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In The Zone

The opening of a posh new restaurant in upscale Mill Valley, north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, is welcome news for Marin County foodies. It's a double treat for the audiophiles among the crowds flocking to the latest venture by the Real Restaurant Group, Bungalow 44, thanks to a high-fidelity installation that combines studio, home theater and commercial series loudspeakers from SLS Audio.

The Real Restaurant Group-co-owners Bill Higgins, Bill Upson and Bungalow 44 managing partner Peter Schumacher-called in Zone Music Professional Systems of Cotati, CA for the AV installation at the restaurant. In addition to offering musical instrument sales and lessons, the retailer also installs AV systems in performing arts centers, houses of worship, nightclubs, schools, restaurants and retail establishments.

According to project manager Neville Hormuz, the restaurant's location has been something of a revolving door, with ownership changing several times over the years. This time he's confident it will be a success: The experienced partners of the Real Restaurant Group are well known for their other Bay Area eateries, which include the Fog City Diner, Betelnut and Bix Supper Club in San Francisco, Buckeye Roadhouse in Sausalito and Tra Vigne in St. Helena.

The new owners had some concerns about potential sound problems in the new space, Hormuz reported. "They called because there had always been complaints about the sound bouncing around."

It turns out that the reason for selecting the speaker manufacturer was fairly prosaic: "We chose SLS because the rep came by recently," revealed Hormuz, who was suitably impressed by the product demonstration. "SLS uses a ribbon-tweeter technology that is pretty amazing to hear. We figured, since the speakers were going to be installed in an environment where servers and guests are going to have to listen to the music for a long period of time-even though it's just in the background-we should make it so there is as little ear fatigue as possible."

He continued, "The restaurant is very lively, so we decided to use a number of speakers at low volume to control the sound a little bit. They didn't want to do a lot of room treatment, but we thought we could keep the volume at a comfortable level using multiple ceiling speakers with the smoother tweeters."

Fourteen SLS Commercial Series PRD8COM ceiling speakers are installed in the main dining area, with three weather-resistant PRDMP-6 speakers from the company's In-Wall Design Series for the outdoor patio. An existing Yamaha preamp/amplifier system handles the zone control.
Zone Music also installed a 42-inch HD plasma screen in the bar area, flanked by a pair of dual 8-inch woofer SLS Home Theater Series monitors. "The biggest showcase is the HT28Rs," said Hormuz. "They're a beautiful red oak that match the bar shelving system perfectly. After hours they wanted something a little more lively, so they kick on the speakers around the plasma later." Powered by a Stewart DA-70 power amplifier, the audio material for the HT28Rs may be selected from an iPod, CD player, XM Radio or the video source.

Equipment is housed in a Middle Atlantic rack. "We also used a Monster power conditioner, because we were sharing electricity with a POS station cash register, so filtering was a must."

The installation has reportedly been a big hit. "The owners and the workers are extremely happy with it."

Steve Harvey ( is editor-at-large for Pro Sound News and also contributes to TV Technology, MIX, and other Future titles. He has worked in the pro audio industry since November 1980.