LEGOLAND Bolsters U.K.'s First Flying Theatre Ride With EM Acoustics R10 System

'Ride of the Sky Lion,' the Flying Theatre attraction at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, features a world-class sound system centered on EM Acoustics' new flagship Reference Series R10 system. (Image credit: EM Acoustics)

Overcoming the somewhat inauspicious climate created by the global pandemic, LEGOLAND Windor Resort has continued to invest in its infrastructure. Part of that investment has included the upgrade of its 4D cinema as well as the implementation of a brand-new ride, the U.K.'s first Flying Theatre attraction, "Ride of the Sky Lion." The new attraction forms part of LEGOLAND's most recent development, Mythica: World of Mythical Creatures, an area that was inaugurated for the park's reopening in early 2021. The LEGOLAND production team overseeing the design and installation of the new ride called on their long-term audio supplier and consultant, Dave Shepherd of D.S. Audio, to ensure the audio experience was the very best possible. Shepherd specified a system based on EM Acoustics' new flagship Reference Series R10 system.

Shepherd's brief was straightforward enough: to design a world class sound system for the new Flying Theatre ride with consideration to budget and future technical expansion. Shepherd began the project by conducting extensive research on similar installations in the U.S. in order to improve on known issues, namely intelligibility. Following his research Shepherd decided on an EM Acoustics system built around a core of R10s.

Related: UK’s First Flying Theatre Ride to Open at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort

"The ride includes a 15m high parabolic metal screen and three floors of moving gondolas to create an immersive flying experience through the new World of Mythica," explained Shepherd. "With localized scent, water spray and wind devices on each gondola adding to the immersive experience, it was essential that the dynamic audio content be an integral part of that element, adding excitement yet feeling totally natural."

Shepherd's research had already shown that intelligibility was a known problem in some similar rides in the U.S., which meant that loudspeaker choice and placement were critical. "I recommended the R10s from EM Acoustics, as the almost clinical response of these loudspeakers combined with exceptionally low cabinet resonance compared to similar products, ensures the audio reaches the guests with minimal disruption from the perforated metal screen," noted Shepherd. "As the ride building was almost a perfect cube with limited acoustic treatment, the chosen speaker had to do the vast share of the work in delivering intelligible audio to the listener. With a highly dynamic musical score and dramatic sound effects, it would be all too easy for the acoustics in the environment to impair the audio content, so speaker choice and placement were a key part of the design. The rigging flexibility and choice of waveguides available as standard on the R10 also played a key role in them becoming the obvious solution."

"We used a total of ten R10s distributed behind the curved screen screen in such a manner that we avoided any reflections from the screen itself (which was an issue in similar rides elsewhere) and were able to position the detailed audio exactly where it needed to be."

To enhance the cinematic experience of the ride, three EM Acoustics S-218 reflex loaded subwoofers are placed in a steered cardioid format at the base of the screen to allow guests to experience the impact of the full spectrum of the orchestral score and the dramatic accompanying sound effects. A range of EM Acoustics DQ Series amplifiers complete the line-up. Reactions to the new "Ride of the Sky Lion'" have been nothing short of ecstatic while some have described it as "the best dark ride in the country."

Matt Phillips, senior project manager at Merlin Entertainments (operator of LEGOLAND Parks), who was tasked with project managing the creation of the new Mythica area of the park, and in particular the "Ride of the Sky Lion" attraction, is proud of what has been achieved: "We were challenged to enhance the audio quality of the new Flying Theatre experience we were delivering. DS Audio were recommended to me by members of the LEGOLAND Windsor team; it was apparent very early on in the process that D.S. Audio were innovative thinkers and would take care of the whole delivery from supplier liaison, to design, test and commissioning. The end result is absolutely world class--the EM Acoustics audio system designed by Dave Shepherd at D.S. Audio is simply breathtaking and I'm looking forward to working with him for future projects."

Following the completion of the new ride, work began on upgrading the control system for the LEGO Studio 4D cinema, which had been in place since 2003 and was starting to show its age. In light of the roaring success of the audio system in the "Ride of the Sky Lion," Shepherd specified the same Reference Series R10 enclosures for the main LR elements--a choice that was wholly endorsed by the production team. These complemented the existing EM Acoustics MSE-159 center and EMS-81 fill speakers that were installed a few years ago to replace previous failed components of the system.

In addition to the R10s, two EM S-218 subwoofers were installed to upgrade the LFE element of the system and help rejuvenate the cinema for the modern audience. "The uncompromising performance of the EM Acoustics products has bought new life to the 4D cinema that had run on its original system since opening as a theater in 1996, and later converted to a 4D cinema in 2003," said Shepherd.

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