December 10, 2010
In true Texan tradition, everything about the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas) is bigger and better, including its state-of-the-art Electro-Voice sound system - the largest fixed installation EV sound system in history.
Three times larger than the team’s former home, Texas Stadium, the new, $1 billion-plus Cowboys Stadium boasts a long list of world’s-first and world’s-largest features (all the following figures are approximate):
The 3 million sq. ft. structure has an interior cubic volume of over 100 million sq. ft. (the largest in the NFL), and a regular seating capacity of 80,000, expandable up to 100,000. It is the largest domed structure in the world (660,800 sq. ft.) and has the largest retractable roof in the world, with each support truss spanning nearly a quarter mile (more than twice the length of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis), making the roof the longest clear-span structure on earth. The glass retractable doors at each end-zone are the largest in the world (120 x 180 ft.) … The list goes on. The stadium is equipped with AV systems that raise the bar for sports entertainment, including 72 x 160 ft. video screens. A wide range of Electro-Voice equipment provides audio on an equally impressive scale, from the large-format X-Line systems in the main arena to the compact ZX1i loudspeakers covering the concourse areas.
Designing and installing a sound system of this size requires a professional collaboration of the highest order. Consultants Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc. (WJHW), systems integrators Pro Media / UltraSound, and EV’s engineering and tech support teams worked together to create a system that both elevates the game-day experience for every seat in the house and offers leading-edge energy efficiency and digital control and supervision.
Cowboys Stadium demanded an approach to system design and integration that has effectively taken installed sound into uncharted territory. The numbers reflect the awesome size of the venue: the loudspeaker spec includes 104 X-Line (Xvls & Xvlt) large-format line array elements, 108 XLCi127DVX medium-format line array elements, 30 XLE181 compact line array elements, and 156 ZX1i compact two-way systems. The installation also includes a smaller number of Xi-1183A (scoreboard), ZX5 (entry), and S40 (ticket booth) loudspeakers. Power and processing is via 228 Class-H Tour Grade (TG-7 & TG-5) amplifiers with RCM-26 DSP modules employing FIR-Drive processing, 110 CPS2T amplifiers, 5 NetMax N8000 system controllers (used to convert Ethernet to CAN). This is the largest IRIS-Net-controlled system in the world to date, with 32 layers. At the input end of the equation, EV’s industry-standard RE20 and RE16 broadcast microphones were specified as the house announcement mics.
Kevin Day of WJHW was responsible for the audio system design. Day explains his approach and the equipment that helped him achieve his goals:
“Given the size and shape of this acoustic environment, I decided early-on that the stadium required a line array solution, and I began researching options from various manufacturers. I arrived at the X-Line family of products, specifically the X-Line (Xvls & Xvlt) large format, XLC127DVX medium-format, and XLE181 compact enclosures, due to their audio quality and consistently accurate performance. I had used EV line arrays in other projects and have heard them in several touring productions. I was quite pleased with the sound and impressed with the accuracy of the performance data. Not all line array products out there have accurate data for predicting the system performance. The fact that these systems could be also integrated with a system control platform as powerful as IRIS-Net/NetMax made EV the strongest choice.“
Having selected EV equipment for his design, Day then determined how to address the vast spaces in the room, working with ProMedia / UltraSound to innovate hardware solutions to bring the design to life:
“For functional and aesthetic reasons, there is no acoustical treatment on the retractable roof,“ Day adds, “so the main arrays are flown low and almost parallel to the playing field. We needed to precisely focus sound over the seating areas from a distance of over 200 feet, we needed to keep sound off the three stories of glass-walled luxury suites that line the upper level, we needed to keep sound off the referees’ microphones on the field, and we needed to keep the sound off of the hard, reflective ceiling.
“ProMedia / UltraSound stepped up with a superb solution for us,“ Day continues, “creating mounting frames that precisely angle the arrays over specific areas. The main X-Line arrays covering the lower bowl are aimed almost parallel to the floor, to avoid the upper level suites. Mid-sized XLC arrays cover the upper decks, and super-compact XLE arrays cover the lower bowl and sideline seats. Utilizing the new FIR-Drive system (EV’s Finite Impulse Response filters for DSP) we were able to take an already great-sounding system to the next level, achieving excellent linear phase performance, pattern control, and sonic clarity at both long distances and close proximity, and all while keeping sightlines open.“
Ted Leamy, COO at Pro Media / Ultrasound, described the sum of these parts and what is perhaps the system’s most impressive feature: the efficiency of its power and processing:
“The two words that immediately come to mind when I think of this system are “impact’ and “excitement.’ With our company’s long heritage in the entertainment side of the industry, we understand the audience experience - how to make an impact, how to create an exciting, larger than life experience with audio. It’s about a lot more than just rigging loudspeakers and terminating cable. This system extends our know-how in rock “n’ roll touring and production into installation at the highest level, and we’re proud to be a part of the group that made it happen.
“This system is cutting edge in every respect,“ Leamy adds. “NetMax really proves its worth through its ability to support the latest FIR filters. When we first tuned up the system, we put in the FIR filters, heard the results, and said, “I think we’re almost done!’ We powered it up, walked around the room, and found that we were really close to done. The sound was astonishing.
“Tour Grade amplifiers have never been installed in this quantity before,“ continues Leamy. “Those things are awesome. They don’t draw too much power and can be easily configured to deliver exactly what each component requires for maximum performance without over-driving, thanks to the load-monitoring feature. These amps will save a significant amount of money per year in energy costs - they truly are “green’ amps.“
“We needed to be able to critically monitor each piece of equipment to prevent expensive repairs or driver replacements from being necessary,“ Kevin Day adds. “It’s incredibly difficult to go switch out a speaker when it’s 200 feet above the ground. Between the TG amps, IRIS-Net, and NetMax, the range of control and monitoring features this system has gives us the assurance that won’t be an issue.“
Demetrius Palavos, senior project engineer for ProMedia/Ultrasound, shared some of the installation challenges:
“Due to the sheer size of the facility, everything increases logarithmically rather than linearly. The main bowl has 22 clusters with trim heights of 175’ to 200’ above the field. In addition to the vertical height, 14 of the 22 clusters also had to move horizontally 100’ from the designated hoisting areas on the field. In conjunction with John Blietch of Production Rigging Resources (PRR), we were able to devise an engineering solution that would allow the clusters to fly vertically 175’ to 200’ and simultaneously move horizontally 100’ by flying the 14 clusters into their position diagonally. It was quite a sight to see-much like a Cirque show in Vegas-of flying cables and clusters. The only thing missing was some symphony music, such as Ride of the Valkyries, playing in the background. David Bowers from my office and the crew from PRR did a one hell of a job installing these clusters in a challenging environment.“
The size of Cowboys Stadium required some of the world’s longest audio cable runs (1,000 ft. to 1,600 ft.) to four separate amp rooms. To combat the problem of distance in the 2.3 million-square-foot stadium, Palavos and the team worked closely with EV engineers and tech support during installation and setup.
“It was great working with EV,“ continues Palavos, “Everyone from tech support to engineering to sales got involved in the most hands-on way possible. Dave Carlson, Bill Gelow, George Georgallis, Tom Hansen, Dan Koren, Dan Nix, Cevin Reed, Stu Schatz, Nick Sulzer, Guillermo Wabi, Monte Wise - the list goes on - all helped bring this project from concept to reality. It was a great experience; there was great cooperation between all parties.“
“When we first auditioned the system for Jerry Jones,“ adds Kevin Day, “he was wowed. Even after I had spent considerable time during the project design phase preparing him for what he would hear, he was still amazed. He expressed great satisfaction with the sound quality. We were so glad that Mr. Jones appreciated the difference between his sound system and every other stadium rig out there. I’m impartial when it comes to brands: I used EV for this installation because EV performed the best. In the end I don’t think there’s another brand that we could’ve hung in there that would have sounded any better.“
Since its opening on May 29, Cowboys Stadium has continued to impress performers and audiences with its spectacular sound, drawing bigger crowds to its stands and bigger names to its stage, including Sir Paul McCartney, who performed there on Aug. 19 as part of his North American tour. After the stadium celebrates the opening of the NFL’s regular season on Sept. 20, when the Cowboys will host the New York Giants, U2 will take the stage when the band stops in Arlington on its 360 Tour in October.
In addition to the extensive Electro-Voice equipment list, Cowboys Stadium features audio equipment from Bosch’s Communications Systems Division brands RTS (broadcast facility digital matrices) and Telex/RadioCom (coach intercom), along with Bosch cameras and security systems.