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Antwerp’s SportPaleis Upgrades with Martin Audio

FOH Staff • International News • March 3, 2009

ANTWERP, Belgium — For its first Martin Audio OmniLine installation in the country, Ampco Belgium has supplied and installed 72 OmniLine micro-line array enclosures in different hang configurations within the five-story high Antwerps Sportpaleis concert and sports arena.

“It’s ironic that the smallest line array in the market should open its account in one of the largest, multi-purpose venues in the country,” said Ampco Belgium sales manager Steven Kemland.

Built in 1933 and recently augmented with a new building, the main arena holds around 17,000, with the new space offering about half that capacity.

But it is on three floors of the general concourse areas that technical manager Geert Torfs has made his boldest move as part of an upgrade plan implemented when he joined the operation more than a year ago.

Optimized by the Martin Audio Engineer DSP, the new OmniLine takes a wide range of feeds, from delayed sound off the concert stage to background music from a satellite Digibox, when Engineer’s BassCreator algorithm kicks in to beef up the low end.

The system can also deliver announcements to the arriving crowds, link into the voice evacuation procedure, pump out dance music and even play pre-recorded ringtone messages stored in the NION 3 digital matrix, which can be coupled to the fire system.

The 72 OmniLine cabinets have been designed and distributed around the arena in four clusters of four and four clusters of six on the ground floor, two clusters of eight on the first floor, and four clusters of four on the second floor.

Torfs had previously worked with Ampco Belgium prior to joining Sportpaleis, and the pro audio company has also carried out installations at theme parks such as Plopsaland for Torfs’ previous company, Studio 100.

Heading a technical team of 10, Torfs today is part of the operating company, Antwerp Sportpaleis NV, which was set up in June 1997.

“When we first arrived on site in Antwerp there were lots of different analog feeds going everywhere in the building, all with different EQ, none of it compatible, and no delayed sound out in the ring,” said Kemland. With the idea for “achieving high intelligibility via a small line array” he invited Sportpaleis’ technical team, which also included head of sound Christophe Cammaert, to an OmniLine demonstration at their Boom HQ.

The elimination of high-frequency sidelobes makes OmniLine suitable for high quality music reproduction and speech in large, reverberant spaces such as the solid concrete outer ring at Sportpaleis.

“We were immediately sold on the system,” said Torfs. “I was not only impressed by how it sounded but by what it could achieve in combination with the Engineer. For me it was perfect solution – –an aesthetic speaker which sounded great and was easy to optimize.”

Ampco Belgium employed several layers of optimization on each of the three floors — starting with the set-up. OmniLine achieves vertical beam forming by physically articulating individual array modules using powerful optimization software to curve the array rather than applying DSP to a traditional column. This enables focused sound energy to be delivered exactly where it is needed and kept away from reflective surfaces and ceiling.

The system’s different performance characteristics were then programmed into the MediaMatrix NION 3, in the case of the delays, and the Engineer, in the event of smoothing out the input source, and applying or subtracting the BassCreator function.

As part of the same contract, Ampco Belgium has taken the opportunity to create a less complex network for the auditorium. A separate optical fiber system spans the venue, to keep cable runs as short as possible, and a wireless tablet PC links in with the network. In the upper balcony are 14 stacks of classic Martin Audio F2 enclosures.

“We have had a lot of favorable comments, from both customers and professionals alike,” said Torfs, noting its benefits for the venue, which also has its own velodrome and hosts basketball and tennis events.

“The speakers we had before sounded dreadful, particularly without delay,” noted Cammaert. “OmniLine has made a big difference. Aesthetically it’s really beautiful, but in practice it is even more so.”

For more information, please visit www.martin-audio.com.

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