Downtown L.A.'s Hippest Hotel Sounds Cool, Too
Aesthetics can trump audio performance in consumer loudspeaker design any day of the week. Good looks can turn a few heads, and even get the nod sometimes, in the fixed installation market. But generally, aesthetic appeal doesn't share the same footing with performance and value.
One look at the Standard Hotel in downtown L.A., however, and you know that intelligent design, in addition to engineering practicalities, were at work here. The hotel is the second of a planned three properties; the first Standard, in Hollywood, opened in 1997, and a third is being built in Miami.
"One of the concepts behind the Standard," said director of operational design for the L.A. Standard Hotels, Sebastian Meler, "is that it bridges the gap between a hotel and a nightclub. It has affordable rooms in a hip, cool environment, for people who don't mind mixing business and pleasure." A DJ spins tunes in the late-night lobby.
Primary areas for audio in the 12-story hotel are: the outdoor patio at the main entrance, the adjacent outdoor dining area, the restaurant and bar, and the main lobby. Topping it all off, quite literally, is a rooftop lounge and bar that is very cool indeed. Loudspeakers on prominent display in the outdoor areas are from Community. Seventeen WET218, 2-way, 8-inch loudspeakers cover the main entrance, the restaurant patio/fire-pit, and surrounding the rooftop lounge/pool area. Four 3-way, 15-inch WET315s are positioned in the rooftop lounge seating area around the dance floor.
"Generally, I think a sound system should be heard and not seen," Meler stated. "If you do an installation right, you shouldn't know where the music's coming from. But if you have to see loudspeakers, they should fit the decor." Meler's experience with the Hollywood Standard taught him that unobtrusive sound systems adequate for background music may not be able to cut it when you pump up the volume. Because the downtown hotel's lobby-based DJ feeds music to the two ground-floor outdoor areas, as well as the lobby, Meler did his homework before choosing the speaker systems (see sidebar).
Meler had worked with Astro Audio on the Hollywood property, but only for DJ systems. For the downtown audio system installation, he solicited three quotes and went with Astro Audio and independent systems designer, Lee Stoutamirer, whom Meler knew was experienced in fixed installation. Stoutamirer did all the electrical drawings for the Standard project.
Community's all-weather WET product, made for the likes of athletic fields and theme parks, probably had not been so closely scrutinized until Meler and Stoutamire gave them a going over. "Sebastian thought they were really slick," Stoutamire said. "They look like living room furniture, almost like sculpture, and he wanted them displayed."
Placed on custom-designed stainless steel platforms filled with 80 pounds of sand, both to dampen sound and for stability, the WET315s became an integral part of the outdoor lounge design. But not before Meler added a custom touch. He asked Community if it could mold an enclosure without yoke holes; the speakers were not going to be flown, and the holes detracted from the smooth, white, fiberglass exterior. Community complied, casting four custom enclosures. Meler also swapped out the completely functional Phillips-head metal grille screws for something less obtrusive. Solution, a tiny Phillips screw dipped in white enamel.
"Installation loudspeaker manufactures don't think of their products aesthetically," Meler said. "Typically, they produce ugly boxes. I'm happy I found product that not only performs up to expectations, but looks good as well."