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Music to Dine For

Feb 16, 2011 3:12 PM, by Dan Daley

As music-themed restaurants and cafés proliferate, the bar gets raised for sound quality.

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Barnhart points out that the sound install was so critical that Klipsch engineers Roy Delgado and Greg Topp modified the KI-102BT speakers, adjusting them to fit inside the ceilings and for the response curve of the room. “That’s not something you see everyday,” he says.

The system installation was not without challenges. The building is part of Nashville’s landmarked downtown historical district, which limits the scope of alterations that can be done. That meant pulling wire through old walls where necessary, though much of the wiring runs in free air along the ceilings. The decorative scenery was also a challenge at times, with thatched hut roofs and tin ceilings limiting the use of in-ceiling speakers in parts of the distributed audio system and necessitating the use of surface-mounted speakers on walls and beams. “The goal was to have no hotspots whatsoever, just a very smooth, good-sounding sound system throughout the restaurant,” says Barnhart. Another part of achieving that was bringing in Steve Sockey and Adam Schulman from SIA Acoustics, who used the EASE program to model the room prior to systems installation to determine the best speaker locations and optimal processing.

The biggest acoustical issue, however, was the fact that one of the walls of the upstairs music venue adjoins a residential building next door. In order to minimize sound transmission between them, the room-within-a-room construction technique was applied: the venue floor was floated and the ceiling decoupled, and a second staggered-stud wall was constructed to mechanically decouple the vertical walls of each structure. The design process for that took as long as four months, says Barnhart, to reassure residents and inspectors that it would work. In addition, the rear wall of the stage was treated with absorptive material to eliminate slap-back reflections into the room, and the tin roofs of the faux shacks on the main floor have a thin layer of absorptive material between two layers of corrugated metal to dampen resonance.

Margaritaville Nashville also has portable digital signage. Because landmark status meant nothing could be affixed to the side of the building, so Technomedia had the McBride Company fabricate custom stands for a pair of Sunbrite 3220HD plasma displays that show menus and entertainment schedules for the evening, with power and content coming through wall plates under weatherproof covers with Extron VGA-over-Cat-5 extenders. The signage is taken in every night. And most whimsical is the Big-type musical spiral staircase between levels that plays sampled piano scales as patrons move along the steps. Audio comes through five Meyer MM4 XPpowered speakers that line the staircase, each in its own zone so you only hear the notes on steps closest to you.

“That’s a fun effect,” Barnhart says, “but Margaritaville as a music venue in Nashville is very serious.”

The PBR Rock Bar, the newest addition to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, was a challenge for integrator R2W. Since floor space is rare in Las Vegas, and usually reserved for tables, the entire 46,000W system is surface-mounted.

The PBR Rock Bar, the newest addition to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, was a challenge for integrator R2W. Since floor space is rare in Las Vegas, and usually reserved for tables, the entire 46,000W system is surface-mounted.

That's no Bull

Anyone who remembers the film Urban Cowboy knows that Gilley’s roadhouse has spawned several generations of music bars. The 1,100-capacity PBR Rock Bar, the newest addition to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas and licensed by the Professional Bullriders Association, upholds that tradition—including a mechanical bull—but does it with Vegas-style panache. The long and narrow restaurant means a premium on floor space for tables, so the house’s blunt-force 46,000W sound system is all surface mounted, including 21 JBL AM7212/95 12in. full-range two-way loudspeakers and five JBL ASB6125 high-power dual subwoofers, all powered by seven Lab.gruppen C 28:4 and two C48:4 4-channel amplifiers and a Lab.gruppen NLB 60E NomadLink Bridge & Network controller for amplifier monitoring and control. David Starck, director of engineering and the systems engineer on the PBR project for integrator R2W, says the challenge was creating a distributed sound system that had essentially music PA-system reproduction capability, whether for the often-incredibly loud music pumped into the room from a Windows Media Player or from the nightly live DJ or periodic live music appearances. “The system really has to thump—that’s the market they’re going for,” he says. “The speakers all had to be off the floor, including the subs, so we had to choose components that would be able to handle that kind of power but also play back well without being stacked or flown.”

The speaker enclosures are mounted to the walls very close to the ceilings, using JBL MTU-3 U-bracket mounts, in order to take advantage of the room’s amplification effect and avoid reflections. The subs are mounted facing down the center of the room for even LF dispersion. Audio is filled where needed by eight JBL AC28/26 2-way loudspeakers and four JBL Control 24CT two-way ceiling speakers for the 13,000 square-foot dining/bar area, along with 15 JBL Control 28T-60 high-output speakers for the 3,000-square foot outdoor patio area. To take full advantage of the system’s power, Starck wired each speaker to an individual amplifier output. “That way, each speaker has its own channel, and you really maximize the system’s performance,” he says. System control is via BSS Soundweb London BLU-160 DSP, BLU-120 networked signal processor, and BLU-8 programmable zone controller for the club’s four audio zones.

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