Playing Zone

When looking at the hospitality space as an integrator or system designer, the first thing to recognize is how broad the vertical can be. Although the term “hospitality” often conjures the image of hotels and restaurants, the reality is that there are several offshoots of those. Consider how high-end driving ranges have merged the restaurant and bar space with a private lounge environment that includes golf activities. Imagine how a casino might seek to bring restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, pools, spas, meeting spaces, retail spaces and a gaming floor into a single, cohesive integration. Even sports venues have long since moved on from the game on the field being the only element to their entertainment offerings.

The reality is that, to compete in the hospitality space, integrators have to “play zone.” Think of every hospitality space in terms of specific areas and zones that might require their own soundscape, and then find a way to integrate—or, perhaps, separate—those zones to create a cohesive audio integration.

Executing the zone approach effectively requires a few key considerations. First, you must understand the unique needs of these zones within the hospitality space. Just as critical, however, is partnering with a manufacturer that can provide the solutions and support necessary to work in these diverse spaces. Finally, for larger integrations, you will likely have to introduce network audio to the design.

A prime example of this approach would be a hotel with on-site restaurants, bars, retail shops and conference spaces.

Zones To Consider

First, let’s look at the typical spaces in a basic hotel: the lobby, the hallways and the rooms. What sound must be added to each? The lobby is the most obvious location to which to add sound—specific ambient music or a predetermined playlist. Hallways, stairwells and elevators are less common locations for audio, but they can be integrated to create a constant ambiance. That is a key consideration for a destination hotel, in which there’s a desire to keep visitors on the property. Rooms might seem like a stretch—no one wants ambient music playing there—but consider emergency notification for hotel-wide announcements. Integrating simple speakers might have great value in going above and beyond the fire and safety code.

With an understanding of the basic zones, you now have a basis for a system and what it will include. Key among that information is a baseline for power requirements and speakers. This might also be the tipping point for whether a basic background music (BGM) setup is enough. If the hotel plans only to use ambient music in the lobby, then there might not be a need for amplifiers or digital signal processors (DSP). However, the real test comes when looking at additional uses on the hotel grounds and how many soundscapes the building owner wishes to create.

Outdoor areas—from the parking lot, to walkways, to the pool area—each add a new layer of complexity to the audio system design. If there is a poolside dining area or rooftop bar, for example, those areas add new requirements, because restaurant and bar spaces have their own specific uses. Not only do such zones require a different type of music or audio, but they also likely require their own set of controls. Moreover, the type of music input must be considered. Will there be live bands or other types of performances at the venue? If so, it’s time to consider mixers, amplifiers and speakers to provide the necessary quality, flexibility and coverage.

Business spaces, such as schedulable meetings rooms, have a specific need for both audio and visual components, whereas convention spaces and ballrooms introduce an entirely new set of requirements for power and control.

By this point, wireless microphones, remote controls and mobile control applications, network-capable signal processors and amplifiers, and digital mixers would likely all be involved in providing the appropriate level of audio. And, with these types of uses, you would begin to enter the realm of requiring a multi-level system that utilizes network audio over the building’s existing IP network.

Combine Zones

Where the magic happens in hospitality is combining all these disparate needs into a single, intuitive, interoperable system that can be used by anyone from nearly anywhere. In our hotel example, you might have a bar equipped with a mobile PA system to support music from a media player or DJ. There might be a four-input wallplate with XLR, 3.5mm and RCA inputs, which connect to an amplifier powering a passive speaker system, and which is connected to the local network infrastructure. Also on that network might be the robust build-out in the ballroom, where the digital mixing console and paired power amplifiers operate. The ambient music that the hotel plays in specific lobby, hallway and outdoor locations would be network connected, as well.

An integrated system that utilizes the network not only allows for complete control over an entire system, but also leverages intelligent mixing. Advanced functions, such as “ducking,” enable level adjustments to audio in response to overhead pages or announcements. Multiple wireless microphones connect seamlessly to the preamp or mixer. Input EQ, auto-mixing and compression are set specifically for individual inputs. Amplifiers can be controlled via local remotes or a mobile application, giving complete control over sound levels in multiple zones and across all inputs.

The single-network-system setup allows for unique uses, as well—for instance, routing audio from the ballroom or performance at the bar to the rest of the facility. DSP also offers priority assignments and ducking for override of lower-priority sources. This provides an option for EQ, crossover, limiting and delay for speaker-system management over the network.

This means mid/highs, subwoofers or monitors for PA applications, or ceiling and wall speakers for paging and BGM can all be handled quickly and easily. System control can be monitored by professionals or transferred to non-technical personnel as boundaries are set within programming to eliminate fear of feedback or damage.

Why Go To The Network?

This leaves us with the all-important question: Why should a hospitality venue look to integrate this level of audio and control?

Stepping back from our hotel example for a moment, the reality is that every hospitality venue has its own needs and requirements. The job of the integrator or system designer is not only to offer solutions, but also to listen to needs of the client.

That said, there are a few key reasons to integrate sound in this way:

  • For hotels that seek to bring in business clients, providing a fully integrated sound system is imperative. One of the biggest issues for holding conferences or large business meetings is the need to provide professional audio. Eliminating the requirement for customers to have to load-in/build-out a system themselves is a major draw.
  • For restaurants or hotels with multiple food and drink zones (e., dining rooms, bars, outdoor food/drink areas, etc.), the ability to bring in live music can be a major draw. That said, it is also critical to have a system that provides different music—and a different ambiance—between the spaces. Ensuring that one type of music from a bar doesn’t cross over into a dining room is critical. Having the ability to offer that level of design and control is very important in system design.
  • Control across all spaces is a major consideration in taking on this level of integration. Can the integrator or system designer not only set the system to be controllable from multiple locations, but also set it to be controlled simply and intuitively? EZ-Mode presets can be critical to ensuring everyone at the location can utilize the system.
  • Ambiance is a key component in designing memorable and comfortable spaces. Excellent audio can often be the core component to setting the desired tone. It can also provide a fantastic finishing touch to a location that has other specific design notes.
  • Nearly every hospitality space has multiple zones that can be approached in the way described above. Doing this allows for the creation of specific and unique experiences that can draw in potential customers, and that’ll keep them coming back.

Seek A Partner

Pitching hospitality spaces on systems of this type is one thing; executing on the design is more critical. To integrate a complete system, as outlined, requires seeking out a manufacturer that not only offers total solutions, but also plays well with other audio devices (speakers, microphones), lighting products, security equipment and IoT devices. The next step is to ensure the manufacturer is interested in partnering with you in your long-term success. That means more than just product sales; it also means ensuring you have the direct line for support in your cell phone, and ensuring you can speak to a live person during the design, integration and support phases of the system.

Taking this approach also gives you access to the newest solutions and products available. And you, in turn, can offer your hospitality clients the very best in integrated professional audio systems.

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