When an integrator was faced with designing an audio system for a concrete box, he turned outside for inspiration. Paul Skelton reports.
At 37, George Calombaris is arguably Australia’s most well known chef. Over the years, his prestigious career has earned him many accolades and a long-term judging gig on MasterChef Australia.
In 2008, George and business partner Travis McAuley opened the doors to the popular Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick, Victoria, serving the locals traditional Greek food with a modern twist – in a taverna setting.
Now Hellenic Republic has two venues located in Brunswick and Kew (both in Victoria), and a third location in Williamstown named Hellenic Hotel, which opened in 2016.
I recently sat down with integrator Anthony from Custom Sound and Vision (CSV), who was responsible for the installation of the restaurant’s AV system. Over saganaki and tzatziki we spoke about the challenges of designing a system for a modern Greek eatery.
You see, at Hellenic Hotel if you were to remove the impressive kitchen, tables and bar, you would be left with little more than a concrete box with large window panes that run from the floor to the second-storey ceiling.
So Anthony definitely had his work cut out for him when designing a system that would fill the space with sound while avoiding all of the pitfalls associated with highly reflective surfaces.
Intriguingly, the solution came in the form of Origin Acoustics’ AcoustaScape landscape audio system, which was suspended, upside down, from the ceiling.
Origin Acoustics is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Synergy Custom.
“The decision to use these speakers came quite late in the job. They weren’t an afterthought; it just took time to determine what we had to work with,” Anthony says.
“An indoor speaker was never going to work in a job like this. I always knew it would have to be an outdoor speaker that we ultimately installed; it was just a matter of figuring out which one was up to the task.
“Further, despite receiving images and renders of what the place would look like from the architect, as they started to build they decided to add a lot of ducting and other features, so we had limited space to work in.
“I had recently purchased a demo set of the Origin Acoustics AcoustaScape speakers to play around with so I thought I would try them out in the restaurant. Once that happened, I knew that I would be using them.”
A 20-year industry veteran, Anthony has long worked for George Calombaris, both at home and in his other restaurants.
“We have previously used outdoor speakers in similar environments, but those systems were too far expensive for this job. We had to find something that was affordable but would also perform as required.
“George largely lets us do whatever we need to, to make the system work. Audio plays a big role in his restaurants as they help to build atmosphere.
“In a venue like this, where every surface is hard, there is nothing to dampen off so you have to tailor your solution to the job.”
Interestingly, the architect behind Hellenic Hotel decided that he wanted a very specific brand of loudspeaker used in the venue. In addition to being completely inappropriate for the venue, the architect proposed 3D-printed brackets to suspend the speakers from the ceiling.
“It just didn’t make sense,” Anthony says.
The AcoustaScape AS41 system is primarily designed to bring surround sound to the backyard with four 4”, camouflaged, enclosed satellite speakers and a bass-boosting 8” in-ground subwoofer.
The system projects even sound coverage directly into the listening area with equal volume, “turning the whole outdoor space into a sweet spot”.
You can also expand the system by adding up to four additional satellite speakers, for even greater coverage up to 230m².
The 2-way satellite speakers deliver a wider dispersion and require no separate amplifier. The compact 8Ω-per-channel, impedance-matched, hi-fi outdoor system is equipped with 50-200W of power handling.
Working with the ‘bouncy’ MasterChef judge is certainly a far cry from the little shop in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, in which Anthony started his career.
“In those early days I spent most of my time building speaker cables, amplifiers and speakers. I was happy to stay out back in my own world,” he says.
“One day, the owner put me out the front with customers, which is how I learned to sell equipment.
“When I left, I fell into the installation side of the market. I started by installing 2-channel systems and then moved into home cinema. It wasn’t easy back then, there wasn’t a lot to install so I started by printing out a bunch of cards and putting them in Harvey Norman stores for their customers.
“Eventually I started to supply my own gear and found my own clients. I then started programming remotes and finally moved into automation.”
Now, as George’s restaurant empire continues to grow, you will likely find Anthony’s fingerprints all over the audio designs moving forward.