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.