by the Seashore
Oct 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Christopher Buttner
Meeting the sound reinforcement and paging needs for Gladstone's Malibu, a seaside restaurant outside Santa Monica, CA.
Few people have visited Los Angeles without stopping at one of the most famous restaurants in the country - Gladstone's Malibu. Gladstone's originally opened in 1972 as a small restaurant in nearby Santa Monica Canyon and moved in 1982 to its current location on the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway. Gladstone's is one of the top 10 largest grossing restaurants in the United States and the single largest, as well as the top grossing, restaurant on the entire West Coast. Gladstone's, open 365 days a year, accommodates 750 people at a time, welcomes more than a million people each year, and serves more live Maine lobster than any other restaurant in southern California. It has also just become even bigger and better after a $3 million renovation.
When you approach the entrance of Gladstone's Malibu, you immediately get a sense of a fun, casual, unpretentious, carnival atmosphere. As you enter the restaurant, there is a wall of fame where patrons can view a collection of celebrity photos taken over the years. A new bar area has been added to create the feeling of a true 1950s beach bar. The original dining area has been restored and boasts the largest collection of historical photos of the bay and local area. The dining experience in the new Outrigger Dining room is enhanced by the lofty 18 foot (5.5 m) ceilings, 12 foot (3.7 m) high windows and the best unobstructed vista of the Pacific Ocean on the coast. There is also a back dining area called the movie room, which is a more intimate space, decorated with photos of movies that were made in the Malibu area starting with the original Inceville Studios of the early 1900s, located where Gladstone's now sits. The outdoor patio has an uninterrupted ocean view and a festive boardwalk feeling. The subtle washes of deck lighting on the water enhance the oceanside dining experience.
Gladstone's has an expanded kitchen, bar and a new building in front of the restaurant to service hungry diners on the popular front patio. The new $750,000 Fish Market building tucks in behind the PCH deck with its own outside kitchen. With the outside kitchen, Gladstone's staff can assign seating and provide quicker service to the deck. There are new bars, and the fish cutting room, with live lobster and crab tanks, is complete with a large window where fresh fish cutting is exhibited.
ShedWerks"ShedWerks, as a business, essentially keeps my chops up," Bruce Maddocks, owner, said. "I love the art of audio and designing new systems, regardless of whether they are multi-million dollar studios or high-quality sound systems in prestige landmarks, like Gladstone's."
Based in Woodland Hills, CA, ShedWerks, established in 1992, specializes in commercial and residential sound reinforcement system design, consultation, remodeling, rebuilding, original fabrication and installation. Bruce also maintains his chops from his full-time gig as chief engineer of Capitol Studios in Hollywood, overseeing all the technical operations for the recording and mastering studios. Capitol, Maddocks pointed out, is constantly in the process of upgrading existing studios, or adding new studios, in the Capitol Tower every eight months.
Maddocks said, "A lot of it is remodeling and bringing the technology of the existing facilities into the new millennium. Because I do a lot of design work for DVD production and surround sound, I'm designing and redesigning facilities to deal with multi-channel audio."
Gladstone's previous sound system had been in service, Maddocks said, "I believe, probably about 17-odd years. Initially, when I went to do the site survey, I said, `Okay, let me see what I can reuse to try to keep a handle on the cost.' First off, the process of the construction had already begun, and a lot of the existing wiring just got cut; therefore, since no diagrams existed, I couldn't physically trace the wires."
As Maddocks began to look at all the remaining components, like many sound systems, it appeared it had started out fairly small. Maddocks said, "Through the years, different pieces got added to it, but not in a very cohesive manner. There were bits and pieces here, there, some stuff kind of tacked on in between."
Maddocks quickly realized that the restaurant had to install a completely new system. There was literally nothing out of the existing system to salvage, except for the Yamaha five-disc carousel CD player and the DMX satellite music receiver.
Bids for the new sound system went out about midpoint in the construction. The restaurant had put out bids to several vendors, and a lot of the proposals that came back, said Maddocks, "Were for real typical, straightforward, generic restaurant sound systems. They were all pretty mundane, a lot of ceiling speakers, with no real imagination put into any of the bids."
One of the most important things Maddocks did when putting the bid together was speak to the principals of the restaurant to find out what they wanted. Based upon the other bids that came in, Maddocks said, it did not seem as though any of the other bidders did that. Continuing, Maddocks said, "Gladstone's wanted something that was a lot better than what they previously had installed. I believe the one thing that impressed them was my experience in designing studios, loudspeakers and sound systems for studios and mastering facilities, as well as my sound design experience. I advised them that I could incorporate my unique experience into a sound system design which would give them maximum impact, really rock at fairly moderate levels and still operate as background. They keyed into coherency, articulation, intelligibility and the ability to cut through without being obtrusive. This intrigued them a lot."
The dollar amounts on even two bids, for the most mundane and generic sound systems, have a tendency to fluctuate dramatically. Even though Gladstone's was investing $3 million into expanding and upgrading this landmark restaurant, money was an object. Maddocks said, "It's fairly safe to say that any of the sound system bids were probably the smallest dollar amount expenditure for the new construction. Even though I had management talked-up on a studio quality, high-fidelity system, every aspect of the construction was under financial scrutiny."
ShedWerks entered the project midway through construction, and to make matters worse, the restaurant was still open for business during the entire rebuilding period. To stay out of the way, ShedWerks had to pre-assemble and test all the racks in the shop and then deliver and work on an off-hours schedule. The installation was overseen by Maddocks, with Eric Malin from Malin Construction taking on all of the mechanical installation work. Sallie Arnold from Get Wired did all of the wiring interface work on the project. Much of the install took place mostly after midnight, and the three person crew would work straight through until almost 4:00 PM, all the while trying to remain unobtrusive to the other construction trades.
The loudspeakersWorking from the loudspeakers backward, Maddocks researched loudspeakers based upon size, output and fidelity. While researching replacement loudspeakers for an entirely different job, the echo chambers at Capitol Studios, which are large, damp, dank, musty and occasionally moisture-laden underground rooms, Maddocks came across the Technomad WeatherTech Vienna 16 loudspeakers.
"We use these rooms in the recording process for their natural reverberation characteristics," he said, "but the room environment wreacks havoc on loudspeakers. Totally unrelated to what I had going on with Gladstone's, I got a hold of the Technomad Vienna 16 loudspeakers, and even before I could install them in the echo chamber, I was blown away by the sound quality."
Because Maddocks had been evaluating low-profile loudspeakers for Gladstone's, he decided to take a listen to Technomad's new Vernal 15; a 60 W unit featuring a 5 inch (127 mm) polymer mid/bass driver under a 1 inch (25.4 mm) diameter ceramic high-frequency compression driver on a 90øx90ø horn.
"The Technomad Vernal is the speaker I was looking for," said Maddocks. "As impressive as the horn is at cutting through the background noise generated by 750 people as well as the wind and the sound of the surf, the low-end on the Technomad Vernal 15 is pronounced and detailed for a cabinet that is only 9x6x6 inches (229 mm x 152 mm x 152 mm). The Technomad Vernal 15 was going to be the primary loudspeaker of the overall sound system."
Consequently, 20 Technomad Vernal 15, 70 V transformer version loudspeakers were used for the main dining and Movie Room, a private function dining area. The bar and two dining areas off the main dining room were fitted with nine suspended SoundTube RS50 loudspeakers. The omnidirectional pattern provided large areas of coverage from the high ceilings, and their low profile did not impact the cosmetically clean decor of the rooms. The Outrigger room was also fitted with three RS50 loudspeakers, suspended 8 feet (2.4 m) down from the 20 foot (6.1 m) plus ceilings.
"In the Movie Room, it was a was pretty straightforward installation of six Technomad Vernals," Maddocks said. Three Technomad Vernal 15 loudspeakers are on the opposite walls at the 8 foot ceiling height. "Since the Movie Room is a party or private function area, I put a high concentration of speakers in there on a separate zone. This room can produce a fairly high-impact party atmosphere that is completely separated from the rest of the restaurant."
Keeping costs down, Maddocks did not add any subwoofers to the dining rooms. "I found that by using a lot of the boundary effect, proximity to walls and ceilings, it wasn't really necessary to add any subs. Since it is a 70 V system, my overall low-end is limited by nature of the transformers and the amps, but I am impressed that the Technomad Vernal 15 speakers produce an incredible amount of low-end from such a small cabinet."
The lack of subwoofers was not a detriment to the overall sound quality of the system. "I use selective compression and equalization techniques that I've picked up through the process of recording and mixing music," Maddocks said. "So, I just apply those practices into the system and I can actually make all of the music cut through without it being overbearing or obtrusive."
For the exterior Ocean Deck area, Maddocks installed two Technomad Vernal 15 loudspeakers and three SoundTube StormTech loudspeakers in Seafoam Green, which matches the new awning and exterior finishes. Due to the large open area of the on-the-water deck, the three omnidirectional speakers were mounted to the existing poles that run down the middle of the deck, simplifying the critical non-directionality aspect of the installation. The two exterior Technomad Vernal 15 loudspeakers were installed firing out onto the deck area, filling in walkways and outdoor waiting areas.
The rackA wall-mounted, locking, 27 rack space ZERO steel case provides a home for all of the rack-mount equipment. The Desk Doctor Controller/Interface was mounted at the top of the rack at eye level because the only adjustments that would be needed on a daily basis would be the selection of program sources and their associated zone levels. Maddocks installed the existing Yamaha 5 CD carousel player below the Desk Doctor Controller. The CD player would be used typically for the Movie Room to provide requested, or even guest-provided music. Channel selection on the DMX satellite receiver, installed below the CD player, is made by either the front panel selector or by remote control. The ARX Systems Quadcomp II, four two-channel ART equalizers, the Rane MA-6 and the QSC amp round out the rack. One rack space is left open between the Rane and QSC power amps as ventilation space. A 2 RU AC Surge protector, and outlet distributors were mounted in the bottom of the rack.
A plywood panel was affixed to the rear inside of the rack to strengthen the wall mounting, as well as facilitate the mounting of the 70V, 100 W output transformers for the Rane amp. All of the equipment wiring interface was completed in ShedWerks' Woodland Hills shop before delivery to the location. This allowed Maddocks and staff to test the system dial in some rough compression and equalization settings by simulating some of the install. Once on site, the rack was wall mounted, and the loudspeaker wire/paging interface was connected; fine tuning of equalization, paging balance and compression was quickly completed. Once all the electronic settings were finalized, security covers were installed on various pieces of signal processing equipment to prevent prying hands from resetting equipment.
The power and front endMaddocks said, "I've set-up the restaurant into eight separate zones, and for that I went with two amplifiers. The first amplifier is the new QSC CX series 302V amplifier. One channel of the QSC 302V is running the Main dining room, and the other channel is running the Ocean deck. The second amplifier is the RANE MA6S six-channel amplifier."
Maddocks is responsible for the design of the system's custom-controller paging/interface with fabrication of the unit by Bruce Millett of Burbank-based The Desk Doctor.
"It's a fairly interesting interface," Maddocks said. "I'm used to working in a balanced plus-four audio environment. I like to have the additional operating level as well as the common mode rejection you receive when working balanced. The first stage of the paging interface is eight minus 10 unbalanced inputs. You get your stereo outputs from the Yamaha multi-disc CD player or DMX satellite receiver, and it converts the eight unbalanced minus 10 feeds into it into four mono balanced outputs. Working with balanced audio and a proper grounding scheme really reduces the headaches associated with potential ground loops. The interface box produces level control for the four individual sources, which is then sent to the compressors. The processed signals are returned to the controller where they are routed to the source selector on the eight individual zones. Every single zone can then select whatever it wants to listen to, and then each zone has its own level control. The output of each zone is then sent to an equalizer and then to the power amps.
"I constructed a two-area paging system: one for inside the restaurant and one at the paging station for the outside deck areas of the restaurant. The user can select between any of the eight zones or do an all-zone call. Another aspect of the system was to insert all of the paging after the level control for each individual zone. A 15 dB program duck level is activated with each page. That way, I can have consistent paging levels throughout all of the zones no matter how they set the music level.
"One of the things that happened previously in the restaurant was that they were using autotap transformers," Maddocks said. "So in the bar area, if they wanted to listen to the television, they would turn the music speakers down. When a page was announced, you never heard it in the bar, and that's the area where everybody waits to be seated. That didn't quite work because whenever the sound system was turned down, the guests were missing their table calls. Now, by using a paging interface that works after all of the individual level controls, no matter where they set the music, paging, now, always comes through."
For people protection Maddocks used an ARX Systems single-rack space, four-channel Quadcomp II limiter/compressor, which, according to Maddocks, is pretty straightforward and simple to use. He preferred this unit because it has four compressor/limiters in a single rack and in this job, rack space was at a premium. Also installed were four of the ART Model 341 EQs.
Maddocks also noted that Gladstone's is on the Pacific Ocean; the environment is rather harsh. Sea spray, wind, fog and rain create a highly corrosive environment for electronics. He settled on the Technomad Vernal 15s, primarily because he thought them the best-sounding loudspeaker for the application. Also, of all the loudspeakers he evaluated for the interior areas, the clean cosmetic design and low profile of the Vernals best suited the design.
Reflecting on his accomplishment, Maddocks said, "The sound system is really even. One of the things I wanted to accomplish was to make it so you could walk from the deck entrance of the restaurant, to the bar, all through the dining rooms and not hit a dead zone. It took a lot of work to get it right, but by doing the walkthroughs, and running back and forth, not to mention a lot of folks with good ears and walkie-talkies, we were able to get the whole system even, so there are no radical changes, even as you move from zone to zone to zone."