Sound fit for a palace

Bond Communications has replaced and retro-fitted a new sound system for the ballroom at the seven star Emirates Palace Hotel. The system, based on Martin Audio’s OmniLine scalable micro-line array and a W8LC Compact Line Array had to serve the ballroom space as a complete unit, or in its three separate, divisible modes.

The seven star Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi boasts a grand marble entrance and gold leaf atrium overlooking the Persian Gulf. It is operated by the Kempinski Hotel Group and among its many corporate conference and meeting room facilities is a giant ballroom. Measuring a 80m x 25m it can accommodate up to 2,800 people.

AV system integrators, Bond Communications, were tasked with replacing and retro-fitting a new sound system that would not only serve the ballroom space as a complete unit, or in its three separate, divisible modes, but do so discreetly, aesthetically and with simple control and operation.

The system also had to be sufficiently flexible to deliver high spec intelligibility across the frequency spectrum for presentations but also be capable of concert style reinforcement from a conventional left/right stage system, when the venue was cranked up for live entertainment.

Bond decided on a combination of Martin Audio’s OmniLine scalable micro-line array, in conjunction with a W8LC Compact Line Array. Bond sound engineer Jonathan Goodwin contacted Richard Maunder, from Martin Audio’s Dubai-based distributors VTI, and Peter Child, Martin Audio’s Applications Engineer, was brought in to provide design support and EASE programme measurements.

The Main Stage System
“It was decided to use line array loudspeakers for the main front-of-house system as these have more ‘throw’ than a conventional loudspeaker and the dispersion pattern is very predictable thus offering more control over the large coverage area,” observed Child.

Normally, to cover a distance such as the length of the Ballroom, a long line array, accurately articulated and flown, would suffice and delays would not be needed. However, with the relatively low ceiling height of the Ballroom a different approach was required. A shorter, five-box array of W8LC’s each side, has been supported at the bottom of the hang by a single W8LCD Downfill box to maintain clarity, impact and fidelity; the addition of four delay points, comprising time-aligned W8LCDs, evenly distribute the sound further down the room. Used only as required (rather than part of a permanent install), this delay system maintains the tonality and dynamics of the system.

Although mounted discreetly behind an acoustically transparent cloth the W8LC would generally function more than adequately as a full-range system. However, also incorporated into the design are eight WS218X dual 18” subwoofers (four per side) providing low end extension that can be used as required.

The Emirates Ballroom also has a further option, as Bond Communications onsite engineer Mitchell Schuh explains. “When more power is required the W8LC system can be demounted and replaced by a larger, temporary system, pulled forward and comprising six W8LC’s and two W8LCD’s per side.”

For stage monitoring, ten Martin Audio LE1200S floor wedges have also been supplied.

Conference/presentation reinforcement
In conference mode 12 clusters of 16 OmniLine enclosures now provide the playback. The design consists of two OmniLine columns at each end of the three conference sections so that the point of focus can change based on the physical location of the presentation.

This approach ensures that intelligible speech and high quality music playback are delivered as unobtrusively as possible.

System Set Up
OmniLine was set up using the system’s dedicated optimisation software. Peter Child first worked out the calculations in the OmniLine software before exporting an XGLC file for later use in the EASE programme.

“It was then just a case of inserting each of the 16 hang OmniLine GLL’s into their correct locations in the EASE model and importing the XGLC file which automatically applied the correct inter-cabinet angles and EQ, as determined by the OmniLine software.” he explained.

Amplification and control
The system is powered by Martin Audio amplification. The WS218X subwoofers are driven by a pair of MA18K’s, the main FOH system and W8LC/LCD delays are run from a total of 18 x MA5.2K’s and the OmniLine system is assigned to nine MA6.8Q’s. System control is via four mix racks housing CobraNet-enabled SymNet Express DSP (configured 12-in/4-out). “This enables me to route any source input to any of the zones,” states Schuh.

The DSP is set it up so that each room can be used in its single configuration — and as further rooms were added, the installer created a separate output on the console to provide full functionality over all four zones. “The system needed to be really flexible because it would be used for different events,” he said.

Any input can be routed to any zone and the zone assigned to the main system. It will also automatically send the delay taps to the time-aligned OmniLines when the system is used in presentation mode. The OmniLines also help bring out the HF of the installed W8LC system, and boost the intelligibility, given the length and shape of the room.

Summing up the system performance, Mitch Schuh says, “The aim of the system was to have it set up for ease-of-use, consistency and flexibility — and that’s what we have achieved. For the size of the room and type of events staged I’m extremely happy with the result — and so is the client.”

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