Switching sounds

When a sports and concert venue in Berlin decided to replace its 15 year-old sound system it took the opportunity to boost flexibility for its arena with a reconfigurable line array solution. Anna Mitchell reports.

Berlin’s Max-Schmeling-Halle opened in 1997 as part of the city’s bid preparations for the Olympic Games in 2000. The Games went to Sydney but the Max-Schmeling-Halle has spent the last 15 years entertaining sports and music fans as well as hosting conferences and acting as a venue for shooting films and TV programmes.
It has a capacity of up to 12.000 spectators for concerts and about 8.500 people for most sports events making it one of the biggest arenas in Berlin. It regularly attracts the most popular name on the touring circuit including Madonna, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Santana, Deep Purple, Beastie Boys and the Eagles. This year the venue’s owners made the decision to completely overhaul the venue’s PA system that had served the Halle since it opened. Problems with amplification units meant they either faced a costly replacement exercise or could take the opportunity to completely overhaul the venue’ found system. The venue’s directors also hoped a new, up-to-date system could lower running costs and cut maintenance bills.
Torsten Vorwerk, technical project manager at the venue, turned to consultant Andreas Karsten. Karsten, who had previously worked at Max-Schmeling-Halle’s sister venue, the Berlin Velodrom, organised a shoot-out in the venue between five speaker brands and embarked on meticulous 3D modelling of the venue using EASE, AFMG’s acoustic simulation software. He notes that the venue was quite tough to simulate accurately, wryly adding that there were a lot of stairs to programme into the model! „The Simulation was important because the seating set-up in the venue is very flexible,“ explains Vorwerk. “We wanted good quality sound regardless of how the venue was configured or how the loudspeakers were positioned.“

„We can bring additional seating out from the main tiered sections. For an event like a handball match these are the best seats in the house but with the old sound system they had the worst sound. Good sound coverage was absolutely key. The larger touring acts invariably travel with their own sound reinforcement system but quality of music is still important for certain sports events such as gymnastics. Voice intelligibility is also integral to sports events. Missing certain details in any fast paced event can seriously impede enjoyment of the entertainment. Furthermore having enough power in the PA system would mean the venue had the freedom to host some smaller acts and conferences while larger events would have the opportunity to use the PA to support the main sound system. In addition to sound quality Vorwerk was also insistent that the sound system had to be flexible. The venue houses concerts and sporting fixtures and wanted to generate additional revenue from other events such as conference. Flexibility meant that cabinets had to be able to removed from the main cluster term and flown either side of the stage. This requirement meant the units had to be light. The distance from the base of the cluster to the hall also had to be large enough to host certain sports events, such as volleyball. Vorwerk notes that this requirement actually cut out certain brands immediately. Following the shoot-out Karsten put out a tender for the project, which not only contained technical pacification, but also the demand that the whole installation must be carried out in five days. The Max-Schmeling-Halle hosts many events and downtime between them is very short so the installation window had to be minimal. An integrator could have two days to uninstall the old equipment before an event that would use a rental system. Then, in just three days cable works, loudspeakers, amplifiers and all audio control equipment had to be installed. A final two days were available for last adjustments and fine-tuning. Berlin based PIK AG, a Kling & Freitag systems partner, saw off three other system integrators with its bid and confidence that the installation could be completed in the challenging time frame. Karsten says PIK AG offered an attractive price for the work but insists this wasn’t the only factor in the decision to award them contract and notes that their service offering was also very strong. PIK AG hung a main cluster of 50 Kling & Freitag SEQUENZA 10W units in the centre of the venue. The cluster is suspended from a platform that houses 21 Kling & Freitag TOPAS amplifiers and four Kling & Freitag NOMOS XLC subwoofers.

“Kling & Freitag’s SEQUENZA 10W units were one of the options that were trialled during the shoot out, explains Vorwerk. “It’s a passive system and that was important to us and the units had to be light enough to be removed from the main cluster and hung elsewhere.” Speaker dollys were supplied that allowed the cabinets to be kept in position and transported for use around the stage. Vorwerk says that the rig can be lowered and two arrays transported by just two people in two hours. Up on the suspended platform a simple patching system allows signals to be re-routed to handle changes in loudspeaker configuration. Neutrik cable connectors ensure secure connection for the Klotz twin axial speaker cable. “The TOPAS amplifiers give us a good sound,” says lngo Nolte, a director from PIK AG, “they are robust. The sort of unit you can install and forget about. They provide us with a high level of control and we can make delicate adjustments. Twenty-four Kling & Freitag GRAVIS 12W loudspeakers are used as fill-in units for voice reinforcement, largely for sports events. “System handling with the Kling & Freitag units is easy,” continues Nolte. “During the shootout it was clear the sound was very good and, at its price point, it was the best. ·We also knew the support from Kling & Freitag was very good which would be essential for meeting the tight time-scale,” he added.

Max-Schmeling-Halle is the home of a Berlin handball team and a Berlin volleyball team. Fittingly the first event to make use of the new sound system was a handball match. The venue, integrator, consultant and even speaker manufacturer Kling & Freitag have all worked closely and put a lot of effort into this project with each claiming the aggressive time-schedule would never have been met without the skills and dedication of every partner. PIK AG have secured a service contract with the venue and all of the parties involved seem positive that they will work together again in the future. With a very satisfied customer it definitely seems like a job well done.

Text: Anna Mitchell

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