In July, HARMAN is exploring the technologies and experiences that make travel more seamless, memorable and fun. Please enjoy our latest blog post exploring the topic of travel.

The summer season is in full swing (in the Northern Hemisphere) and many travelers are turning to cruises during their vacations.  While enjoying their on-ship accommodations and entertainment, they may have missed the inner workings of what makes their cruise experience fun and seamless.

In February of 2016, I took my first cruise for a vacation away from being a Solutions Manager for HARMAN Professional Solutions. I found it interesting to explore the ship and see HARMAN products I work with every day in use. I am very familiar with how HARMAN Professional Solutions products function; however, I had not been involved with many cruise ships, so I could truly explore and discover the systems.


I am typically involved with Themed Attractions and, for the most part, many of us think of cruise ships as theme parks and casinos that float. These are projects I have worked on, but being on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, though, I was able to see and experience the unique challenges that are involved.

The first thing most of us would think about is the movement of the ship itself. That means additional connections to the ship. For example, an equipment rack needs to be bolted to the floor, and a loudspeaker is held in place with solid connectors instead of cable. Those are just the obvious ones. The first one that surprised me was the environment itself.

I did not understand just how harsh an environment a cruise ship exterior could be until I stood on the helipad one night watching a meteor shower. There were high winds and salt spray pelting me the entire time. The helipad was approximately 150 feet above the water, yet I was still wet when I got back to my cabin. Constant exposure like that takes a toll on equipment. Experiencing the effects firsthand, I am able to better understand decisions the JBL Professional team makes for exterior loudspeakers. Stainless steel mounting hardware and grills coupled with covers for the connections seem like small things; however, the importance is greater than expected.

The consideration of the environment does not just relate to the hardware components, but also the constructions of the loudspeaker itself. While designing the loudspeaker, the engineers and product managers decide what the enclosure or housing itself for the loudspeaker will be made of. In the JBL Professional All-Weather Compact Series, the enclosure is made with Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene with glass fibers added (ABS plastic). This construction means that the cabinet itself is basically impervious and can be as hot as 80°C/176°F without deforming. The material choices are not the only thing the engineers consider; they even suggest colors for exterior product and don’t offer black unless it is requested. The reason is two-fold, but often overlooked. Almost every material will fade in the sunlight from UV exposure, so the product looks grey. The other reason, and perhaps more important, is using lighter colors helps keep the cabinet cooler.

Seeing some of the loudspeakers covering the pool areas, I just shook my head, as I realized the speakers have to deal with both salt water and chlorinated water. Yet, the engineers were able to find a solution. This knowledge is shared with all of the HARMAN brands, so when someone buys outside speakers for their home, the same knowledge and experience is available to the designers.

It was interesting to sit in a jazz club and watch a HARMAN system function together. The bartender was using an AMX touch panel to control the room lighting as well as the Martin stage lights. I could see in the equipment rack behind the bar, and the sound system was all HARMAN as well, including BSS digital signal processing, Crown amplifiers and JBL outdoor loudspeakers. Yes, even though we were indoors, the constant salt air necessitated outdoor speakers. It was great to see HARMAN’s audio, video, lighting, and control solutions work together throughout the week.

The ability to control and monitor the different audio, video and lighting sub systems became even more apparent when I attended a game session. The room had an AMX system that controlled all of the architectural lighting in the room, simply and with presets. In addition, it also controlled the system when it was used to show movies and videos during the day. The room transformed from a meeting room to a theater at the touch of the button. The screen rolled up, the projector turned off, the audio system muted and the lights came back on completely. The touch panel even provided diagnostic information, indicating the projector lamp needed to be changed soon. While this might seem like a small thing, the fact that the AMX system was able to alert the crew, so they could arrange a replacement the next time in they were in port, helped make system management easier.

Using various pieces from the HARMAN Professional Solutions catalog, the designers were able to create a complete system solution. Not only was the system easy for the staff to operate, it helped keep the staff alert about situations that might occur. The best things, though, were that it sounded good and I could relax and not worry about it.


Bradford Benn is a Solutions Manager for HARMAN Professional Solutions, specializing in Themed Attractions. Being involved in the AV industry for more than 25 years, he has a wide range of experiences to draw from. Before joining HARMAN, he was an integrator, designing and installing projects ranging from conference rooms and classrooms to houses of worship and theme parks around the world. He has been involved in network-intensive projects, such as City Center in Las Vegas, Lucas Oil Stadium and MetLife Stadium, to name a few. In addition to his responsibilities at HARMAN, Bradford serves as a co-instructor for the Syn-Aud-Con Digital training seminars as well as being an InfoComm University Adjunct Faculty Member. When he isn’t working, he can often be found behind a camera, taking photographs.