In the Final Frame

Provide clear sound in a very high ambient noise environment without leaking unwanted sound into adjacent areas. 1/08/2008 5:45 AM Eastern

In the Final Frame

Provide clear sound in a very high ambient noise environment without leaking unwanted sound into adjacent areas.

The loudspeakers at Allfam Bowling in Cabot, Ark., project sound toward the lanes and away from the front desk, snack bar, and restaurant.


CHALLENGE: Provide clear sound in a very high ambient noise environment without leaking unwanted sound into adjacent areas.

SOLUTION: Use high-powered loudspeakers in unconventional positions to direct the sound.

IN 2006, WHEN PAM JACKSON AND HER husband Bruce heard that a new bowling center was being built in nearby Cabot, Ark., they immediately called to offer the sound installation services of Beebe, Ark.–based Bright Light Sight and Sound. But, Bill Allen, owner of Allfam Bowling and Family Entertainment Center, didn't hire the family-operated business until a year later.

When Allen contacted Bright Light Sight and Sound in July 2007, he wanted the company to install three separate sound systems — one for the center's restaurant, one for the main area's music, and one for paging — that could be heard and distinguished over the high SPL environment of the bowling lanes. Adding to this challenge: they had to plan and install the three-system project, which had to also successfully overcome the sounds of crashing pins, in time for the bowling center's opening day — just one month away.

“[Allfam] didn't have any specific requirements,” says Pam Jackson. “Other than where they needed microphones, they just left it up to us, which was good. We like it that way.” By the time the installers were brought into the project, the building was finished, the ceiling tiles were in, and workers were already laying the carpet. “It would've been nice to get in there when it was more in the beam structure because you can do the wiring much easier, but in this case we didn't have that opportunity,” Jackson says.

Audio installers Bright Light Sight and Sound used a scaffold and a 14-foot ladder to work around the bowling center's finished interior.

Audio installers Bright Light Sight and Sound used a scaffold and a 14-foot ladder to work around the bowling center's finished interior.


In order to run the necessary wires to mount loudspeakers in the building's 15 ½-foot ceiling, Jackson brought in a small-profile scaffold that could safely roll across the new carpet and purchased a 14-foot step-ladder, a size rarely kept in stock by stores. Jackson had to special order it. “It nearly delayed the project,” she says, “but it all worked out. We got the ladder the day we had to use it. But it's handy, and we'll use it again on another installation.”


Allen's biggest must-do in regards to the restaurant's sound system was for it to deliver different background music to diners than what was playing for the customers in the main area.

The restaurant has several different rooms that can be sealed off for special uses. The company used an Inter-M PA-4000 70-volt mixer/amplifier with multiple zones, allowing each room to be managed separately. It installed one AudioTrak COMB 811-BR in-ceiling loudspeaker in each of the three party rooms and three of the loudspeakers in the main dining room using A/R West Penn shielded speaker wire. The Inter-M mixer/amplifier and a Denon CD player were installed on a shelf in the manager's office, rather than a rack, to save money; however, the CD player is rarely used due to royalties concerns. For now, the Bowling Music Network (see “Satellite Sound,” page 40) provides the music for both the restaurant and bowling area.

The main bowling area's paging system uses the same speakers and amplifiers as the restaurant, with an AudioTrak ceiling loudspeaker located approximately every four lanes in the 32-lane bowling center. Two Astatic table paging microphones — one at the main desk and one at the concession stand —allow employees to announce when a customer's lane is ready.


The main sound system, called the “Wow” or “Big Sound” system, in the bowling area proved to be the biggest challenge. According to Jackson, the bowling industry recommends placing the music system's loudspeakers half-way down the lanes facing the entrance and seating areas.

Jackson and her team had another idea. “We knew that would create a lot of reflective sound on the back wall or in the counter area, so we hung them up above the counter area and doorway to the restaurant facing out toward the lanes,” she says. By projecting the loudspeakers' sound away from the patrons, the music fills the room without overpowering the restaurant's system, phone calls at the front counter, or food orders at the concession stand.

“I thought they were quite innovative in the way they designed the system,” says Allen, who was quite pleased with the installation. “We can have the music playing in the bowling center, but when you come into the restaurant and the doors close behind you, you don't hear it, and that's largely because of the way the speakers are positioned.”

With clarity of utmost importance, Jackson and her team installed eight Community VERIS 1596 full-range loudspeakers and three Community CPL51 subwoofers. “Because we've been using Community for over 20 years, we were confident this would be the right answer,” Jackson says.

The high-powered VERIS speakers hang off of each beam running across the lanes using beam clamps, ¼-inch wire rope, and forged eyebolts. Jackson says the beams provided good hanging points, and the loudspeakers delivered enough sound to accomplish the job properly, powered by QSC RMX 1850 HD and 850 power amplifiers. Positioning of the subwoofers needed to be altered when Bright Light Sight and Sound realized there were no outer beams, only purlins, and a 4-foot duct blocked the subwoofers' intended position. The plan was to hang all of the speakers in a straight line, with the two subwoofers on each end, but the installers were forced to hang them around the corner and down 12 feet to the nearest beam, facing down rather than out. “It worked fine because bass frequencies go everywhere and it's still uniform and looks good,” she says.

Because the building was finished, the installers also had to work around existing utilities, including lights and sprinklers. They returned to Allfam after the project was complete to move a loudspeaker away from a sprinkler head to comply with the fire marshal's regulations.

The audio for the loudspeakers comes from another Denon CD player, the Bowling Music Network, and two Audio-Technica wireless microphones. Employees use the 702 hand-held and 700 series headset microphones at parties for games and entertaining — Allfam has already hosted 196 birthday parties since its opening — and giving away prizes during the center's weekend Glo-Bowl, when black lights, popular music, and contests draw a teenage crowd. “It's kind of like a party atmosphere,” says Allen of the Glo-Bowl events. Bright Light Sight and Sound chose the 702 mic because it uses AA batteries instead of 9-volts, and it's frequency-agile, with 10 channels that allow a user to operate multiple microphones at a time.

Hanging above each lane are 34 37-inch Vizio HDTVs. The TVs display the scoring system provided by QubicaAMF Worldwide, a manufacturer of bowling and amusement park products, as well as scrolling advertisements for upcoming events, high-scoring players, and other notable items that Allen types into the system via his PC. AMF Bowling Centers installed the HDTVs along with its integrated scoring package, but Allen bought the HDTVs himself from Sam's Club.


Despite the short notice and the obstacles that came with it, Bright Light Sight and Sound completed the project in time for Allfam to open on Sept. 7, 2007 — right on schedule. The project stayed within its $16,000 budget and produces the clear sound Allen had in mind.

“We didn't want to put something out there that was going to sound like a drive-through squawk box,” says Allen. “[Bright Light Sight and Sound] came in and set it up so that the music comes in clear. It's just what we were looking for.”

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In the Final Frame

Provide clear sound in a very high ambient noise environment without leaking unwanted sound into adjacent areas.

Allen started using the music network after Jackson and her team finished the installation, so they were called back to connect it after the project was complete. “Originally, we started with the CD player, and they were really pleased with the sound,” says Jackson. “When we hooked up the one from the computer, the sound was OK, but it wasn't near as good as from the CD player.” Ironically, they were given an opportunity to improve the audio quality when the computer's sound card failed a few days later; and a new sound card had the same result. Jackson's solution was to add a standard high-to-low impedance line-matching transformer to the computer's audio signal. “It just really improved it 100 percent,” she says.

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