Bad in store music is like a paper cut. When it happens, it overrides all other senses.
Whereas great retail audio is seamless to the point of being taken for granted. But like all things effortless, good audio flow in a complex retail space requires experience, knowledge and careful planning. Future Dimensions Media’s installation expert, Hardus le Roux, talks us through the tricks of the audio installation trade.
Hardus has always loved music. He plays electric and acoustic guitar, piano and drums and on top of practising daily, he obtained a diploma in Sound Engineering from the Academy of Sound Engineers. He remembers walking around shopping malls wondering who did the planning, genre selection and speaker installation. And now he’s that guy.
What’s the most difficult installation you’ve ever done?
Every project has its own challenges. Stores with multiple levels are difficult as you first need to locate the cable rooting, which can be hard in an old store. Westville Pavilion in Durban is the perfect example of a store where the data room is in the basement, which requires a lot of cabling.
You do audio installation for the Woolworths group. Their stores generally have several sections. Are some areas easier than others, and why?
Yes, I definitely prefer the food market and Café areas. Textiles have a ceiling grid with delicate, expensive boards that need to be removed before working inside the roof. The food market is usually an open roof layout with cable trunking across the store. It’s much easier to mount speakers when you can run cable inside the trunking.
Do you ever have the store to yourself to do a sound check before opening?
No, which is why planning and making sure every corner is covered with sound is so important.
Most of the stores have the same type of construction but the layout will be different. We already have a good formula and know what type of equipment works best.
What speakers do you use?
We generally use Bosch ceiling speakers in the textiles section and DSPPA wall-mount speakers in the food market section.
How do you keep the sound in different sections from competing?
Each zone – food court, café and textiles – has its own amplifier and media player, to control the volume and playlist of each zone separately.
How long does it take to do the audio installation of a large store? And how many speakers do you use per square meter?
It usually takes four days. Two days to install each zone’s speakers, with the amplifiers and media players. And two days to run the cabling and wire the speakers. In a food market with 10 aisles, every aisle will have a speaker at each end. In textiles we’ll place parallel speakers every six to seven meters.