OK, so sound isn’t really the type of energy we usually deal with on BizEnergy—but it’s an absolutely essential (and sometimes painfully overlooked) part of a restaurant’s overall ambience. In fact, after crummy service, diners complain about noise more than anything else.

Chatter, music, and a general atmosphere of quiet (or not-so-quiet) excitement makes the dining-out experience different from sitting around the kitchen table—and while there can be too much of a good thing, there’s also such a thing as too little noise.

That’s where John Paluska—former manager of the band Phish—and Meyer Sound come in.

As FastCo Design and the San Francisco Chronicle report, the Berkeley, California-based restaurateur and sound company teamed up to develop a sophisticated system that controls a restaurant’s noise level with the swipe of an iPad.

Using a combination of acoustic materials—the kind that keep recording studios soundproof—microphones, and speakers, restaurant managers can dampen or enhance the ambient noise using an iPad.

The system is twofold. Reverberation is hushed using acoustic tile and other dampening materials, much of it cleverly disguised as artwork. Then, the chatter in the room is recorded, and can then be broadcast back into the room through a series of speakers at whatever volume is necessary.

This makes it possible to tailor the noise level in different areas of the restaurant—so a busy bar area may be more lively, while a private dining room may be quieter and more conducive to conversation.

The cost for at-your-fingertips noise control? Between $10,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of the project.

What do you think? Have you had challenges managing the noise level in your restaurant? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Image credit: ralph and jenny