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The Bedfordshire countryside in south eastern England, next to a well-used ‘A’ road, is an unlikely setting for a ground-breaking audio installation, the first in the UK to maximize the powerful networking features of Electro-Voice's new NetMax N8000 audio processing and matrix system, used with the IRIS-Net software platform.

The Amalfi Suite, the adjacent Vesuvio Restaurant, and the overarching Sharnbrook Hotel are, in theory, three separate entities, but, under the ownership of the Ciampi family, they become the answer to many a company prayer – an easily accessible conference facility with heaps of parking space, separate bar and restaurant, and extensive accommodation on site.


Built from scratch in the latter part of 2006, the venue's 2007 diary is already packed with reservations from local companies for the endlessly flexible combination of meeting facilities. 


The cleverly planned Amalfi Suite uses a moveable wall system. The same space that can host a wedding breakfast for 300 guests can be divided into 3 small conference rooms for 40 people each, or a conference room with private dining room, or a theatre-style lecture hall for 80, 120 or 250. Direct access, plus dedicated bar facilities, enhance its corporate appeal, and make it perfect for large social events.


Flexibility is further increased by the potential of the Vesuvio restaurant next door, which has 120 covers, and can be used in conjunction with any or all of the function room spaces in the Amalfi Suite. Both venues have their own separate bars.


Venue operators the Ciampi family called in local installation company A.I.S (Audio Installation Services) of Bedford to devise an audio system that would not only match this flexibility, but also enhance the environments. Luke Magliaro of A.I.S. in turn called in the services of David Howe of Shuttlesound, Projects Support Specialist for Electro-Voice in the UK.


"Initially, the design brief from the client was pretty straightforward," explains David, "they simply wanted to send any audio signal from any area into any other area of the hotel. Not an unreasonable request but managing all the local inputs from the function suite, conference rooms, bars, restaurant and the multiple satellite TV and CD/DVD sources in some form of logical, and most importantly non-technical manner, using conventional analogue mixers and patch panels would have been quite a tall order."


The Electro-Voice NetMax N8000 audio processing and matrix system was the obvious choice for both David Howe and Luke Magliaro, who was already specifying Electro-Voice speakers throughout the venue. The N8000 is a fully programmable DSP (digital signal processor) engine with an extensive array of audio processing devices available. There are a wide variety of mixer and matrix routing devices plus a complete armoury of all the usual toolbox items like multiple parametric and graphic EQ filter options, crossovers, delays, compressors, duckers and ambient noise compensation devices. Says David Howe, "because it is digital, the designer has complete control over where each device is placed in the signal path. This sort of technology really helps to future-proof a system because it can be completely reconfigured if the clients' requirements ever change."


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Opening of The Sharnbrook Hotel, Bedford