Inspired by classic prairie-style, early 20th-century architecture and design and featuring soft lighting, rich wood, masonry, and etched glass, The Shops at Willow Bend shopping centre oozes Texas ambience paired with contemporary convenience. Anchored by Dillard’s, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus, the big mall presents a wide variety of stores, including a focus on home décor shops. Sitting in a sweet spot along the Dallas Parkway, the North Dallas-area mall continues to grow, with new spaces still in development.
“My partner designed the original system there 15 years ago, and we’ve overseen and maintained it ever since, replacing and fixing the amps and so on,” begins Senior Systems Engineer Patrick Burke of Dallas systems integrator BBD Technology Group. “But the system needed a lot of updating. They had an outdated old DSP and a computer that was still running Windows 98. We’ve been after them for years to replace that old DSP, and recently they agreed to our proposal to install a Symetrix Prism 16×16 with an xIO 4×4 Dante-enabled analogue I/O expander. The Prism and Dante let us improve and expand their system in ways we couldn’t have done before.”
A 45-year industry veteran, Burke was an early adopter of DSP systems and has long been a fan of Symetrix processors. “Symetrix has always been a brand I like,” he confirms. “Symetrix sound quality is excellent, their DSPs are reliable, and they’re easy for me to work with. Of course, a true understanding of analogue electronics is required to program any DSP. Gain structure is a crucial issue. But assuming you know what you’re doing, Symetrix Composer software makes the job a lot easier. For The Shops at Willow Bend, we built a GUI using Symetrix software, which we haven’t done before. It’s working very well.”
The main mall requires five audio zones, with another eight zones in the parking garages. “We’ve got messages that play in the parking garages, music that plays in the main mall, emergency messages that play in the main mall and the garages, and paging that plays everywhere,” Burke relates. “We are going to install another Symetrix xIO 4×4 expander to serve a new area outside some restaurants by the Dillard’s store, and we’ll pass signal back and forth to the main unit and create another DSP string for sound going to the outside area.”
The mall’s loudspeakers are old but serviceable, and Burke is not inclined to replace them. “They have more than 400 ceiling speakers that have been there for 15 years,” he explains. “They still work, and they don’t sound bad. We have five Crown CTs 1600 power amplifiers and eight Crown CTs 200s in the central control room.”
BBD replaced the ancient Windows 98 PC with a new HP computer running Windows 10, including a touchscreen to run the new custom GUI. “Right now we’re trying to get it on their network so their operations guy can pull up the GUI on his machine and control volumes and such,” Burke expounds. “Security does it right now, and they have to go back into the rack room. I’ve got them providing me with a fibre link between the two racks, with a copper transceiver, so we can do Dante between the main machine and the other rack. I really like Dante, and with the Symetrix Prism, we now have a system that can handle all that.”
Although the upgraded system is up and running, the BBD team is by no means finished at The Shops at Willow Bend. “This mall is one of the few brick-and-mortar places that’s still surviving and growing,” he observes. “The client is happy with the improvements, and they continue to invest in the upgrade, so this project is expanding, and I see more work coming. Symetrix Prism DSPs with Dante enable us to build out the system as needed to accommodate their growth. It’s a very interesting project, and I’m enjoying it.”