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As the system provider and maintainer of the PAVA systems on site, was asked to provide a future proof system that not only meets the strict emergency evacuation criteria necessary, but also delivers excellent high power audio quality throughout the venue. The O2 Arena first opened in 2007 and has become renowned as a music and entertainment venue hosting world class performers on a regular basis.
Our technical specialists have been involved with the venue since 1998, so was ideally placed to design the replacement PAVA system. We opted for a QSC Q-Sys digital audio platform and network with Bose ShowMatch line arrays powered by Crown amplification within the main performance bowl area. The BOH (back of house) areas, including concourses, backstage areas, offices and all areas outside the main performance bowl, are served from multiple network equipment racks containing Q-Sys and Crown amplification.
The audio installation has to cater for the multiple applications hosted at the venue, variously configured with a stage at one end or in the round. From a central circular truss, eight Bose loudspeaker clusters are installed, each comprising of eight ShowMatch cabinets to provide audio coverage across the main audience area of the bowl.
Our MD, Alex Penn, commented on the choice of Bose ShowMatch, “We first heard the system at a Bose demonstration in Barcelona and we were immediately impressed. When the O2 project came up, we invited Bose, along with a number of other loudspeaker manufacturers to the table, with Bose emerging as the loudspeaker partner of choice.”
Andy Rigler, UK Sales Manager for Bose Professional added, “Our engineers worked closely with the team at SSE Audio to create a design of The O2 within Bose Modeler. From this we were able to see the coverage and dispersion of the design before installation.”
“Utilising Bose Auditioner hardware, an auralisation of the space could be heard from multiple positions within the venue. This confirmed the coverage pattern and tonality of the system, which was crucial to the PAVA element of the design. From this, SSE Audio was able to move forward with the installation with confidence.”
For Sub Bass the ShowMatch range utilises the Bose RMS218 Subwoofer, which features two eighteen inch drivers. Our system design placed a total of 24 RMS218 cabinets in six vertical roof mounted hangs, powered by Bose PM8500 amplifiers with LF control steering in the DSP.
An additional four Bose ShowMatch production delay clusters were added to provide coverage to the upper levels of seating in the bowl, with each cluster comprising eight Bose ShowMatch cabinets.
We built up a wealth of expertise with the QSC Q-Sys Networked Audio platform, particularly for PAVA applications, in a variety of venues. “Increasingly we’re finding it our go-to solution not just for PAVA but for most networked audio installations,” explained Alex Penn.
“It’s completely scalable, we can build it into networks that have the necessary redundancy and we can build graphical user interfaces that make operation for the end user really simple.”
For The O2 arena, we specified a pair of QSC Q-Sys Core 3100i processors as the backbone of the system. From the two remote control racks, Q-Sys Cores are linked over a dual fibre optic cable backbone to over 100 Crown DCi-DA Amplifiers, housed in 16 amplifier racks and also security and control network stations with full GUI access.
Each equipment rack comprises dual fibre patchbay and dual network switches A & B, Q-Sys I/O frames providing the contact and fire alarm interface I/O. The system is configured as a redundant dual star network, with the Q-Sys Core 3100i servers separated across the site for further redundancy, which means that if any single element should fail the system stays in operation.
With the three key elements, (Speakers-Amplifiers-DSP) coming from three separate manufacturers, (Bose-Crown-QSC) Our challenge was to bring the whole package together in a system that would both sound good and work effectively from a safety perspective. The PAVA system has to meet strict monitoring and fault reporting requirements of British & European Standards.
We worked with Harman / Crown to develop a software ‘plugin’ to integrate the amplifier control & monitoring function within the Q-Sys platform. “The audio transport was Dante and therefore not a major issue, although we had to make certain design considerations,” explained Alex Penn. “We developed the ‘plugin’ to provide the monitoring and reporting of the amplifier health over the network – essential in a PAVA application. For a venue like The O2 not only does your emergency evacuation systems have to work, you have to be able to see in real time should any failure occur.”
Once the plugin for the amplifier had been finalised, we worked with Bose to develop the loudspeaker tuning EQ & limiter settings for the amplifiers so they would provide the best performance with the Showmatch loudspeaker.
Scheduling a major audio install in the world’s busiest music venue is no simple task. We developed a phased upgrade to the process: first integrating the audio network and amplification, with the central cluster completed later in the year. The production delays were then added with the Sub Bass upgrade completing the upgrade.
“The venue now has a great sounding, robust and incredibly flexible audio and PAVA solution”, reflects Alex Penn. “For sporting events and other productions in the round, the system is used as a stand alone audio solution. For concerts and touring productions, where a stage is built at one end, the touring system provides the main L-R audio but will interface with the house system for delays and infill. In all applications the system is the venue’s PAVA solution, enabling security and management staff to provide guidance in the event of an incident or emergency.”
Lee Lacey, The O2 Facility Director said: “We have worked closely with SSE Audio since the venue opened and their knowledge of the system and the venue’s operational requirements are crucial to us as a business. When we were looking into the life cycle of the systems with the possibility of also upgrading the platform, SSE Audio presented us with a variety of possibilities to consider. We were convinced by SSE Audio that the Bose product would not only meet the venue’s statutory requirement for a PAVA system but would also deliver an improved sound performance. On hearing the system for the first time we have been incredibly impressed with the performance of the system and therefore very pleased with our decision to go with Bose.”
Bose’s Andy Rigler added, “It’s been a real pleasure working with the SSE team and we are proud to have our ShowMatch products in this iconic venue. We have admired SSE’s tenacity in working with AEG to find time slots to install the system, whilst minimising disruption to the venue’s extremely busy schedule!”