Sydney integrators, The P.A. People, are no strangers to Australia’s biggest audio systems. Specialists in stadia and sporting venue sound, they’ve been responsible for events as big as the Olympics and installations covering an entire precinct’s worth of locations. Given the vast sizes of their projects, The P.A. People has long been at the forefront of using the most effective and efficient forms of audio transport and distribution, pioneering the use of Audio over Ethernet in the form of CobraNet in major installations back in the 1990s.
As Audio over Ethernet technology has matured and developed into Audio over IP, The P.A. People has remained at the cutting edge, now regularly using Audinate’s Dante as their AoIP technology of choice. Two major projects that have seen The P.A. People deploy large scale Dante networks recently include the vast new stand at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse and the audio distribution system at Sydney’s 83,500-capacity ANZ Stadium.
The Australian Turf Club’s new Grandstand at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse represented a huge distribution challenge for audio. The installation ranges over six levels, two structures and 25,000m2 of floor space. A 1,000 port HP ProCurve Ethernet network carries audio to and from 115 zones with 154 amplifier channels in use, running alongside 60 channels of video and 30 channels of digital signage to over 800 screens. Brett Steele, Manager – Installed Systems at The P.A. People and Josh Jones, Project Manager, turned to the BSS Soundweb London series, deploying multiple BLU signal processors and BLU-326 I/O expanders, both with built-in Dante connectivity, to easily connect eleven racks of equipment spread across eight separate locations.
“We’ve used Dante to transport audio across all levels and the external areas,” explained Josh. “We’ve also used Dante to take advantage of the DSP loading across the entire venue. Because we had 64 audio channels available for signal transport, we were able to send audio to the other side of the venue to a BLU that had spare capacity, do some processing and then send it back. It was a process that involved us managing our DSP usage by design, and accommodating the additional requirements of the client. We had the flexibility of distributing processing instead of buying and installing more localised gear.”
Both the BLU-806 and BLU-326 have a flexible card-bus architecture that enables differing combinations of analogue and digital I/O to be added according to system requirements. Local analogue inputs at Randwick include the all-important race call, feeds from interstate races, inputs from The Weighing Room and Theatre of the Horse, and BGM. Some function spaces include multiple line sources for external equipment. All channels are transported via the BLU’s built-in Dante ports across the site’s network, before being connected directly by Cat5 via the BLU’s built-in BluLink proprietary digital bus to the 80 Crown amplifiers that power the system. Over 1,000 individual JBL loudspeakers across ten different models complete the system.
Josh and the team used the BLU-806’s internal processing to ensure that the most important audio always gets heard. “There are multiple priority levels,” Josh continued. “The local race caller is top dog, then other races around country, then the BGM. It’s all distributed everywhere, with priority managed in the BLU806s.” To manage the system, The P.A. People has placed four PC’s across the site running a virtual control desk for the DSPs and amplifiers, created using the BSS London Architect software.
ANZ Stadium’s new PA has been celebrated for bringing concert-quality sound to a permanent stadium install, but little attention was given to the elegant audio network solution that keeps it all running. Supporting the PA design by Scott Willsallen of Auditoria, Brett Steele, Manager – Installed Systems at The P.A. People – oversaw the deployment of a simple but powerful BSS solution that provides not only a fully redundant network backup, but a redundancy for the redundancy!
Five BLU-326s are installed in ANZ; one in each of four amplifier rooms and one in the central control room. The control room’s audio console outputs its mix via AES/EBU and analogue, connecting to a BLU-326. Dante is then used to distribute the mix to the four BLU-326s in the remote amplifier rooms over two HP ProCurve networks, taking advantage of Dante’s built-in ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ ports to provide a failsafe in the event of cable or equipment failure. Not content with just one back-up, Brett’s team then connected the BLU-326s via their built-in BluLink digital audio bus to four BSS BLU-BOB1 breakout boxes, providing an emergency analogue feed if necessary.
Ultimately, the audio distributed around the ground over Dante is used to connect directly to Dante interfaces built into third-party processing and amplification. With over 150 manufacturers now licensing Dante chipsets to build into their products, Dante has become the industry standard in audio networking. “The ability to mix and meld equipment from different manufacturers is always helpful,” agreed Brett, “and it’s easy to get a Dante system up and running in terms of configuration.”
The P.A. People continues to choose BSS processing across a range of their work, from small education and church installations right up to the largest pieces of public infrastructure. “Soundweb London is an easy-to-use, scalable family of DSP,” stated Brett. “There’s a model to suit most projects, from the BLU-50s and BLU-100s right through to anything you can think of building in the top end. You can scale systems up or down as you need to.”