Barry Sheldrick, Director of Sales at DbM and José Coelho, International Business Director at Ambisonic Systems recently sat down to discuss the challenges and opportunities that outdoor audio provides integrators. Here’s what they had to say.
Designing audio for a garden space allows integrators to be creative and provide an exceptional audio experience for their client. The key to providing the right install for your client – whether it’s indoors or outdoors – is understanding your customer. You need to recognise what the client is going to use the space for to be able to design the right system for them.
“What we found on recent projects is that you end up using a combination of products depending on the client journey,” comments José. “For example, you would use Landscape Ribbons to focus energy into specific areas where we know the client will be sitting or listening to music. You’d then add the Bollards to fill the area when the client is passing from one area to another area because of that 360-degree radiation that these speakers provide.”
The way DbM depicts this on the plans is that they utilise the engineering data that is available from Ambisonic so that they can show the journey of the client walking around their outdoor space and how the audio will follow them. Ultimately, the documentation that DbM creates gets used by the integrator to pitch the project to the client, so it needs to be clear and concise in how the audio will match the client’s lifestyle habits.”
“When designing the systems, we look at multiple layers,” adds Barry. “We'll design one layer to be background music, and then drop another layer on top which is what is needed to turn the garden into a more powerful entertaining or party space. This clearly shows them what’s possible and explains the difference in cost and visual impact to enhance the space further.”
When designing outdoor audio, the first consideration should be coverage. The environment outside is very different from the inside. In particular, you don't have any walls to bounce off, so you have to throw sound a lot further.
Directivity is also a key consideration. Clients wouldn’t want the sound to be aimed towards their neighbours or directly blasting their own house.
The other issue is having to overwhelm the area with speakers to get the right level of fidelity. However, when doing this, you still don't get the right coverage and you end up having to play music really loud, which makes it uncomfortable for whoever is in the vicinity of the speakers. You will also get hot spots here and there.
With Ambisonic, integrators have the ability to almost ring fence where you want the audio to be. The speakers can be tuned to provide 120 degrees of width dispersion and 90 degrees of height, which means that you won’t be shooting sound into the atmosphere where no one is listening to it or upsetting your neighbours.
Ambisonic provides great coverage of the whole area without overwhelming whoever is right in front of the speaker as the sound waves are designed to travel a lot further. This results in a more targeted approach. If you install two speakers on one side of the garden, you can cover the whole garden with sound. Another feature is that you can barely hear the sound if you walk behind the speakers – meaning that there is no issue of disturbing the neighbours.
One of my favourite demos is standing with a dealer or client 5 metres away from the speakers and it sounds amazing,” comments Barry. “Then I tell the dealer or client to walk across the other side of the car park and they say that it sounds the same. They can't believe that the audio loses very little in terms of sound pressure level, fidelity or accuracy, even when you double, triple or quadruple the distance. For me, this is a game-changer. It shows that you don't have to play music loud to have the ability for the audio to travel.”
With Ambisonic, clients also have the option of hiding speakers or having them on display. If they want to be proud and show off the product, Ambisonic has the Bollards for them. If they don’t want any visual impact, then the Landscape Ribbons would be right for them as these can be completely hidden in the foliage. Both options provide the same level of performance – and are scalable enough to provide a really big outdoor concert-type feel to it.
Most UK dealers are excited about providing outdoor AV to their clients, but there are a lot of integrators who just aren’t tapping into this market, and they are literally leaving money on the table.
Clients spend a lot of time designing their gardens and are willing to spend money on making it an environment where they will entertain, so why wouldn’t they want to have audio outside?
“For these integrators who aren’t used to selling and installing systems in the garden, DbM is the right partner for you as they provide a level of handholding that is invaluable,” says José. “Whether it’s access to their showroom, the ability to bring products to the site for demos, a sales team who fully understand the needs of the client and are confident in supporting the integrator in these conversations, and the design service they offer – they’ve got you covered. DbM removes the barrier to those integrators who are not familiar with landscape sound installations.”
Another area that DbM has seen growth in is client upgrades – going back to projects from four or five years ago with integrators and putting in a new audio system or projector.
“When visiting these projects, we open up conversations about the outdoor space,” adds Barry. “We can either invite clients and integrators to our showroom to showcase the products or we can bring the speakers to the client and provide a real-life demo to showcase what is possible in their garden. We are that confident in the Ambisonic product range that we know if we do the demo at a client’s house, they will say yes.”
Combining the installation experiences that integrators with the premium offering and engineering data that Ambisonic provides and the tried and trusted design support that DbM offers, client’s will be guaranteed the ultimate outdoor audio experience.