Atlantis The Royal rises
Atlantis The Royal rises
Mediatech and Systech rise to the challenge of matching audio quality with the luxury of the new Atlantis The Royal resort in Dubai
Atlantis The Royal grabbed headlines around the world when it was officially opened in star-studded style in early 2023 with a rare live performance from the one and only Beyoncé. Rising up from under the sand 43 storeys high on the crescent of the Palm Jumeirah – right next to Atlantis, The Palm – the new and more modern construction bills itself as “the most ultra-luxurious experiential resort in the world” and, as a result, commands certain expectations of quality.
With the dust now settled on that inaugural performance, attention has turned to the audiovisual setup inside its four walls. So, when it came to designing the extensive setup powering many of the hotel’s fine-dining and common areas, audio quality was understandably the main concern for Mediatech consultant Ged King. “Mediatech was hired as technology consultants for the entire project back in 2017, working under the developer, Investment Corporation of Dubai,” King recalls. “The project was envisioned as the definitive hospitality benchmark for the region and the brief from the client was to utilise the very best available technologies in order to maximise the guest entertainment experience. The use of Meyer Sound speakers was a critical selection as we wanted to provide the ultimate sonic quality in the smallest physical form factor. The biggest challenge faced in the design was the coordination of speaker placements so that they were integrated into the interior design.”
Working to bring this intricate design to life, long-term Meyer Sound partner in the region, Systech Middle East, set about transforming King’s designs into workable solutions and collaborated with AV specialist GBM. “GBM was handling the operations on the ground, we were in charge of all the connections between the project and the manufacturer,” explains Systech Middle East general manager Malek Ghorayeb. “This meant dealing with pressures such as keeping the client happy throughout all stages of the project while also liaising with GBM on their hectic schedule. GBM was responsible for the entirety of the IT/AV backbone in the hotel, not just the installation of the speakers, so it was important that we delivered the right equipment on time so as not to disrupt their other operations. Planning was absolutely critical throughout the project.”
Such was the importance of the luxury five-star hotel to the American audio manufacturer, that the decision was made to wheel Meyer Sound’s 4-inch UP-4XP active ultra-compact loudspeaker back out of early retirement in order to secure the project according to its original specification.
“We redesigned the UP-4XP, now called UP4-Slim, to give the same sonic performances in a smaller box, but this design was made before it came out,” explains Andrea Granata, Meyer Sound’s Middle East and Africa sales manager. “Therefore, thanks to the extraordinary agility of our factory, Meyer Sound produced a special batch of UP-4XP, most of them in custom colours, to keep the design untouched. This was not only to meet the specifications, but also because placing a slightly different speaker in some locations wouldn’t have been easy in terms of aesthetic and design.”
As a result of this VIP service, UP-4XPs are a mainstay in the majority of the venue’s restaurants, in addition to those common areas where audio quality is considered to be a high priority. This is the case at Resonance by Heston Blumenthal, a unique bar concept just off the grand lobby on the ground floor.
Mounted high up on the walls of the rectangular-shaped Resonance catering to foreground music are 12 UP-4XPs paired with four MM-10XP compact miniature 10-inch self-powered subwoofers which have been discreetly hidden within the seating. Covering the outdoor terrace area are a further two wall-mounted UP-4XPs with a pair of MM-10XPs. All the loudspeakers are self-powered and connected to a rack-mounted MPS-488HP IntelligentDC power supply, located in nearby rack rooms, that provide DC and audio signal over a single cable, simplifying the installations while maintaining the benefits of the self-powered solution.
“We’ve run this system at a constant 105dB with no distortion whatsoever, it’s lovely,” explains Richard Carter, director of facilities, Atlantis Dubai. “We’ve capped the volume below that due to permitted noise levels, but the space still offers a lively bar experience with a resident DJ every night.”
Immediately above Resonance is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – a fine-dining restaurant operated by the prominent chef that demands quality and an intimate atmosphere beyond just high decibels. As a result, the space is covered with a distributed solution of 32 Meyer Sound MM-4XP 4-inch active cabinets installed in a tight grid across the ceiling. Low-end accompaniment comes again from four MM-10XP 10-inch subs integrated around the perimeter. “This is a very serene dining room,” notes Carter. “The music is not loud, it’s a bespoke soundtrack that plays over the course of the evening.”
Coverage extends via the MM-4XPs into an adjacent glass-fronted Wine Room. “The whole room is an experience,” furthers Carter. “The Wine Room even has its own dedicated playlist, its own music. If a guest purchases particular bottles of wine, there’s a whole presentation they do with its own musical accompaniment.”
“The rationale behind opting for the smaller 4-inch speakers in this space is that they’re very easy to hide while still sounding great,” adds Granata. “As not a lot of sound pressure was required, we provided a very even distribution in the environment and you can hardly notice there are speakers. Somehow the guests can have the sensation that the sound is part of the extraordinary architecture of the place.” Like Resonance below, the space is zoned internally and externally, along with a private dining room fitted with ceiling speakers that have their own QSC controller.
A similar approach has been taken at La Mar, a Peruvian restaurant by Chef Gastón Acurio located on the second floor. The 3m-high ceiling has been outfitted with 21 MM-4XP miniature speakers to provide audio distribution throughout,
RAL colour matched with the décor in beige and white. Three MM-10XP subwoofers built into the point-of-sale system provide the necessary low end. Up on the third floor, Gastronomy is a food hall-style dining, 950-seat restaurant space, with two terraces and the audio individually zoned into 15 distinct areas. “We can individually control the sound over in the coffee area, the pizza area, or wherever, all separately via Q-SYS,” says Carter. “It gives us great flexibility.”
The extensive balcony area outside Gastronomy which overlooks the hotel’s SkyBlaze fountain is also healthily covered with UP4-XP and MM4-XPs. “When there’s a fountain show taking place, we mute the house system up here on the terrace and instead pump out the music from the show, all time-aligned to make everything sync up,” Carter explains. “This is again made possible by the site-wide Q-SYS control system.”
Given the unique dimensions of Gastronomy, tuning the audio coverage presented a big challenge. “It was not an easy area to work in, so we broke it up into many different sections to make everything more manageable,” notes Carter. “During commissioning, we spent a whole 12 hours in here, just tweaking the system and getting everything to sound consistent.”
Similar approaches to the audio have been taken in the hotel’s other 17 eating establishments. Ariana’s Persian Kitchen, an Iranian Restaurant, again uses UP4XPs; however, the speakers here have been recessed behind plasterwork leaving them completely invisible. “Jaleo, our Spanish restaurant by José Andrés, opted to do something similar by completely hiding the UP-4XPs behind beading that forms the décor,” says Carter. “You can’t see them unless you really know where to look.”
Atlantis The Royal’s jewel in the crown from an audio perspective can be found in the Ballroom, a 1,000m2 space divisible three ways. In its split configuration, each one of the three areas benefits from a pair of Meyer Sound CAL32 vertically steerable loudspeakers embedded into the wall behind bespoke gold grilles with a pair of MM-10 subwoofers. “That is just for one of the ballrooms, one-third of the overall space,” says Carter. “There are six of these CALs built in and firing across the room for when the false walls are in place. It can also be orientated the other way into one giant ballroom – for that, there’s a pair of larger CAL64s firing across the three partitions.”
To accommodate lectures and presentations in the ballrooms, Christie 4K7-HS and 4K10-HS laser projectors can be lowered from the ceiling at the rear. Venue operators also have basic control of the ballroom AV systems via iPads mounted on the back wall of each three smaller divisions. These run on an Extron NAV Pro AV-over-IP backbone, which distributes and switches lossless video and audio via Ethernet over the hotel network.
“These ballrooms simply sound spectacular with the CALs now in place,” enthuses Granata. “It’s a big space but the audio distribution of the CALs is very compact and that meant it was easy to make everything sound nice.”
A trip to Atlantis The Royal wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the 22nd-floor rooftop infinity pool lounge, Cloud 22. With views that give the impression of having The Palm at your feet, audio in the central areas comes from a combination of 32 RAL colour-coded, column-mounted UP-4XPs and 10 MM-10XPs. A further 45 MM4-XPs and 23 MM-10XPs reinforce the private cabanas running along each side.
Peering down over the edge of the infinity pool towards the ground floor area at its base neatly illustrates the significant audio obstacles for teams to negotiate at Atlantis The Royal – namely that it is constructed from a cacophony of separate structures all intermingled and woven together. As such, audio control and limiting spill became a major priority in outdoor areas, and was yet another situation where the Q-SYS control system came into its own. Q-SYS grants staff total control over the audio facilities in all parts of the building.
“Beyond the close confines of the various restaurants and outlets, one of our challenges here is that the building is half residential and half hotel. It’s absolutely imperative that we do not annoy our neighbours. Every restaurant has been carefully zoned and has at least one or two touch panels for local control. The venues have overall control of their volume and manage it accordingly,” shares Carter. “We then have a set upper limit for the outdoor areas as we have quite a lot of spaces in close proximity to each other and we’re trying to avoid too much spill. As you walk throughout the building, we aim to deliver about 62–65dB consistently, and you shouldn’t be able to notice much difference as you travel from one area to another.”
The extent of Meyer Sound’s presence within the hotel is so vast it’s tricky to appreciate. Thankfully the gargantuan scale isn’t an issue for Carter and his team when it comes to the day-to-day management. “It’s a massive place but, from the perspective of what I’m concentrating on, everything is relatively segregated. There is plenty of local control dotted around the necessary areas.” Should intervention by more qualified people be required, Carter has control of the whole venue’s audio capabilities via a QSC control app installed on his smartphone, which can be operated from anywhere on the hotel’s Wi-Fi network.
In terms of challenges, the supply of weatherproof paint for the UP-4s in external areas did introduce some unexpected delays to the installation process. “We had issues getting the right paint for the protected outdoor speakers,” explains Ghorayeb. “But when there is an unexpected delay on a project like this, the most important thing really is how you absorb that from the client’s perspective; how you coordinate everything subsequently. That was our priority.”
All-in-all over the course of approximately 18 months, the team at Systech Middle East facilitated the installation of upwards of 400 Meyer Sound loudspeakers, many of which were the original UP-4PX loudspeakers previously reproduced in a different shape. For its part, the American manufacturer went above and beyond to ensure that the necessary resources were brought quickly back into production to create the cabinet and make it available to Systech in record time. When everything was in, commissioning spanned less than three months in total.
“This project took place at a really critical moment and, overall, everything was finished on time for the grand opening,” concludes Granata. “The final result is superb, but couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work of all involved: Mediatech, Systech and GBM.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” concludes Carter. “Given that we have only been open for six weeks at this point, any problems that have arisen have been minimal. The programme is 98% written at this stage, we’re just modifying and tweaking some small things as we go.”