d&b SL-Series is the Sound Behind the UK’s First Socially Distant Venue.

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Audio technology from d&b audiotechnik is making concerts during the pandemic possible. Audio company, Kingdom Services is using the d&b SL-Series to ensure a no compromise sound experience for guests at Virgin Money Unity Arena, the UK’s first officially socially distanced venue.

The venue is bringing a program of live performances to audiences in Newcastle while adhering to strict safety guidelines. The audience configuration has each patron experiencing the live event on their own platformed private viewing area. While the site itself can hold between 15,000 to 20,000 patrons, social distancing guidelines mean a maximum of 2,500 audience members are permitted in the site at any one time.

Delivering a unique venue and audience experience required a superior sound system to ensure a consistent audio quality and impact for a crowd spread further apart than ever before. Audio supplier for the venue, Kingdom Services, was faced with the challenge of ensuring the venue’s new configuration did not compromise the sound. Due to strict safety guidelines, fans cannot move around the site to get a better view and instead must stay on their allocated platform. Anyone working on the site must be at least two meters away from the audience. With these restrictions, Kingdom Services was not able place any of their usual set up in the middle of the site as it would interfere with the crowd’s view of the performances, which meant their front-of-house and delay towers needed to be totally reconfigured.

This is the first set up of its kind, no one has done anything like this before, so we really needed to think outside the box to figure out how to give the crowd an exceptional live experience in these exceptional times. The most important consideration for us was how to provide a consistent listening experience across the entire site and ultimately we knew d&b would be the right partner to ensure we achieved this.John Smith, Founder at Kingdom Services

One of d&b’s founding principles is Democracy for Listeners, a belief that every member of the audience  should experience the same exceptional quality of sound, regardless of their position — a belief more important now than ever. Ultimately, Kingdom Services chose d&b’s SL-Series with ArrayProcessing to deliver the venue’s schedule of shows this year.

ArrayProcessing allows the sound system to deliver the same remarkable quality of sound to every member of the audience. For Kingdom Services, this was their first introduction into the world of ArrayProcessing and that exceptional results it delivers.

“Fortunately, during the initial weeks of lockdown we took advantage of d&b’s online training platform and did a course in ArrayProcessing.” said John Smith, Founder at Kingdom Services.

ArrayProcessing has been incredibly successful in this site, you can hear the change that it makes instantly, there is absolutely nothing like it. Without the SL-Series and ArrayProcessing we wouldn’t have been able to provide a consistent listening experience for this socially-distanced crowd.John Smith

For many concert goers, this is the first time they have experienced live entertainment after months of cancellations and delays.

Since its grand opening in August, the venue has been used to host a wide variety of performers from artists like Van Morrison and Two Door Cinema Club to comedian Jimmy Carr and most recently Bongo Bingo, a mix of traditional bingo and rave. The feedback from the organizers as well as the audiences has been positive, with everyone adhering to the strict safety guidelines.

For Kingdom Services Sound Engineer, Kim Watson, the system was not only a pleasure to work with, but its precision ensured the shows never disturbed the venue’s close neighbors.

The cardioid nature of the KSL massively helped with off-site noise restrictions. With the program of performances running for five weeks Newcastle Council wanted as little disturbance off- site as possible and we definitely achieved that with the organizers commenting on how quiet it was behind the stage.Kim Watson, Kingdom Services Sound Engineer

“So far we have been an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences. When the show begins and the lights come down, the fans forget about the unusual set up and they just enjoy the great live experience that they have been missing for months,” added Smith. “The support from d&b has been second to none and we couldn’t deliver this unique sound experience in this unique setting without them.”

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