Built in the early 1970s, Westfield Hawthorn Mall is located in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills. Its classic mall architecture boasts four anchor stores, 180 retail spaces, and 1.3 million square feet of space. However, until recently, its sound system possessed the lifeless quality of 1970s-era contractor-grade components. Renaissance Communications Systems was charged with overhauling the mall’s sound system. In addition to replacing the ceiling speakers, Renaissance also gave the centre modern auto-leveling control and multi-zone support using two Ashly Audio ne8800M 8-In x 8-Out Protea DSP System Processors and two eight-channel Ashly ne8250.70 network amplifiers.
“Certainly, one big issue was the sound quality itself,” said Mike Shares, CEO of Renaissance. “The components needed to be modernised. Beyond that, they were having problems with the volume control. First, the system wasn’t zoned properly, so low-ceiling areas had to share the same volume with high-ceiling areas such that neither area could be ideal. Moreover, traffic in the mall varies widely; it’s very slow on a weekday afternoon but very busy on a weekend afternoon or in the rush up to the holidays. The management wanted the sound system to play at appropriate volumes without having to manually track it.”
Shares divided the system into thirteen zones based on location, purpose, and ceiling height. Input sources to each zone may be selected independently, and the target volume-over-noise in each zone may also be selected independently. Sensing microphones in several of the zones feed the pair of Ashly ne8800M Protea Digital Processors, which analyse the ambient noise and adjust the music or paging output to hit the target sound pressure level. A pair of Ashly ne8250.70 eight-channel network power amplifiers deliver 250W per channel to all 13 zones while taking-up only four rack spaces. Nearly 200 full-fidelity Community D6 loudspeakers now deliver the background music.