in October 2005
More Than Suds
By Jim Stokes
Prairie Rock offers
sight, sound and beer.
An upgraded AV system keeps customers
and venue staff happy at the Prairie Rock Brewery in Schaumburg
IL. Ambient noise-compensated multiple audio zones and high-definition
video displays have brought the AV system into the high-performance
era. Those sound and video improvements further enhance
the enjoyment of Prairie Rock’s foods and selection
of beer from its own award-winning micro-brewery on the
premises, which features a fascinating direct view of the
brewery tanks by patrons.
Before we take an AV system tour,
let’s get a perspective of the city setting. The heritage
of Schaumburg dates back to the middle of the 19th century
when settlers arrived in this Midwestern locale from Germany
and the eastern United States. Although Schaumburg Township
originally had the quaint name of Sara’s Grove, the
present name resulted from a forceful statement by Frederick
Nerge during a lively discussion.
The prominent local German landowner
put his fist down decisively on the table, exclaiming, “Schaumburg
ichall et heiten!” That is, “It will be called
Schaumburg!” From this outburst came a consensus on
the Township’s official name, which came from the
Schaumburg-Lippe region of Germany, the origin of many of
the Township’s residents. It was a nostalgic link
to the old country.
The area’s main occupation
was farming amid an idyllic countryside with abundant wildlife
such as geese, prairie chickens, rabbits and deer. The dominant
rural life gave way to urbanization and industrialization
as sparked by the city’s close proximity to Chicago.
For example, Schaumburg is a large
retail center and the corporate headquarters of Motorola.
And there was a groundbreaking in July 2004 for the Schaumburg
Convention Center and Hotel, further advancing the area
into commerce and tourism. More industrial development is
expected to occur in the Spectrum Industrial Park, Copley
Center and Woodfield Business Center.
The Prairie Rock Brewing Company
of Elgin and Schaumburg brew such handcrafted beers as Clock
Tower Amber Lager, Pale Rider, Vanilla Cream Ale and Prairie
Light. Both venues feature a micro-brewery and a restaurant.
The Original Prairie Rock Brewery, Elgin, opened in October
1995 in the historical setting of the renovated 1920s Grove
Located 11 miles east of Elgin,
Prairie Rock’s Schaumburg venue was built in 1999.
The two-story, 28,000-square-foot facility seats up to 1100.
It features two floors of dining, including the Chicago
Room downstairs, which leads to a patio, and the Grove Room
upstairs, which is private with a fireplace. There’s
a large bar downstairs and a wine bar upstairs.
Schaumburg’s Prairie Rock
is characterized by its open and airy architecture combined
with beautiful wood, stone and iron decor. Customers delight
in a direct view of the brewery tanks. Large plasma displays
ensure that popular sporting events can be viewed. Upstairs
features plush leath- er couches or cozy chairs surrounding
a warm stone fireplace. The facility is located two blocks
from the Woodfield Mall Shopping Center and a block from
the new Schaumburg Convention Center.
Patrons can watch sports from
different types of environments; it’s not all bar
stools and tables. There’s not a bad seat at the Wine
Bar (right) offering one of several TVs modulated for a
centralized game server.
The AV upgrade was done by Pinnacle
Audio & Video Systems, Elgin IL. Designer and lead installer
Rick Bjorkquist is our guide here. Project manager was Steve
Kish. John Kissel was supervisor/sales/Biamp programmer.
Crestron programming was by Caroline Gunn-Bjorkquist.
On the client side, managing partner
Stuart Goldstein talked about the impact of the upgraded
AV system on the venue. “It’s helped business
because it’s brought us into the 21st century. I’ve
had great response from our customers. It helps increase
our sales because we have the best sound and video system
in the area at present. So the word’s getting out.
The system is easy to operate because it goes on and off
automatically. And volume is automatically adjusted as well.”
Goldstein added that everyone loves the five hi-def plasma
displays as well as the music from the audio system, which
radiates from all around you. He noted the clarity is 100%
When Pinnacle arrived for the new
install, Prairie Rock’s existing audio/video capabilities
included only single-zone audio throughout the building,
with rotary volume controls. There was a basic cable feed
for seven TVs with modulated channels for an NTN game server.
The new upgraded touchpanel-controlled AV system features
automatic level controlled sound, which maintains intelligibility
and allows easy conversation among patrons, plus high-definition
plasma TVs for a pleasant, entertaining experience.
Bjorkquist pointed out that, on
the audio side, the original installation “just wasn’t
cutting it. They had a couple of speakers scattered throughout
the facility. And there were only four volume controls to
ramp the volume up and down. So we added more zones and
more ability to control volumes. The way it was, the whole
second floor was on just one volume control, and the bar
and dining room were on their own. We also got away from
the volume controls located in the main office, stashed
away where nobody could see them.”
Pinnacle specified separate mid/high
and subwoofer ceiling-mounted SoundTube speakers for the
main zones. In addition, the main bar and main dining room
downstairs have two subs because they’re much larger
areas. “We liked how they sounded. It gave the facility
all the coverage they wanted,” said Bjorkquist. “We
added the subwoofer to get the feeling of bass into the
system. With such openness, we decided to not use the mid/high
to try to push the low frequencies. Each of the amplifiers
has separate outputs for the subwoofer and the mid/high
speakers. The Biamp Nexia processor is able to separate
out the low frequencies, which we send specifically to the
subs. And we send the rest to the midrange and tweeter.
This keeps the sound cleaner.”
Pinnacle decided, for aesthetic
purposes, to mount the sub and the mid/high straight to
the ceiling so the sound is coming right at you. In contrast,
the former system had speakers mounted on the sidewalls
and pointed in, like a giant pool effect. Rounding out the
speakers, the patio has Electro-Voice 70-volt speakers.
Then there are owner-furnished JBL 24s in the restrooms.
The Prairie Rock Brewery installation
is based around 11 music zones throughout the building.
Each floor has the ability to have two separate music sources
playing simultaneously, and/or play a CD from the shared
50-disc player, and/or play the audio that matches what’s
being displayed on the 60-inch LG plasma in the main bar
Two Biamp Nexia CS audio processors
contain an ANC (ambient noise compensator) that’s
used to make automatic volume level adjustments to seven
of the 11 zones. “It’s based on each of the
building’s seven major zones, each of which has a
dedicated, ceiling-mounted Audio-Technica hypercardioid
microphone for sensing changes in each zone’s noise
level,” explained Bjorkquist. Specifically, the ambient
noise level sensing mics and audio sources from each of
the nine ComCast cable boxes feed into the Nexias, which
feed into nine dedicated-zone Crown amplifiers.
Let’s take a sound trip through
the Prairie Rock Brewery’s 11 music zones. The seven
Nexia-controlled zones include the four upstairs: front
and back line bars, loft and dining room; and the three
downstairs: main bar, main dining room and Chicago room.
The four remaining unprocessed zones include two patios,
the Grove Room and both restrooms, which just have a steady
light background volume.
Getting back to the Nexia CS, its
“conference system” application fit the brewery’s
zones as well, automatically adjusting the music levels
to maintain a preset music-to-ambient zone noise ratio.
This application frees the managerial staff from having
to frequently manually adjust each zone’s music level.
Let’s take an example of
a typically very busy 7 o’clock on a Saturday night
inside Prairie Rock. There’s certainly enough to do
for the management and staff tending bar and waiting tables
than to be burdened with turning the background music up
or down. “Riding gain” becomes even more of
a yeoman’s task if there’s a sports event, such
as a Chicago Cubs game, on the big main bar plasma. As more
and more people converse and join in the excitement, the
music gets louder, competing with the noise level. Taking
this scenario further, let’s say it’s the bottom
of the ninth inning with two outs and the Cubbies’
big slugger is at bat. All conversation ceases as the devoted
fans wait in a tense silence. What silence? Had the music
been manually turned up without automatic level control
in place, there would have been ear-splitting music playing.
To which Cub fans would be very vocal with such comments
as “Turn down the (expletive deleted) music!”
But not to worry with Nexia ANC.
The Nexia CS takes care of that task with Crestron switching
and routing via three strategically placed TPS-3000 touchpanels
in the venue. The two permanent touchpanel locations are
in the downstairs Chicago Room and in an equipment rack.
However, Crest- ron jacks are scattered throughout the building,
including such prime locations as the downstairs main bar
and the upstairs bar. Just plug in and control!
Automation: Key Control Factor
Thus automation is the key control
factor in Prairie Rock’s entertainment system. Bjorkquist
noted that this facility was an early user of the Nexia
CS audio processor as well as the new Crestron Event Scheduler,
which work together. In addition to the “hands-off”
design, the automation also provides a manual override.
This allows the staff to go into the system and plan different
dates and times for TV or music up to a week in advance.
Crestron’s Event Scheduler allows the staff to turn
it on or off, if needed outside of the initial automation
presets. It also gives them the ability to have the plasmas
switch to a set TV station on specific days or nights for
events or keep the music system on for longer or shorter
times because of banquets, parties or holidays.
The system design is not only about
saving staff time via programmed scheduling, it’s
also about saving wear and tear on the equipment. Specifically,
Bjorkquist explained that each morning, the system is preset
to turn on when the Crestron trips the Elkay power relays
that turn on the amplifiers. And at a preset time throughout
the week and the weekends, it powers down. “That way,
you don’t have your amplifiers going nonstop and baking,”
he said. “They’re analog amps, so there’s
going to be heat built up. Even if [it] has an efficiency
of 20% or 30%, that’s considered pretty decent for
an analog amplifier. Then the rest is generated as heat.
"So we make sure the amps are shut
down at certain times. With Prairie Rock being a restaurant
and a bar, they don’t use the second floor except
for banquets or later in the day or evenings. So, the whole
second floor amplifiers don’t turn on until about
4:30 or 5 in the afternoon. Why have music playing upstairs
if nobody’s there to enjoy it?”
Therefore, the bottom line is that
the whole AV system with the plasmas and amplifiers is set
up on the Crestron controlling system to help minimize wear
and tear. In contrast, here’s a scenario without any
scheduled power control: The staff could be cleaning up
for an extra two hours after closing with the AV equipment
still powered up. And if they came in at 7 the next morning
and powered up but the open time wasn’t until 11:00am,
that’s an extra six hours that the AV equipment would
be baking. “Multiply that by seven days a week, 52
weeks a year, and all that extra power really adds up,”
Taking a look at power conditioning,
Bjorkquist said, “I like using the Elkay relays because
they have dual receptacles for each relay, and each of them
has one always on with five switched.” The Furman
power conditioners feed the relays, and the relays feed
each of the corresponding amplifiers. “That way, everything
is getting clean power and we’re not overdrawing anywhere.”
One of three separate dining rooms
that feature omni-directional speakers mounted from the
30-foot-high ceilings, flooding the room with music from
a CD player.
The upgraded video displays include
four 42-inch LG plasmas and one 60-inch LG plasma, which
are used downstairs. These five high-definition displays
can show the same channel or a different channel. This capability
is achieved by routing the video from five ComCast hi-def
cable boxes through a Knox hi-def video matrix. “Although
we know that’s a little bit overbuilt for what they’re
currently doing in the facility, this allows them to integrate
more high-definition displays down the line, instead of
spending more money again,” said Bjork- quist. “So
the system is designed to be expandable with the major controlling
processors being the Crestron, the Nexia and the Knox.”
In addition, the upstairs has four owner-furnished 32-inch
The downstairs display feed normally
has two of the four 42-inch LGs playing the NTN game server,
while the other two LGs show regular programming. Of course,
the Crestron touchpanel can configure to suit the wants
of the venue. And the 60-inch LG serves the main bar. Distribution
is via Cat5e. The signal from the Knox video matrix feeds
the MuxLabs video baluns into Cat5e. “In this application,
we ended up pulling out the previous coax cable,”
explained Bjorkquist. “And we used that for a pull-line
to pull in two new Cat5es and two new RG6s because we also
have a video feed that ran to each of the plasmas besides
the hi-def component feeds.”
This touchpanel is used to
provide an intuitive interface to control all the systems
in the facility, including AV, 11 audio zones, lights,
HVAC and ceiling fans.
Because of Prairie Rock’s
open-architecture style, concealing the wires throughout
the building was a challenge. Although it’s great
that advanced technology is seen and heard, seeing exposed
cables and components that make them perform effectively
is another matter. Bjorkquist noted that having two of the
five plasmas mounted to a block wall forced the installers
to utilize niches in the building and color match the wire
track to minimize the appearance of cables.
The 60-inch LG plasma suspended
directly behind the brew tapper tanks posed another challenge.
The wall directly behind the beer tapper tanks has an arch
that made mounting this 150-pound plasma an issue. Being
open architecture, there’s web truss corrugated steel
in some sections such as on a flat roof. The more cathedral-like
ceilings are made of plank and beam, where it’s all
open wood. “To resolve this issue, we utilized a Unistrut
framework on both sides of the 16-foot-thick wall and tied
both frames together with 3/8-inch threaded rod,”
he reported. “With the framework in place, hanging
the 60-inch plasma took merely minutes.”
Rack ‘Em Up
Within the two Middle Atlantic equipment floor racks are
temperature-regulated fan kits that control the four fans
per rack. Once a thermostat gets up too high, the fans kick
on. The racks are staged so the heavy heat-producing power
amplifiers are on the bottom and the ComCast cable boxes
and processors above them. “Again, the use of rack
thermostats is another way of saving and extending product
life,” concluded Bjorkquist.
Prairie Rock Brewery in Schaumburg IL.
Pinnacle Audio &
Pinnacle Audio & Video Systems, Elgin IL, offers
design and install services. Main areas of concentration
include corporations, schools/education, home theater
and churches. Regarding corporations, Pinnacle sees
businesses using videoconferencing as a tool to keep
closer contacts with their customers, allowing more
staff to have contact with the customer and reducing
For schools/education, distance learning encompasses
all technologies and supports the pursuit of lifelong
learning for all. DVD’s cinema-quality video
combined with surround sound is becoming increasingly
popular for home theater installations. In churches,
the message can be more dramatically enhanced via
video projectors and sound reinforcement.
7 Audio-Technica ES933PM/H hypercardioid
mics w/ceiling power module
2 Biamp Nexia CS audio processors
9 ComCast digital high-def cable boxes
1 Crestron Pro2 AV processor w/aux relay card, IR
3 Crestron TPS-3000 color touchpanels
9 Crown CH1 amps
4 Electro-Voice 4.2 wall-mount speakers
2 Elkay relay controlled 5-outlet strips
2 Furman 20 amp power conditioners, power strips
1 Knox Video Technologies MediaFlex 16x16 hi-def component
4 LG MU-42PM12X 42" high-def plasmas
1 LG MU-60PZ90V 60" high-def plasma
2 Middle Atlantic WRK 44RU floor racks, accessories
4 MTX in-ceiling speakers
2 Muxlabs 500050 component video/digital audio baluns
1 NTN Game Server (provided by others, integrated
into the system)
30 SoundTube RS800I 8" speakers w/ceiling mounts
8 SoundTube RS801I 8" subwoofer speakers w/ceiling
4 Toshiba 32" CRTs (owner furnished)
is edited from information supplied by Pinnacle Audio
& Video Systems.
Contributing Editor Jim Stokes has been involved in the
AV industry for 33 years as an AV technician and recording
studio designer among other areas.