Recommend speakers for a restaurant sound system

My company is opening a restaurant this summer. We want to install a great system that will be rugged enough to stand up to daily use but still deliver a great sound.

The space is 3600 square feet and the ceiling height is 20+ feet. We will be installing a spray on soundproofing system for the ceiling to reduce sound reflection.

I have been underwhelmed by the commercial systems that are sold for commercial applications. Can anyone suggest speaker systems and amplifiers that would deliver great sound?

The systems I have listened to are: (1) too bright, (2) too muddy with a significant loss of detail and (3) total lack of dynamic range.

We don't have an unlimited budget, maybe $5k to $7k for an amp and three sets of speakers.
Acoustics shouldn't be overlook and taken into consideration.
Placement would be second as well as track record and reliability.

As to recommendations:
Look into Parasound Zone amps. Wyred4Sound amp are also great and can be customized to your needs. Speaker wise, I like Totem in-wall/ceiling speakers.
Link to more info

Huge area to cover. May want to consider something like this

Can contact Klipsch and talk to someone about their Commercial sound systems.
There are some audiophile grade speakers made for in-wall and in-ceiling. I've heard in-ceiling Triad loudspeakers and they were excellent. Also, Mirage makes a series of in-ceiling omnidirectional loudspeakers with titanium coated poly mid/woofers and titanium dome tweeters.

Parasound also makes a full line of in-wall and in-ceiling loudspeakers and an in-wall sub.
Here is a Klipsch Professional brochure with specs
Slightly confused. Is the music for you when the restaurant is empty or the customers? If I am in a restaurant with people and all kind of activities, I don't think I will be listening critically for any music (unless they are too loud). So it seems to me money can be better spent elsewhere.

Having said that, if you want to impress your customers, Martin Logan will always invite admiration (if nothing else, just for the looks). I still remember many years ago, some stereo shop put a pair of Martin Logan in the food court of a Toronto shopping mall, people were mesmerized and couldn't understand how music can be coming from a perforated surface.
The only PA system that even reasonably impressed me had TOA speakers. Their mini arrays spread the sound more evenly around a larger room and can be configured in many ways. A Bryston integrated should be enough juice.
Stick to something like JBL pro series or JBL EON - don't spend a fortune on great sounding speakers that sound great that your staff will all too easily blow up when cleaning up after the late shift. Consumer speakers are great sounding but they aren't robust.
Though rightfully sneered at for high end home use, the Bose 901's might be the ticket.
I have a little experience in this area, and I agree with Millicurie. Unless you are opening a supper club or dinner theater, music will just be background noise and no one is really going to notice the quality of your music delivery.

Also, with such a large area you are probably going to require multiple speakers and placement will be more for even coverage than best musical fidelity. There are decent commercial speaker systems that sound OK - not great but probably good enough under all of the talking, plates dropping, waiters and bus staff.

Good luck
I have been very impressed with Westlake audio monitors in their ability to fill up any room with superb fidelity sound.

the price is higher than most but if you get a used pair it certainly would be worth it
I have been very impressed with Westlake audio monitors in their ability to fill up any room with superb fidelity sound.

I agree - they are the cat's meow but you are talking mega-bucks to buy even a pair. A modest sized BBSM-6F is like 3K.
What kind of music are you planning to play? That is important to decide the system spec.
One thing I forgot to mention: if you are planning to locate speakers throughout the restaurant space and wire them up to a "central" amp, consider using powered monitors instead. No cable length/timing/impedence issues to worry about, and if you plan it right you can connect the speakers directly to your source. Also, you will have an easier time mixing speaker sizes for different parts of the space (a lounge area, for example, may require less speaker than a main dining room).

Yes, you will need AC drops wherever you plan to locate the speakers, but that is usually no problem. Small monitors from Audioengine and Yamaha, larger units from Definitive Technology, Martin Logan, Meridian and PMC; to name a few.
I have open several restaurants with my father, and we both are into hifi. However, like others said, unless its a club or a dinner theater, nobody is going to care. We normally install w/e ceiling speaker is the cheapest and most efficient.

However, one thing i do notice is that for a typical restureaunt, customers like a soft and warm inviting sound that doesn't disturb their convo or peace time. If it were me, i will purchase those insignia bookshelves and place them all over with parasound zamps. They dislike harsh, bright sound with too much bass.

They are cheap speakers, but the sound from them with a good quality amp is warm and full. It has a reasonable thump to them as well. When I am not listening to my ATCs, i would turn on a pair of insignias just to relax and eat dinner.
I assume visual aesthetics are important? Black boxes hung in corners are ugly to my eyes.. if you can't do in-wall, how about something different.. check out Gallo's little satellites, I believe they come in a variety of colors.
Is it restaurant or night lounge?
Check out the new restaurant to open in NYC by Daniel. NY Times did an article on it last Sunday. Mentioned was the outfit that did the sound system and how the music is programmed. I know, it is in the mega bucks league, but still you will pick up some good ideas. A must is a visit so you can see what mega expertise can do/buy.
Jkeniley, we voiced our opinions and we are all curious. Let us hear from you again!!
I'd go with mirage omnis, which can be used as wall or ceiling mounts--they are very detailed despite dispersing over a very wide area and sound quite full range for a small, non-descript enclosure. to power them you could get a multizone receiver such as a niles--i'm guessing you'll need 12 or so speakers--or you can save some bucks and get a 6-speaker selector (niles and sima both make models with seperate volume controls, so you can adjust the volume in different zones of the restaurant) and power it with a big honkin amp like a carver (300w +)--these are available very inexpensively here or on ebay. if you're a real purist, you can add two or so powered subs (experiment with placement), but i'd run the set-up with just the speakers first and see how it sounds.
I love JBL but couldn't imagine a speaker less suited to relaxed dinner conversation than the shriek of an Aeon. I really do like JBL. If you contract with them they will put in a beautiful theater type rig. Klipsh is also too distracting. Get something with some warmth but not blurr. Avoid pro with a few costly exceptions.
Agreed about the JBL Aeon series - blech. I've heard several rooms with architectural speaker products from both Genelec (the AIC25 and AIW 25/26 - both are active and bypass amplification requirements) and EAW whose SMS surface mount speakers are quite nice. Both are highly regarded professional monitoring/loudspeaker companies and make fine products for commercial applications. Try to avoid home or "prosumer" products in a commercial environment - buy products designed for the job they are supposed to do.

There's a local business that combines -odd as it seems- a high end audio dealership with a Yoga studio. He sells Vandys and has model 1s (if I recall correctly) suspended from the ceiling of his Yoga studio. It's always sounded nice (and suitably relaxing for Yoga - or dinner) when I've passed thru.

speakers are not nearly as important as the amp. Speakers need to be evenly spaced throughout. You need something like a Sonance 12 channel amp so there is a separate amp for each pair of speakers...this makes a huge difference!
I've done several installations like this with inwalls and the sound has been great.
I love how people start threads "askimg specific questions" but yet never seem to drop back by after asking the orginal question. IMHO it's somewhat rude. Seriously how hard is stop back by and thank people for their input, and maybe even elaborate more on the question asked. It really is a "two-way street" and truth is we all get to learn something that we might have never known and that's a good thing.

Thanks for your generous response to my question. I am sorry that I did not answer you over the last few days. I have been traveling and have not had the time to get back to the posting.

Let me see if I can answer some of your questions and provide feedback where appropriate.

The restaurant is in Cambridge, MA near MIT. We are building what the brits call a "gastropub". The food is not fancy but is made from scratch on premise. We are also installing 100 beer taps and will be serving draft beer from craft brewers around the world. The neighborhood crowd is very smart and sophisticated without being snobby.

The restaurant is in the middle of the biotech corridor in Cambridge so we get a corporate lunch and happy hour crowd. For dinner, late night and the weekends we get a 21 to 35 crowd.

During the day we are planning on playing lighter music like the classic 50's bebop jazz standards. At night all bets are off. We could be playing anything.

We are planning to rip my music collection (CD's and vinyl) to a PC and then use some of the search programs available on the web. I am going to use a touchscreen behind the bar to do the searching. I have been researching external USB DAC's to convert the signal to analog.

Many of the local bars/Restaurants use Pandora ( downloaded to a PC or an ipod to do their song programming. We are going to look into that too (I will not do it off an ipod, I don't like the way they sound)

As some of you surmised, we will need more than 4 speakers. I think it is going to take at least 8 speakers (and maybe 12 as LoomisJohnson suggested) to fill the space.

Depending on how it sounds, I may have to install subs too.

Some of you suggested the klipsch speakers. I will audition the the Klipsch but, I am not a fan of the Klipsch speakers coupled with a solid state amp/preamp. I always find the klipsch too bright. (I had in-wall Klipsch speakers in my house. I took them out because they were too bright) I am an old Heresy owner too.

I like the Totem speakers. I think it would be interesting to mount the smaller monitors from the ceiling.

I also like planar speakers (I own a set of heavily modified maggies). I did not realize that ML was making a variety of in-wall speakers. I am not sure we can afford to mount 8 of the martin logan in-walls but I will preview them at the local dealer.

I have not heard the TOA's, Westlakes, Genelec, EAW or the Sonance. The Mirage line looked interesting too. I will check out all of them and report back.

I remember how all of the record stores in Boston (way back when) used the Bose 901's mounted from the ceiling. I thought they always sounded good. They are cheap, I have to check and see if they are relatively efficient. I can't afford to buy 6 big amps to power them. Thanks for the interesting suggestion.

I have always had a bias against the commercial speakers and amps. Right or wrong, I never thought much of the quality of the products. having said that, I think the market has changed dramatically.

I think I will have to go with a commercial preamp like the parasound so that I have enough inputs and outputs to have design flexibility. I would love to power the system with a massive Class A amp(s), but as many of you have suggested, it may not be practical (I am going to try it). So I am going to look at the Class D amps like the Sonance and see how they sound.

We are in the process of doing the architectural design we will not be building until late July. I will keep you up to date as I try out your suggestions. I am going to NYC next week and I will go to Daniel to see the installation in that place.

Thanks again for your suggestions.
Ripping your CD collection to play in a commercial establishment doesn't sound like a good idea from a rights/licensing POV. So reserve some of that money for proper licensing fees (or lawsuit settlements!).

I do appreciate good audio and good lighting and all the things that make up great restaurant ambience. A good audio experience in a restaurant comes from good acoustics and noise control, then good song selection and proper VOLUME settings. Commercial use equipment is designed for ruggedness not high end sound. You'll have all sorts of waiters and bartenders getting their greasy mitts all over the controls in a fairly messy environment - get something rugged and reliable designed for commercial use - with multiple zone volume controls, PA/mic override so you can make announcements over the music - you may not need that. Crown amps come to mind ... Good luck and cheers!

I still don't get it. You want a high performance system for very low cost (8 speakers and subs etc etc. no less with audiophile quality but industrial ruggedness and all for mere 5 to 7K!!). It does not exist. Panels would be just plain silly. The reason I suggested the cheap robust and relatively good sounding JBL EON 510 - at 600 bucks a pop eight of these would cost you 5K leaving some money for wall mounts and a mixer and perhaps one EON 518S subwoofer (since these speakers all come with built in crown amps).

I think you may need to come down to earth - audiophile like quality in sound systems for commercial venues is actually extremely expensive. You could stick some audiophile speakers in your pub but unless you have complete control on your staff (probably students) I bet they will be blown after the first month. I could recommend some great systems such as what they have at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in London but your are looking at mega-bucks.
Parasound is an excellent choice for your application for preamp and especially power amps. I recommend their new classic line to my pro customers. Also look at Mogami raw cable. They make a co-ax speaker cable that is very open sounding and inexpensive.
Gdoodle - you are correct that playing copyrighted music in a commercial setting will require a license from ASCAP/BMI to do so - but to clarify, it is the playing (the performance), not the ripping that is the issue. I would have the same issue if I decided to read aloud my copy of Harry Potter to the restaurant clientele as a regular event.

I also think that a nice sound system is generally wasted in a restaurant setting given the volumes.

Funny story - there is a a chain of sandwich/baked-goods restaurants in my area and I noticed that they had Bose mini-speakers located throughout one of the local stores. One day, I was sitting in the back corner of the restaurant on the end of a set of bar stools (where no one often sits unless it is very crowded). I kept hearing this thumping noise. It was sort of a one beat thump, very distorted and "one note". After I finished eating, I looked around and up in the corner mounted against the ceiling was the Bose subwoofer to accompany the mini-speakers positioned at the front of the restaurant. Hilarious.
If it were my business, I'd subscribe to XM radio service, which has fantastic variety and is available very inexpensively. ASCAP/RIAA are actually quite aggressive about collecting royalties for unauthorized commercial use of copyrighted music (I know a number of businesses which have been thus hassled).
Get the license from ASCAP/BMI, you'll have to pay fees to someone and this way you can do what you want, including having live music. (Very frustrating that original bands can't be booked into a place that doesn't pay ASCAP! They are Nazis and will harass you till you pay.)
As for music not making a difference, that seems like saying ambiance doesn't matter. Most people can't/won't articulate their opinion of sound quality but they DO notice. I've seen this for years in pro sound. Most bands don't put much into their sound system because they think the audience can't tell the difference. A perfect example of what really happens was when one band redid their sound using Daedalus speakers, everyone asked why they spent so much money when no one will really hear the difference live? Well they consistently sold TEN times the CD's at shows with the new sound system. People didn't articulate that they enjoyed the show more because of the higher quality sound but they did talk with their wallets!
So good on you for trying to do it right!
good luck,