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Funktion-One scores with sound system at Volgograd Arena

It’s 18 June and the sun has set in Volgograd. England are about to face Tunisia in one of the opening games of the 2018 World Cup at the newly built Volgograd Arena and expectations are high.

Volgograd Arena was designed by Moscow-based Sport-Engineering, the winner of an open tender. Stroytransgaz was the project’s general construction contractor and Inline was the lead contractor for various AV aspects of the project, including the main bowl sound system.

The 303m diameter stadium has a capacity of 45,000 seats, including 2,280 seats in the media area, 640 VIP seats, and 460 accessible seats.

The facade, roof, and bowl have been designed as three independent structural systems. The grandstand areas are roofed with a lightweight tensile structure supported by a ring cable.

Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, saw one of the largest battles in human history during WWII, as the Soviet army halted Hitler’s advance, marking a turning of the tide in favour of the Allies.

The World Cup is seen by many as an opportunity for a new beginning. In the weeks before the tournament, director of Volgograd History Museum, Sergei Morinov, told the world’s press that he hoped it would drive tourism and help to craft a new image of Volgograd as a city of peace.

While the Tunisia vs. England game is draped in the hopes and dreams of two nations, there are certain people dotted around the world who are watching on with an additional level of anticipation and excitement.

For the team behind the stadium’s huge Funktion-One sound system, the game is the ultimate sign-off on a project that had been at the forefront of their minds for the best part of two years.

That team was led by Edelweiss Audio – also known as Funktion-One Russia – who worked very closely with Funktion-One in the UK and were also supported by MC2/XTA.

Edelweiss Audio has pedigree in sports venues, having completed work on a bespoke Funktion-One speaker system at Krasnodar Arena in south-west Russia in 2016, which was at the time regarded as the most technically advanced stadium in the country.

Then there are the company’s installations at Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Rewarding project

The Volgograd Arena project has been both challenging and rewarding. From the outset, it was clear that there would be some logistical obstacles.

Firstly, producing such an extensive order of equipment, and secondly shipping it from the UK to Russia to meet a series of unwavering deadlines.

Add to that the fact that this is an official World Cup venue, therefore there was a strict set of performance criteria from football’s governing body, FIFA, that had to be met.

Edelweiss Audio’s technical director Andrei Kremenchugskiy explainsed:

We spoke to some partners who suggested we put in a tender. In Russia, the design of any system is done in two stages. Firstly, the preliminary stage – when the main solutions are chosen, the budget is set and acoustic modelling is done – is quite formal. The second stage is when the design work is done and the equipment is specified.

From the very beginning, Kremenchugskiy worked closely with members of the Funktion-One team. It started with Funktion-One founder, Tony Andrews.

Kremenchugskiy and Andrews discussed the project at length and formulated a design that would give the stadium the highest level of sports venue sound.

There were a number of key factors to consider. FIFA states that ‘excited football crowds can reach levels of 110dB SPL’, therefore ‘the sound system shall be capable of overcoming the crowd noise by at least 6dB, with deviations in overall sound levels across the spectator area not exceeding +/- 3dB.

In addition to that, the PA system should be capable of having its volume increased in response to crowd noise to ensure intelligibility of voice messaging, a maximum SPL of 125dB should not be exceeded and the frequency response in the seating areas should be at least 120Hz to 5kHz +/- 3dB.

It should also be capable of reproducing music with an extended frequency response between 40Hz and 120Hz +6dB/-3dB and between 5kHz and 12kHz +/-4dB, and should provide enough headroom to compensate for atmospheric loss of high frequencies.

Working with this criteria and architectural plans of the stadium, Kremenchugskiy collaborated with the Funktion-One design team on simulations and modelling in EASE.

This allowed them to pinpoint specific challenges and ways of overcoming them, and to map out the optimum loudspeaker specifications, configurations and positions.

Funktion-One’s Evo Series was already a proven entity in stadium technology, having been deployed in bespoke cluster arrangements at Krasnodar.

At Volgograd, where Evo loudspeakers combine with the manufacturer’s renowned bass technology, they provided the perfect building blocks for designing a sound system that would meet FIFA’s criteria and give visitors to the stadium a first class listening experience.

The final system design features 638 Funktion-One loudspeakers and 50 MC2 Audio amplifiers.

Accurate arrays

The loudspeakers are accurately arrayed and aimed using bespoke metalwork – 24 C-shape clusters along the sides and 12 Y-shape clusters for the corners.

Each array features Evo 6SH loudspeakers with 50-degree horizontal dispersion for the closer seats and Evo 7SH loudspeakers with narrower dispersion and resulting higher intensity for the further seats.

To help spread the load on the suspended roof, alternate clusters are supplemented with either two F215 Mk2 midbass or a single F221 bass enclosure.

Under-balcony coverage is provided by Funktion-One’s highly intelligible and compact F81 and F101 loudspeakers.

Kremenchugskiy said:

The Evo clusters have really strong directivity control – both in the horizontal and the vertical planes. If you run just one cluster, you could clearly hear its zone of coverage. If you walk just a couple of metres outside the coverage pattern, the drop in level is astonishing. You can easily localise the sound to the closest cluster at any seat and, overall, we achieved very even coverage.

The combination of midbass and low-bass enclosures delivers strong overall bass and, once carefully time aligned, combined really well with the Evos. Due to the high efficiency of these bass loudspeakers, the system response has good balance even at very high SPL levels.

Funktion-One’s David Bruml, who was heavily involved in the project throughout, added:

The Funktion-One Evo system at Volgograd Arena offers class-leading clarity and intelligibility for voice announcements, plus it delivers impressive and truly immersive full-range musical reproduction to enhance the match-day experience for fans.

 

Evo loudspeakers feature Funktion-One’s latest technological developments. Both the Evo 6 and Evo 7 are available in various derivations, resulting in a series of loudspeakers that is adaptable to a wide variety of applications.

The SH versions feature the mid-high section only (no 15-inch mid-bass) and aren’t housed in a cabinet. This means that, while they have the Evo performance characteristics, they are very compact and extremely light.

With the system spec’d, the design team needed amplification that is both Dante-enabled and capable of preserving the sound quality of the Funktion-One loudspeakers.

MC2 has been a trusted partner for many years and, once again, the company delivered.

Amplification comes from 50 OEM Delta amplifiers from MC2 Audio. The amplifiers are all quad output, providing 200 channels of DSP and amplification, and a total power just short of 500kW.

Richard Fleming, sales and applications manager at MC2, who was involved in drawing up the specification of the amps explains:

All the amps are connected via Ethernet and configured using our ‘AudioCore: Amped Edition’ software with our killer new feature – grouping architecture.

The custom designed arrays of Evo, F215s and F121s, plus the F81s and F101s, with the requirement for Dante audio networks, and full monitoring of all amplifiers, could have been a tall order to setup and control. Using the grouping architecture, we logically grouped and sub-grouped to minimise the apparent complexity of the system, simplifying it from 212 channels down to just eight sets of grouped controls.

There are 50 Delta DSP amplifiers running AudioCore, which are spread across multiple sites throughout the stadium – with most amp racks containing eight amplifiers.

All amps are equipped with Dante digital network audio, which was used for audio distribution throughout the entire stadium. This allows the amps to have their input channel sources controlled globally and changed easily without any local re-patching.

Kremenchugskiy explains:

The grouping architecture in AudioCore made my life a lot simpler when it came to taking control of the entire system. I was able to create output groups of all tops, and mid sections of all cabs, plus separate control of the subs – ending up with just three control faders. The groups have an additional feature – solo – which enables us to quickly check individual parts of the system.

By using the input grouping, I could create a single control to adjust selected channels on each amplifier to have separated control over the media inputs picked off the Dante network. All the output groups have relative gain adjustment, so any gain structure already in place between individual elements or across the entire system is maintained if I make changes through the group controls. I also was able to create the most dangerous group of all – the ‘mute all’ group – which controlled over 200 channels of audio.

Deltas have powerful and comprehensive DSP and full audio networking. They also feature four additional aux outputs, running entirely independently of the amplifier channels.

MC2’s Waring Hayes said:

Whilst in this application the four extra aux outputs on each DSP amplifier weren’t required for the live audio, they could easily be used to provide broadcast feeds as they are fully independent of the main amplifier channels and have their own DSP and routing options. They could be thought of as a method of breaking Dante off the network for other uses without any additional cost. Audio can even be routed through them from any source and put back on to the network without the amps ever using it – break in and break out if you will!

A single non-DSP amplifier was used for some of the VIP loudspeakers. Hayes continued: The non-DSP versions also have the option of a Dante input card – this fits out the amp with 4 x 96k DACs – the same as used to drive the four additional aux outputs of the DSP amps so you can guarantee the same superb audio performance.

The sound installation at Volgograd Arena was only possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of everyone involved.

There is special recognition for the production team at Funktion-One’s headquarters in Surrey, England.

This project required close cooperation and support from the company’s suppliers and assurances that each link in the production chain could deliver.

The order was shipped in three stages during November 2017, each one sending a 40ft container the 2,385 miles from Dorking to Volgograd.

Bruml explains:

We worked the Volgograd order in with the overall production schedule, as we had orders from other customers that also had to be delivered on time. We had a lead time of 14 weeks from order to all equipment being supplied, which isn’t a huge amount of time, but with careful planning all of the equipment was supplied on time.

The final stage of the project saw Bruml travel out to Russia with Funktion-One founder John Newsham. Bruml said:

John and I visited Volgograd in May 2018, ahead of the World Cup, to help finalise tuning. The system performed fully as modelled and predicted during the design phase. The sound feels perceptibly close to the audience, with an intimacy and accuracy rarely heard from stadia sound systems.

Russia hosted the most competitive and enjoyable World Cup in recent history. Though one of the favourites, France, lifted the trophy after a 4-2 win over Croatia in the final, the tournament was full of entertaining matches and unlikely victories.

For those behind the audio infrastructure at Volgograd Arena, the memories of being involved in bringing a FIFA-approved sound system to a World Cup stadium will live long in the memory. Hayes reflected:

This was an amazing opportunity to showcase our latest DSP amplifier platform, and we were thrilled that Funktion-One chose to specify DSP amps exclusively for the entire system. The amplifiers come in DSP and non-DSP – but still with network audio – flavours, so the additional monitoring and control aspect was important in the choice of DSP models.

Bruml said:

Following large-scale installations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi and for the Krasnodar Stadium, Funktion-One is honoured to have now supplied the loudspeaker system for the Volgograd Arena World Cup stadium, particularly in light of the historical significance of the city. Our designs are perfectly suited to the demands of world-class sporting applications and we look forward to further installations in similar arenas in the future.

We are extremely happy with the sound system installation at the Volgograd Arena and are grateful to our Russian partners for their unwavering support and excellent communication throughout. The whole company was energised by this major contract, which is amongst the largest Funktion-One installations to date.

Kremenchugskiy concluded:

Funktion-One has provided an unprecedented level of support both during design stage as well as at the final phase of the project, when John and David came over to Volgograd to help us with tuning of the system.

There were quite a few valuable pieces of advice from Tony and John when we were designing the system. These included recommendations with regards to the cluster configuration and metalwork, evaluation of EASE modelling results and many other things. They’ve were available throughout the World Cup period and I’m happy to say everything went very smoothly.

Volgograd Arena’s wider legacy is both immediate and purposeful. Following its role in the 2018 World Cup, it became the home of local football team – Rotor Volgograd. It will further serve the local community with the opening of a new health centre and as the venue for a mix of cultural and entertainment events.

@PanStadiaArena