Wimbledon's All England Lawn Tennis Club has upgraded its extensive audio network, moving to a Dante system to enable an increased channel count. Simon Duff reports
RG Jones Sound Engineering has been providing audio facilities for the world-famous All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) Championships since 1985. In 2015 that remit covers a wide spectrum, from the umpire’s microphones through the signal chain to the PAs that surround all 19 grass courts. The integrator is also responsible for a range of intercom systems, radio microphones and a site-wide paging system used for emergency messaging, spectator control and the world-renowned ‘rain stops play’ announcement. RG Jones also provides extensive broadcast feeds, including umpire microphones, commentary box feeds as well as many corporate presentation elements. The total microphone channel input count is in the hundreds.
RG Jones’ Wimbledon team is led by Jon Berry, installation department head of sales and operation, working with Tim Speight, project manager and Jamie Short, project engineer. During the fortnight of the Championships, RG Jones has nine sound engineers working full time on site.
CobraNet was introduced at the AELTC in 2011 and provided RG Jones with site-wide linking, expanding the Soundweb London Open Arch Network with BSS Audio BLU-800 Soundweb London devices; each BLU-Link ring can manage some 256 channels of digital audio. Since then, the channel demand has grown, so the existing network has now been upgraded to BSS BLU-806 Dante-compatible processors, supplied by Harman UK distributor Sound Technology. What was a CobraNet main network linking four BLU-Link rings (a BLU-Link within each PA rack room) is now a Dante ring linking five BLU-Link rings.
It is a big upgrade, with about 40 new BSS processors. Fifteen BLU-806 are spread across the PA rack locations, each with a BLU-Link ring within each rack room. The BLU-Link ring connects to six to 12 BLU-160s in each rack.
Work to move to a new digital audio network started during discussions with the AELTC IT department before the 2014 Championships. Berry comments: “When we were looking at the potential expansion of PA rack rooms at the AELTC we needed to increase the channel count, linking them. With the limitation in CobraNet of eight channels in a bundle, the time was right for Dante.”
Latency improvement is another factor in the decision, says Berry: “From our perspective we have always had to maintain real-time audio. It is a high priority for us. We don’t want the umpire to speak and for there to be a delay to the various listeners. Set up correctly Dante can have a latency of less than 150ms. Looking forward to 2016, Dante will allow a digital signal direct from courtside.”
In additional installation work, the existing amplifiers are being retired and replaced with the 28 new Crown DCi-N (Drive Core Install) amplifiers. They are networked versions of DCi (DCi-N) using BSS BLU-Link to connect to the Soundweb system.
“They are much more efficient digital amps with built-in monitoring and extensive processing facilities,” comments Berry.
Ian Cullen, marketing director, Sound Technology, adds his thoughts: “Thanks to the team at RG Jones one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues now boasts an exemplary implementation of Harman’s latest BSS and Crown integrated audio system. Trusted relationships, co-operation from all parties throughout the process, and a brilliant technical solution have resulted in the very successful delivery of a significant upgrade for the client.”
Berry agrees: “This kind of development and evolution, taking new technologies into such a prestigious venue, will only work if you have got a good relationship with manufacturers and suppliers and with the client to take these bold steps.”