Spiritland’s Paul Noble combines classic JBL collection with modern amplification and DSP for Happy Face Pizza / SUPERMAX

Sound engineer turned restaurateur Paul Noble has been dedicating himself to curating and modifying a range of vintage hi-fi and commercial audio artifacts, including many by JBL. These can now be seen and heard in the sites he and partners, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone, operate around the fashionable new King’s Cross development area.


The former BBC sound man and his colleagues first opened Spiritland, a combined café bar/radio studio, behind the fashionable Granary Square, in September 2016 featuring an iconic radio studio, a bespoke Isonoe mixer and Kuzma turntable, as well as Jelco arms fitted to classic Technics SL1200s twin decks, with radio station at the rear. The theme has been continued at the follow up venues—Happy Face Pizza and SUPERMAX bar, opened recently nearby, where Noble has curated some of JBL’s classic vintage pieces from yesteryear.


The speakers are a mix of retro classics from the JBL back catalogue (some sporting vibrant paint finishes) and new models sourced via HARMAN UK distributor Sound Technology Ltd.  All the tuning takes place via the DSP built into the new Crown XTi-2 Series amplifiers that power all the loudspeakers.

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Image: Happy Face Pizza, photo credit Andrew Meredith


Ben Todd, Sound Technology’s Application Engineering Manager and HARMAN’s Ed Jackson, Application Team Manager,  lead the tuning of the systems. Todd recalls, “Using the modern amplification and DSP we were able to get the very best out of the mix of vintage and modern speakers. The reliability and efficiency of the modern amplifiers and the precision of the DSP tuning allows us to calibrate a system built of many differing designs, ages and types of loudspeaker into a system which sounds smooth, articulate and cohesive in both of the venues. We were also able to use sophisticated modern limiters to keep them protected for years to come.”   


SUPERMAX, a retro-inspired basement cocktail bar and club, features the majority of the modern loudspeakers. Its sound system comprises a pair of small JBL AC15s, and a pair each of the AE series AM5212 and AM4212, as well as a concealed ASB7118 single 18” subwoofer. Crown XTI 4002’s and XTI 2002’s drive the top end while XTI6002’s are assigned to the subs, playing out a wide range of music, from high quality Euro disco, deep house, funk and soul.

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Image: SUPERMAX, photo credit Ed Reeve


Upstairs meanwhile, in the stylish, family-oriented Happy Face Pizza, is where the vintage speakers reside. The collection includes JBL Marquis series MS28s, a pair of Vintage JBL 4726 Concert Series speakers—painted bright green with bright yellow bi-radial constant coverage horns— plus a new ASB6115 single 15in sub. Again, all are powered with Crown XTI amps.

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Image: Happy Face Pizza, photo credit Andrew Meredith


Paul Noble says he was very clear in what he wanted. “I have always enjoyed the sound of JBL. At Happy Face we were never going to put in a couple of little speakers … it was always going to be a big club system,” he says. “I have sourced most of this online, particularly big Sound Power horns, and I now have six stacks.”


In fact part of a vast portable JBL PA system, painted in muted pastels in collaboration with interior designer, Tom Dixon, this is stored in one of the latter’s many units in the Kings Cross development area. Described as “a party system on wheels”, the large system has been out with Jarvis Cocker, while Hot Chip, Jack White and the Beach Boys have used Spiritland for album launches, showcase gigs etc.


Paul's classic portable PA comprises six JBL 2445J compression drivers, six JBL Sound Power 4751 tops, a pair of JBL 4728 AP monitors and other Sound Power series speakers.

Noble recalls how his love for vintage gear (including top hi-fi brands) was fomented over two decades of working as a studio engineer. He was soon exposed to classic JBL 4355 monitors and L100s [with their outrageous orange or blue foam sculpted grills] “which I had always loved”.


He adds, “I started tracking down products like the JBL4726A on eBay and Marquis MS28, which we are using in Happy Face. Then I bought the new AC an AE Series models to complement them.” Many have been resprayed at a car showroom.


Paul Noble is delighted with the result of the JBL deployment, and the many comments he has received. “Everything sounds great, and really warm,” he remarks. 


Aside from JBL, Paul Noble also admits to being a big fan of Crown amplifiers. “I like the look of them, and it made sense to use modern gear, with DSP onboard. I love the interaction with the artists and the equipment; there are a lot of manufacturers who don’t know how beloved their equipment is after it leaves the factory. We have a chance to put a spotlight on some of this kit.”

For more information please visit happyface.pizza


  • Happy Face Pizza / SUPERMAX
  • Award-winning pizza restaurant and bar in London's King's Cross

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