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ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 2009: Communications & Entertainment, Inc. (CEI) is an Atlanta-based design/build firm that specializes in a wide range of vertical markets within Georgia and throughout the nation. To turn the proverb on its head, CEI is both a jack and master of all trades through specialized divisions within the company and a unique and comprehensive network of contractors who are available to service client systems 24/7. In the hospitality division, veteran designer Troy Riner delivers a well-tuned, yet adaptable, template for clients such as the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group and the Sporting News Grill that almost always relies on an Ashly ne24.24M matrix processor and the Ashly WR-5 wall panel.

The ne24.24M provides ample horsepower behind the scenes to bend the system to Riner’s will, while the WR-5 presents a wonderfully simple interface so that restaurant managers can, in Riner’s words, “focus on their jobs without


Riner began working with CEI eleven years ago, when DSP was just starting to become a centerpiece of most installations. When his early “go to” box began clogging up for lack of processing overhead on more and more jobs, Riner turned to Ashly. These days, the ne24.24M forms the digital heart of most of his systems. “Twenty-four seems to be a magic number,” he said. “Twenty-four combinations of inputs and outputs will fit just about any design in the hospitality industry.”

Take, for example, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants (GBBR). With over 45 restaurants nationwide, and more popping up every year, Riner seems to be forever in the midst of designing or commissioning a system for the sports bar that doesn’t quite look like a sports bar. Unlike the dime-a-dozen sports establishments, a GBBR operation is never an uncontrolled riot of TV screens, and so the audio plays a greater role in its brand identity. Riner divides each GBBR establishment up into between seven and twelve zones, depending on its size. “As an engineer, I get to tweak the speakers and subwoofers in each zone with separate and ample dynamics and equalization so that the system sounds smooth and continuous,” said Riner. “But from the user’s perspective, the WR-5 interface is the real beauty of the system.”

The Ashly WR-5 is a microprocessor-based wall-mounted remote control unit with six designer-assignable function buttons, up/down keys, and an alphanumeric display. “For Gordon Biersch, I almost always use the function buttons to select different input sources, such as satellite receivers or background music services, and the up/down keys for volume,” Riner said. “When I commission a system, I do a training with the manager and the staff, but it’s kind of laughable. In under five minutes everyone understands it, and they probably would have understood it even with no training at all, since all the input sources are labeled and everyone has an intuition about what up/down keys should do in a music system.” By placing a relatively inexpensive WR-5 in each zone, there is no confusion about what is controlling what. “Best of all for me, it keeps the manager’s hands away from the equipment rack!”

Another application that was an equally great fit from the start was when The Sporting News Grill teamed up with Holiday Inn to create a “Sports Bar” in selected new Holiday Inns. David Collin, vice president of sales for CEI explained, “For this client, the use of an Ashly ne24.24M provided a means to define a spec that would ensure a high performing and user-friendly system for each developer. It was clear from the start that protecting the relationship that Holiday Inn and the Sporting News Grill created required a solution that would continue to support their brand.” This solution also could be used in the common areas of the Hotel and in particular, the banquet and meeting rooms. Again, Riner was tasked with creating the same sorts of user-friendly sound systems. Since the ne24.24M is networkable, setting up such a sprawling system is as easy as toting a laptop around the facility. Riner can handle all of the programming, both of the EQ curves, etc. and of the WR-5s, remotely from his laptop. “It’s a great convenience and saves me from running around,” he said.

Which is exactly what Riner needs! The busy designer maintains a healthy inbox of new projects while reliably commissioning jobs on schedule, with great sound and a foolproof user interface. It may not be the most glamorous work in the pro audio industry, but it is vital. And everyone respects a job well done.

ABOUT ASHLY AUDIO INC. With over a thirty-five year history, Ashly Audio Inc. is recognized as a world leader in designing and manufacturing quality signal processing equipment and power amplification for use in the commercial sound contracting and professional audio markets.

PHOTO CAPTION Exterior and interior shots of the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.