Speed and scale: AV innovation at Silverstone

With racing, performance is everything. Reece Webb discovers how Silverstone’s audio overhaul puts the famous circuit in pole position.

Silverstone stands out as one of the most famous motor racing circuits on Earth. The home of the British Grand Prix with a storied history dating back to 1948, this world-acclaimed track attracts racing fans from across the world to see the best and brightest of the F1 world take to the historic track at blistering speeds.

At a venue dominated by the thunderous roar of cutting-edge engines and the raucous noise of the crowd, clear and concise audio is absolutely paramount.

Silverstone is no exception to this rule: this prestigious circuit is currently undergoing a major overhaul to its AV system, replacing an aging sound setup with a scalable sound and control system that will keep Silverstone firing on all cylinders.

Phill Beynon, director, NoiseBoys Technologies, commented: “This project arrived at our door via CUK.A [representative] of the tech team at Silverstone had been to a Nascar race in the US where they were using Audac horns. [Silverstone] were looking for a new solution at the time and were impressed by the Audac horns. They got in touch with CUK who recommended us as preferred supplier/ installer for the project.

“We were given a kit list from CUK, who had carried out a lot of the design, been to the track and plotted out how many horns that we would need. This was very handy for us as they gave us the spec and we got to work.”

The install, specified by CUK and installed by a joint effort between Silverstone and NoiseBoys, represents the first and most crucial stage of Silverstone’s overhaul, providing the bedrock of a new sound system for both entertainment and emergency evacuation while also providing a comprehensive back-end system to make further installation of loudspeakers throughout the venue as seamless as possible.

With the kit list in hand, Noiseboys’ Rob Allen took the lead on this project, heading up the work on the ground. Allen liaised with the Silverstone team throughout the project to deliver the circuit’s vision, bringing the new system to life. NoiseBoys was responsible for bringing phase one of this new system to the track’s grandstands on the circuit’s Club corner, Hamilton straight, Abbey corner, as well as the pitlanes and surrounding areas.

The cornerstone of the system is a fleet of 61 AudacHS208T, 8-in horn speakers supported by Powersoft amplifiers, installed in the grandstand areas of the circuit. The equipment is mounted on to the front canopy of the grandstands to fire back into the audience area.

“The overall level, quality [of sound] and clarity is a huge improvement for Silverstone,” says Beynon. “Silverstone previously had an old, 100V system which offered low-level background speech. These larger Audac horns work as PA horns have better level, coverage and clarity now.”

NoiseBoys installed a new rack behind one of the grandstands which allows the Powersoft amplifiers to link with Dante over Silverstone’s fibre infrastructure. The amplifiers are located as close as possible to the speakers, but the vast distances of the track still require that they are connected by 6mm armoured cables.

“We have provided amps for all the new speakers, along with a Symetrix back-end that covers the entire track, to provide easy amp and loudspeaker swap-outs for future phases,” says Beynon. “All of the processing has been replaced with Symetrix across the board and linked by Dante and fibre.

“All future phases will focus on replacing loudspeakers and amps in different grandstands as well as cable swap-outs. It will be an easy bolt-on for the future phases, all controlled by a single pane of glass touchscreen interface that is now in place.”Behind the scenes, NoiseBoys provided a solid back-end system that can be scaled as required to meet the growing number of new loudspeakers and amplifiers added in future phases of the installation.

Two Symetrix Prism DSP processors are used, with four X-in and X-out boxes to interface with Silverstone’s existing system, maintaining slick operation of the current equipment ahead of further upgrades in later phases of the project.

Beynon explains: “There’s a Symetrix system with Luxul switches attached to it. This system is already scalable and controls the majority of Silverstone’s equipment. It is capable of servicing the areas that Silverstone is operating at the moment.

First place functionality

Additionally, Noiseboys provided new functionality for Silverstone by providing a 55-in Kindemann touchscreen with an OPS PC that enables visualisation and control of the entire track.

Beynon clarifies: “A lot of specifications on this project were decided before we got on site, however the way that the system works and how users interact with the system had not been decided, so we made suggestions and worked with Silverstone to work this out.

“The solution was a massive touchscreen with the full track layout, where you can select individual zones with a tap to put them into ‘emergency state’ and play pre-recorded messages, make announcements to them or mute each as necessary.

That was our basic premise, which Silverstone added to by requesting individual EQ-ing of zones, specific priority alarms, etc. – it was quite a complicated arrangement, so there was a lot to work on. We spent most of our time focused on the interface and interaction of the system rather than the sound design. We’ve integrated the entire system into one big touchscreen that accounts for the split tracks or the joined F1 track.”

Each grandstand around the track is represented by a zone which enables users to choose a zone, play an announcement, put the zone into emergency mode with emergency announcements and more through the use of the touchscreen.

“Each zone can be paged, or music can be played. They can also arrange the priorities as they need, just from that one screen,” says Beynon. “This level of control is totally new for Silverstone, they didn’t have the ability to play certain sounds to certain spaces. This system also had to be quick and easy to learn which is why we spent a lot of our time making this system as user friendly as possible, all of the thinking is done in the background.”

The installation of phase one itself went smoothly, with Noiseboys providing CUK’s specification to the letter and delivering the backbone to a system that will define the Silverstone experience for years to come. Today, Silverstone is equipped with greater functionality than ever before, enabling a new sound experience for the most prestigious of events.

Beynon closes: “The way that the interface worked out and the way that [the system] works together as a whole is a key highlight for us. We finished our install three weeks before the Grand Prix, which was a tremendous feeling with the system up and running. We supported the Grand Prix weekend remotely and it all went very smoothly. Knowing that three teams (CUK, Silverstone and NoiseBoys) have worked together to pull a project like this together smoothly and on time before such a critical deadline is a real point of pride, and we’re very grateful to have been involved.

“We always offer support for 12 months to handle any tweaks or snags that pop up and, as this is an ongoing project, we expect work to continue on future phases towards the end of the year.”

Kit list

Audac HS208T eight-in hornspeakers

Kindermann TD-115555-in touchscreen

Luxul SW-610-24P-R-U/AMS-1816P-U network switches,10G-SM-DX-LC'SFP module

Powersoft Duecanali 4804amplifiers

Symetrix Prism DSP processors, X-in/X-outexpansion boxes

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