Paris La Défense Arena in France, a 40,000-capacity, multiuse indoor arena located just west of the Paris city center, is equipped with a unified audio system that serves live performances and can also be utilized in emergencies, with Audinate Dante networking a key in helping it to meet EN 54 European life safety standards that are required by law.
Opened in December of 2017, the venue takes advantage of the “multiuse” component of its design. It has played host to The Rolling Stones, Kendrick Lamar, and Paul McCartney. It also 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.
Traditionally, large arenas have struggled to source an EN 54 compliant system that also meets their audio performance requirements, mainly due to challenges associated with battery-backed systems in delivering the required performance flexibility and power requirements in the bowl. The most common approach 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,” says Laurent Delenclos, Technical Director at Freevox – the firm that provided the design and integration at the 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.”
Henry Rawlins, application manager at ASL, explains, “ASL’s EN 54 solution performs on all fronts. 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.”
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 scalable, an approach that leveraged Dante while still providing EN 54 compliance would be an attractive option 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 adds.
The distributed 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 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 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 point-array loudspeakers in the arena bowl and drive back of house 100-volt ceiling loudspeakers. All of the loudspeakers 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 states.
By using Dante connectivity and ASL’s design, Delenclos was able to prove the setup he envisioned: “The audio is clear anywhere you are located in the arena. 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.”