The folks at Fulton's Crab House restaurant in Orlando, FL can tell you all you need to know, and then some, about Dungeness crab, blue-fin tuna and the nuances of some of the world's finest wines.
In relegating sound to an afterthought, Fulton's was hardly unique. Just ask Dave Hedrick, president of Orlando-based Central Florida Audio Video Systems, the company that has serviced the restaurant's audio system for the past several years.
Hedrick, however, was finally able to change the client's mindset when the sound system at Fulton's finally became unmanageable and increasingly incapable of addressing the growing issue of the restaurant's ambience.
Using the new Express version of SymNet Audio Matrix, the modular audio mixing, routing and digital signal processing system from Symetrix, as a backbone, Central Florida Audio Video Systems was able to make Fulton's sound system more flexible, manageable, user-friendly, less hardware-reliant and even better-sounding.
"There were so many problems with their 15-year-old system," Hedrick pointed out. "Loudspeaker lines were right beside microphone lines in the same conduit. Eight-ohm speakers were run on a 70-volt line system. The sound for DirecTV televisions in a large bar area came through the television speakers. The equipment rack doors wouldn't close, because they were so jammed full of equipment. Plus, the system they had didn't allow for any physical expansion."
But using just two devices, an Express 8 x 8 and an Express 12 x 4, the systems integrator was able to move the restaurant away from a component-intensive analog sound system to a digital one. Now they have a system that affords far greater control over how sound-from live and recorded music to television audio to a paging system-is processed and routed to numerous zones, in multiple combinations, throughout the restaurant's three levels.
In addition, by connecting the Express 8 x 8 and the Express 12 x 4, Central Florida Audio Video Systems gave the restaurant the ability to send both music and television audio originating on the first floor to the third floor. Likewise, live band music from the third floor can be routed to selected areas of the first floor (first to third floor only).
"Even I had never thought about the possibility of using SymNet in a restaurant application like this," Hedrick admitted. "SymNet Express has less digital signal processing in it than the full-scale version, and fewer control ports, but you can't tell the difference in performance."
With the Express 8 x 8, Hedrick was able to give the restaurant-housed in a paddle-wheel-style riverboat-control over audio distribution for the entire first floor. That includes separate or combined microphone-based paging for the bar, lobby and outside areas; audio from a DMX satellite radio receiver and a DirecTV receiver; and a CD player. Using SymNet, the restaurant was able to route DirecTV sound that used to go through television speakers in the bar to the house sound system.
"SymNet also allowed the restaurant to better control the volume level on DirecTV," Hedrick said. "As you move from channel to channel, the volume levels change. SymNet makes that volume level constant, bringing up the levels on signals that are lower, and lowering them on higher signals."
In addition to handling audio distribution to the first floor, the Express 8 x 8 also incorporates a second-floor dining area, where music, with or without paging, can be routed to installed loudspeakers.