Antwerp stadium beefs up sound system

Ampco Belgium has supplied and installed 72 Martin Audio OmniLine enclosures in different hang configurations within the massive, five-storey high Antwerp Sportpaleis concert and sports arena.

Built in 1933 (and recently augmented with a new building) the main arena — with its distinctive green roof — holds around 17,000, with the new space offering about half that capacity.

On three floors of the public, general concourse areas technical manager Geert Torfs has implemented the upgrade plan. Heading a technical team of ten, Torfs is part of the operating company, Antwerp Sportpaleis nv.

Optimised by the Martin Audio Engineer DSP, the OmniLine micro line array takes a wide range of feeds — from delayed sound off the concert stage, to earlier background music from a satellite Digibox (when Engineer’s BassCreator algorithm kicks in to beef up the low end).

Equally the system can deliver important announcements to the arriving crowds, link into the voice evacuation procedure, pump out potent dance music (if a merchandising team is running a special foyer promotion), and even play pre-recorded ringtone messages, stored in the NION 3 digital matrix, which will be coupled to the fire system.

The 72 Omniline cabinets have been designed and distributed around the arena in four clusters of four and four clusters of six (on the ground floor), two clusters of eight (on the first floor) and four clusters of four (on the second floor).

Ampco’s Steve Kemland said: “When we first arrived on site in Antwerp there were lots of different analogue feeds going everywhere in the building, all with different EQ, none of it compatible, and no delayed sound out in the ring.”

He invited Sportpaleis’ technical team, which also included head of sound Christophe Cammaert, to an OmniLine demonstration at its Boom HQ.

The elimination of high-frequency sidelobes makes OmniLine suitable for high quality music reproduction and speech in large, reverberant spaces such as the solid concrete outer ring at Sportpaleis.

“We were immediately sold on the system,” said Torfs. “I was not only impressed by how it sounded but what it could achieve in combination with the Engineer. For me it was perfect solution — an aesthetic speaker which sounded great and was easy to optimise.”

Ampco Belgium employed several layers of optimisation on each of the three floors — starting with the set-up. OmniLine achieves vertical beam forming by physically articulating individual array modules using powerful optimisation software to curve the array rather than applying DSP to a traditional column. This enables focused sound energy to be delivered exactly where it is needed and kept away from reflective surfaces and ceiling.

The system’s different performance characteristics were then programmed into the MediaMatrix NION 3 (in the case of the delays) and the Engineer (in the event of smoothing out the input source, and applying or subtracting the BassCreator function).

As part of the same contract, Ampco Belgium have taken the opportunity to create a simpler network for the auditorium. A separate optical fibre system spans the venue, to keep cable runs as short as possible, and a wireless tablet PC links in with the network. In the upper balcony are 14 stacks of classic Martin Audio F2 enclosures.

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