Top down sound
An all-Yamaha sound system is staying hidden from view at Dubai’s new Toplum restaurant. Simon Luckhurst keeps a lookout
Dubai is certainly no stranger to new restaurants. Tourists need great places to eat and nowhere is more reliant on the tourist-minded entertainment sector than Dubai. But, typically, the trend is that bigger is better – and the glitzier it is, the better yet still. So, it was refreshing when Toplum sprang onto the scene in Mirdif City Centre Shopping Mall. In contrast to the city’s usual eateries, Toplum is all about natural simplicity, bringing guests an eclectic blend of Mediterranean food from a variety of cultures.
The restaurant promotes social-style dining with food designed to be easily shared among large groups. It’s not all about the food though, and Toplum is keen to highlight the entire experience guests are offered. It describes itself as providing a ‘memorable energy flowing through our kitchen, staff, baristas and patrons’. For a restaurant located in the heart of a busy shopping mall, it certainly had its work cut out to make good on its promise.
This also added an extra level of consideration to the venue’s audio design. The social-style dining concept encourages the use of a larger audio system to overcome the bustling ambience, yet Toplum’s focus on nature means that bulky and unsightly cabinets can’t simply be placed in the corners of rooms. The task of overcoming this predicament was handed to Thomsun Trading, largely as a result of the specific Yamaha solutions it could offer in the form of high-quality, high-output ceiling speakers.
“We decided to upgrade our sound capabilities for our newest restaurant location as, during the opening of our original restaurant, audio and music were never a priority,” explains Sheikha Al Mheiri, founder of MAD Investments, the company responsible for launching and managing Toplum. “We wanted to focus on this previously neglected element for our new restaurant to complete the overall dining experience of our customers.”
Sticking to Toplum’s simple ideals, Thomsun decided to stay solely within the Yamaha portfolio for the project. ‘The client went shopping for speakers from several different distributors but settled with us as we could provide the whole solution in a single package,’ notes Thomsun Trading business development manager, Mikhail Sujan. ‘The requirements were for flush-mount speakers capable of producing equal distribution of sound from a ceiling height of 5m.’
Solving the primary challenge of not imposing on Toplum’s natural ambience, Yamaha’s 8-inch VXC8W cabinets provide the main reinforcement across the restaurant’s three main zones – the dining, non-alcoholic bar and seated areas. These are accompanied by Yamaha’s 10-inch VXS10ST surface mount subwoofers for low-end support, all driven by XMV 4280 amplifiers. Background music is played through a Deezer application on an iPad that also integrates with Yamaha’s MusicCast application. The iPad is connected to a MusicCast WXC 50 over Wi-Fi, allowing staff to freely tweak the output from any location. The WXC 50, in turn, feeds Yamaha’s MTX3 speaker management processor, which outputs to the XMV amps. Working alongside Pinnacle Interiors LLC to install the speakers, it took the Thomsun project team just under a week to complete the project, before thorough system tuning and commissioning was performed by Thomsun’s Titto Cherian Joseph.
“To give the client full flexibility, we installed a MusicCast system, the WXC 50. This allows staff to playback music via any MusicCast-compatible application on smart devices,” explains Sujan. “If additional control is required or as a backup in case of intermittent Wi-Fi, we also installed a DCP4V4S zone controller unit.”
It’s rare to see a restaurant space such as Toplum receive reinforcement solely from in-ceiling speakers and subwoofers but, nevertheless, the result has met everybody’s expectations. “The only real challenge we faced was the height of the speakers from the false ceiling,” says Sujan. “At a few positions, we were unable able to position the speaker due to the fire pipes and AC duct above the ceiling. We had to make a few alterations to the design onsite as we went.”
A quick look at the multitude of glowing online reviews for Toplum and it’s clear that Thomsun made the right choice in opting for hidden ceiling speakers. There are as many patrons commenting on the stunning interior decór as they do its culinary delights. Similarly, Toplum’s management is vindicated by its decision to put the emphasis on sound and music.
“Since opening, the acoustics enjoyed from our new Yamaha equipment have been great and the feedback from our customers has been very positive. The ambience created and the even dispersion of sound across the restaurant makes it a very relaxing environment, despite being inside a busy mall,” concludes Sheikha Al Mheiri. “Our experience with Thomsun’s installation team was also very consultative – they shared their experiences and provided insights during the construction phase that complemented the overall design of the restaurant, while also ensuring that the audio experience was never compromised. Overall, the team at MAD Investments and Toplum are very satisfied with our choice of equipment. We’re now considering something similar for our future openings or upgrades.”