Note: This feature was first published on 15 July 2021.
When social distancing measures highlighted the banning of music within the retail food and beverage industry, many F&B operators collectively rolled their eyes and heaved a defeated yet understanding sigh. The banning of tunes underscored the importance of high-quality audio - a crucial aspect to delivering a comprehensive, enjoyable dining-out experience.
Imagine, with all these measures in place, our surprise when BernieSound reached out to tell us it has managed to incorporate a high-quality speakerless audio system on behalf of popular F&B chain, Wine Connection.
We had many questions. Why speakerless audio when conventional F&B audio solutions are widely accepted across the industry? How was it possible? Why now, when music is not allowed? To our pleasure, we’ve managed to catch up with Dominic Schober, General Manager (F&B Division) of Wine Connection, and the team distributing BernieSound in Singapore - Regional Director Kamil Jumat, and Managing Director Will Rimba.
BernieSound said that conventional speaker systems (especially those in bars and restaurants) faced several constraints. Not only do classic speakers have a limited audio field per speaker, but these units also don’t always blend in with the restaurant’s decor. Wine Connection chimed in to state how important its aesthetic was preserved without compromising the overall dining out experience. For example, conventional speakers would’ve been uncomfortable for patrons seated too near to one, or that these speakers simply don’t rock the look of Wine Connection when needed.
BernieSound proceeded to pull a little gadget out of their bags:
This is the VST30 transducer (with a volume knob and extra foam add-on). The actual transducer is the grille layer beneath the foam chunk. BernieSound said the transducer alone is responsible for speakerless audio, to which the brand called it Vibration Sound Transfer.
The principles to make Vibration Sound Transfer work is simple - instead of relying on speakers, the transducer turns the surface it’s attached to into a speaker. As a result, sound, in the form of vibration, is diffused across the surface. Each VST30 transducer can cover 15 to 20sqm (the size of an average 3- to 4-room HDB living room).
According to the team, VST30 works on almost any surface for diffusing music. Glass, artificial walls, metal doors, wooden crates - all of which were present at WineConnection’s outlet in New Tech Park at Lorong Chuan. The only materials where VST30 doesn’t work on are stone-based or concrete, so brick walls and cement surfaces were out of the question.
Nonetheless, turning any surface into a wall sounds fantastic, even unreal. As if to make its point, BernieSound proceeded to turn the very table we were seated at into a vibration speaker by playing a song via Bluetooth off its phone source.
Both BernieSound and Wine Connection said they worked closely with its interior design team (IDHaus) and Atlas Sound and Vision to make the transducers succeed in delivering music that’s heard, not seen. In essence, Wine Connection’s Lorong Chuan outlet has a total of eight transducers - all hidden from plain sight - covering its 2,700sqft (250.8sqm) floorspace for the ultimate dining in, musical experience. The transducers were mostly hidden inside crates, behind walls, and above false ceilings, and audio playback was done wirelessly.
The highlight of their live demonstration was the audio quality these transducers could deliver - you’re never too near or too far away from the music, as each surface permeates your immediate surroundings with its massive soundstage. There wasn’t any audio lag or delay when moving from one transducer to the next, either.
If you’re a stickler for appearances, you’ll be amazed to know that the transducers were better than ninjas at hiding in plain sight. Unless we went hunting for one, the VST30s are nowhere to be found, although it’s evident that music comes from well-disguised furniture. BernieSound said that the flexibility of its affordable transducers make it a great complementary choice for homeowners who want to fill audio gaps in their residential domains, where their impressive sound systems cannot reach. Wine Connection couldn’t be more chuffed at how simple it was to use them.
Part of the demo was also about how both technology and the F&B industry are inescapably intertwined. As consumers like ourselves demand better dining out experiences, Wine Connection’s decision to prepare for a grander, opened-up future is one where they saw the value of hidden audio for its diners. So instead of waiting for the pandemic to blow over, Wine Connection decided that the lull in footfall was one of the best times to implement what could be the next step forward in dining-in ambience - music and its technologies. It just happened that BernieSound was able to do it - sensibly and beautifully.
If you’re itching for that hidden audio experience (after the easing of measures), they can be found at Wine Connection Cheese Bar at Frankel Avenue, as well as Wine Connection Bistro at New Tech Park, Lorong Chuan. If you’re interested in incorporating the transducer into your shop or home, the folks at BernieSound are located at Tong Building (302 Orchard Road), #07-03.
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