Spanning over five months from October to March, the Riyadh Season is a celebration of the city as the capital of Saudi Arabia and, in a wider context, of Saudi culture and its people. It is one of the many initiatives that forms part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, a set of social and economic reforms designed to enhance the quality of life for citizens and residents, as well as boosting economic and tourist activity.
The most prominent Saudi landmark of 2021, Boulevard Riyadh City was the pride of Riyadh Season 2021/22. Built from the ground up by local companies, the zone covers some 900,000 square meters and contains nine areas, each with its own set of events. Each area contains luxurious restaurants, cafés, upmarket boutiques, gardens, games centers and more. Special features include the largest cinema in the Kingdom, an electric car circuit, a skating rink and four theatres for concerts and shows. To guarantee quality experiences in keeping with the ambitious nature of this giant complex, each theater is fully equipped with a state-of-the-art V-Series sound system from d&b supplied by d&b’s local sales partner and AV experts, 7Hertz.
7Hertz managing partner, Chadi Masri, explained that they were approached by Sela, a leading events management company based in Saudi Arabia and operating worldwide. Sela has been delivering the Riyadh Season since 2019 and, as such, was responsible for designing and specifying the systems destined for the new theatres. “Our relationship with Sela goes back a long way,” said Masri. “We’ve known the technical director, Hicham Bitar, and the head of audio, Samer Atallah, for some time now and have built up a relationship of trust over the years. They know that we always do our best for our customers. When this project came along, they had already more or less made up their minds that it would be d&b, so naturally we were their first choice.”
“Having used d&b on a number of different events worldwide and visited the company headquarters in Germany for seminars and training, we were already very familiar with the brand,” Bitar explained. “For this project we required a solution that covered all the bases: extremely high quality, modern, flexible enough to handle all types of performance and rider friendly. During the season—and even beyond now that the Boulevard Riyadh City is a permanent structure—we have different artists coming in with a different show every week, so it was imperative for us to have systems that we are proud to present to any engineer and that all engineers are happy to use. d&b was a very easy choice.”
“When considering the limitations for designing an indoor sound system for a theatre, there are two points to keep in mind; first, directivity of sound, and second, homogenous sound across the venue," Atallah added. "d&b are leading the industry at the moment in terms of sound directivity—in short putting the energy where needed and avoid exciting unwanted parts of the venue which can yield late reflections and reverberation which may, in turn, deteriorate speech intelligibility. This is a key issue for the audience since we are mainly engaged in theatrical plays. People need to understand every word to live the experience.”
Sela decided on d&b V-Series line array systems throughout due to their high-performance capabilities and versatility. The two largest theatres (Bakr Al Shaddi and Mohammad Al Ali) range in capacity from 600-900 seats and sport L/R hangs of ten V8 and two V12 per side supported by a pair of centrally flown large format SL-SUB cardioid subwoofers. Four T10s and two Y7Ps act as front fills and side fills respectively, and four M4 stage monitors complete the lineup. The two smaller theatres (Al Andaleeb and Kawkab Al Sharq) are set up in cabaret style with guest seated at tables for an integrated dining and entertainment experience. Here, Sela opted for L/R arrays of three V8 and one V12 per side and a pair of centrally flown medium format KSL-SUB cardioid subwoofers. Once again, front fill and side fill duties are performed by four T10s and two Y7ps respectively with four M4 stage monitors for foldback. d&b’s patented ArrayProcessing technology is used throughout to optimize performance across the listening zones of each theater.
“It was, and still is, very challenging for sound designers to deliver the same audio experience for every seat in the house, but d&b made it easy for us with their ArrayProcessing technology, a combination of filters and delays for each cabinet that makes great sound even better, in terms of both minimum SPL variation and frequency response,” noted Samer.
The ArrayProcessing functionality is also particularly appreciated by Bitar, for whom it was a top priority when it came to choosing a system. “ArrayProcessing enables us to achieve the absolute best possible sonic performance, even in a difficult venue,” he said. “This turned out to be especially important as we were working to extremely tight deadlines, and specifications were changing right up until the last minute. However, d&b’s ArrayProcessing technology not only ensures that we’ll get the best out of the system, whatever the environment.”
However, it isn’t just the ArrayProcessing functionality that attracted Atallah to d&b. “You can get amazing sound out of a d&b system in no time,” he said. “What’s more, they are very efficient in terms of SPL output to weight ratio—other manufacturers would need to double the weight to achieve the same SPL, which is an important difference when facing rigging load limitations. Also, I love the tools provided by d&b to help us do our jobs well, from accurate software for design and control to processors that can interface with all audio protocols, allowing us to create everything from traditional systems to breath-taking immersive audio configurations. d&b gives us everything we need to design amazing-sounding systems, even in the most challenging of spaces.”
Speaking of challenges, logistically, the project was taxing for a variety of reasons. “Our friends at 7Hertz and their integration partner, Hi-Fi Service, worked incredibly hard to make sure that everything came together seamlessly,” said Hicham. “The world was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, so supply chains were still disrupted, whilst onsite, changes to building design were happening quite late in the day, which naturally has an impact on requirements further down the line. Nevertheless, despite the supply challenges and the tight deadline, together we delivered a fantastic project that does justice to the ‘raison d’être’ of the Riyadh Season; namely a celebration of the Saudi people and its culture, using the best materials available to deliver the highest quality experience to our visitors.”