Despacio at Coachella by Kirby Gladstein
Despacio at Coachella by Kirby Gladstein

Coachella’s hidden gem: Despacio

Despacio is a specially created audio system that offers an unmatched listening experience.

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Despacio, the legendary sound system created by James Murphy and the Dewaele brothers of Soulwax, is back at Coachella in 2023. The immersive audio experience has become a festival favorite, known for its crystal-clear sound, vinyl-only format, and attention to sonic detail. If you’re planning on attending Coachella this year, here’s what you need to know about experiencing Despacio.

What is Despacio?

Despacio is a custom-built sound system designed to provide an unparalleled listening experience. The system features a series of stacks of McIntosh amplifiers and speakers, arranged in a circular formation to create a 50,000-watt, 360-degree wall of sound. The music is played entirely on vinyl records, which are carefully selected by James Murphy and the Soulwax brothers for their sound quality and musicality. The result is an immersive audio experience that has been called “life-changing” by many attendees.

What to Expect at Despacio

At Despacio, the focus is on the music and the sound quality. The lighting is kept minimal, with a disco ball as the only visual effect. The volume is high, but not overpowering, with a target level of 105 decibels. The vinyl-only format means that there are no digital glitches or dropouts, and the sound is warm, rich, and detailed. The DJs (including James Murphy and the Soulwax brothers) are focused on the music, with no distractions or showmanship.

Tips for Experiencing Despacio at Coachella

If you’re planning on experiencing Despacio at Coachella, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the experience:

1. Wear earplugs

The volume at Despacio can reach up to 105 decibels, which is well above the safe listening limit. To protect your hearing, be sure to wear earplugs. You can still enjoy the music at a safe volume, and you’ll be able to hear the details of the sound without any risk of hearing damage.

2. Position yourself for the best sound

The sound quality at Despacio is exceptional throughout the entire space, but there are some sweet spots where the sound is especially good. The best spot is directly under the disco ball, where there is an “X” on the floor. Other spots with excellent sound include the front of the DJ booth and the center of the room. Be sure to explore the space and find the spot that sounds best to you.

3. Be patient with the lighting effects

The lighting effects at Despacio are minimal, with the disco ball as the only visual element. However, when the lighting effects do come on, they are synchronized with the music to create a truly immersive experience. Be patient and wait for the right moment to experience the lighting effects.

Despacio sound system
Despacio sound system

Despacio Coachella Q&A

  • Where will Despacio be located on the Coachella map?

It’s to the right of the Sonora and Gobi tents.

  • What does “All Weekend Long” mean, really?

3 pm to 9 pm every day, both weekends of Coachella.

  • Will the lines be long?

There were reports of short, swift queues for Weekend 1. There may occasionally be lineups, but those lines will pass quickly (because most people enter and leave within an hour or so; only a small number of mildly devoted DJs stay inside the entire time). Since most people that enter Despacio don’t truly get it, they usually depart after a short while. Some people are moved by Despacito, and such people tend to stick around.

  • I just got into the Despacio tent at Coachella and I’m confused. What direction do I face? Where are the DJs?

Do not stress about locating or confronting the DJs. The party is centered in the room’s middle, directly beneath the disco ball. The setting was intended to de-escalate the DJ worship that had become pervasive in EDM and DJ culture over the previous few decades. The DJ crew wants everybody at the Despacio party to pay attention to the music, dance, and one another. It represents a conscious rejection of convention and a return to the ideals of the pure dancefloor.

If you want to know more about Despacio, check out this fantastic Reddit post by Vladimir Coho.

Despacio in numbers: statistics

If you’re a numbers geek, then you’re in luck because Despacio has some seriously impressive stats. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most interesting figures about the Despacio sound system:

Speaker Stats:

  • 7 speaker stacks, which excludes a differently-configured system behind the DJ booth.
  • 11 or 12 feet in height, depending on the press report.
  • 44 McIntosh amplifiers are used in the system.

Volume and Capacity:

  • 20% is the typical system volume, as a percentage of capacity.
  • 105 decibels is the target volume.
  • 950 is the dance floor capacity in number of humans.

Other Stats:

  • 2 brothers are in 2ManyDJs.
  • 3 DJs are in the Despacio DJ booth, including James Murphy.
  • 576 black and white floor tiles are used.
  • 800 records were behind the DJ booth in Manchester 2013 (performance 01).
  • 2013 was the year of the first show.
  • £22,000 is the cost per McIntosh amplifier.
  • 30,000 kilograms is the weight of Despacio speaker towers.
  • 50,000 watts is the Despacio wattage.

These numbers speak volumes about the level of detail and care that went into creating the Despacio sound system. From the impressive 950-person dance floor capacity to the 44 McIntosh amplifiers used, every element of the sound system was carefully considered to deliver an unparalleled music experience. With the towering 11 or 12-foot speaker stacks and 105-decibel target volume, it’s no wonder that Despacio has gained a reputation as one of the most incredible sound systems in the world.

Despacio soundsystem: James Murphy and 2ManyDJs in conversation