An Oasis of Experience: Harrah’s Resort Southern California Makes an AV Upgrade

An Oasis of Experience: Harrah’s Resort Southern California Makes an AV Upgrade

In the ultra-competitive world of destination entertainment, getaways can’t take a gamble on maintaining the status quo. That’s why Harrah’s Resort Southern California (HRSC) has just made a major AV upgrade to its facilities, establishing itself as a technology leader in the process.

New audio, video, and control systems at Harrah's Resort Southern California accompanied a major update that included a new hotel tower, which more than doubled room-count to almost 1,100.For Escondido, CA-based Sound Image, being the integrator for HRSC— located 60 minutes outside of San Diego—means never being bored. “This was a multifaceted project,” confirmed Brandon Rinas, estimator and sales engineer for Sound Image. “You’ve got work to do for a hotel, casino, and concert venue. If it can happen, it’ll happen at Harrah’s!”

Harrah’s new audio, video, and control systems accompany a major update to the complex itself, one that saw a new hotel tower more than double room count to almost 1,100. From the “lazy river” to poolside lounges and restaurants, HR SC was focused on providing a premium sound and vision experience to its guests— part of a positive trend toward better quality. “San Diego is becoming more like Vegas—they want the best,” Rinas said. “The remit was ‘Make sure it works, and works well.’”

Renovations and accompanying AV upgrades touched virtually every aspect of HRSC. Areas where Sound Image was pulling wire included the pool and its lazy river attraction, poolside restaurant, bar, lobby, “restaurant row” with the likes of Starbucks and Earl’s Sandwich Shop, and of course the Events Center—a 23,000-square-foot banquet hall that doubles as a 2,200-capacity concert venue hosting the likes of Soul Asylum, Everclear, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Under the Sun Tour, and more.

A common theme throughout the various spaces was significantly improved audio quality. To that end, a notable addition to the facility was a range of systems from L-Acoustics, including 18 K2 variable curvature WST line source speakers in the Events Center—the world’s first install of the K2.

“We work with a range of technology from many different manufacturers and we aim to ensure that we select and implement the right solution for the job,” said Rinas. “The lazy river section of the pool represented the biggest challenge, because there’s no shape to that area—it just flows and wiggles around the back of the building. But they hold concerts out in that pool area, playing mostly high-energy DJs. We knew that traditional speakers were not a possibility there. Instead, we built subwoofers with little high boxes in them, and put on green covering so that they blended in with trees and shrubs.”

With the HRSC Events Center, Sound Image was faced with a square box that needed to sound excellent for concerts, in any of three possible configurations: half the room, the whole room without stadium seating, or the whole room with stadium seating rising almost all the way back to the ceiling.

Sound Image conducted the world's first install of the L-Acoustics K2, comprised of 18 K2 variable curvature WST line source speakers in Harrah's 23,000-square-foot Events Center.

“The AV techs were hoping that, with a push of a button, they could handle all three of those scenarios,” Rinas explained. “What we set up for them was that, if they do a half-room service, the techs can turn on just the top four boxes. For the full room without seating, the next two boxes in the array come on. When it’s a touring band and they want the whole shebang, all the boxes are running—it’s tuned just to the top of the audience’s heads. It’s amazing how good it sounds in that room. The L-Acoustics K2 is an exceptionally smooth-sounding PA, and when Earth Wind & Fire were in there for a recent show, you could hear absolutely everything from all the instruments.”

There’s an additional level of flexibility at HR SC as well. “It’s an ‘installed portable system,’” Rinas said. “If they put on a concert in the parking lot, we could roll it out and it would be up and running in four hours. When the time comes for that, all they’ll have to do is purchase a second set of cables, mirroring the ones that we’ve snuck up over the ceiling in the event space.”

Not to be outdone, video has its share of highlights at the casino resort. Upon entering the lobby, visitors are greeted with an impressive 4x4 video wall made up of 16 GPO US 46-inch monitors. Meanwhile, TV s throughout the casino are set up for maximum flexibility, with many of them able to accept input from CastNET digital signage, satellite, and/or cable.

For control, HR SC is a Crestron house, programmed to give room operators the best of both worlds. “In the banquet hall, there’s a touch panel in every room, and air-wall sensors so it knows when it is its own room, or part of another room,” noted Rinas. “Harrah’s wants to be able to control every aspect of the system, like the room’s EQ, but there’s also an auto setting.”

Inside the casino and out, stakes are high on the newly implemented AV. Speakers, screens, and control systems may not be the main attraction at Harrah’s Southern California Casino & Resort, but ownership is betting that the higher quality will lead to higher traffic. “You have a lot to choose from in the San Diego area,” Rinas said. “So a casino, especially one that you have to drive an hour to get to, better have the entertainment that people are looking for. Visitors want a Vegas-like experience, and it should feel expensive. You can’t get away with just a casino in the middle of the desert anymore—they want an oasis!”

David Weiss ( writes extensively about AV, audio, and broadcast technology.