What a Performance!

The task

When an opera house is looking for a new sound system, this must meet extremely exacting requirements. If it is one of the two great national opera houses in France, these requirements are immense. This was certainly the case for the Opéra Bastille, where, because of its complex architecture and challenging acoustics, there were very precise ideas about what was needed from its future audio system: after all, not only did it have to be integrated as invisibly as possible into the auditorium, it also had to deliver perfect sound and speech reproduction on every level. These wishes were fulfilled, with state-of-the-art digital loudspeaker technology from Fohhn.

The task

When an opera house is looking for a new sound system, this must meet extremely exacting requirements. If it is one of the two great national opera houses in France, these requirements are immense. This was certainly the case for the Opéra Bastille, where, because of its complex architecture and challenging acoustics, there were very precise ideas about what was needed from its future audio system: after all, not only did it have to be integrated as invisibly as possible into the auditorium, it also had to deliver perfect sound and speech reproduction on every level. These wishes were fulfilled, with state-of-the-art digital loudspeaker technology from Fohhn.

The opera house

The Opéra Bastille was designed by Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, whose design was chosen from around 1,700 entries after an international competition in November 1983. The opera house was inaugurated just six years later, on 13th July 1989. Opéra Bastille is a large, modern opera house which has unique staging equipment, integrated workshops for stage designers, costumes and props, and numerous workspaces and rehearsal rooms. At its heart is the large concert hall, whose main stage is 45 metres high, 30 metres wide and 25 metres deep. It has state-of-the-art scenery lifts for creating different levels. Its orchestra pit can be moved, adapted to fit the stage and covered over and accommodates about 130 musicians.

The opera house

The Opéra Bastille was designed by Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, whose design was chosen from around 1,700 entries after an international competition in November 1983. The opera house was inaugurated just six years later, on 13th July 1989. Opéra Bastille is a large, modern opera house which has unique staging equipment, integrated workshops for stage designers, costumes and props, and numerous workspaces and rehearsal rooms. At its heart is the large concert hall, whose main stage is 45 metres high, 30 metres wide and 25 metres deep. It has state-of-the-art scenery lifts for creating different levels. Its orchestra pit can be moved, adapted to fit the stage and covered over and accommodates about 130 musicians.

The challenge

The auditorium seats audiences of 2745 on three levels – stalls and two main balconies, as well as eight side balconies. The challenge for the planners of the new audio system was to make sure that uniformly excellent sound, from a central, preferably invisible source, reached every seat on every level.

In principle this is no problem. But special conditions apply in this concert hall: here, the audience balconies, which run diagonally upwards, block the seats below them. Previously-used sound reinforcement systems did not provide satisfactory solutions. Fohhn systems with state-of-the-art Beam Steering Technology prevailed over compact line array systems and other beam steering systems, when compared with various competitors' sound systems. They were the only ones to offer not only the required range and uniform coverage, but above all the desired high sound quality.

The challenge

The auditorium seats audiences of 2745 on three levels – stalls and two main balconies, as well as eight side balconies. The challenge for the planners of the new audio system was to make sure that uniformly excellent sound, from a central, preferably invisible source, reached every seat on every level.

In principle this is no problem. But special conditions apply in this concert hall: here, the audience balconies, which run diagonally upwards, block the seats below them. Previously-used sound reinforcement systems did not provide satisfactory solutions. Fohhn systems with state-of-the-art Beam Steering Technology prevailed over compact line array systems and other beam steering systems, when compared with various competitors' sound systems. They were the only ones to offer not only the required range and uniform coverage, but above all the desired high sound quality.

The installation

The decision to use loudspeakers equipped with the Fohhn Beam Steering Technology killed two birds with one stone: Firstly, it could eradicate any acoustic problems caused by the balconies. Secondly, the system’s slim, compact dimensions would ensure excellent sound quality while blending unobtrusively into the hall’s interior.

Focus Modular systems were installed, which perfectly cover the main area of the concert hall and the two large auditorium balconies, as well as offering a high level of feedback protection for microphones used near the stage. And all without attracting attention: the black loudspeaker modules were integrated almost invisibly on the sides of the dark proscenium arch.

At each side of the stage, a 7.5 metre column was installed: A stack of three FM-400 low-mid modules forms the column’s centre, with high frequency FM-110 modules at the top and the bottom. The special feature here is the Fohhn Two Beam Technology, which prevents annoying sound reflections from the balustrades.

This main system is supplemented on both sides of the hall by two LX-150 line source speakers and one LX-100 line source speaker, driven by D-4.1200 amplifiers. They make sure that sound reaches the side balconies and the orchestra stalls too. The aluminium housing of these slim systems has been colour-matched to the ventilation ducts on which they are mounted to harmonise with the interior.

Ten active LX-10 ASX compact speakers, belonging to Fohhn’s Airea Series, provide supplementary sound coverage for the side balconies. Cabling was kept to a minimum since the audio and control signals, as well as the power supply, are all transmitted via a single network cable. An Airea AM-20 master module serves as the central digital interface. Two active PS-9 subwoofers, which are clad and hidden from view at the side of the stage, provide impressive levels of bass reproduction in the hall.

Installing the Fohhn loudspeaker system proved comparatively stress free for the team, as seen from the control rack situated in the opera house’s basement. The entire installation has required just seven units in a single rack – as opposed to the six racks needed for the previous system!

Controlling the new sound system is equally straightforward. Each of the active loudspeakers and amplifiers have been incorporated into a Fohhn Net. All functions on these devices can be controlled using a single piece of software – Fohhn Audio Soft. Most importantly, using this software has created a secure and highly efficient working environment for the Opéra Bastille’s sound technicians.

Moreover, the new audio system’s visual integration has also been highly successful. Loudspeakers are mounted flat against walls and ventilation pipes, or ingeniously hidden behind panelling, causing audience members to ask where the superb sound is coming from. And the final benefit of this state-of-the-art loudspeaker concept: It has required far fewer speakers than the previous system.

The successful implementation of this concept was made possible thanks to SILENCE! and Daniel Borreau from Rock-Audio Distribution, Fohhn’s French distribution partner. Together with the experts from Fohhn, they planned, simulated and calibrated the new system.

The installation

The decision to use loudspeakers equipped with the Fohhn Beam Steering Technology killed two birds with one stone: Firstly, it could eradicate any acoustic problems caused by the balconies. Secondly, the system’s slim, compact dimensions would ensure excellent sound quality while blending unobtrusively into the hall’s interior.

Focus Modular systems were installed, which perfectly cover the main area of the concert hall and the two large auditorium balconies, as well as offering a high level of feedback protection for microphones used near the stage. And all without attracting attention: the black loudspeaker modules were integrated almost invisibly on the sides of the dark proscenium arch.

At each side of the stage, a 7.5 metre column was installed: A stack of three FM-400 low-mid modules forms the column’s centre, with high frequency FM-110 modules at the top and the bottom. The special feature here is the Fohhn Two Beam Technology, which prevents annoying sound reflections from the balustrades.

This main system is supplemented on both sides of the hall by two LX-150 line source speakers and one LX-100 line source speaker, driven by D-4.1200 amplifiers. They make sure that sound reaches the side balconies and the orchestra stalls too. The aluminium housing of these slim systems has been colour-matched to the ventilation ducts on which they are mounted to harmonise with the interior.

Ten active LX-10 ASX compact speakers, belonging to Fohhn’s Airea Series, provide supplementary sound coverage for the side balconies. Cabling was kept to a minimum since the audio and control signals, as well as the power supply, are all transmitted via a single network cable. An Airea AM-20 master module serves as the central digital interface. Two active PS-9 subwoofers, which are clad and hidden from view at the side of the stage, provide impressive levels of bass reproduction in the hall.

Installing the Fohhn loudspeaker system proved comparatively stress free for the team, as seen from the control rack situated in the opera house’s basement. The entire installation has required just seven units in a single rack – as opposed to the six racks needed for the previous system!

Controlling the new sound system is equally straightforward. Each of the active loudspeakers and amplifiers have been incorporated into a Fohhn Net. All functions on these devices can be controlled using a single piece of software – Fohhn Audio Soft. Most importantly, using this software has created a secure and highly efficient working environment for the Opéra Bastille’s sound technicians.

Moreover, the new audio system’s visual integration has also been highly successful. Loudspeakers are mounted flat against walls and ventilation pipes, or ingeniously hidden behind panelling, causing audience members to ask where the superb sound is coming from. And the final benefit of this state-of-the-art loudspeaker concept: It has required far fewer speakers than the previous system.

The successful implementation of this concept was made possible thanks to SILENCE! and Daniel Borreau from Rock-Audio Distribution, Fohhn’s French distribution partner. Together with the experts from Fohhn, they planned, simulated and calibrated the new system.

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