La Sirena Sound System Saved by Careful Planning and Symetrix DSP

New York, NY, USA:

Opened in February 2016, La Sirena is prominently located on the Plaza Level of the Chelsea district’s Maritime Hotel. The spacious venue offers a large and lively barroom that connects two distinct dining rooms, each of which seats about 100. The adjacent outdoor patio accommodates another 200 patrons. Upstairs are two 3,000-plus-square-foot event spaces, each with private entrances from street level and a retractable roof for dining al fresco.

The first sound system installed at La Sirena turned out to be less than adequate for the fast-growing restaurant’s needs. Worse, a few months after it was installed, a fire sprinkler flood ruined important elements of the system. The restaurant’s management quickly turned to AV systems integrator Essential Communications of East Hanover, New Jersey for help. “The GM told me, ‘I need you to get us back up and running, and give us a proposal to replace the whole system to accommodate the expanded needs of the facility,'” recalls Essential Communications president David Schwartz. “The amps were fried, and there were burn marks everywhere from the shorts.” La Sirena approved Schwartz’s new proposal, which was based on a Symetrix Radius DSP.

Retaining the existing ceiling speakers, the Essential Communications team replaced all the damaged amplifiers with Ashly NX Series amps, installed a Symetrix Radius 12×8 DSP with output expanders, and completed the wiring and configuration. But it wasn’t easy. Multiple zones are required to cover all the spaces, and the venue has three head ends at different locations in the building, with an IT closet in the basement.

“The challenge was how to get multiple audio programs distributed to every zone for dining, and distribute different sources to the various spaces for private events,” recalls Schwartz. “We decided to go with Dante, which is one reason we chose a Symetrix Radius. But there was no conduit, and we couldn’t open up walls, so we couldn’t run more CAT6. Fortunately, we discovered fiber between two of the head ends and CAT6 spares between the second and third head end. So we created a hybrid distributed Dante system with all new switches, interconnected with fiber. It took a month just to figure out how to distribute everything and get it all talking but now everything works well. We eliminated most of the original 15 Sonos Connect players, keeping four as playback sources for guests to use in each zone.”

The planning was mind boggling, Schwartz avers, “because every zone had a source switcher and a volume control, and all of that had to live in the main Symetrix Radius DSP at the main head end. The outgoing signal distributed via Dante out to each zone, so in essence, there was a Dante receiver and an analog amplifier. It took a lot of time to figure out, especially since we couldn’t run new cable.”

Schwartz’s team equipped the main head end with a Symetrix Radius 12×8 EX, a 4 Channel Analog Output Card, and an xOut 12 Output Expander, for a base system of 12×24. The second head end uses an xOut 12, while the third head end uses a Prism 4×4. “So it goes from the Dante output to a switch, from the switch to fiber, and then all the way across the facility to another switch that receives the Dante stream, then to the xOut 12 and the Prism 4×4 in different locations, and outputs to amplifiers for each of seven zones,” Schwartz recounts. “Because Dante is low latency, and there’s zero latency over the fiber, there’s no delay even if you have a song playing in opposite ends of the building. That’s my favorite part.”

“The Symetrix Radius, with its Dante implementation, was crucial to building the core and linking multiple units,” relates Schwartz. “We’ve had tremendous success with Symetrix. Symetrix offers a variety of DSPs and platforms, so we can choose the right features for the job. That makes working with their equipment really flexible. Symetrix’ technical support is great-and we needed it for this project. They were there for me every step of the way. Symetrix is a good, solid company. I like that they’re focused on audio DSP and doing it really well.”

In the end, all the planning and stress was worthwhile. “We plowed through a lot of difficulties but now La Sirena has a system that sounds quite good,” Schwartz concludes.