Digitally sound

This month, Hotelier Middle East gets to grips with woofers and tweeters and discovers how the new generation of digital sound systems are allowing hoteliers in the region to create the perfect audio ambience, using music to enhance the overall sensory experience for guests

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By  Sarah Gain Published  December 12, 2006

|~|Lead-B.jpg|~||~|Many Middle Eastern hoteliers are leaning towards using digital sound systems in their public areas, and all are acutely aware of the power of sound. The background music played in the lobby reflects the hotel’s personality, as Mark Lee, general manager of the newly opened Arabian Park Hotel, explains. “Music definitely sets the tone,” he says. The 318 room hotel, which opened in May this year, has a single digital music management system that enables the hotel to create the right atmosphere in the right areas. This in turn encourages guests to linger longer or return because they will remember the appealing ambience. “I believe the digital system is the way to go now. For a start it is automated, CDs tend to scratch, plus I don’t want anyone being able to put on whatever music they want,” says Lee, who has been with the Wafi Group for the past six years and now heads the new hotel. “We have four zones where music is played — the main lobby, the brasserie, the gym and the bar. Different play-lists are assigned to each area depending on what the needs are.” The music is managed across the IT network from the manager’s desk top PC which communicates to a central sound server located in the AV room. By accessing the custom display page on the PC the manager can select the preferred music genre and direct it to any outlet monitoring playback and volume levels in each respective area. “Our equipment came from the UK’s Julianas Leisure Services. A radio DJ here who knows about music genres, selected our music according to my specifications — mellow lounge music, classical or jazz for example — and put these into different play-lists to be used wherever and whenever we need it,” says Lee. “Music certainly reflects the mood of a hotel. The way it is going now is towards digital systems, but here we have a CD stacking system in each of the areas of the hotel requiring a different sound,” says general manager of the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa, Warwick Janes. “As a frequent traveller and someone keen on music I do look to see what other hotels have in the form of music systems, and for the rooms I generally take my own CDs with me.” Some hotels have introduced state-of-the-art iPod docking stations into their bedrooms, such as at The Chedi Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, where iPod minis and Bose Wave music systems were recently installed. General manager York Brandes says: “The iPods come with the Bose docking station complete with speaker for a full-room sound experience and two hand sets for use on the beach or around the pools. The devices have been preloaded with as many as 1,500 songs focusing on jazz, lounge, chill out, rock, and pop.” In the lobby at the Grosvenor House Hotel West Marina Beach in Dubai there is emphasis on low-key background music of a global nature. “In Dubai it doesn’t work having only one type of music — it must appeal across the global spectrum,” says Florance Stankova, assistant PR Manager. Sound is provided via a digitalised sound system powered by Audia, from BIAMP Systems. “This provides crisp, clear audio and allows the freedom to create truly integrated systems.” In-house DJs selected the music and created six play-lists for use in different hotel areas: spa, gym, lobby and the themed restaurants. ||**|||~||~||~|The Al Qasr Hotel and the Mina A Salam Hotel at the Madinat Jumeirah have digitalised custom-made music servers provided by Candyrock Middle East, suppliers of programmed background music. Music profiles are delivered on digital hard drive servers that have replaced CD players. In Europe it is apparent that the use of CD players in public areas has died a death due to stricter controls over their use, but not so in the Middle East where the legalities are different. Crown Plaza Hotels and Resorts in Dubai have developed one area of their hotel’s sound to a new level — in their own Zinc Nightclub the sound equipment is, naturally, very different. An Electro Voice XLD line array series with remote amps was chosen to suit its purpose. “After using EV monitors in the DJ booth at Zinc for the past three years, I appreciated the quality and clarity of the sound produced. When we decided to renovate the entire club I decided that EV was the only way to go with the PA," says Zinc’s resident DJ Greg Stainer. “After hearing the XLD system during a demo at a Ministry of Sound club night my decision was final! The power and control of the XLD system is second to none. Crystal clear Hi’s and Mids and a bass line that can shake your inner organs. In my opinion the new club Zinc now has one of the best sound systems I have ever heard and after DJ-ing for over 15 years I have heard a lot of sound systems!” Kerstin Laveatz of PWsoft, an international operating developer of digital systems for the “automated play-list generation” believes CD music systems in public areas is definitely on its way out. “As in the rest of the world, the key technologies used in the consumer sector in the Middle East are slowly being adopted by the business sector as well. There is a trend in the hospitality sector to put more emphasis on sound. Background music also reflects your brand, the way you are being seen by your guests. “Sound-design, branded sound and audio architecture are keywords of the future. Hotels will not only employ interior architects for their spaces but also audio architects to complete the whole atmosphere with the perfect music background. Environments [are] to be experienced not just with your eyes but also with your ears. There is a tendency back to active listening in comparison to ‘overhearing’ what is being played.” PWsoft of Germany is the sole provider of “Moodmixer”-Systems that run fully automated but can be individually customised. They sell to hotels, restaurants, resorts and retail. The company offers music consulting, set up of individual music selections, hardware support for their system installations, and help customers through the process of using the system. “Our main focus is still on the hospitality market, but the retail market has started to show interest in our systems as well. Our plans are not finalised yet but we are thinking about exhibiting at the INSTALL/Palme trade fair in Dubai in May 2007. "Especially here in Dubai and the rest of the Middle East we find a lot of building developments that interlock hospitality, retail, recreation and housing. This fact simply screams for centralised audio distribution for background acoustic instead of each part using a separate system,” says Kerstin Laveatz. “Music used to be the domain of the banquet manager, restaurant or bar manager, now it very often shifts to the IT department and often is being made the hotel manager’s priority because Moodmixer-Systems can provide central control. Very often hotel managers licence our system because they want to prevent their employees from playing the “wrong” music. So instead of informing restaurant — and bar manager we now directly inform the hotel management.” SoundsMe, Dubai-based exclusive distributor of Artcoustic (of the UK) loudspeakers in the Middle East have found their market inclines towards private home cinemas and multi-room audio, but business is still brisk in hotels, health clubs, spas, bars and restaurants. New additions to their product range include the upgraded X2 range. Artcoustic provides mostly thin — as slim as 2.5 inch — speakers that hang on the wall like picture frames. SoundsMe’s most recent developments in the UAE include installations at Godolphin Ballroom at the Emirates Towers, Café Supreme and Shakespeare. PV Davis of VV & Sons based in Deira has been supplying audio equipment to hotels for 14 years. He finds the most popular items are PV and Nexo loudspeakers, Australia Monitor (background systems), Audio Technica (microphone systems) Robe Showlighting (hotel discos) and Denon Systems (DJ equipment). Digital Sound & Vision (DSV), an audio and visual digital applications company based in Greece, have a WIZARD music broadcasting system — a “private radio station” concept managed by the customer. The company was in Dubai at the Hotel Show in June where the response to WIZARD was so favourable that they are now looking for reliable partners in the Middle East to represent them.||**||

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