Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cool Inventions - Meyer Sound Laboratory

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A recent Zagat survey reports that more than the lousy service, what turns most diners away from a restaurant is the noise. There are plenty of possible workarounds to this, of course – curtains, carpets and other acoustically gentle materials. However, the sound level within a restaurant still rises and falls depending on the number of patrons. Or more aptly, the crowd’s state of rowdiness and the number of wine bottles they’ve already consumed.

Using state-of-the-art technology usually reserved for recording studios and concert halls, Meyer Sound Laboratories, a Berkeley, California-based audio engineering firm, has come up with a solution to the problem. Through a combination of recording equipment, acoustic materials and an iPad, controlling the sound inside a restaurant – loud on a Friday night or quiet on a Sunday afternoon, it’s up to you – can be as simple as the swipe of a finger.

Speakers, microphones and subwoofers are installed inside the restaurant, plus sound-absorbing fabrics that can be as weird as recycled jeans or as aesthetically appealing as a painting canvas. Microphones capture the sound, which then is sent to a digital processor. The processor, in turn, allows somebody – the restaurant owner maybe – to fine-tune the sound via the iPad.

The system was recently tested at Comal, a Mexican restaurant run by John Paluska, former Phish manager. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Paluska as saying, “As a person who loves to eat out and as someone who reads the restaurant press, I know that noise is a hot-button issue for everyone. What we wanted to achieve is often mutually exclusive. Either you have a conversational ambiance or a buzzy ambiance. What we’re excited about is that we’re achieving both."

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