sound if it were full of people.”

Audio engineer John Klett, James Murphy’s right-hand man and the designer of Despacio – arguably the greatest sound system on the planet right now – is waxing lyrical on the project and what he describes as “one of his many ideas”. Cast your eyes over his speaker-strewn career and you can see that his audio life has reverberated with plenty of them.

“I refer to people as walking water bags – with maximum respect and love,” he laughs, “because the dancers are part of the experience here, and part of our acoustical treatment, so they make the system sound better.”


Combine the initial pulses of acid house and the hedonistic rush of New York disco with a nerdish, yet hefty audio rig and some serious record collections, and what do you have? Despacio – a concept that equals pure, unadulterated aural ecstasy.

The system (named after the Spanish word for ‘slow’) is one of the world’s weightiest, propelled by eight McIntosh stacks and the insane audio knowledge of John Klett, LCD’s James Murphy’s comrade in audiophilia. With Soulwax’s David Dewaele and Stephen Dewaele (aka 2manydjs) onboard alongside James, the high-end rig is put through its paces by three of the world’s most discerning record collectors. Sound too good to be true? Punters at this year’s Meltdown Festival, curated by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, have had the opportunity to find out and enjoy full immersion in Despacio over two nights in August.

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About MusicTech

It’s probably not all that contentious to say that everybody, at some stage in their music-making journey, needs a synth. Whether you’re working on deep, intricate soundscapes, creating pounding dance music or concocting chart-climbing pop hits, taking advantage of the myriad textures, pads and leads that the synthesiser provides is a no-brainer. This month, we celebrate this beloved instrument with a series of linked features, highlighting the history, science and ongoing development of the synth. We speak to Georgia, an artist who wowed Glastonbury with her retro synth-pop stylings; take a trip to Bristol to visit UDO and look at the making of the Super 6, a synthesiser that merges the very best of old and new technology; while Andy Jones delves into the synth’s pivotal role in shaping dance music. We also continue Adam Crute’s Sound Synthesis Masterclass series, this time exploring the science and mechanics of sampling and synthesis. Aside from our synth focus, we also have a fantastic interview with The Prodigy engineer and co-producer Neil Mclellan, who tells the inside story of the making of their classic record Music For The Jilted Generation. We also speak to MPG Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year 2019 Dani Bennett Spragg about her incredible career to date and her best-practice advice. Later, we experience the mind- (and ear-) blowing wall of sound that is James Murphy and Soulwax’s Despacio sound system. Our review section this month continues the synthy vibe that runs through this issue, as we get hands-on with Native’s latest iteration of Massive X, have some fun with Modal’s CRAFTsynth 2 and explore the scope of Softube’s Volume 3. I hope you enjoy the issue.