Still the most expensive dark blue property on the UK Monopoly board, London’s Mayfair has a reputation to uphold.

The latest establishment to preserve Mayfair’s salubrious aura is Quaglino’s 240-cover restaurant and late-night venue in Bury Street, which recently invested in a £3 million renovation and refurbishment which saw the eatery make over its interior – although keeping its signature Art Deco flourishes and iconic sweeping staircase.

What diners may not have noticed, however, is the restaurant’s brand new sound reinforcement system – and for good reason.

Quaglino’s was originally opened by Giovanni Quaglino in 1929 and is now owned and operated by D&D London – a long-term client of SSE Audio Group.

After bidding on the project following a successful venture centring around noise constraints, SSE Audio Group was selected to provide a discreet yet powerful audio system for the restaurant.

“D&D’s brief to us specified a sound system that could be integral to the new design rather than detract from it; subtle enough (in audio terms) for a restaurant while capable of delivering the power for private events, live music and DJs,” explains SSE Installations’ director, Emma Bigg.

“The considerable double-height space in the Art Deco restaurant means the acoustics are challenging, compounded by the close proximity of the neighbours directly above. Noise management was key to the design.”

“The level to which it had to meet the aesthetics was far higher than any project we’ve worked on before”

The main challenge SSE Audio faced was to find a product with the right coverage and power that was unobtrusive and could effectively disappear into the room design.

After comparing several different products it was clear that K-array was the right choice for the establishment, although products from Bose Professional also pulled their own weight.

“The K-array system had power, clarity and coverage in a very compact package,” says Emma. “The client immediately picked up on that as well. It just blew all other comparative products out of the water when we tested it in the venue with the client.  Several of our installation engineers were shocked by how good it sounded before we had even tuned the system! For its small size it’s very impressive. For processing we used DME because it was the most flexible solution and is very cost effective.”

SSE Audio designed a distributed system with all the speakers positioned just above head height rather than flown at ceiling height, bringing the acoustic energy closer to the listener.

The Restaurant

“The room acoustics are very challenging and they have neighbours directly above them so we had to take that into account, as well as the design constraints,” Emma reflects.

“The other side is that with such a versatile system you have to make it comfortable for the diners without sacrificing the atmosphere when they have live music or energy for late night DJs.”

This meant that there are at least eight separate zones just for the restaurant floor, four in the bar and several more across all circulation areas.

In the main restaurant the dining area is served by six horizontal arrays – discretely wall mounted in six locations facing into the restaurant.

Each consists of two K-array KK102 columns and a KK52.  These are supported by six KKS50 subs installed in seating plinths – three of these being removable.

Eighteen KT2 Tornado speakers lift the infill areas under the balcony and seats that sit directly under the arrays. This area is managed by an ICP1 Digital remote.

“The room acoustics are very challenging and they have neighbours directly above them so we had to take that into account, as well as the design constraints”

However the venue staff simply have one volume fader and four buttons to help manage the transition to different modes of operation, leaving the more technical tasks to be handled by the house engineer later in the evening.

Meanwhile, the live system is made up of a K-array KK202 system mounted either side of stage.

When in use the engineer has full control of the whole restaurant system via a PC interface at the mix position, while an AV panel provides the same level of connectivity as in the bar. 

“The restaurant system is my favourite part because we used quite an unorthodox arrangement with a combination of different speakers and different orientations and yet is has all come together to make a very good-sounding system that really works for the venue,” Emma enthuses.

The Bar

The bar area is serviced by a mixture of K-array KK102s, KK52s and KT2s with four KKS50 mounted into the seating plinths.

This combination was used to create even coverage but also to maintain volume for high energy applications such as when the DJs are on. 

“You are never more than 2-3m from a speaker so the perception of volume can be created using the minimum amount of energy which also helps with the noise management,” Emma points out.

“There is a local audio input connection and single fader volume control, although the bar is actually made up of four separate zones to create a balanced system. In addition to this we have an AV panel hidden in the panelling that means live performances can be mixed (and lighting controlled) from up on the balcony.”

There is also the option to connect microphones directly into the system – ideal for speeches where the console my not be required. 

“There is a feature whereby external productions can bring in their own PA system but run it through the DME processor so the venue can ensure the system can not exceed their licensed noise limits – also great for maintaining good relations with the neighbours,” Emma adds.

Not forgetting the Bose Professional systems installed spanning the entrance level down to the reception and through to the private dining rooms. 

These areas are all served by Bose Free space DS100 speakers. “We used a mixture of ceiling mount and surface mount speakers to create the most discrete solution whilst maintaining coverage,” Emma explains.

“The circulation areas are zoned so we can adjust the balance between the areas, although the venue staff use one overall volume control for the whole area to keep things simple. The zoning is there to minimise noise leakage outside via the main entrance.

The large private dining room has a mixture of FreeSpace DS 40SE and DS16SE loudspeakers to provide optimum coverage for presentations, background music or for clients to play there own choice of music.

The small private dining room uses DS16SEs. 

Both private dining rooms have their own local audio inputs and are each controlled via a Yamaha ICP1 Digital remote.

All sources to the installed system can be routed to each room individually.

“On stage we are using Bose M602 Panaray wedges due to their compact size and range of dispersion, plus a custom built SSE line system,” notes Emma.

A PC running Showcad Artist also sits at the mix potion and controls all the onstage lighting – Chauvet SlimPar64 and COLORband.

Pix and four Chauvet Intimidator 350s mounted high up in the ceiling provide front lighting and effects when DJs are on.

“D&D’s brief to us specified a sound system that could be integral to the new design rather than detract from it”

“By using the high IO capacity of the Yamaha DME 64N we are able to provide a very versatile, complex system than can be distilled down to simple controls that even the least technical staff feel comfortable operating whilst providing access to more in depth layers of control for the house engineer.”

Given that this was part of a major £3 million renovation and refurbishment project, the pressure was on when it came to delivering the perfect solution meeting all criteria.

“The standard of detail to which D&D work is extremely high so we had to think very carefully about the ‘finishing’ of the installation,” Emma nods.

“We spent time ensuring no branding was visible, that cables were well hidden, that labelling was neat and tidy. All things we normally do but the level to which it had to meet the aesthetics was far higher than any project we’ve worked on before. This is probably because we had a lot of products in view of the customer and it was essential that these products disappeared so no one noticed they were there. Usually the design constraints are a little bit more forgiving.

“We certainly spent of lot of time thinking about all the functionality we should build into the system so when they get a customer that says: ‘I want to do this’ the venue can say we already cater for that. What also stood out was D&D’s commitment to getting the quality of the audio right and not allowing budget to override the end result.”

Emma is pleased to report that the client is thrilled with both the audio quality and the fact that the speakers can’t be seen.

“They blend in so well you don’t even realise there are any speakers there unless you start looking for them.”

Since Qualingo’s reopened, live performance highlights have included Marianne Faithful, Alexander O’Neal, Beverley Knight and Eliza Doolittle; but has the SSE Audio team had the chance to hear the new system for themselves?

“We have, yes,” Emma smiles. “It was great; we sat very near the stage and though we could hear and enjoy the music, at no point did it feel overpowering or spoil an evening with friends. Although later in the evening it ramped up enough to get us dancing! I think credit for that should go to the house engineer but it’s nice to know we provided the right tool for him to make it happen.”

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