d&b audiotechnik Soundscape Fills Factory International


On the site of the old Granada Studios lies Factory International, a brand new entertainment venue in the heart of Manchester. From the outset Factory International were looking for the most immersive audio experience they could find – step forward d&b audiotechnik Soundscape.

Manchester International Festival

Factory International traces it’s origins back to Manchester International Festival (MIF), a biennial festival focussing on performing arts, visual arts and popular culture that first took place in 2007. In 2014 plans were announced to build a new cultural building in Manchester, backed by £78 million from the government as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative. In 2017 MIF were named as the operators of the new venue.

Factory International is the organisation behind Manchester International Festival (MIF). They commission, produce and present an ambitious year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events across the city, online, and internationally. The new venue gives Factory International a base to operate from and a permanent home for MIF.

Aviva Studios

Now known as Aviva Studios in a sponsorship deal with insurance company Aviva, the building is based around large, open adaptable spaces, that can be constantly reconfigured as a project requires.

The 13,350 sq. m. building features two performance spaces that work together. The 21m-high Warehouse has a capacity for up to 5,000 people (standing), which can be divided by a movable, full-height acoustic wall to create two separate spaces, while the Hall is a flexible auditorium, which can hold 1,603 seated or 2,000 standing. The proscenium in the Hall can fully open into the Warehouse, allowing its stage to run deep into the Warehouse.

d&b audiotechnik Audio Solution

Initially MIF approached d&b audiotechnik directly to produce audio designs for a flexible system for the auditorium that could be deployed as required for the diverse programme of the MIF.

With the contract secured, Solotech were approached to supply and deliver the full system package.

“After looking at the technical specs for the audio system over a period of time and ironing out the requirements of the venue, we signed off on a design in August 2022 and went into purchasing mode the following month.”

Phil Aitken, Sales Executive, Solotech.

Soundscape Immersive Audio Technology

The system utilises d&b’s Soundscape immersive audio technology. Utilising multiple loudspeakers on individual amplifier channels, Soundscape allows individual sound sources to be placed as objects within a 360 map, creating an ‘immersive’ surround sound experience for the listener.

“The d&b Soundscape system encompasses five main line array hangs across the main truss with 60 speakers on the walls, making 128 sound sources in total,” continued Phil Aitken. “From our perspective, this is a really interesting install as it is a surround sound system designed to correspond with the visual elements on the stage, rather than a simple task of hanging speakers at one end of a room.”

“Because we are artist-led, the incoming sound designer can configure this sound system to their liking. There are 60 of the d&b 8S speakers installed around the walls to create the 360° sound and E6 speakers underneath the balcony front. It’s a permanent setup, but the hanging arrays can be adapted or added to if a production requires it.”

Paul Moore, Factory International Director of Production and Operations

DiGiCo Audio Consoles

The d&b Soundscape system was part of a package supplied by Solotech that included a DiGiCo Quantum 338 and Quantum 225 consoles, DiGiCo stage racks, Shure Axient wireless and Clear-Com FreeSpeak comms. The entire system has been packaged as ‘tour ready’ in Sigma Fabrications flight cases, enabling quick deployment when required and safe storage when not in use.

In addition to the main auditorium system, Solotech has also installed Martin Audio loudspeakers with signal distribution via a QSC Q-Sys 110f Core in an area called ‘Social’ where visitors gather ahead of shows to meet and enjoy refreshments.

“Flexibility is the key to this venue – one moment it’s hosting an exhibition, the next it has an iconic rock artist complete with 60 piece orchestra. The technology must be able to adapt and augment these events and certainly the audio system delivers on that brief. The Soundscape element quite literally adds another dimension – if you haven’t experienced immersive audio then I would strongly encourage you to do so.”

“It has been our pleasure to supply and support such a key new facility for Manchester and the surrounding area and we look forward to working again with the Factory International team in the near future.”

Solotech Sales Director, Ryan Thomas