Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Delivering truly integrated control

Walls covered in knobs and buttons, we’ve all seen them and not only do they look unsightly but does anyone really know what they all do?!  How with so many controls and variables can you offer any level of consistent guest experience?  When you spend so much time and money on brand experience and getting the look and ambience of a room just right, the last thing you want is for that to be blighted with a visual cacophony of controls which are not aligned to offer a consistent guest experience.

So, how can you get rid of that unsightly wall and keep the control panels to a minimum whilst still maintaining maximum flexibility for your staff and guests? And equally importantly how do you know who to call if the touch panel you have installed doesn’t make all elements of your room respond?

Firstly identify what you want to integrate
Be clear about what ‘elements’ of the room you want to control from your panel, this may include: Lights, Sound, Video, Projection, Air conditioning (A/C), Blinds & curtains, Room combining or Staff calling, but it's by no means an exhaustive list.

Secondly brief suppliers collectively
Once you’ve identified what you want to control from the panel you need to ensure that your suppliers of all of the different elements work together collectively to make it happen.  The best approach is to brief them together to aid discussion and iron out any potential conflicts with proposed solutions; they will all want to have their control visible in the room but this is not necessary.

Finding a master control that has a two-way protocol with other systems will ensure that the touch panel is always showing the status of the subsystem and not just sending commands and hoping for the best!  If you identify some common protocols then one system can offer a touch screen to control all of the other elements.

CGA Integration already offers integrated control systems and we’d be happy to talk to you about what would work best for your requirements. 

Designing a system that is integrated yet discrete
From experience, insist that each system can run stand-alone as well as part of the integrated system.  This has two benefits; not only does it act as a means to identify who you need to call if a specific element isn’t working, but if the master control interface fails you always have a method of control.  To achieve this it will mean putting individual element control panels somewhere out of sight, often in a service cupboard.  But, as a result, if for example the main touch panel will not control the lights but the lights can be operated from the panel in the service cupboard, then you know that you have a control system issue and not a light system failure and you are not plunged into darkness as the lights can still be operated stand-alone.

The result will leave you with individual systems for added control but only one visible control panel on the wall.  This one panel will allow you to set up the whole room, possibly from presets and you will not be left with a wall full of knobs and buttons that staff need three years service to fully understand!

In fact, often these systems offer advanced functionality.  Once you have an integrated control system in place then you may be able to further enhance an area’s function through alternative control screens or wireless iPad control for floor managers, which improves the management of your room set-up without any further unsightly controls.

Further benefits of integrated control systems
As well as controlling all chosen elements of a room from one panel, the additional benefit of integrated control systems is often network and remote support.  When CGA install an integrated control system, the main processor reports to us remotely and tells us how all the different elements of a system are performing.  In turn we can enable email alerts to engineers or the venue to automatically inform them of any errors. It really does work.  In a CGA installation a few years ago the hotel engineering team were amazed when they started getting fault emails about their air conditioners!  As a result they were able to identify the problem and fix it in a timely way with minimal disruption.

In a CGA installed integrated control system, our team here at CGA can also see the status of all the connected systems.  So if something is not working as it should be and you call us out of hours, we can very quickly connect into your system and send commands to different elements in the system to try to fix things remotely.  If this is unsuccessful,  we are able to determine what the issue is before we make a site visit, making the path to a solution much faster for all concerned and managing the carbon footprint of excessive site visits to diagnose the problem.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

‘Carbon Neutral’ by 2050, what does it mean for AV?

As the Government reveals plans to be ‘net zero’ in the near future, how do we, the Hospitality industry, help our guests and delegates to achieve this?  More specifically for this blog, how does AV play a part in helping to achieve this goal.

Cancel all meetings that require travel
We could argue that all meetings that require travel should be cancelled and we should all collaborate via conference call, Skype and Webex.  That’s possible, but meetings can be more successful with effective human interaction.  Can we therefore use technology to create local hubs and then join them to other local and national hubs with video conferencing? This in turn will still link up our teams whilst eliminating the big travelling piece of the puzzle, which will certainly have an impact when long distance car and especially air travel is removed from the equation.

Why are we not doing this already?
Historically, video conferencing always needed the same technology at every connecting venue.  If your local business centre or hotel technology did not match the venue you were trying to connect with, it was just not feasible to conduct the meeting in this way.

However, with the advent of Skype and hosted services such as Zoom, Jabber & Webex, the ability to connect and make a call is now available at our fingertips.  There is however still an issue to overcome.  If there are six or more people in a room, it is not practical to gather around a single laptop or phone for a meeting in this way, and having multiple devices on the call in one room also makes no sense.

What we need to offer as Hospitality venues, is the ability for teams to come together in comfortable surroundings and then to simply be able to connect to a device which allows a big screen conference, with clear audio and multiple cameras, enabling them to connect with other teams and remote workers in different locations.  This kind of facility allows everyone to feel fully involved and share team spirit without impacting in a detrimental way on the planet.

CGA Integration can deliver AV systems now that allow this to happen.  Delegates own devices running hosted services such as Skype, Jabber and Webex have the ability to connect and share calls on their device with a room of colleagues, via big screens, built-in microphones, cameras and speakers.

Ensuring Energy Efficient AV
So once the technology to enable video conference calling and BYOD (bring your own device) is in place, what can be done to further improve your venues carbon footprint?

AV Racks
Historically, each area in a Hospitality venue had a little AV rack with an amp and a CD player so each area, be it the bar, the restaurant or the lobby, could control its own sound.  Each of these racks not only took up lots of ‘back of house’ space, but as the units ran, they became hot and required fans to cool them.  These fans, in turn became clogged, got hotter and needed to run more to achieve the same cooling power.  All of this resulted in climbing energy consumption and costs.

Now most sound systems are centralised, or if not, they have the opportunity to be so.  Placing the AV hardware in your main IT racks in a sealed environment well away from both customers and staff works on a number of levels.  An out of the way location means less interaction, resulting in more consistent sound quality delivery.  In addition, there will be less airborne dust and probably cooler air which lets your AV hardware run less hard.  This means cooling fans need to run less, and as a result they become less clogged and are cheaper and more energy efficient to run.  To further improve on this efficiency, modern systems also have timers in them so that hardware can be placed into a low energy or ‘sleep’ mode when not in use and woken at the touch of a button or when music is sensed.  If your AV system isn’t quite there yet, making a few changes can help you to maintain or improve your AV standards, saving you both energy and money in the long term.

LED lighting
We all know that if well deployed, moving to LED lighting can save you money.  However, it needs to be done by a professional, otherwise it can create challenges to your electrical installation and actually become more costly.

Start by thinking outside the box.  For example, if you are fitting new exterior lights or even perimeter lights around and inside your events spaces, why not fit them with RGBW heads in?  This will enable you to change the colour of these lights to reflect the corporate colour of any delegates hiring out your events space, or you can add to the atmosphere by flooding a room with colour that lends itself to a particular occasion.  With this planning, you not only gain the extra benefit of a more flexible event space, but the carbon footprint of any events company being employed will be reduced, as additional lighting will not need to be shipped in and out of your venue.

In fact, this approach can be taken one step further and be a strong argument for investing in installed, Eco-friendly AV systems.  By moving to this, you can considerably reduce the carbon footprint of ‘third party’ hire companies driving AV hardware to and from your venue, either for your own use or for use during external hire events.  Having said this, it should be noted that it is unlikely that you will completely eliminate the need for third party AV.  There will always be corporate clients who have to use their own approved events company, and whilst their technology may be older and less flexible than yours, it is an area where events company make their money and so might not be fully avoided!

Projection
This area has also moved forward environmentally with the dawn of laser phosphor light sources.  No longer should you need to call out engineers to change projector lamps every 1,000 - 2,000 hours and energy should not be wasted by projectors which emit enough heat energy to boil water for the after meeting coffees and teas! Laser phosphor light sources, which are now the standard for projection, not only run cooler and quieter, but they have a light source life with 20,000 - 50,000 hours of life (to half brightness).  This hugely reduces the need for an engineer call out to change a lamp which in turn reduces both carbon footprint and disruption to meeting room spaces.

Remote support
Finally, it's worth remembering the advances in remote support.  New AV systems are now fully accessible remotely.  Just like with your IT system, AV engineers should be able to connect and look at most hardware and diagnose the vast majority of problems from their offices, without the need to travel.  So if there is a problem that they need to fix, when they do visit your venue they should have the correct hardware or spare parts with them.  They will not need to make a journey just to investigate the problem you were experiencing and then a further journey to repair it! This reduces the number of callouts required and halves the carbon footprint.

So being smart with your AV can help the move towards being carbon neutral and save you money, so why not make that change today for a better tomorrow.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!



Saturday, 25 May 2019

Why? What’s the point of fitting sound systems in hospitality venues?

I get very absorbed in speakers; choosing the right speakers, in the right number, placing them in the right location and even making them the right colour.  Speakers are important.
 
But let’s go back a step further and consider; what’s the point of fitting sound systems in hospitality venues?

Long before the written word was widespread, communication was aural as well as oral.  Our prehistoric ancestors used sound and rhythm to communicate and over time this communication evolved into songs and stories.  Although there has been a shift towards written communication, (albeit more recently via email, text and social media), aural communication is still an intrinsic part of our everyday soundscape.  Research has even shown that music is a huge influence on both our mood and our mental state.  Sound is important.

We humans make noise.  Sometimes we want music to disguise the sound of the other humans around us, to help us to feel that our experience is more pleasant or personal to us; reducing the impact or presence of others.  Just look at the number of people wearing headphones as they move around in crowded areas or sit on a busy bus or train.  We often choose sound to relax, and in a Spa environment for example, music can be utilised to replace the everyday noise of life, giving guests a completely contrasting soundscape to create relaxation and escapism.

Conversely if you have no background music at all, eating or functioning in silence or with just ambient human noise around you can feel quite unnatural, especially for the generations who have grown up with continuous music and noise as the backdrop to their lives.  Silence can create a ‘library effect,’ which can make individuals feel ill at ease, scared to make a noise, and as such failing to relax or express themselves.  So fitting a quality flexible sound system can enable you to create the right audio background, helping your guests to feel how you want them to feel in your hospitality spaces. 

Creating the right playlist for your Brand and playing this in the right format through a well designed and installed quality sound system, reinforces a venue’s Brand and its Brand values.  From relaxed to energised to engaged, different hospitality spaces may require a different soundscape; sound and especially music have an important part to play in creating the right environment for restaurants, lobbys, spas, meeting rooms and bars alike.  Like a well crafted marketing campaign, creative interior design or superior customer service, quality sound can work together with the other elements of your venue to help you to stand out for all the right reasons. 

Now more than ever getting sound right is key.  Guests are now exposed to good quality sound in many aspects of their everyday lives; surround sound, THX & Dolby cinemas, great sounding car stereos and certain mobile devices. They will notice if the sound systems in your venue do not come up to the standards they now take for granted.  To create a great sound in your venue you need to consider all aspects of audio; volume, hardware and music quality, what you are playing where and when (as this may vary by time of day), coverage (and ensuring that this is even as guests move throughout a space and between spaces) and balance between sound frequencies (bass & treble). 

Considering our prehistoric ancestors again, audio is a sense that very much wired into our body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.  Get the sound in a venue wrong and your customers will not be able to relax.  They might not be able to tell you that sound is the issue, but they will not stay for long or return very quickly. Get it right and all the elements of your venue will fit together like a well crafted sensory jigsaw, helping your guests to immerse themselves in your hospitality experience and truly relax.

Chris Gunton
Managing Director CGA Integration

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Size is not everything!

“Wow look at that speaker! We’re not a nightclub!!!”

I have heard this and similar comments time and again when designing a sound
system for a client for the first time.  A regular misconception is that the physical
size of a speaker is directly proportional to the volume or loudness of the sound
system, but that is generally not the case.

It’s true that you will need larger speakers to produce sound for a live concert
than you would need to install in a restaurant, but as sound gets quieter, there
is a minimum speaker size that you will reach, after which you start
compromising on sound quality.

Sound reproduction is all about moving air particles or vibrations.  In a
loudspeaker an electromagnet is attached to a cone which amplifies these
vibrations as it moves forwards and backwards, making sound waves in the
surrounding air and pumping them towards your ears.

So how do we hear music which is made up of lots of different sounds? Without
going too deeply into the science behind this, the frequency of the vibrations
(the number of sound waves that go past a fixed point say every second)
governs the pitch of the sound produced.  To faithfully reproduce all the
different frequencies of sound in a piece of music, good quality speakers use
different sized cones dedicated to high, medium and low frequencies, hence
the need for a minimum sized speaker to accommodate these. Generally in
each speaker cabinet there will be a bass driver (for low frequency sound
waves) and tweeter (for high frequency sound waves) and these will ensure
that sound from all frequencies is covered.

High frequency sound waves generate small movements of a small loudspeaker
surface area (the smaller tweeter cone) and lower frequency sound generate
large movements of a large surface area (the larger bass driver cone).  Basically
the lower the pitch of the sounds you want to replicate, the larger the surface
area of the cone and the larger the cubic volume of the speaker box you will need.

Sound volume (measured in decibels) is actually down to the amplitude of the
sound waves.  The amplitude of a sound wave (or the maximum distance moved),
is a reflection of how much energy it carries, the more energy it has the more air
particles that are moved for longer and the greater the sound we hear.

So, if you want a warm and full sound system throughout all the areas of your
venue, then you will need to have enough surface area of loudspeakers to excite
the air in the space and enough cubic volume of speaker cabinets to enable a
warm and comfortable sound to be generated in all areas.  This will be delivered
through a combination of; the right number of speakers of the right size installed
in the right locations.

Here at CGA Integration we generally use the smallest speaker cabinet required
to deliver a good full range sound in the required space, often in many multiples
to ensure that the distance from the customer to the speakers remains as
constant as possible as they move around the space.  This is explained in
Here you will find lots of articles dealing with speaker solutions including
“design led sound solutions” where we explain how to minimise the visual impact
of speakers whilst still generating superior sound & “speaker location; a sound delivery”
which considers the different types of speakers available and where they can be
installed for maximum audio effect.

To sum everything up, if speakers are too small or too few are used, this can
lead to issues in sound reproduction and quality, which will affect the
ambience of your venue.  Just remember, your AV design is created that way
or a reason, as “you cannot change the laws of physics!”

Friday, 1 February 2019

Why so many speakers!?

“Why do we need so many speakers?”
This is one of the most regular questions we get asked by clients.  The answer is
that the number of speakers we use in a sound system design depends on both
the acoustics and the layout of a venue, and here at CGA we will only recommend
the optimum number required to deliver the best possible audio experience; no
more and no less.

Sound should be like great design and should envelop and surround you from the
moment you enter a room. Visually, great interior design flows through a venue
and demonstrates the careful thought put into creating a flawless experience for
your guests.  Audibly, a well-installed quality sound system will do the same. With
the right number of speakers it will not be too loud or have audio ‘blackspots’, but
the audio will be present equally across all areas and will be a key component of
the overall sensory experience in your venue.

“But why does my venue appear to have more speakers than others?”
Calculating the number of speakers needed by comparing venues of a similar size
will not always work, as acoustics play a key role in determining speaker numbers.
For example, ceiling height has an impact. Counterintuitively, high ceilings often
require fewer speakers than low ceilings, because as a ceiling is lowered, speakers
become closer to a listener’s ears.  So two identically sized rooms with different
ceiling heights will require different numbers of speakers.

“How does that work?”
Each speaker works by emitting waves of sound, these start at the centre of the
speaker cone and radiate outwards towards the floor.  Ideally, to avoid any sound
black-spots, the waves of sound from adjacent speakers should cross just above
a listener’s ear height, but with low ceilings, unless you use a speaker with a much
wider dispersion than normal, the number of speakers you need to achieve this
significantly increases.


“But having lots of speakers makes my ceilings look ugly!”
How many of your guests enter your venue and look up at the ceiling?
Unless you have wonderous artwork or lighting features on the ceiling,
most guests gaze at their eyeline or just above or below this point.
If however, you are concerned about this, CGA can now finish speakers
to any RAL or Pantone colour to ensure that your speaker grills
seamlessly blend into the ceiling whatever its colour.

So the key question to ask is not how can I reduce the number of
ceiling speakers I need, but how many speakers do I need to get the
best possible audio experience for my guests.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Sounds Good?

We all talk about “good sound” but what is good sound in a hospitality context?
Good audio is like good visual, it’s very personal and an individual's perception
of quality sound can be very subjective. Having listened to studio recordings of
music tracks, these are very different to the presentation of music that most end
users expect to hear, and with the increased use of mp3 and headphones, the
appreciation of sound is further changing.
That aside, however, there are still some key characteristics that demonstrate
the basis of good sound.

So what should you listen out for?

Good sound should be evenly distributed throughout a space; as guests move
around an area they should receive a consistent audio experience.  Expanding
from this, you should consider your space layout. In adjoining areas where there
is no wall, door or physical barrier, or where the door will be open much of the
time, the sound will travel between adjoining spaces so you need to consider
how zonal sound can be used to create a more consistent experience for your
guests. A great sound system will also envelop you as you enter a space and
the actual sound sources should be hard to define.  This does not mean that
the sound needs to be loud, just seamless. In addition, the sound should be
balanced; there should not be too much or too little bass, mid or high frequency,
(unless of course, you are building a nightclub), and this mix should remain
balanced at both low and high volume levels. Another key area to consider is
where you might need less sound.  You may want lower sound levels in bar
areas and at service points to improve conversation and communication flow
between your customers and your team.

So what are the traps that lead to bad sound and how can these be avoided?
Considering audio hardware, there are certain things that you can do to maximise
the quality of your Hospitality sound.  
Unless you can get wall mounted speakers high above head height, installing these
in big spaces isn’t ideal, as they just make the perimeter of that space louder than
the centre and you don’t create a consistent audio experience.  Similarly, unless you
are on a stage or in a nightclub environment, splitting sound across separate bass
and mid high cabinets can often lead to unbalanced sound and should be avoided.
Using small speakers, although often considered aesthetically pleasing, cannot
supply a warm full sound.  A better alternative is the use of full range speakers,
possibly finished in a custom RAL colour to match your chosen decor, as these
can deliver superior sound whilst blending with your interior design.
Thinking about sound system design, considering the acoustics of a space is
also key in delivering the best possible sound.  Speakers pointing at or across
hard reflective surfaces will not generate good sound. Similarly, sound systems
created with many different areas and speakers but only a few amplifier channels
do not work.  To get great sound, different areas and speakers often need a
different amplifier channel and EQ. Finally, once the system design and hardware
have been considered, the music content needs to be addressed.  Not just what
tracks you are playing to evoke the right mood for your venue or for a particular
time of day, but the type of music format you are using to create the best possible
sound.  The quality at which a track is recorded makes a huge difference to the
end result of how that track sounds when it is played through a sound system.
No matter how good a sound system design and installation is, if you put in poor
quality music you get out louder poor quality music!  Conversely, with a well
designed and installed audio system, if you put in well-recorded music you get
out great sounding music.
To help with this and to avoid any of the legal copyright issues, look to professionally
curated music lists and fit these in a player.  This prevents your staff from putting on
their favourite tracks or from plugging in their phones which will help you to avoid
both legal and branding pitfalls.

So to make a hospitality venue sound good, good sound needs to make a sensory
engagement with your guests, and this can be achieved by the audio being an
integral part of the design, decor and planning of a new or refurbished space.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Design Led Sound Solutions from CGA Integration

Holistic visual design
Have you ever been frustrated that your interior design is being compromised by the functional requirements of services? Do you have an eyesore of a white grill on a coloured ceiling, black boxes on white walls or maybe too many controls on the walls, with staff unable to get the consistency you planned and designed for?

If this sounds like an experience you are all too familiar with, CGA Integration can help you to address these aesthetic issues, whilst still enabling you to deliver the functional design that your client’s venue demands.

CGA can deliver speakers and grills resprayed to any RAL colour to ensure the integrity demands of your design, even after the services have been installed. With this available from CGA for all services, not just for sound equipment, we can help you to deliver a truly holistic visual design.

In addition, the control systems that CGA deploy not only deliver great sound but can also control; lighting, video, blinds, air conditioning and a whole range of other services. This enables you, the designer, to deliver a control platform for the whole environment, rather than creating a wall full of buttons to control varying parts of it!

So rather than planning how to layout a wall of switches, let us help you to change the conversation to talk about integration in the plant rooms and colours and fonts for the iPad control screens.

Addressing the soundscape
Taking things one step further, designs that encompass all the senses create a truly holistic guest experience. Although the visual design creates a wonderful first impression, hearing is one of our primary fight and flight senses; get the sound wrong in a venue and guests may never be comfortable in the space, no matter how wonderful it looks!

To generate the best sound, you need to ensure that the correct speakers and reproductive equipment are installed for the space. Not every sound system will deliver the right sound. How you hear sound in a space changes considerably with decorative finishes and also once it is occupied. CGA can help by creating the best sound system for your space, choosing and fitting the right equipment to deliver what your client needs it to do, throughout the day, every day.

Designed for the future 
Once you know that your design will both look and sound how you envisaged, how do you ensure that it stays that way, whilst still allowing flexibility and future proofing for your client?

Here at CGA we always plan for the future. With every sound system we create, we ensure spare cable runs to allow for changes to systems without the need for rewiring and we install digital control platforms which allow equipment to be monitored and tested by us remotely, (in real time), to ensure that all hardware is at it’s best at all times. These same digital control systems also allow systems to be reconfigured and reprogrammed easily with no hardware changes to repurpose or refresh a space for added peace of mind.

Why not talk to us about getting the sound system right for the space you are designing for. This might just add that final edge to your design; keeping your client’s guest’s spending and your client coming back to you for more great designs.

CGA Integration … Making hospitality sound great!