MSC Meraviglia: The wonder of modern shipboard sound reinforcement

Over 2000 Fohhn loudspeaker systems provide sound reinforcement for the new MSC cruise ship and its main attraction “Cirque du Soleil at Sea.”

After a 26-month construction period, she has finally set sail: MSC Meraviglia (in English: “Wonder”) is the new, ultra-modern luxury liner belonging to MSC Cruises. The ship was built in Saint Nazaire at the STX France shipyard, home to one of the world’s largest shipbuilding companies. Officially “christened” on 3rd July 2017 at a glittering ceremony in Le Havre, with MSC “Godmother” Sophia Loren cutting the ribbon, the ship commenced its maiden voyage the very next day. As a year-round cruise ship, MSC Meraviglia’s initial destination was the western Mediterranean - its home ports will be Barcelona, Marseilles and Genoa.

A world-class ship
The 315 m long, 43 m wide and 65 m high MSC Meraviglia is the 13th cruise ship in the MSC fleet. 15 of the ship’s 19 decks – each named after one of the wonders of the world - offer 33.000 sq. metres of publicly accessible areas and space for 5714 passengers and around 1540 crew members. There are also 2244 cabins and 32 elevators.
As the first representative of this new “world class”, MSC Meraviglia sets new standards in areas such as entertainment and wellness, accommodation and catering, media- and event technology.

Fohhn on board
A cruise ship of this size requires a comprehensive installation of high-quality sound reinforcement systems. These must cater for a whole range of applications in various locations, for example, serving as main PA systems for shows, lectures and live music, providing background music in one of the numerous bars and lounges, or relaying important announcements on all decks.
Confronted with these and many other requirements, the media planner responsible for the installation opted exclusively for loudspeakers from the south German manufacturer Fohhn Audio. These would provide coverage for virtually all public areas. The systems were delivered from Fohhn’s Italian distribution partner Kennell Digital Distribution.
Between November 2016 and May 2017, over 2000 Fohhn systems were installed and calibrated.

The circus is coming – to sea!
Shows by the world-renowned, multi award-winning Cirque du Soleil are the highlight of the ship’s onboard entertainment programme. Six evenings a week, two 40-minute show programmes (“Viaggio” and “Sonor”), exclusively designed for MSC Cruises, are performed in the “Carousel Lounge”. The circular theatre space, which was specially developed for this purpose, serves as a combined event location and restaurant accommodating up to 450 spectators.
The Lounge’s state-of-the-art hi-tech facilities include a 30m long LED video projection screen, unique staging technology and stage kinetics, plus a complete Fohhn sound system. On the lounge ceiling, around the stage area, is a ring of 14 passive Arc-Series AT-35 two-way loudspeakers – ten of these directed outwards to act as a main PA and four directed inwards to cover the stage. Ten AS-40 subwoofers have additionally been installed – eight of these configured as 2 x Four Arrays (Focus Sub Arrays with Beam Steering technology) and two configured as an end-fired double pack. The playback direction of all the subwoofers can be reversed as required via a preset in the Fohhn FC-9 DSP system controller. 22 AT-10 full-range loudspeakers are used as delay and surround sound systems, while eight AT-07 speakers serve as extension systems around the bar. On stage, ten ultra-compact Linea LX-10 systems are used as nearfield speakers. Ten further systems are integrated into columns, making them invisible to visitors. These are used to provide background music when the bar is operational, with extended low-end coverage provided by eight AS-06 subwoofers.

Perfect sound on all decks
A special immersive experience awaits visitors to the “Galeria Meraviglia” on Deck 6. The 96 m long Mediterranean-style shopping promenade with its numerous restaurants and fine boutiques is spanned by an 80 m long LED sky (the world’s longest LED screen installed on a ship). This delights visitors around the clock with atmospheric images and unique lighting. Its acoustic counterpart consists of 16 AT-10 systems and eight AS-10 subwoofers, along with four LFI-220 active, electronically steerable systems from Fohhn’s Focus-Series. These various loudspeakers, subtly integrated on both sides, are used for background music and announcements, as well as for event sound reinforcement.
At the end of the promenade is “Bar Meraviglia“. This has a small disco area as well as a stage for live music. In here, eight AT-10 and four AS-10 systems have been mounted in a circle on the ceiling. Two passive LX-150 line source systems act as a main sound system for the stage.
The promenade also provides access to the “Main Lounge”, a theatre with over 1000 seats, whose audio technology installation makes it a highly flexible space: Various activities take place here, from the official greeting of passengers to musical events. The theatre’s main PA consists of PT-8 line array systems, extended with a variety of delay and effect loudspeakers, plus a horizontal Bass Array under the stage. When the theatre is used for presentations or lectures, two LFI-220 Beam Steering systems ensure highest levels of speech intelligibility at every seat.
On Deck 7 the promenade is flanked by two side galleries, bordered by more restaurants, bars and lounges that are also equipped with various Fohhn loudspeaker systems. These include a champagne bar and the “Casino Imperial”, each equipped with Fohhn ceiling speakers, and the “Brass Anchor” pub in which a number of LX-10 compact loudspeakers are installed.
On board the MSC Meraviglia, exclusive TV programmes can be recorded and broadcast throughout the ship. To ensure that the sound and speech quality is appropriately high, Fohhn loudspeakers have also been installed in the ship’s TV studio. This particular installation includes four AS-10 and two AS-31 subwoofers, six AT-10 and two AT-201 full-range systems, plus 24 Fohhn ceiling loudspeakers.
Almost as remarkable as the “Galeria Meraviglia” is the Atrium. Here, a grand staircase (whose steps are adorned with numerous Swarovski crystals) links Decks 7, 6 and 5. In the middle of the Atrium is a stage for piano recitals, wedding ceremonies and other celebratory occasions. Here, two LX-150 loudspeakers form the main sound system: The slim, elegant line source speakers are integrated into reflective tubes to match the Atrium’s splendid interior. Extended low frequency coverage is provided by four AS-22 subwoofers.
As well as further installations in the ship’s interior – for example in the “Attic Club” on Deck 18, and in the “Market Place Buffet Restaurant” on Deck 15 – the majority of outer decks have also been equipped with Fohhn systems. These include the “Horizon Amphitheatre” on Deck 16. The rear sundeck serves as a stage during the evening for shows of all kinds. Around the outdoor pool and lounging areas, several weatherproof AT-221w are used along with some outdoor bass and nearfield speakers that have been specially developed for MSC. The same selection of speakers can also be found in the “Polar Aquapark” with its water slides and climbing course on Deck 19.

Systems that inspire
The entire project has proved a resounding success, both for MSC Cruises and all the various companies involved. From an acoustic as well as a visual perspective, the loudspeaker systems have integrated perfectly – even in rooms with limited height – delivering first-class sound quality and the highest levels of speech intelligibility.
Passengers have also been impressed: In the official questionnaire, the onboard sound has earned top marks. br />For Susan Gaudreau, Director of “Cirque du Soleil at Sea“, the sound system installed in the “Carousel Lounge“ proved a real source of inspiration: „The sound system was so amazing I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to do something with sound.’ That was my main trigger.“ [1]


[1] The Washington Post, 31 May 2017



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