Please advise on audio project for cafe/restaurant

 

New member
Username: Ataribaby

Post Number: 1
Registered: Nov-10
Hi, first off, thanks for this excellent forum. I've been searching and learning a lot and it's great that people are so helpful here.

I have a friend who owns a cafe and he's completely comically technophobic. I'm an IT consultant so I help him and he keeps me full of beer and food. It's a nice relationship.

I am now taking on the miserable audio situation in the cafe, now that a tired old department store all-in-one receiver/cassette deck is dying.

The cafe is successful, and he is very proud of it. He would spend what I justify spending to him. However, what they have right now is a couple of dingy speakers that came with that low-budget receiver, and so anything is an improvement, and it shouldn't be crazy expensive because its primary purpose is relaxing background music while people drink coffee and/or beer, eat burgers with fries, and read or look at their laptops.

The cafe has a main space, about 25 x 40'. And there is a smaller adjacent room that is about 10'x15. These rooms are mostly painted drywall and tile floors, with high, exposed ceilings.

There are also outdoor seating areas with overhangs outside, along the outer walls. It would be great to have some music quietly piping down to those tables from inside that shingled overhang!

There is one extra element in this mix, video. One is an older projector and the other is a new LED television that has comcast connected to it. It would be great to be able to control that somehow through the same system.

Other than the rare video event, the music is simple. I set him up with an ipod touch and Pandora a few months ago, and that has worked well for them.

I found this thread: http://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/504493.html and what I got from it is:
*Monitor Audio are good speakers
*Cambridge Soundworks makes fine receivers.
*It would be nice to have a "multi-zone control amp" to control volume in the different areas. This would be awesome!

If I had two other requests:
*It would be great if all the settings could be handled by remote control. Most likely he's going to want the audio boxes high up near the ceiling, which is where the current audio box is.
*Is it unrealistic to wish for wireless transmission of audio to the speakers? i don't relish getting up on a ladder and running all that speaker wire.

Thanks for reading!
 

Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 428
Registered: Oct-10
First off, I think your friend needs all new equipment. Any idea of how much he plans to spend? How important is sound quality? Recently a company called Aim introduced an in-wall/in-ceiling mount speaker that APPEARS to be superior to others. It has an enclosure which is a good start. It would probably be best to mount them high in walls and aim them down. What kind of amp you power them with will depend on budget, how important sound quality is and personal taste.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15598
Registered: May-04
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"The cafe is successful, and he is very proud of it. He would spend what I justify spending to him."

Still a good idea to get some input from him on cost. Getting his ideas on how this is going to turn out is probably the best thing you can do. The difference in price between a basic home audio system from the big box store and a system from a sound reinforcement company will be substantial. You should have an idea whether the goal is just to have some sound from the MP3 grade source player or to have a product which is more reliable and more versatile but at a higher cost. Right now you could be anywhere between $1500 and $5k - more if you make changes to what you've posted so far.


"The cafe has a main space, about 25 x 40'. And there is a smaller adjacent room that is about 10'x15."

The main space is large enough to warrant two pairs of speakers. Depending on the lay out you might want separate volume controls for each pair. Independent volume controls provide the flexibility of adjusting volume for the groupings in each area though a single control for background levels through all four speakers in this area would be sufficient if not as flexible. Allowable flexibility in installation would determine what sort of speaker to choose. If the space is not owned by your friend, there may be restrictions on what can be done to support the speakers and in ceiling speakers might not be the best choice no matter as they tend to put sound in one area rather than dispersing sound throughout the room. Possible speakers can run anywhere from $100 per pair to a few hundred. Small speakers with a central subwoofer can give good coverage and better than average sound quality while being easy to install and not very expensive. The outdoor speakers are no problem to add to the installation though you will want independent control for that system.


"There is one extra element in this mix, video. One is an older projector and the other is a new LED television that has comcast connected to it. It would be great to be able to control that somehow through the same system."

Control it how? Do you want audio and video sent through a single system? Are you intending to have music in one area and video in another? Or, is the choice video or music but not both simultaneously in, say, separate areas? Are the audio portions of the video systems meant to be independent of the music system or combined with the music system speakers? You need to determine how you want this controlled and then we can proceed from there. Completely independent systems are the cheaper alternative but might not fit what your friend has in mind.


"*It would be great if all the settings could be handled by remote control. Most likely he's going to want the audio boxes high up near the ceiling, which is where the current audio box is."


What do you mean by "audio boxes"? What "settings" are you thinking of? Volume control by remote is not difficult. What else would you want?


"*Is it unrealistic to wish for wireless transmission of audio to the speakers? i don't relish getting up on a ladder and running all that speaker wire."


Wireless speakers still require a receiver for the wireless signals and it will need power from some source. Even if you go wireless, you'll more than likely still be running AC power to a wireless system. Any electrical work for a public space would need more than a friend to do the work. Whenever applicable hardwired systems are the better choice for durability and performance.

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Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 437
Registered: Oct-10
Like most people who post questions here for the first time, you've left out a lot of info. Tell your friend to get over his technophobia and ask his questions directly. There are several amps (receivers, integrateds and stand alone preamps) that have multizone capability. However, using an autoformer based switch with individual volume controls might be better if the same source will be playing in all zones. If there will be times when a video event will be shown in the main area, then multizone would come in handy so that music can still be played outdoors and in the small area. Please relate all of this to your friend and get back to us.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Chriswild87

Holden, MA

Post Number: 76
Registered: Dec-08
Another idea from left field.

Where are you located, if there are comparable venues around, go to them, see what they are using. Look at the equipment and hear the sound. Do you like it, look around, talk to a manager or owner, no need to tell him that you are looking for a competitor, just you like the sound and are curious. I always observe what my local cafe/bars have. My favorite is a multi-zone multi pair Paradigm/ NAD in which they have a NAD reciever, probably for multi-zone and the paradigms hanging down from the high high ceilings, not saying it will work for you, but an idea of what can be observed. The combo presents reasonable value and sounds way better than any box stereo or HTIB.

That is my two sense.
 

Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 450
Registered: Oct-10
Looking around at competitors is good too. Any time you're in a place that has music playing, listen to it, especially if a song you're familiar with is playing. Get your friend to go with you or on his own.
 

New member
Username: Ataribaby

Post Number: 2
Registered: Nov-10
Hi

Thanks for the responses. I regret not getting all the details you needed and I appreciate your help.

@superjazzyjames, in-wall in-ceiling speakers are not a good option because there is no dropped ceiling and likewise in-wall is pretty limited, because of many glass windows and one section that is all brick fireplace. I'd much rather have those sweet in-ceiling speakers for sure. I should have taken photos! Maybe later if you guys aren't exasperated. :p Regarding your second post, also I'm sorry but if you knew how hard it is for me to get this guy to even handle email and text messages, no way is he going to get here and directly seek help. I am fully authorized to do this and should be doing this for him.

@everyone, let's set a budget of $3-4K.

@Jan Vigne I see my video request was a little haphazard. I would say that only video needs to go out to the LED and the projection monitors. I would probably have a DVD player placed where the receiver is, and also probably run the comcast box to it. I would say it's okay to have the video source's audio playing on the whole system, or if it can be done with more options (like separate audio sources) but without extra cost, better yet. I'm embracing this project so I don't mind if the labor is more intensive. I wasn't quite following you in independent systems, but for example, if he is paying the World Cup in the cafe, I would think it would be important to have the option of audio from the video source playing on the speakers.

And back to an earlier recommendation, yes, independent volume control I think is essential to this place. And sorry, by "current audio box" I was referring to the el cheapo all-in-one stereo receiver that has outlived its usefulness. Due to the cramped nature of the counter, it is up high on top of a shelf that requires a ladder to get to it. That's why I was thinking it would be nice for this unit to have a very good remote control, though it's not absolutely necessary.

I see your point about a wireless system requiring AC power at the speakers, so wired is fine, and if the speakers would *still* require electrical, that's just fine, whatever we need to do.

The property isn't owned by him but he makes any changes he wants to the space. I'm certain of this. It's a non-issue. Also I can get a handyman to help with electrical or fixture work or what have you.

@Chris where I live in San Francisco, I am amazed at how poorly setup the audio is at nearly every cafe and restaurant I can think of. That even extends to the bars in my ram-shackle dress-down neighborhood. I'm hoping to get a shopping list here and then go for it. Anything is going to be better than what he has now. That old stereo system's left channel has died and I have every speaker wiire in the joint jammed into one speaker outpout. So I want to get this new system going before we are in a panic!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15633
Registered: May-04
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Then I would say you need a decent HT/AV receiver and a speaker selector box with volume controls. If you have no need for a FM radio source, you could actually do the job with a simple integrated amplifier from HK, Rotel, Onkyo, Marantz, NAD, Cambridge, etc. Fifty watts should easily be sufficient for background levels into multiple speakers as you will only be using a few watts in reality. I would opt for a selector with autoformers if the budget can handle the expense but at the moderate volumes you are describing any good quality selector should be sufficient. I would not buy any receiver or integrated that had a selector switch for speaker impedance, this says the amplifier isn't built well to begin with. None of the brands I mentioned should have that provision.

Run your video directly to the TV and projector for best picture or through an AV receiver for convenient one button switching. Whether you want the video to just be "on" while the audio is playing will also determine what receiver/amplifier you will require and how you make your hook ups.

If you want the option of having video-sourced-audio (TV sound) through the room speakers in one or two areas and pure audio in another area, then you'll need a receiver with "zone two capability". If one audio source in all areas will always be adequate, then any good quality reciever should do. My preference would run to an HK receiver but you get to decide. Not to worry you but I would be looking for a receiver/integrated that can easily be swapped out for another receiver/integrated should problems ever arise with the main unit. Things break no matter the brand and, if that occurs, you will want to either just make a replacement or wait a few weeks without sound while the amp gets services. Planning ahead here can save some headaches in the future.

There are numerous wall mountable speakers many of which can be hung with their own hangers or you can hang virtually any reasonably sized speaker with universal mounts. Most big box stores have the speakers displayed shoved up against a wall more or less like you'll have them in the cafe. That was nice of them to do that for you, wasn't it? It should make speaker selection fairly simple.

What more do you need?


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Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 722
Registered: Oct-10
I hope you are letting your friend read all of this.
 

New member
Username: Ataribaby

Post Number: 3
Registered: Nov-10
I don't really understand what's up with you but I'll make sure to print it out and let him read the entire thread, including every vital contribution you've made, okay James?

Jan obviously I'd love the convenience of you throwing model numbers at me but I don't wish to annoy you! Could you at least give me a quick link showing an example of the type of speaker that would be best, and tell me the name of speaker selector box with audio controls that would be good? If say I get an HK receiver do they also make that device?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15636
Registered: May-04
.

It would appear James has decided he needs to post a response to every single post placed on this forum. As you can see he's pretty new to the forum so he might be over-anxious about responding.


I find it very difficult to make specific product recommendations, AB. I have no idea what you might like or even what you have available. It makes no sense for me to recommend a product which you have no acccess to when it's always better to audition anything you buy beforehand. If you can hear something you like and you can't hear what I recommend, I'd recommend you buy what you've heard that you like.

You aren't asking much from the speakers from what I can see which means just about anything you like should be sufficient. If the cafe crowd is OK with everything being run off one channel of a cheap one piece unit, they can't be all that disciminatory to whatever you think sounds good. One of my problems is I don't know what you expect, I don't know whether you're going with two speakers or four or more or how you want to hang them. I've done OK with inexpensive speakers like $50 per pair Sony boxes with a (not quite) central subwoofer when the sound system was just meant to be background music and nothing more. If you're near a Best Buy; http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olstemplatemapper.jsp?_dyncharset=ISO-8859-1&_dynSes sConf=-2899695896794474470&id=pcat17071&type=page&ks=960&st=speakers&sc=audioSP& cp=1&sp=%2Bcurrentprice+skuid&qp=cabcat0200000%23%23-1%23%23-1%7E%7Eq737065616b6 57273%7E%7Ecabcat0205000%23%238%23%238g%7E%7Encabcat0205001%23%230%23%231e&list= y&usc=Audio&nrp=15&iht=n the Polks, Pioneers, Insignias and Energy's are all workable speakers in your installation. Add a subwoofer to these and you'll do fine. Buying a larger speakers isn't going to give you better sound in this situation. I tend to prefer a subwoofer rather than a larger speaker since you have some control over bass levels with a sub that just isn't available with a larger speaker. As volume drops we tend to loose our sensitivity to low frequencies due to the Doppler effect. Bass controls don't affect the right frequency range to compensate for this response roll off but a powered sub with a level control does a fairly good job of dialing in just the amount of bass boost to small, discrete speakers while not overwhelming the speakers or the listeners. You just have to locate a place to put the sub. Bass is omni-directional so not dead center but really anywhere that will cover your area will do. On the other hand, as long as levels are kept fairly low, you might even want to add a small ten band equalizer to the system and forgo the sub to get the overall sound you think works best in the speace. It's really up to you though my preference is for a more straightfoward system without the eq. Doesn't matter, what matters is it works for you and your friend.

Here's a bunch of selector switches with autoformers; http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=autoformer%20speaker%20s witches&type= The Russound would be my choice but buy what's available. You don't absolutely need the autoformers if the volume is always going to be at background levels. Russound and a dozen other companies make resistor based switches with volume controls for less money. Another alternative would be autoformer based wall mounted volume controls at the speaker pair locations. This makes it easier to make adjustments on the fly as you can hear what you're changing and you only need an autoformer in each speaker (pair) location which drops the expense somewhat. If that sort of adjustment isn't needed, then you can place the vc's in the speaker selector or still at the wall for convenience. Again, you get to decide based on what you see on site and how you think the system will operate most efficiently.


I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that but this is really pretty basic stuff that most competent stores should be able to help you with. There's no point in me telling you to do this when someone at a store who can have a better idea of the lay of the cafe might have a better idea than mine. I would tell you to find an audio store that specializes in home theater installations. Avoid the big boxes and head to the smaller shops that can specialize or a Guitar Center or pro sound reinforcement shop for suggestions. They should have all the gear you need and all of the accesssories plus some advice. Most of these shops will have a good selection of speakers to choose from - you might decide some powered monitors are the best choice for your system, I don't know - and can advise you on how to physically install them in the cafe. You can pick up a spool of speaker cabling and interconnect cabling with solder on connectors at something like Graingers if you know how to solder and want to shop pricing. It's really a system you have to sort of look at and then start making decisions based on what you see and what you think is going to work. But a basic receiver with a selector and some speakers shouldn't be a big deal, just go with what sounds right to you. OK?


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Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 725
Registered: Oct-10
Atari, this system is for who? Your friend right? So your friend should see this. This way nothing gets lost in translation.

Jan, I make responses when someone asks me a question, says something to me or I feel I've got something to contribute. There is more to it than just that (not being over anxious, I assure you inspite of how it looks). I will explain the rest of what I am doing later. I think you'll find it...well, interesting if nothing else.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Chriswild87

Holden, MA

Post Number: 79
Registered: Dec-08
Atari,

As a recent business grad, seek this as an oppurtunity to capture the niche in the market, produce a cafe that does have good sound and simply not a best buy or ultimate electronics box stereo.

From Jan,

I would recommend HK esp. if some video processing is required. I am a proud owner of a Harman Kardon, 445, an older reciever, however it is a beast and qualiity of sound, build quality and parts tends to beat out most others. The 2 zone ability is a nice feature even in my 5 year old reciever.

Also to save some green look on the Harman ebay site from reconditioned recievers, this is were I bought my MSRPed @ 1500 new for just around 400 and had no issues with it.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Harman-Kardon-3490-w-remote-2-x-120W-Stereo-Receiver-/390266 335075?pt=Receivers_Tuners&hash=item5addafaf63 (integrated style, plenty of power)

http://cgi.ebay.com/Harman-Kardon-AVR-2600-7-1-Receiver-HDMI-1080p-/390270024787 ?pt=Receivers_Tuners&hash=item5adde7fc53 (receiver style, still plenty of power, less in the reserves though, don't be fouled by other brands power ratings as they are manipulated to be higher then they actually be across the full range (lowest bass notes, to highest cymbal crashes, you get the idea)

I WOULD STAY AWAY FROM SPEAKERS FROM THIS SITE.

I currently run Boston Acousitcs through it and I enjoy the sound, slightly laid back but still enough attack to keep me interested in the music. I am looking to replace them and upgrade to something else, I believe that Paradigm would have good synergy with an HK. Chris M who often posts here has had alot of expereince with HK.

I did a quick search and found these dealers in your area.

http://audiovisionsf.com/

http://performance-audio.com

Go to one or both, tell them your situation and in laymans terms what you want the system to do, tell them the budget see what they have to say, listen to things, and see what fits the venue.

No one here should give you a gorcery list and say go by x,y,z. Audio is taste and preference to each own's palate. (Do you like whole milk or skim? You get the idea)

How large is the space. No live sound right?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15637
Registered: May-04
.

Chris, you make that post appear as though I sent that information. I didn't and I'm reasonably certain I do not now nor have I ever owned a HK 445. I have owned and do still own some HK products, but not that receiver. I have mixed feelings about buying from HK's reconditioned products in this situation. First, if AD is spending time at a store and taking their advice, he should buy from that store if they have the merchandise and service to suit his needs. Buying from more than one shop will only cause a "it's not my product's fault" response should problems arise. Buying as much as possible from one dealer will create a greater sense of committment to the sale from the dealer. Second, warranty service is more complicated with a refurbished unit - though not by much nowdays - and service afer the sale might certainly be important in this setting. HK themself will not provide installation advice as will - or should - an independent dealer. Nor will they be quick to exchange a defective unit should the instance arise. For the sake of simplicity and after the sale service, I would suggest AD not pinch pennies since the system cost should still come in well beneath his top figure. Buy from a dealer he feels comfortable with and with whom he can expect a long relationship which will also involve that famous after the sale service dealers should be providing.

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Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 748
Registered: Oct-10
I have to agree with Jan on not buying reconditioned.

Chris, Klipsh or Cerwin Vega MIGHT work well with your HK. I only say this because I know a number of people who enjoy these two combos. Apparently, the warm sound of HK works well with these two brands. Denon and Pioneer on the other hand reportedly makes for a sound that's too bright for most people.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Chriswild87

Holden, MA

Post Number: 80
Registered: Dec-08
Jan, I am sorry, that I made that sound that way, by no means did I intent to offend you or put words in your mouth. I know that you are quite knowledgable and I am trying to learn audio. I have picked up alot here and have begun to listen a lot myself.

I simply trying to pull out and second your recommendation for the H/K, or at least that is how I perceived to interpret it as. I also feel as if the reader might also do so.

I would agree if he is spending time at a store, then most certainly buy there, for the reason you have mentioned and more.

I was simply stating an alternative that I have found to work for me in the past.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15644
Registered: May-04
.

You didn't offend me, Chris, but I think the only time I've used the word "brute" was in reference to my neighbor's miniature daschund. I just wanted to clarify for AD that I didn't send that message.







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New member
Username: Ataribaby

Post Number: 4
Registered: Nov-10
I'm extremely grateful for the time you all put into your posts. I'll do my best to make the choices at this point, and will come back to ask questions only if absolutely necessary.

If any of you who posted are ever in San Francisco please let me know so we can treat you to a meal at the cafe!
 

Silver Member
Username: Superjazzyjames

Post Number: 843
Registered: Oct-10
Thanks Atari! That's very generous of you!
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