An all-too common problem for patrons of restaurants and bars is being able to hear themselves talk in an often very noisy atmosphere. A 2011 Zagat survey concluded that the second-most common customer complaint behind service is the noise level.
Meyer Sound, a world-renowned American audio engineering company, has developed an acoustics system that lets restaurateurs dynamically control the sonic ambience in their establishments. A beta test was implemented this past spring at the Berkeley restaurant Comal. It is the first establishment of its kind to create an optimized aural environment using the new Libra acoustic image system and complementary Constellation active acoustic system from Meyer Sound.
By using a combination of sound absorption materials (everything from fiberglass duct liner and wood fiber acoustic panels to recycled denim jeans), microphones, speakers and a digital processor, the reverberation levels can be controlled with the press of a button, thereby steering how bustling or relaxed the atmosphere is perceived by customers in different sections of a restaurant. All done in real-time with an iPad.
The installation includes a total of 123 speakers, subwoofers and microphones around the restaurant. The microphones pick up sound and send it to a computer where it’s digitally processed. Equipped with these insights, Comal can design the sound so that the bar at the front is buzzier than the dining area at the back. But regardless where customers are sitting at Comal, they will sense the energized buzz yet be able to comfortably carry on intimate conversations without having to shout.
The Meyer acoustics system can be scaled up or down depending on specific needs, and while this technology would have cost millions of dollars 20 years ago, costs now range from USD 10,000 to over USD 100,000.