France, 17 October 2023 – As part of its recent refurbishment, the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in the French city of Saint-Étienne is set out to tackle its issues with audio intelligibility, settling on a solution from d&b audiotechnik. Combining unrivalled live sound with a high level of intelligibility for announcements, the stadium now boasts a best-in-class audio performance.
Dating from 1931, the historic stadium is home to the city’s local football team and has been the setting for several top-flight encounters during FIFA’s Euro and World Cup competitions. Responsible for enhancing the overall experience for the stadium’s audiences was Lyon-based design consultancy, Cobalt. Like the stadium’s management team, Cobalt’s CEO Pierre-Philippe Garde had a holistic vision for the stadium – one which would give visitors to the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium a new and improved ‘live’ experience. He says, “In this type of complete refurbishment, the general impression you’ll get of the whole project as a spectator will be linked to sound, video and light – all the aspects have to be perfect.”
To make it so, the audio team faced multiple technical challenges. Firstly, the new audio system needed to provide a full-range, precise sound to every listener in the stadium, regardless of where they were seated. Secondly, it would have to solve the stadium’s existing issues with poor intelligibility of announcements – a problem exacerbated by the legendary fervour of Saint-Étienne’s supporters and the stadium’s RT60 reverberation time of more than five seconds in the lower frequencies. Adding further to the challenge, the new solution would have to allow for the low weight-loading of the stadium structure itself, as well as being as unobtrusive as possible to protect audience sightlines.
The system chosen to meet these demanding criteria was based around d&b audiotechnik’s Y-Series line array modules, along with point source loudspeakers from its xS Series. Low-end support is provided by the d&b Vi-SUB SVS – the stadium-specific installation version of the V-SUB. Although designed for ground-stacked applications, the subs here are in fact flown behind the top cabinets.
While the Vi-SUBs deliver the benefit of their cardioid performance and exceptional output-to-weight ratio, the Y-Series’ installation-specific Yi12 and Yi8 boxes were chosen for their excellent directivity control. The 24S and 10S-D point source speakers were selected because they ensure a tonal balance which seamlessly continues the intelligibility beyond the areas covered by the Y series clusters. Together, the directivity and control characteristics of these loudspeakers made them an ideal choice for improving intelligibility while reducing weight requirements and maximising sightlines.
d&b’s Custom Solutions team – including Nicholas Traa, Lukas Walter, and Michael Eckstein – provided valuable assistance throughout the project. They were able to design a dedicated rigging solution adapted to the new stadium’s carpentry, while a new algorithm developed by d&b was also used to speed up the calculation times, making for an important time saving during the fine-tuning of the project.
The physical installation was carried out by main contractor SPIE, led by project manager Damien Venet. The stadium’s technical operation is looked after by local integrator VideoScope and consequently it was they who were responsible for the cabling and the control room implementation. To minimise cable losses, all the speakers are wired separately to the amplifiers. This also allows future plug-and-play improvement with d&b ArrayProcessing to maximise the comfort of the sound levels in the commentary positions.
In all, the d&b team was able to contribute its considerable expertise to a variety of challenges, helping to successfully achieve the sound element of the overall vision for the stadium shared by the stadium management and Cobalt’s Pierre-Philippe Garde – making this a live experience to be remembered, and repeated.