Monday, 24 July 2017

Audio Myths and Legends... busted!

Over the years that I’ve worked in the Hospitality sector there are some statements that I hear time and time again, ‘myths and legends’ of AV that are passed on and often never questioned.  So I’ve decided to address a few of them, the ones that I hear most often, and hope that after you’ve read this you might look at your AV in a whole new light!

More speakers just =  louder sound
In the hospitality sector, our aim is to deliver a consistent guest experience, one which reflects your Brand and encourages repeat visits to your venue, or other venues within your group.  All your diners receive the same quality food & service, so all guests should receive the same quality audio. However, this is so often not the case.

If only a few speakers are fitted, this will lead to audio ‘hot and cold’ spots within a venue.  Taking the dining analogy, proximity to speakers will either make your guests dining experiences ‘loud’, if seated near to a speaker, or quiet for those seated further away.  You wouldn’t have areas of your dining room lit and areas in darkness, so why should this be the case for sound?  

If you install numerous speakers running at a low level, this can create an even and all encompassing sound.  It’s not that more speakers just mean a louder sound, it means that they can create a more consistent sound.  By installing a sound system in this way it will surround your guests, acting as an extension to your lighting and decor, to complement the food and service you offer.

Speakers are black and ugly
Speakers now come in a variety of sizes, colours and finishes.  Some speakers are even invisible and for those that are not, they can be sprayed in any RAL colour to exactly match your decor.  CGA like to get involved as early as possible in the design process to ensure that, where possible, speakers are integrated and hidden.  We can offer plaster in “invisible speakers” and have even installed these behind a gold leaf to deliver both a five star sound and aesthetic!

If the sound system requires visible speakers, these can be colour coordinated with your design scheme.  CGA can finish most speakers to any RAL colour.  If the grill or even the speaker cabinet is visible, this can be the same colour as your ceiling or wall, or if desired they can be finished in a coordinated colour to match other design elements, to give a fully coordinated appearance.  So although speakers are also available in black, if this isn’t the colour of choice it’s really not an issue!

But the speakers in the restaurant next door are tiny!
The tiny domestic ‘design led’ speakers that you see dotted around in certain bars and restaurants are often favoured by designers, as they have minimum impact aesthetically, but these are actually only the visible part of a much bigger system. Their size might be attractive if you are trying to minimise any visual impact, but when you install small speakers such as these, they only reproduce mid and high-frequency sound.  To get a full range sound you will always need to add a complimentary larger cabinet, (or bass bin), to fill in the warm full bass and lower sound frequencies which these tiny speakers cannot reproduce.

These ‘bass bins’ as they are referred to are much harder to place in your venue, as they invariably create a bass ‘hot spot’. A salesman might state that “bass is Omni directional, you can put a bass bin anywhere.”  This is an accurate statement, bass sound does spread in all directions, but it spreads from the bass bin and similar to the example given above when we looked at speaker numbers, if you have a table next to the bass bin guests there will hear the bass much more than those at a table placed further away, resulting in each guest having a very different audio experience. There are ways to work with bass bins to try to mitigate this effect, but if you fitted slightly larger full range speakers instead, this will ensure that all of your guests receive the same audio experience and consistency of sound as they move through your venue.  As we have mentioned above, speakers now come in many different colours and finishes so their size really shouldn’t affect the aesthetics of your interior design!

Why have a music player, I can use my iPod or Spotify in the Bar
Whilst there are many legal pitfalls in this statement, even if you can address these, a portable music player or streamed music source will just offer inferior quality sound.

Many digital sound formats are very heavily compressed to allow sound files to be sent over the internet as fast and as easily as possible. Unfortunately, once compressed, much of the ‘dynamics’ and ‘excitement’ is lost from the music for ever, so even if you have the greatest sound system in the world, it will still sound flat and lifeless due to the poor quality of the source material.  Amplifiers do what their name suggests, they just amplify sound, what you put in is exactly what you get out, only louder! So if you use a poor quality music source, you just get loud, poor quality music.

In addition to this, if you do have a sound system which uses an iPod as a music source, there is always the concern over control.  You run the risk of staff using their iPods and playing music that they like to listen to, as opposed to playing the carefully selected music playlist that is right for your customers in your venue.

When choosing a music content provider, always talk to them about the file size and compression rates they use.  Ask them to explain and demonstrate the difference between the same track on a CD and on their music player to ensure that the music quality is right for you and your venue.  

There are some exciting new technologies now available such as the revolutionary new British technology MQA.  It is still a compressed music format, but MQA offers better time alignment which considerably improves the quality of the music output from compressed files.  Once it has passed through the MQA decoder in the sound system, the track is reproduced in the same quality as the sound recorded by the artist in the recording studio!  In a quality hospitality venue why would you settle for anything less?

I hope that I have succeeded in breaking down some long standing AV ‘myths and legends’.  Obviously, each venue and every room is different and each desires to create a unique experience for their clients. Here at CGA Integration we pride ourselves on understanding customer needs and striving to apply the best AV solution every time. Why not contact us to see how we can make your AV work better for you in your venue?

No comments:

Post a Comment