We can all recall a time when a shopping or dining experience was marred by blaring music that grates on the ears either as a result of poor audio system quality or the obvious absence of taste. Then it becomes a battle of wits. Shouting over the bad sound, struggling to converse over music that distracts with its horrible inappropriateness for the location, or worse, these two nightmare scenarios are compounded by inadequate acoustical treatment. All the restaurateurs who went with the all-concrete modernist aesthetic are probably regretting the fact that no one stays for dessert because they've gone deafDavid Schwartz doesn't want this to happen anymore. In his role as president of Essential Communications in New York, NY, Schwartz always declared his mandate first and foremost when meeting with his hospitality customers. "You can take a lousy-sounding room and put a million dollars' worth of sound equipment in it, but it's still going to sound lousy," he'd advise. "I always tell everybody, let's treat the problem first, and then you'll spend less money on the hardware."
Throughout his years in the business, Schwartz has managed to educate more than a few clients on the importance of acoustics and audio. "In my experience it's the people that plan for audio that are the most successful, not those who treat it as an afterthought."
At least one of his clients has become so confident in Schwartz's abilities that they have actually hired him to run his own newly created AV department within their company. Schwartz is now director of audio and video technology for Abercrombie & Fitch
. Late last year he closed up shop at Essential Communications and formed a team of key people to support the new AV division within one of America's most beloved clothing retailers.
Having completed flagship A&F stores augmented with customized, top-notch AV systems in New York and Los Angeles, Schwartz is now wrapping up work on a London flagship location. Schwartz developed the flagship concept with A&F and their sister retail concept, Ruehl, and he is now working with the company's store construction team and national AV partner providers PlayNetwork and Bose to make AV design, installation, maintenance, operation, and of course acoustic issues central priorities in their planning.
"Sound is something that should be well planned in a hospitality environment, just like lighting and air conditioning," Schwartz emphasized. "Ultimately, sound is physics, and there are basic principles to applying it correctly, just as there are formulas for figuring out how much lighting you need or how much air conditioning is required to cool a particular space. Unfortunately, when it comes to sound, people don't spend the proportionate amount of money that would dedicate to HVAC and lighting."
Convincing clients to put a reasonable price on the audible portion of a store's atmosphere is still a tough hurdle for AV designers and installers to overcome. "Most merchants have done a good job of educating themselves as to what quality audio is, but sometimes they suffer sticker shock when presented with a quality system design," commented Jon Sager, vice president of sales for EAW
. "Regarding the acoustics, I'm not sure that is a consideration in most installations. Their merchandise displays are the key to there success and the music is there to make the buying experience more pleasant for their customers."
A pleasant experience is certainly what Schwartz seeks. "Every time I read a restaurant review where the critic mentions bad sound or a noisy environment, it's like fingernails on a blackboard to me," he said. "I just can't help but ask myself, why didn't somebody pay attention to that beforehand?"
Abercrombie & Fitch...www.abercrombie.com