Opened in 2015, the sports complex called "Tissot Arena" in Biel, Switzerland, features an ice hockey arena with a secondary field, a soccer stadium, a curling hall, and four outdoor sports grounds. Eclipse AG, also based in Biel, has been providing extensive technical support to the venue for a number of years. The ice hall, offering a capacity of 7,000 people, is home to EHC Biel, a team competing in the National League, Switzerland's premier ice hockey league.
As requirements for sound reinforcement in ice hockey arenas have grown substantially in recent years, an upgrade of the existing sound reinforcement system had to be considered. After extensive on-site tests, a QR24 fourfold 6.5-inch system from Alcons Audio in combination with a center cluster of LR18B for powerful bass performance was chosen.
Growing Main PA Demands
When the ice hall opened in 2015, the existing sound system had been designed both as an EVAC system and as a main PA for the audience areas. "Since then, however, the club's needs have changed considerably," stated Silvano Käppeli, technical manager at Eclipse AG. "Today, significantly more show elements are being created around team entries. And more so, also goals and wins want to be celebrated with intense light shows as well as powerful sound."
Last but not least, sponsors also play a major role in professional sports, as Käppeli reported. "For sponsor presentations, cinema-quality sound is now being expected. The bottom line is that the existing EVAC system is doing a great job. However, it could not keep up with the increased demands. Not all audience areas could be equally well provided with a good sound experience, so visitors often complained about the sound being too loud and aggressive. However, the audience itself generates a considerable volume in the arena. Any sound system will first have to overcome this noise barrier. So there remains only a fine line to navigate in terms of sound."
After Eclipse initially added a show lighting installation in the ice stadium in 2018 and also set up a new lighting and video control room, an evaluation followed in 2019 to determine what could be done to improve the sound in the arena. "They didn't want to touch the hall acoustics itself, so they wanted us to come up with a technical solution while maintaining the existing sound system."
16x QR24/110 covering the last four rows of the stands
Eclipse's analysis showed that the main system was insufficient for only the last four rows of the stands. After an on-site sectoral listening test (with and without system supplementation by Alcons loudspeakers), Alcons QR24 pro-ribbon 2-way line-source column loudspeakers were chosen.
The QR24 system is a vertical array system recommended for mainly permanent installations. The system combines perfectly natural, dynamic sound reproduction with excellent intelligibility and dispersion characteristics, even in the most acoustically challenging environments. By means of 2 RBN1203 12-inch pro-ribbon drivers, mounted coaxially with 4x6.5-inch woofers, the QR24 delivers a coherent (patented) horizontal pattern control with seamless coverage, combined with a sharply controlled vertical dispersion for a superb, SPL-independent, intelligibility over distance, without the necessity of DSP-based beam-shaping.
"The complementary sound reinforcement had to cover precisely those last four rows, without unnecessarily stimulating the glass walls behind them and thus worsening the already less than perfect reverberation situation," he says. "The Alcons QR24s produce a very narrow sound projection. 16 units were enough to cover the back rows all around," said Käppeli.
Recently, Eclipse installed the QR24 extension on the stands and an additional center bass cluster of eight LR18B 18-inch compact line array bass systems. The systems were powered by four Sentinel3 amplified loudspeaker controllers for the QR24s (one per channel with individual EQ, level, and delay controls) and one Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controller for the LR18Bs (two per channel).
Center Cluster of Eight LR18B
The LR18B is the dedicated woofer extension to the LR18 double 8-inch line-array, but can also be combined with any other Alcons pro-ribbon system, in both fixed installations and mobile applications. The front-loaded system delivers extremely accurate bass and subwoofer reproduction with the highest performance at the lowest levels of distortion, thanks to the extremely next-generation long-stroke 18-inch woofer.
The existing full-range system also delivered bass, but they proved to be too inconsistent to keep up with the desired high dynamics. A circumstance that may be acceptable for an EVAC system. However, for the show moments, which are all about emotion, tight and accurate bass reproduction is essential. Last but not least, also the commercials and sponsor feeds often apply intense bass.
"Our analyses revealed that one central bass cluster would be sufficient to cover the entire audience area," Käppeli explained. "We suspended the units from the center of the ceiling and electronically trimmed the existing system so that now only the LR18Bs provide the deep bass. Ever since, our engineers can deliver much more precision in the low frequencies."
Eclipse has been an Alcons user for many years. "Alcons provided exactly the required solution for this particular application: a very narrow, vertical sound system with perfect speech intelligibility. There aren't many loudspeakers on the market that have these characteristics. Alcons' solutions really excel in those acoustically often difficult sports arenas and multi-purpose halls."