Ashly Amps Revamp Chicago Area Mall

Westfield_Hawthorn_MallBuilt in the early 1970s, Westfield Hawthorn Mall is located in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills. Its classic mall architecture boasts 4 anchor stores, 180 retail spaces, and 1.3 million square feet of space.

However, until recently, its sound system possessed the lifeless quality of 1970s-era contractor-grade components. Music was low-fidelity, speech was of poor intelligibility, and volume throughout was too loud during slow times and too quiet during busy times. Renaissance Communications Systems, located nearby in Franklin Park, Illinois, overhauled Westfield Hawthorn Mall’s sound system. In addition to replacing the ceiling speakers, Renaissance also gave the mall modern auto-leveling control and multi-zone support using two Ashly Audio ne8800M 8-In x 8-Out Protea™ DSP System Processors and two 8-channel Ashly ne8250.70 Network Amplifiers.

“Certainly, one big issue was the sound quality itself,” said Mike Shares, CEO with Renaissance. “The components needed to be modernized. Beyond that, they were having problems with the volume control. First, the system wasn’t zoned properly, so low-ceiling areas had to share the same volume with high-ceiling areas such that neither area could be ideal. Moreover, traffic in the mall varies widely; it’s very slow on a weekday afternoon but very busy on a weekend afternoon or in the rush up to the holidays. The management wanted the sound system to play at appropriate volumes without having to manually track it. They have enough other things to worry about.”

Shares divided the system into thirteen zones based on location, purpose, and ceiling height. Input sources to each zone may be selected independently, and the target volume-over-noise in each zone may also be selected independently. Sensing microphones in several of the zones feed the pair of Ashly ne8800M Protea™ Digital Processors, which analyze the ambient noise and adjust the music or paging output to hit the target sound pressure level. A pair of Ashly ne8250.70 8-Channel Network Power amplifiers deliver 250-Watts per channel to all thirteen zones while taking-up only 4 rack spaces. Nearly 200 full-fidelity Community D6 loudspeakers now deliver the background music with modern impact and convey pages with crystal-clear intelligibility. Of course, paging and alarm overrides provide Westfield Hawthorn Mall patrons with a secure environment.

“I’ve been using Ashly for twelve years now, and I’ve always had excellent results,” said Shares. “The equipment is extremely reliable, and its five-year warranty was a selling point for the client. I have a good relationship with the Ashly support staff, and they helped with the most efficient plan for Westfield Hawthorn Mall. The ambient noise detection and adjustment feature in the Protea software works very well, and the fact that we could fit all of the processing and amplifier channels into just 8 rack spaces was great. That saves space and power consumption.” Based on the success of Westfield Hawthorn Mall, Renaissance has already secured another mall renovation job, where Shares will again use Ashly processing and amplification to deliver excellent performance at a fiercely competitive price.