Superior sound at Supercross13 March 2014
The Westfalenhallen in Dortmund has a history of staging major rock concerts and sporting events, including the traditional motorsport season opener when Supercross (SX) offers the audience a unique blend of action, sport and entertainment within a 4,700sqm oval arena.
In order to host the largest such event in Germany – the ADAC Supercross, with its dedicated fanbase of some 9,000 -10,000 each day – the interior of the hall is converted into 300m-long courses with 200 truckloads of dirt shipped so that riders can compete in the SX1 and SX2 categories (with the grand finale on Sunday). The Red Bull Freestyle finale, when two-wheeled daredevils defy the laws of physics with their stunts and jumps, then raises the background cacophony to new heights.
Local pro audio company (and D.A.S. Audio network partner) Soundart GmbH, who first became involved in the event three years ago, are used to balancing the necessary SPL to overcome the sound of throttling bikes and even louder audience horns within the tight thresholds imposed by the German authorities. The rental house is also familiar with the compromises involved in flying a 360° rig around an existing infrastructure, with no floor space and minimal rigging points.
This year, D.A.S. Audio’s business development manager, Claus Behrens, chose to partner with electronics specialists Powersoft for his amplifier needs. The Italian company’s K6 touring switch-mode amps, providing power of up to 3,600W per channel at 2 ohms, would drive the 24-box Aero 50s (divided into four hangs) for the long axis of the hall. Soundart also trialled 24 of the smaller Aero 40-A three-way powered systems for the first time (also in four hangs). While the Aero 50 needed to fire over distances of 35-40m, the Aero 40-A projected around 26m across the shorter wings.
Connectivity to the Powersoft control environment enabled remote system monitoring and control to be carried out via its proprietary Armonía Pro Audio Suite software.
Benjamin Hartmann, CEO of Soundart, said the decision to switch to Powersoft was “inspired”, noting that in “slimming down” for the first time while driving the Aero 50, it had offered the best weight-to-efficiency ratio on the market.
“The analogue amplifiers we were using previously were non-intelligent, quite heavy and old fashioned. Also the processing we were running it with was being discontinued so there would be no further software updates.
“Claus looked around and Powersoft offered the best solution. The Aero 50 is a passive system which needed powerful amps, and we were aware just how much Powersoft had grown.”
In fact two amp racks, each containing six of the K6 amps, were deployed to drive different elements of the open three-way system. “In fact the K-series is brilliant — digital, very lightweight, compact and powerful, with processing on the amp. It occupies far less truck space and having the whole processing and monitoring [with AESOP Ethernet interface] is a big advantage.”
Claus Behrens had also recommended Powersoft because he favoured their presets, which he knew would bring a new optimisation to the Aero 50. “The short, medium and long-throw presets were impressive and we were easily able to recall and EQ these directly via the Armonía software on the PC,” noted Hartmann. “It’s very user friendly.
“D.A.S. had recommended this solution as being stable and efficient — this is the first try-out for us and we have had nothing but a good reaction.”
The challenges faced were not only in providing even pattern control through a 360° venue, so that everyone in the house could benefit from the same experience, but when handing over to the broadcaster the sponsors’ commercials could be played in seamlessly.
“The previous company had failed in that respect and were setting up gear in front of the LED wall so that sightlines were obstructed. With D.A.S. we have been able to present the whole 360° solution in a much better way, as the Aero 50 and 40-A enclosures have 90° coverage, so with four clusters we can achieve the full 360°.
To complete the coverage, another rental stager, HWS Veranstaltungstechnik placed a further 20 Variant 25A speakers, from D.A.S.’ installation portfolio, on the balcony upper level for infills.
The source feeds include live pitch commentary from two mics, commercials and music play-ins, provided by the broadcaster, from line devices.
The spectacle would not be complete without a dynamic visual and special effects presentation. This year flames (machines firing up to 12m high at the start of each day), strobes, fog machines on special rigging, and other special effects, lasers (16 separate RGB lasers), lighting and video all featured in the mix.
Benjamin Hartmann shares his belief that from a technical perspective, little could have gone better. “When the sound is loud, the intelligibility is good and the system works, then everyone is happy.”