Ashly Simplifies and Updates System at the Unique Westminster Hotel

In a world awash in cookie-cutter chains, Westminster Hotel in Livingston, New Jersey is independently owned and operated, and it feels that way. It has a unique spin on all of the accommodations one would expect in an upscale, modern hotel, including spa services, pool and hot tub facilities, a fitness center, the award-winning Strip House restaurant, and banquet and meeting space – both inside and on its spacious, well-manicured grounds.

Prior to Westminster Hotel’s grand opening in 2003, A/V integration firm Essential Communications installed an extensive music playback and local sound reinforcement system with analog signal processing. The team recently returned to Westminster to update the head end with two digital Ashly ne24.24M network Protea™ matrix processors with modular I/O count, 15 Ashly neWR-5 wall panel network remote controls, and Ashly Remote, Ashly’s customizable iPad app for intuitive room combining.

“The original system had limited capabilities,” explained David Schwartz, founder and president of Essential Communications. “They had an analog matrix mixer with local controls and a rack of analog equalizers to customize each zone, but you can only do so much with that. As components of the processing system began to fail, the hotel gave the go-ahead to update everything to modern DSP and user control.” Because the existing amplifiers and loudspeakers were in fine shape, Schwartz and his team were able to leave them in place.

Because of the large number of common music sources and the very large number of local inputs, Schwartz ordered the two Ashly ne24.24Ms both with eight inputs (sixteen inputs total). He ordered them with twelve and sixteen outputs each (28 outputs total) to cover all the hotel’s zones.

“We tend to go with Ashly DSP because it’s flexible, powerful, and intuitive to program,” said Schwartz. “It’s amazing to me that we can replace two racks of analog processing with just these two Ashly DSP units [2RU each], and the new system is way more powerful and flexible.”

“I remember fifteen years ago when someone predicted that ‘in the future, there will be no buttons on the front of rack gear,’ and it seemed so unfathomable a concept! But here we are, and now I get it.” Schwartz continued.

It was impossible to pull any new cable, so the Essential Communications team made use of existing CAT5 cable that was already fed to each zone. The Ashly neWR-5 wall-mounted network user interface communicates with Ashly DSP units via a CAT5 network and allows users to intuitively select input sources and volumes. In all, fifteen neWR-5s now dot Westminster Hotel. A new power-over-Ethernet network switch powers the user interface network.

In addition, Schwartz programmed the Ashly Remote App for the iPad, iPad Mini or iPhone. It’s a free download. The customizable iPad app gives the Westminster staff the ability to intuitively combine rooms in the banquets spaces. A new router and wireless access points provide the necessary connectivity as well. Although it would have been possible to also provide zone source selections and volumes in the iPad app, in Schwartz’s view it’s simpler and more straightforward for the facility staff to keep that control at the neWR-5s only.

Now that the upgrade is completed, the Westminster Hotel management and staff is happy not only with the improved user interface, but also with the overall quality of the audio. The Ashly ne24.24M’s advanced processing allowed Essential Communications to dial each zone to perfection.