|Opened in 1998 for that year’s FIFA World Cup, Stade de France is the country’s national stadium and hosts many of the highest profile sporting and live music events. Located in Saint-Denis just outside Paris, it has undergone a €1.5m upgrade to its audio system, with a major Yamaha and Nexo system ensuring that every one of up to 80,000 spectators enjoys the best sound.
Famed for staging rugby, football and athletics, Stade de France also hosts concerts by many of the world’s biggest artists like the Rolling Stones, U2, Muse, Madonna, Prince and, of course, the country’s iconic Johnny Hallyday. When constructed it was equipped with a Nexo Alpha audio system but, over a decade on and with considerable advances in digital audio technology, it was felt that a new system would improve the intelligibility and listening comfort for stadium users.
A number of companies were invited to tender for the contract. After a successful demonstration of a Yamaha/Nexo solution, Nantes-based Melpomen (the company which installed the original system) was the chosen supplier. Installed in early 2011, the new audio system features a Yamaha M7CL48-ES digital mixing console, 11 SB168-ES stage boxes, two DME64N and one DME24N digital mixing engines, nine AuviTran AVM500-ES EtherSound network matrices, nearly 300 Nexo Geo S12 loudspeakers, 20 RS18 subwoofers and 42 NXAMP 4x4C amplifiers.
"We used our recent upgrade of the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes as the template for Stade de France," said Sylvain Brottes, project manager at Melpomen. “Working closely with Yamaha, Nexo and Auvitran, we were able to deliver a solution which met all the requirements of Stade de France.”
The system is divided into four zones, covering the north, south, east and west areas of the stadium’s oval stands, with a total of 44 loudspeaker clusters. Each zone corresponds to a mono EtherSound channel broadcast from the M7CL mixing console, the signal to each then being split into four to provide optimum coverage for each level of seating - top, middle, lower and ‘athletics mode’. Additional tiers of lower seating can be slid out for some events, but are not required for athletics meetings as they cover the running track. So this mode allows some of the lower speakers to be switched off when the lowest tiers are retracted.
Two more channels, five and six, cover the pitch and the ‘courtyard’ outside the stadium respectively. Outputs seven and eight allow for recording of the stadium’s audio programme and announcements, via an MY8-AE interface card and a Tascam CD recorder (this satisfies legal requirements for monitoring content from the stage during concerts), while channels nine and ten are used for television feeds.
On the input side, the 11 SB168-ES stage boxes are distributed around the stadium on a ring architecture EtherSound network, allowing the use of wireless microphones and other inputs from a range of locations. The use of EtherSound allows cable runs to be replaced by far more efficient fibre optic, essential when the distances involved are up to 800 metres. Playback audio comes from CD players and a PC running Steinberg Cubase.
Equalisation, system optimisation and overrides for alarms and safety messages are managed by a Yamaha DME64N, with a second unit as a backup. Both are connected to a AuviTran AVRed-ES100 with two output ports, one automatically switching to the other in the event of failure. The DME64Ns are connected to the stadium’s Ateis IDA8C voice evacuation system, whose outputs are converted to EtherSound by an AuviTran AVA4-ES100 interface.
Meanwhile, the DME24N manages a separate audio system which covers the circulation area outside the stadium. Taking audio from channel six of the stadium’s M7CL, it features 18 clusters of Geo S8 and NXAMP 4x4C amplifiers.
After more than a year of planning, the installation of the new system had to be carried out without any interruption to the stadium’s busy programme of events and has been fully functional since the spring of 2011."The new system has made a huge difference to what we can do,” says Fabien Budnik of Stade de France’s audio visual department. “It has given us many more possibilities than we had before. I asked the sound engineers who regularly work what console they preferred and they voted for the M7CL. They have everything at hand and it is proving very popular.”