Philadelphia’s Historical Hotel Turns to HARMAN PS for Amp Revamp

HARMAN Professional Solutions of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania recently provided a significant sound and lighting upgrade to the Stratus rooftop lounge. The technology overhaul included JBL loudspeakers, Crown amplifiers, BSS controllers and Martin fixtures.

In the heart of Philadelphia’s Historic District near Independence Hall sits the equally historic Lafayette Building, home of the prestigious Monaco Philadelphia boutique hotel. And sitting atop the hotel, floating 11 stories above the country’s most historic square mile, is the newly renovated Stratus rooftop lounge.

President of Aurora Sound and Light, Ian Hoffer spoke about the exciting revonation project: “Essentially, we had to upgrade and rework everything. In order to optimise and provide separate control for the spaces, we designed and installed four sound system zones, which included: the interior lounge, exterior lounge, pavilion #1 and pavilion #2—all built with JBL loudspeakers and subwoofers, and Crown amplifiers. We now network and manage the zones with BSS Contrio controllers.”

According to Ian, when Monaco Hotel opened three years ago, the Stratus lounge and its outdoor pavilions were equipped with just basic sound and lighting system support, based on a simple 70-volt, in-ceiling system that needed replacing. The system covered announcements and background music, but offered little such as, no zone or room-to-room control and no entertainment lighting.

Management’s plan was to get the hotel launched, and then through a second phase, come back and focus on the sound and lighting system needs of the lounge, with the goal of turning the Stratus into an entertainment attraction.

Ian then described the transition of the Stratus lounge: “It has always been a cool space, which was lush and comfortable and offered a really good mix of indoor-outdoor environments, but the hotel wanted to create something exciting. They specifically wanted to bring in professional, entertainment-level sound and lighting systems, and above all, be able to use the lounge and its pavilions for a wide range of up-scale events.” Ian announced that from corporate meetings to weddings, to an impressive nightclub and dance venue, the Stratus now has plenty of headroom and is ready to cater and perform for all variations of needs.”


With available space at a premium and aesthetics a prime concern, Ian and his team installed a mix of JBL AC-28 and AC-16 loudspeakers within the interior spaces, supported by a set of JBL ASB6115 and JBL ASB-6112 subwoofers. The large exterior space utilised the JBL AM-7212 loudspeakers and JBL ASB-6115 WRX subwoofers.

Ian spoke of the initial plan for specific sections of the lounge; “For the pavilions, we wanted to go as large as possible but not be too obtrusive. Luckily, we had some architectural elements we could work with. We used a mix of black cabinets and white cabinets to blend in to the décor, and we were very careful with horn placement. We wanted the space to be exciting and sharp, but comfortable. The compact loudspeakers and subwoofers look good and sound even better.”

Because of the close proximity to rooms and other less party-focused guest areas, hotel management had a concern about bleed-over vibration. Aurora Sound and Light took an innovative approach to the solution by mounting the exterior subwoofers on a spring system, similar to what might be found with AC units. The subwoofers ride on springs, isolating them from the building, providing a pleasant aural experience for all guests.


For nightclubs and entertainment spaces, lighting is a prime component for creating the right atmosphere. Across the four spaces, Hoffer and his team placed more than 30 Martin Exterior 50 LED lights. These super rugged, compact, indoor/outdoor fixtures were a perfect lighting solution for the lounge and its pavilions.

Ian found that the Martin compact LEDs are easy to both place and work with, and are great for creating the right mood and setting a tone for the spaces. The lounge utilises the Martins for up lighting, down lighting, and for creating some impressive focal points. The waterproof LED systems allowed the outdoor areas protection and Ian found that the light quality, colour and control capabilities of these fixtures are very impressive; all of which are built into a rock-solid, easy to install unit.

Similar to the sound system, the lighting system has been completely updated and modernised, and is now based on nicely organised zones, with digital controllers and room scene presets in place, all under password protection.

Ian noted that the most challenging part of the lighting system was to get updated wiring and control in place for the Martin 50 LED systems. In many spots, there may have been power, but no data. Ian and his team pulled Cat5 where they could, made use of some existing cabling, and even went wireless for a key focal point for an outdoor pavilion.

Ian spoke specifically about how they have personally utilised the light system: “One of the outdoor pavilions has this huge, ornate flowerpot. It anchors and sets the space, but it had no lighting. An attractive piece, but we knew if it was properly lit, it would be really impressive. So we used a set of Martin outdoor LEDs and installed a wireless DMX unit to feed data to the lights. It’s now a really impressive focal point, and we can change the colors and control the lights any time, even remotely.”


Hoffer explained that BSS BLU link Soundweb and Crown DriveCore Network amplifiers provided critical capabilities needed for the project: “The BLU link and Crown amps greatly simplified the installation. Ultimately, we were able to run three Cat5e cables to network the system, rather than 30 analog cables. This not only saves a huge amount of time and money during the installation, but adds a high level of flexibility and scalability for future changes or additions.”

Hoffer noted that the synchronicity between HARMAN Professional Solutions products is a big reason he so frequently relies on a comprehensive HARMAN audio system: “Installation after installation, I keep coming back to JBL, Crown, Martin and BSS. The systems work great together. The integration capabilities are so impressive. Factory support is excellent. I’m really glad we were able to deploy these solutions and technologies at Stratus.”

In mid-October 2015, the Stratus Lounge hosted a grand re-opening party with a popular DJ and a great deal of fanfare and positive reviews. With the ability to host about 300 people across all four venues, the Stratus Lounge is now fast on its way to re-branding itself as an exciting, private event and destination nightspot.