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Genelec bridges the gap between sound and silence at Lili Time Café, Shanghai

Genelec bridges the gap between sound and silence at Lili Time Café, Shanghai

China – "Deafness isn’t the opposite of hearing. It’s a silence full of sound," famous playwright Mark Medhoff astutely observes. Sadly, the condition of deafness is one that is often misunderstood, or worse neglected in our society. LiLi Time, a café located on the busy Mengzi Road in Shanghai, is an exception; cultivating a community where people that are deaf or hard of hearing can feel comfortable and their experience has now been enhanced with a Genelec G Series loudspeaker system.

There is, of course, very good reasoning behind this decision. Sound exists within the physical realm: it is essentially "touch at a distance" as neuroscientist Diana Deutsch of the University of California in San Diego claims, and deaf people can still experience music through vibrations of air molecules. Zhang Lili admits that she hadn’t heard of the Genelec brand before, but that she and several members of the team shared a common love for music, believing that good sonic quality can bring a positive emotional experience, which is why LiLi Time ended up choosing a Genelec solution over other audio brands.

"Actually, when people wear a hearing aid, they can hear a little sound," Zhang Lili explains. "The deaf customers and staff will tell me that they can feel the vibration of the sound. After considering our options, we chose a Genelec audio solution due to the brand’s superior sound texture and the direct emotional experience this evokes." She continues by drawing the parallel between good coffee and music: "Both are linked to our physical perception, albeit different senses, and both contribute in equal parts to creating a warm space, where people can be comfortable and communicate freely." An added benefit of high quality loudspeakers in this type of environment is in preventing the ‘recruitment’ syndrome that hard of hearing people can sometimes experience, which manifests itself as a reduced tolerance to loud sounds. This means that the range of acceptable loudness to the listener can be quite narrow, so a distributed loudspeaker system with good performance is key to achieving the best results.

After a comprehensive discussion with Genelec’s Beijing team, it became apparent that the solution had to deliver on three principal tasks: the distribution of high fidelity BGM (background music), the accommodation of live musical performances, and lastly the system needed to be easy for visiting musicians to plug into and operate. To this end, a combination of Genelec G One and G Three two-way active loudspeakers were specified, delivering on all fronts.

Each model was selected to suit the acoustics and functional requirements of each room. For the more expansive first floor, G Threes were implemented for broad sound coverage, while the ultra-compact G Ones were selected for the more intimate environment of the café’s upper level. The provision of simple rear panel room compensation switches on both models also meant that the response of each loudspeaker could be tailored to each room’s individual acoustics.

With the addition of a digital mixer, staff now command complete control over the café’s audio levels via the familiar interface of a mobile phone or iPad. What’s more, the active design of the G Series loudspeakers removes the need for bulky external amplifiers, offering a compact and flexible plug-and-play solution for visiting singers and bands.

Si Xuan, café designer and frequent performer, is thrilled with the upgrade: "Our live music capabilities have been significantly improved. Not only do we have total, wireless control of BGM, but we can easily plug in guitars, keyboards, and other instruments, and have the capability to fine-tune the sound remotely in real time."

It is evident from the care that Zhang Lili and Si Xuan have put into the café’s interior design that aesthetics were also a consideration. Zhang Lili excitedly recalls: "Since the install, we’ve received lots of positive feedback from customers, who often take pictures of the loudspeakers. They are drawn to Genelec’s distinctive, eye-catching design as well as their precise sound, and the sustainability of their recycled aluminium cabinets is simply the cherry on the cake!"

One of the café’s baristas, nicknamed Xiaoyu, was offered an interview at LiLi Time after struggling to find work in Shanghai: "I’ll always remember that day. I was very nervous during the interview because I didn’t know how to express myself, since I hadn’t studied coffee and didn’t have any experience in serving. But everyone looked at me with a smile on their face and gave me great encouragement." He continues, "Over time I’ve witnessed the number of customers in the café increasing, and more and more customers are happy to let me talk to them in sign language. All of this makes me feel so happy!"

LiLi Time provides a space where everyone is encouraged to interact with one another and express their artistic talents. It serves as a place of refuge where all guests can feel at ease, and enjoy quality coffee, music and company.

Genelec bridges the gap between sound and silence at Lili Time Café, ShanghaiGenelec bridges the gap between sound and silence at Lili Time Café, Shanghai

27th April 2022

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