The sounds of success

AUTHOR: Inavate

Jesmond Dene House Hotel & Restaurant, located in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England, has won considerable recognition since its opening, including the prestigious AA Hotel of the Year Award 2008-09. Chris Fitzsimmons went along to hear…

Renowned in the North-East as a fine chef and restaurateur, Terry Laybourne was looking to complement his group of restaurants with a small luxury hotel. The region is blessed with a fine selection of former stately homes and attractive buildings and Terry eventually settled on Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle as the setting for his new project.

The Hotel is co-owned by four directors, including Peter Candler, who was responsible for many of the hospitality features of the hotel, including the sound system in the communal spaces.

The shared spaces in Jesmond Dene House include a two-zone dining room, the billiard room, a pair of private dining / meeting spaces, the great hall and its reception, and a lounge bar. In keeping with the character of the building the owners required a high quality yet discrete background music solution, capable of delivering a selection of music to each space.

In addition, with the intention of using the Great Hall as a venue for visiting events, it was decided that the sound system should be able to accept a front of house input for this space. This could be the mix from a simple DJ rig for a wedding or just a microphone for a visiting speaker.

The winning bidder from the tender process was DACS Ltd, a local audio consultant and integrator, considerably experienced at working in hotels, bars and restaurants. Managing director Douglas Doherty ran the project and from an early stage in the renovation process was able to get involved with the M&E consultant, enabling him to discuss cabling requirements and speaker locations before anything was plastered or set in stone, literally. This was particularly important since Douglas would be using active loudspeakers.

However, before any of this, the key decision of speaker brand choice had to be made. Co-owner Peter Candler already had some preconceived ideas about what he wanted, in terms of small, discrete looking loudspeakers but Douglas persuaded him to agree to a demonstration of Genelec’s 8030A and 8040A active monitors for a comparison with his preferred brand.

“Peter already had something in mind, so I said ‘let me bring these in and you can see what you think’. It didn’t take him long to decide that he preferred the Genelecs. He’s very keen on the audio side of things, and he had already been active in the selection of the music itself. He was able to look past a badge and recognise the quality of what he was listening to.”

Douglas puts the suitability of the product down to its wave guide system. “The speakers are really well suited to spaces where the acoustics are not great. The output is well controlled, and the off axis audio is not all over the place, it’s reasonably well balanced so the reflections are not too horrible. For installations they are very good.”

Another interesting facet was the choice of active speakers. “The choice of active speakers is actually fairly fundamental: where you have very long complicated cable runs the only other option is 100V line(!). Running balanced line level audio in starquad means that you can send studio quality audio over large distances, something that is not easy with 100V line or normal low impedance speaker cables, and it is light and easy to route, and very resistant to interference/pickup.”

However, having sold on the speakers, DACS still needed to come up with a solution for the audio distribution. The Hotel’s owners wanted to be able to pipe a choice of four styles of music into each of the common areas, with local volume control, as well as the option to broadcast up to three radio stations as well.

Douglas’s solution was Dateq’s MusiCall system. At the heart of it is the MusiCall MPM8.8 mono matrix, which sits in the Hotel’s rack room. This accepts eight mono inputs and then outputs to the various zones via a balancing transformer.

Four of the mono inputs come from the PC playing the music, three come from a MusiCall QFM Multituner radio source and the eighth is the transformer isolated feed from the great hall’s FOH input.

The PC play-out was an interesting choice in itself. One of the problems Doherty encountered when specifying the system was to find something capable of delivering the four different play lists to each room, without costing the earth. Most of the multizone, multichannel solutions on the market are designed with much larger venues in mind, and accordingly are proportionally more expensive.

In the end, DACS created four play lists from music selected by the hotel owners. These were done in iTunes, and then the shuffled lists were imported into a piece of recording software called Samplitude Professional, which is run on a PC in the rack room. The advantage of Samplitude was that it could play the tracks as separate outputs, each of which corresponds to one of the mono input channels on the Dateq matrix.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the local volume control and channel selection. “Each zone is equipped with its own MRC1 wall controller, which is programmed to select any of the input sources, or to adjust the volume in the room. They are linked to the matrix via Cat 5, installed by the M&E contractors.” explained Doherty.

The majority of the rooms are equipped very similarly, using Genelec 8030As. However the great hall is larger, and so uses a combination of two 8030As and four 8040As. In addition there is additional bass support from a duo of Genelec 7070A sub-woofers.

Apart from the high-quality audio provided by the Genelec speakers, the other key feature of the system to date has been its reliability. At one point the Samplitude software ran the play lists uninterrupted for nine months without problems. The break was only forced by the need to introduce some more seasonal music at Christmas!

Having visited the hotel and chatted to both customer and installer it seems both are very satisfied with the outcome. The mood set by the music in the shared spaces is very much in keeping with the boutique feel of the hotel, and the speakers are as unobtrusive as you could wish for in such a beautifully styled old building.