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James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Five years ago, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and brothers David and Stephen Dewaele of Soulwax teamed up to create a PA system that sounded as good as an audiophile hi-fi. 

The Despacio touring show, which I attended Thursday night, is playing this Easter weekend in Queens, New York. It was born from this idea of an audiophile PA. It's designed to deliver great sound at what is essentially a massive dance party. Here's what it looks like.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
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James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

The Despacio system consists of eight columns, each housing custom-built speakers and a huge rack of American-made McIntosh amps, an audiophile favorite.

The dance floor of the Knockdown Center in Queens is surrounded by these huge rigs for an 8-hour marathon session, run by the LCD Soundsystem-Soulwax trio.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
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James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Despacio means "slowly" in Spanish, and the idea behind the night is that all of the music is played on specially pressed 45s that are slowed down to 33 1/3 rpm. This, coupled with the sombre blue lighting scheme, gives the evening a Gothic atmosphere. One of the only real uptempo moments is when the trio cuts in 10 seconds of ABBA's "Dancing Queen."

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
3
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

At the start of the night it was Murphy's responsibility to get the reticent dance floor moving. Having worked with David Bowie, he paid tribute to the Thin White Duke with a slowed-down version of "Young Americans."

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
4
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Almost attractions themselves, the huge venue hosts "thousands of bars" according to one chalkboard. It's more like 10, but the standout is a pop-up version of Murphy's The Four Horsemen restaurant. 

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
5
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Like the rest of the Despacio system, the monitors in the DJ booth were custom-designed by the DJs themselves. They are powered by McIntosh amps, naturally.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
6
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

With a mirror ball and glasses of wine starting at $11, the pop-up bar is another focal point of the night.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
7
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

The Despacio towers use three separate sets of amplifiers to power the custom speakers: one set for bass, one for mids and one to power the tweeters.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
8
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Another custom design, the "birdhouse" features four tweeters and a horn in the center. The whole unit is able to be moved forward and back in order to "time-align" it with the rest of the system.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
9
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

The made-to-order bass bins, with 15-inch woofers, slightly resemble the Klipsch La Scalas they replaced from the original system.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
10
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

The soothing blue glow of McIntosh power meters.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
11
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

About halfway through the 8-hour session, the lights finally came on. A little bit.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
12
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

At the back of the rack you could see how one of the McIntosh MC1.2KW monoblock amplifiers was connected.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
13
of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

I'm not sure what this is, but it looks like a DAC? A digital audio converter in an analog-only system? Curiouser and curiouser!

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
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of 15

James Murphy at Despacio

Three towers

Stars on 33 1/3

The ghost of David Bowie

The wine bar

The DJ booth monitors

The Four Horsemen

McIntosh amps

The 'birdhouse'

Bass bins

1.21 kilowatts!!!

Let there be light

Behind the curtain

More rack gear

There is nothing to see here

Soulwax's Stephen Dewaele staffs the DJ booth.

Published: / Caption: / Photo: Ty Pendlebury/CNET
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