Audio upgrade puts Amsterdam ArenA ahead of the game.
Amsterdam ArenA is home to AFC Ajax, the Dutch football team’s international fixtures, as well as providing a stop-off point for touring artists including the likes of Coldplay and U2.
Tim Oosterop is the venue’s Production Manager: “Like our LED screens, or escalators, audio investment is not something you can charge for, it doesn’t translate directly into revenue, but it does see the audience come earlier and stay longer. If they’re here that’s good for revenue, and makes best use of the facilities. Ajax already has its own video production department and puts a lot of work into the pre-show environment. Entertainment is the key component and quality audio is a big part of delivering that experience.”
Looking to install a new audio solution, the venue defined three main objectives. Firstly, regulation compliance, specifically UEFA/FIFA requirements for performance and intelligibility, and adherence to national and international safety standards for evacuation systems. Secondly, addressing the issue of atypical acoustics, difficulties that could not be solved - in realistic financial terms - by current construction techniques. And last but by no means least, enhancing the venue’s reputation as a host of other entertainment events - especially concerts - with an acknowledged leading audio brand.
Roland Hemming of audio practice, RH Consulting: “Initially we created a specification document to cover performance of the system, and compliance with the regulations, including Dutch national regulations. We created three versions, one for the local safety authority, a second for the bidders so they knew how to comply, and a third for FIFA and UEFA.”
“As far as the challenging acoustics of stadia is concerned, we wanted a system that allowed us to clearly show concert organizers, band managers and event promoters, that we’d made serious inroads into making it possible to achieve the highest quality sound,” explains Oosterop. “It’s no longer the case that shows of stadium stature just turn up, bring in their systems, then leave. They now find that if they take the time they can achieve unheard of levels of quality and listening experience for all their concert goers.
“For us that meant it was important to have an installed audio system from a brand that is recognized as superior by the touring industry. Through our research we observed that for a significant number of years d&b has been identified as number one, with three other close contenders, all of whom were invited to tender.”
Ampco/Flashlight, the arena’s audio service provider, arranged for d&b to make three presentations onsite and later at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena where an in-situ system is optimized with the d&b software tool, ArrayProcessing. “The fact ArrayProcessing interfaces invisibly with our existing MediaMatrix management system facilitates a simple and easily executed route to accommodating a variety of event formats,” confirms Oosterop. “And without compromising safety standards. With what we have now, we can present acoustic models and predictive scenarios to those planning to bring their shows here. We have an audio infrastructure that allows them to plan for best sound.”
216 Yi8 loudspeakers are configured in eighteen arrays, including three along the east and west stands - which rotate to suit the program’s needs. At the touch of a button, sound reinforcement can switch to evacuation mode, or reset from sports stadium mode to international concert venue. For lower levels, in dedicated media or VIP areas, unique avoidance zones can be defined - a requirement now fixed in the UEFA guidelines.
“The quality of the d&b system is not just a few steps up in terms of sonic delivery, there are other benefits, not least massive savings in power consumption,” says Oosterop. “The old system, to comply with evacuation regulations, had to be on 24/7. With the new solution it can be off when not in use. Not only that, for smaller events where just part of the stadium is used, the system is zoned, so we have default programmes within the evacuation control customized for us, that trigger the evacuation system to move people out zone by zone.
“Not only is sound improved throughout the venue, audio power consumption has reduced by 85%. Not only is that a huge financial impact, it’s also a great ecological result. One of the arena‘s aims is to be carbon neutral; we already have solar panels and wind turbines in place. Now we are one step closer.”
Photography courtesy of Jorrit Lousberg