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Sports venues: concert sound market

Picture: Jorrit Lousberg

Previously we revealed that audio in sports venues is in a period of transition in response to growing commercial pressures to generate more revenue. Here Phil Ward looks at how this has led to the stadium sound market becoming the next area of growth for entertainment loudspeakers.

Concert sound is now an established part of the biggest venues’ remits, but mistakes are being made. “We need to pay more attention to the audio as part of the infrastructure,” asserts Gareth Collyer, Nexo’s sales manager for UK and Ireland. “The recent debacle with The Spice Girls at Croke Park could have been overcome very easily by tapping into the installed system – which happens to be Nexo, with the primary function of acting as a delay ring to prevent complaints. However, the particular system used on that show cannot be deployed with anyone else’s speaker technology, so things didn’t match up.

“For as long as it lasts, the new business for the rock and roll community is the stadium sound market. Hence you see Nexo, d&b, Harman, L-Acoustics all going after that fixed install market, because it’s the next area of growth for entertainment loudspeakers – as opposed to rental, including festivals. Outside the UK, our distributors report that the majority of festivals are purely EDM.”

“For as long as it lasts, the new business for the rock and roll community is the stadium sound market”
Gareth Collyer, Nexo

At Manchester City, Nexo is the name on the main bowl system while Yamaha is used extensively back-of-house – installed by TG Baker. “It’s 100% a VA-capable entertainment system,” states Collyer, “using Q-SYS as the networking platform and carrying Dante audio. It’s Q-SYS that gives you that whole VA backbone, totally reliable, with fault reporting, and then it’s the features within the Yamaha and Nexo products that deliver SPL and sound quality while being super-safe. It means you go to Man City and really feel the atmosphere: there’s something big going on, and it’s not just squawking boxes in the roof.”

QSC’s Q-SYS media transport and control platform is now a serious challenger in the market earlier defined by BSS Soundweb and Bosch’s Praesidio digital public address and emergency sound system. These are the ringleaders, if you will, as pro audio enters the circus. “Gone are the days when one manufacturer is able to supply all the solutions,” adds Collyer, “and this is filtering down to all the small to midsize stadiums. We did Molineux Stadium for Wolverhampton Wanderers last year – not a line array but point source – and that’s a huge change in pre- and post-match entertainment. At Wimbledon, we’ve added Nexo line array to No.1 Court but it’s still a Soundweb backbone, installed by RG Jones.”

If you ever visit the Concours Hippique International Officiel in Aachen, Germany, you’ll notice a distributed campus just like Wimbledon but, in this instance, basking in the kind of prestige recognised by horse-lovers. It hosts The World Equestrian Festival, 10 days of jumping, dressage, eventing, driving and vaulting for prizes including the Rolex Grand Prix, the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup and the Deutsche Bank Prize – €2.67m worth, in total.

Since 2013 Bosch’s OMNEO media networking architecture has been the backbone of the event’s labyrinthine audio, using standard Ethernet hardware. Up to 10,000 devices can sit on the network, sharing synchronised, multi-channel audio using Audinate’s Dante protocol and control systems managed by OCA.

OMNEO integrates voice evacuation and information with pro audio elements used for music and entertainment. “There is a pro sound programme to all the main arenas,” explains Manuel Brico, EMEA product manager for Telex-RTS, “but in the case of an emergency the same system will patch VA into individual paging areas, wherever it’s needed.” Not only that; the networking architecture also carries the Telex-RTS intercom traffic generated by an ADAM-M digital matrix communication system. Audio, control, VA, intercoms… all down one cable.