Audio in Sports

VELTINS Arena Gets Audio Overhaul

The VELTINS Arena, home to German football team FC Schalke 04, recently benefited from a d&b sound reinforcement system installation.

The arena is one of Europe’s leading multi-purpose large venues, hosting football games, classical music performances, trade fairs and rock concerts.

The stadium was designed with multi-functionality in mind. Seated, the venue accommodates 62,271 and can fit almost 80,000 people inside for events using the pitch area. Key to the arena’s success is its 21st first century infrastructure, including a retractable roof and its natural grass pitch which can be hydraulically rolled in and out.

In 2017 the venue decided to bring its sound reinforcement system up to the same high standard. The original system, installed in 2001, was in constant need of repair, and no longer met the venue’s standards of energy efficiency.

The new installation required a system that would provide both excellent intelligibility for announcements and full-range reproduction of musical content, as well as an emergency warning and alarm system in case of evacuation.

Acoustics consultancy, Graner + Partner was brought in to oversee the selection of the new system, and after tests, awarded Salzbrenner media GmbH with the installation contract.

A total of 14 line arrays were fitted to the stadium’s oval roof in line with Graner + Partner’s EASE simulation, which formed the basis for calculations in the d&b ArrayCalc software. Each array consists of 12 d&b Vi8 loudspeakers, with two cardioid Vi-SUBs flown behind. The cardioid construction of the d&b Vi-SUBs means that there is no need for a third subwoofer facing backwards.

The upper tier seating is covered by 40 Vi7P loudspeakers operated as a delay line. These can also be used for infill at concerts when a PA system is set up by an external touring production. Clusters of 8 x 2 Vi7P loudspeakers cover the entire pitch area and/or the interior of the stadium. All loudspeaker cabinets are weather-resistant and painted in cream white to match the steel beams of the roof.

The four-channel 30D amplifiers are housed in 19in racks positioned on weather protected catwalks. For safety reasons, they are controlled digitally via AES/EBU, with analogue inputs as backup. The control signals for the amplifiers, configured using the R1 remote control software, are routed over the Q-SYS network.

For daily operation, the arena staff can easily access presets for any given situation via a touch panel, while a computer in the control room provides full access to all the system parameters for trained sound engineers.

Following the installation, precise measurements were conducted by acoustics expert, Professor Dr. Anselm Goertz. These encompassed a variety of possible scenarios, including with or without the pitch in place, and with the roof open and closed. The results showed that the Speech Transmission Index (STI) values met the specifications and achieved a high level of intelligibility.

“We obtained STI values of over 0.5 in an empty arena – that’s a top rating for a stadium of this size,” says Alexander Baron of Stage Systems Veranstaltungstechnik GmbH & Co. KG, the arena’s preferred technical support provider. “We’re talking of an enclosed space of 1.3 million cubic metres and sound-reflecting surfaces made of concrete and glass. Under these circumstances, an STI rating of over 0.5 is amazing.”

Key to these results is d&b ArrayProcessing – an optional function of the d&b ArrayCalc Simulation Software that provides sophisticated optimisation of d&b line array systems, ensuring the same quality of sound for each audience member.

ArrayProcessing exploits the full acoustic potential of the d&b J, V and Y-Series. It can also be used to modify individual zones if required. For example, the press box at VELTINS Arena has its level reduced to minimise sound bleed into commentators’ head mics, while spectators in the lower grandstand section – covered by the same array – can hear no difference.

The broadcast sound from VELTINS Arena now meets the highest standards, and the improvement has been noted by visiting broadcast teams and TV viewers alike. Gone is the background hum, so announcements made over stadium loudspeakers can be clearly heard.

“Since the conversion, sound is crystal clear in reports from the VELTINS arena,” adds Baron. “I haven’t heard anything better so far. Intelligibility is excellent.”