The W is a popular luxury stopover in the nation’s capital located “next door to the White House” on 15th Street in the heart of W Washington D.C.
The hotel was remodeled in 2009 and designed with contemporary interiors and color schemes that combined seamlessly with the original beaux-arts exterior, which was carefully preserved.
CTSI (Corbett Technology Solutions, Inc.) a leading area integrator based in Chantilly, VA, was originally brought in to work on the hotel’s Crestron lighting systems because they have a master programmer fully certified in the technology.
From that point, CTSI was asked to update the original audio systems put in by a competitor in the W’s celebrated P.O.V rooftop lounge, terrace and lobby. Over recent years the lounge has morphed into a nightclub and CTSI initially began the audio upgrade by modifying the DSP and replacing speakers that had been damaged by DJs.
It soon became apparent that a comprehensive audio system upgrade was required and CTSI specified a range of new equipment including Martin Audio OmniLine arrays and AQ Series speakers for the lounge, terrace and lobby.
Asked about the acoustic challenges for each space in the W Hotel, Mike Wilson, CTSI Director of Systems Engineering explained: “The P.O.V. lounge is on the roof or 11th floor of the building and consists of a nightclub and outdoor terrace area with an awning that faces out onto the Treasury building across the street. The hotel’s VIP suites are right underneath the lounge on the 10th floor and the increased SPL levels would either bounce down to the street or back to the side of the hotel off of the Treasury and disturb the guests on the lower floors.
“Because the sound systems were cranked as loud as they could be, the original wall-mounted speakers and subs throughout the room sent vibrations down through the original plaster walls, which was also a problem. Our clients wanted to maintain a ‘nightclub’ sound within the space without affecting the lower floors below so we chose a Martin Audio OmniLine array because it provides enhanced intelligibility, has a very small, non-intrusive form factor and can be hung from the ceiling without adding a lot of weight.”
“The lounge is a rectangle and the bar is located in the center of the long side of that rectangle,” continued Wilson. “With the help of Martin Audio’s software we designed a system with a left-right array on each side of the bar comprised of an AQ210 sub and an 8-module OmniLine array with optimum splay angles for each cabinet underneath. This gave us the full range we needed to cover the room while controlling the volume and vibrations and keeping sound off the floor and back wall. The AQ cabinets were chosen for their effective mid-bass sound and ultra-compact design.”
Another major challenge for CTSI was carrying the nightclub sound from the lounge outside onto the rooftop terrace while controlling it so guests in the VIP suites below weren’t disturbed. Their solution was mounting eight Martin Audio AQ10 two-way cabinets high up on the exterior brick wall to provide the necessary coverage without overspill problems down the sides of the building.
As Wilson points out, “We were able to aim the AQs down using better mounting and alignment techniques while providing improved DSP control with the software. That plus the 10-inch woofer gave us lower end sound to better simulate the club-like sound from the lounge onto the terrace.”
The W hotel lobby presented another distinct challenge with a 25-foot ceiling, hard plaster walls and ceiling and marble floors. CTSI needed to design a system with exceptional clarity and articulation far beyond the original recessed 70-volt speakers that created non-intelligible sounds at normal listening heights.
Again, Martin Audio OmniLine arrays were selected for their small form-factor design and lighter weight to overcome the drawbacks implicit in older plaster walls. According to Wilson, “Every Friday and Saturday night they put up velvet ropes for entrance to the lounge and feature a guitarist and singer so they wanted a better sound system that would allow guests to enjoy that.
“So the OmniLines were a good choice because of their coverage and range and the music in the lobby was acoustic so we didn’t have to worry about the low end as much. We wall-mounted two hangs of 4-module arrays about 15 feet off the ground and the software helped us figure out the different angles we needed for the room. We supplemented the low end by tweaking the DSP and making the full-range ceiling speakers more midrange to fill out the bass end.”
In addition to the full complement of Martin Audio speakers, the upgrade also included Biamp DSP systems and Lab Gruppen amplification. To make them even less visually intrusive all of the speakers were custom-painted by Custom Refinishing Solutions located in Baltimore, MD to specifically match paint sample numbers provided by the hotel; clean white for the terrace, black for the lounge and off-white for the lobby.
Summing up, Wilson said, “OmniLine was the right choice, mainly because of their small footprint and excellent coverage. The Hotel wanted the upgrade to be as clean and ‘invisible’ as possible. Ultimately, they were very happy with the audio levels, clarity, intelligibility, coverage and overall sound quality of the Martin Audio system we provided.
“As for the lounge itself, the speakers sound great and fit very well into the environment in terms of what they need. They bring in big name DJs and are happy because they now have a real nightclub-sounding environment with a stereo left/right point source as opposed to a 70 volt-distributed system around the room. According to reports from the hotel, even guests have commented positively on the upgrades.”