With 21 locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, area, Mi Cocina has become a regional dining institution since opening in Dallas’ upscale Preston Forest district in 1991. ‘You have to evolve and move with the times,’ warns Danny Salinas of AlleyCat AV, who has designed and installed networked sound systems in at least eight restaurants in the past year. ‘There’s so much competition down here, you have to be better than everybody else if you want to stay alive.’

Recently, Mi Cocina decided this involved a sound system upgrade and called Salinas, who had collaborated on an earlier project. Mi Cocina’s owners at the M Crowd Restaurant Group decided to start with its West Village location.

Mi Cocina

A well-appointed establishment graced with its own art gallery, Mi Cocina West Village is a sizable venue containing a lounge and a private seating area, in addition to the main dining and bar areas. Salinas recommended starting with the bar, but the network he would install for that room would be more than capable of handling all of the rooms.

Salinas installed a Symetrix Prism 4x4 DSP as the core of the system. He retained the existing passive speakers and analogue amplifiers and installed a Symetrix xOut 12 Dante-to-analogue output expander, adding 12 mic/line outputs to feed the analogue amplifiers.

The old sound system relied on walls commandeered by multiple control panels. Salinas set up a Symetrix ARC-Web virtual user interface for browser-based control of the Symetrix system, then replaced the multitude of control panels with just two Symetrix ARC3 wall panels. Salinas observes that Symetrix makes things even easier by remembering the small things, such as an easy way to integrate user devices with headphone jacks. ‘Even the 3.5mm to Euroblock cables I use come from Symetrix,’ he confirms. ‘It’s perfect. I don’t have to make cables, and they work great. I rely on them.’

When live musicians come to play in the bar or the restaurant, they plug into XLR jacks that route into the network. The Prism routes the performance only to the bar or to any combination of zones in the venue. Recorded music was also an issue – with as many venues as M Crowd operates, the company knows exactly what crowd it will have in any room at a given hour and what kind of music that crowd most wants to hear. Sallinas put together a scheduled playlist system, with up to 300 tracks in each playlist, so there can be great variety in the music, yet the playlists set the mood the owners want in each space.

Salinas keeps coming back to Symetrix products because of their versatility, which make it simple for him to satisfy specialised requirement like Mi Cocina’s music routing: ‘I love the flexibility of the Symetrix system,’ he declares. ‘I love that I can manipulate the sound for each speaker. Maybe I want one speaker to have more low end because it’s on one side, while I want this other speaker to give me more midrange because it’s over there. I can cater to the environment, and I can do it on the fly, live. That is a really big deal.’

The system in West Village is working out great, and Salinas is quick to credit M Crowd with making the commitment to do the job well. ‘This isn’t your low-end contractor-series system,’ he admonishes. ‘They put in time and a bit of money to create this.’

Carefully planning a system and getting it right can pay big rewards, especially when it results in a large-scale project to roll out similar systems in dozens of other venues, a few at a time. That’s what Salinas will be doing for a while, as his client was so pleased with the West Village install that he will now perform similar upgrades to the audio systems throughout the Mi Cocina chain. For Salinas, the adaptability of Symetrix’s hardware and software are a big part of the projects’ success. ‘There are so many little tricks you can use,’ he suggests. ‘With Symetrix DSPs, you can be creative and manipulate sound to do just about anything you want. I am pretty excited about it.’

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