La Défense, France – Paris La Défense Arena is a 40,000 capacity, multiuse indoor arena located just west of the Paris city center. Opened in December of 2017, the venue truly takes advantage of the “multiuse” component of its design. It has played host to The Rolling Stones, Kendrick Lamar, and Paul McCartney. It hosts rugby union fixtures for France’s national team, and is the home stadium of Racing 92, a Rugby Union team competing in the Top 14.
The commitment to a multiuse venue requires a unified audio system that sounds great for live performance, offers intelligibility in the spoken word, and can be relied upon in the event of an emergency. The system needs to adhere, without compromise, to EN 54 – a set of stringent European life safety product standards required by law, that dictate the performance criteria for a life safety audio system, which is to be used in the event of a fire.
Traditionally, large arenas have struggled to source a fully EN 54 compliant system that also meets their exacting audio performance requirements. This has mainly been due to challenges associated with traditional EN 54 compliant battery-backed systems in delivering the required performance flexibility and power requirements in the bowl.
The traditional solution has been the installation of two separate audio systems, adding significant extra costs, with complex design and delivery, and increased ongoing maintenance costs. However, when the Paris La Défense Arena was first being conceptualized the audio designer on the project wanted to see if it was possible to produce a streamlined audio system.
“When I first looked at designing the project at the arena, I wanted to find a way to set up one audio system that would work for both the comfort system and the security and safety system,” said Laurent Delenclos, Technical Director at Freevox – the firm that provided the design and integration at Paris La Défense Arena. “Everyone told me that was impossible. But then I found ASL and the solution it offered with integrated Dante, and I realized that yes, this setup could work, and it could work well.”
Combining two solutions into one
“ASL’s EN 54 solution performs on all fronts,” said Henry Rawlins, application manager at ASL. “ASL’s VIPEDIA audio controller with powerful 32-bit internal processing and a full frequency response, combined with ASL’s V2000 amplification provides the required signal to noise ratio, low distortion, and high power required to drive the bowl speakers. All of which is complemented by the Dante Brooklyn II module, allowing us to deliver the entertainment element as a ‘layer’ of functionality above and beyond the core EN 54 capabilities. This approach offers both the flexibility demanded by such a venue, and the peace of mind that the emergency functions of the system are not accessible over the open Dante network.”
Audinate’s Dante is the de-facto standard for digital audio networking, and distributes hundreds of uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio channels via standard Ethernet networks, with near-zero latency and perfect synchronization. Dante allows audio, control, and all other data to coexist effectively on the same network. ASL utilizes this to ensure minimal audio latency between nodes and loudspeaker stacks and allow for connection with Dante-enabled solutions located in the front of house.
Because Dante allows for high levels of interoperability and is extremely scalable, a solution that leveraged Dante while still providing EN 54 compliance would be a boon for stadiums.
“By merging the comfort system and the emergency system you immediately see a lot of other benefits, including substantial reductions in both up-front delivery, installation and ongoing whole life costs,” Rawlins said.
Dante-backed EN54 offerings
The state-of-the-art distributed audio system at the La Défense Arena consists of five audio nodes, each with a Dante-enabled ASL VIPEDIA-12-PRO audio controller providing the required high audio quality DSP, audio routing, and monitoring for the more than 60 separate PA zones. All of the VIPEDIAs are networked together using both ASL’s EN 54 compliant SecureLoop IP technology and with Dante. This provides EN 54 networking with time synchronized comfort audio and a seamless connection to front of house devices and non-emergency active subs.
Connected to the VIPEDIA audio controllers are a number of ASL EMS emergency microphones and 22 ASL V2000 amplifier mainframes, housing more than 100 hot swappable ASL D500 amplifier modules. The amplifiers drive both the high-performance point-array loudspeakers in the arena bowl and drive back of house 100V ceiling loudspeakers. All of the speakers are certified to EN 54-24.
“The end result is a powerful hybrid of EN 54 and Dante for a multi-user, cross-platform solution that removes the boundaries between what have previously been two separate systems, without compromising on either performance or safety.” Rawlins said.
The Dante functionality also allows for dovetailed connections with the many Dante-enabled devices on the market – from mixing consoles to loudspeakers, or to legacy devices connected to the Dante network via adapters. – all configured via a common and recognizable interface.
No longer impossible
By using Dante connectivity and ASL solutions, Delenclos was able to prove the setup he envisioned was far from “impossible.”
“The audio is clear anywhere you are located in the arena,” Delenclos said. “With Dante we see minimal latency across the arena, and it also works with third-party Dante enabled equipment, while ASL ensures everything remains EN 54 compliant. Due to the huge success at this site, this solution has now been modelled out at a number of sites and we hope that we have changed the way people think.”