Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant

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By Jenny Xie
Bellota becomes the sixth Bay Area establishment to fine tune noise levels with Meyer Sound Constellation technology.
Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant - Photo 1 of 5 - Black casks of sherry and sangria are displayed over the U-shaped bar, where customers don’t have to strain to hear each other. Bill Russell-Shapiro says, "Meyer Sound helped us achieve the vision I had for Bellota—which is taken from a warm, welcoming restaurant I found in Barcelona, and also by Rick's Café Américain from the movie ‘Casablanca.’"

Black casks of sherry and sangria are displayed over the U-shaped bar, where customers don’t have to strain to hear each other. Bill Russell-Shapiro says, "Meyer Sound helped us achieve the vision I had for Bellota—which is taken from a warm, welcoming restaurant I found in Barcelona, and also by Rick's Café Américain from the movie ‘Casablanca.’"

In the world of fine dining, the importance of ambience cannot be overestimated. From lighting decisions to employee uniforms, every sensory detail a restaurant offers contributes to the patron’s experience. No bit player on this ineffable stage is the noise level. It can be a hard balance to strike: too raucous, and conversation suffers; too quiet, and the mood stiffens.

It’s a dilemma with which Bill Russell-Shapiro is familiar. As the proprietor of The Absinthe Group, the parent company of six eateries and bars in San Francisco, he was well-versed in the dynamics of sound and atmosphere. For his latest enterprise, the Spanish restaurant Bellota, he installed a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system to balance the sonic elements of a busy scene: the clink of glasses, the rattle of a cocktail shaker, bursts of laughter. A system of minuscule microphones, loudspeakers, subwoofers, and processors take in and harmonize noise. As clientele ebbs and flows, the staff can quickly adjust the acoustics.

Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant - Photo 2 of 5 - Six Stella-8C loudspeakers cover the private dining room. A photograph of flamenco dancers camouflages the sound-absorptive Libra™ acoustic image system.

Six Stella-8C loudspeakers cover the private dining room. A photograph of flamenco dancers camouflages the sound-absorptive Libra™ acoustic image system.

Bar director of The Absinthe Group Jonny Raglin oversaw the Bellota project. "Constellation is a flexible system that creates balance," he says. "It allows us to create different atmospheres at different times. We’re able to make it romantic and quiet in a certain portion of the space, and lively in another part of the space at the same time."

This level of control was especially crucial for a business that occupies a 5,400-square-foot warehouse space in San Francisco’s SoMa district. The open floor plan affords diners a view of executive chef Ryan Mcllwraith and his team as they deliver a menu specializing in paella, grilled meats, and tapas.

Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant - Photo 3 of 5 - The D-Mitri digital audio platform uses a patented algorithm to manage 24 cardiodid microphones, 34 UP-4XP loudspeakers, and 12 MM-10XP subwoofers. Live piano music from the lounge also permeates the dining room through sound distribution.

The D-Mitri digital audio platform uses a patented algorithm to manage 24 cardiodid microphones, 34 UP-4XP loudspeakers, and 12 MM-10XP subwoofers. Live piano music from the lounge also permeates the dining room through sound distribution.

Bellota joins five other restaurants scattered throughout Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco that rely on Constellation for aural logistics. Meyer Sound is itself headquartered in Berkeley, where all of its products are designed and manufactured. Founded in 1979 by John and Helen Meyer, the award-winning company boasts an impressive resume with installations placed in Musikverein in Vienna, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, Bank of America Stadium, Jyske Bank’s corporate offices in Denmark, and Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas productions. Renowned musicians, cinemas, houses of worship, theme parks, and museums also look to Meyer Sound solutions.

Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant - Photo 4 of 5 - A Meyer Sound employee assembles a CAL column array loudspeaker. By keeping design and manufacturing on the premises of its Berkeley headquarters, the company ensures a high level of quality and customer support.

A Meyer Sound employee assembles a CAL column array loudspeaker. By keeping design and manufacturing on the premises of its Berkeley headquarters, the company ensures a high level of quality and customer support.

Sound Design for a Bustling San Francisco Restaurant - Photo 5 of 5 - A finished CAL column array loudspeaker is tested in an anechoic chamber.

A finished CAL column array loudspeaker is tested in an anechoic chamber.

To learn more about the Constellation system, visit Meyer Sound online.

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