Wembley Stadium

ProjectWembley StadiumLocationLondon, UKManufacturersd&b audiotechnikDistributorRG Jones, UKArchitectOPS, Structural engineers for the FA, UKInstallerRG Jones, UKAcousticianVanguardia, UKSubmitted byd&b audiotechnik

The previous system at Wembley was not specifically designed to be used for the delivery of music and that was becoming increasingly apparent. As music and high quality audio become an integral part of the stadium experience, Wembley sought to offer a state-of-the-art system that lived up to its name and reputation as a world leading entertainment venue.

In simple terms the brief was straightforward: ensure the person sitting in row one, level one, experiences the same quality of sound as the person in row forty-eight, level five. Additionally, the system needed to be lightweight to stay within roof loading limits, appeal to both the music industry and sports organisations, and integrate with the existing network as part of the stadium’s life safety system.

The main loudspeaker system, including corner fills, comprises d&b Special Version Stadium (SVS) V-Series and Y-Series line arrays. SVS models are acoustically identical to their standard versions, with extra protection for use in harsh environments with full consideration of wind loads and seismic activity designed into the system. The complete system integrates with Wembley’s existing control infrastructure via MediaMatrix. Installation specific 30D amplifiers from d&b are housed on two, 50-meter-high gantries that run along the length of the pitch, alongside floodlights, control networks and power distribution, broadcast technology and IT infrastructure.

The system also utilizes d&b ArrayProcessing, making it possible for Wembley to create upper and lower zones, to easily offer multiple performance layouts, and to switch from sports mode to concert mode without any compromise in quality.

The challenge of this installation was to ensure that everyone experiences the same quality of sound in Wembley — no matter where they are seated. Additionally, the system needed to be lightweight to stay within roof loading limits, appeal to both the music industry and sport’s governing bodies, integrate with the existing network as part of the stadium’s life safety system and be completed in three months.

To overcome these challenges, the project was planned to the highest level of detail. The teams met daily to collaboratively resolve risks, address technical uncertainties, and to monitor safety, progress and quality. Coordination between contractors and the added risk of working at height were the biggest challenges, but the installers and project teams worked together to resolve all issues.

As the Wembley bowl is so high and so steep the team needed to propose a single system that was up to the task of properly covering the large vertical geometry. From the front row to the back of the upper tiers, the system needs to provide horizontal consistency and be suitable for both sports events and augmenting concert productions.

During the UEFA Euro 2020 championship, a twenty-meter-long temporary press area was built over several seating rows, and UEFA requested a lower sound level in this area; this was achieved by a reduction of as much as 12 dB with spectators in front, behind and to the sides all still experiencing the full sound level.

A critical advantage of the d&b system is the ability to rotate the arrays. During sports events the arrays are in their default position, on axis with the spectators’ seating position. In concert mode, they are rotated to optimize the acoustic path between the stage and the audience in the upper tiers, enhancing the listening experience.

This installation is the UK’s first rotatable stadium loudspeaker system suspended from wire ropes. Ultimately the team achieved more than a two-for-one solution, allowing a powerful sound system for both concerts and sporting events.

Testimonials include:

Liam Boylan, Stadium Director, commented: “As sports fans and music lovers make their way back to the bowl, there’s an uncompromising audio experience waiting in the stands, in all 90,000 seats. We must be a stadium that artists want to use and fans want to go to, and to do that, you have to remain ahead of the curve and not rely on history alone. The d&b audio system is a huge part of that, and I am delighted to say that the sound in our stadium now matches our iconic name.”

Laurence Young, Project Manager, Wembley commented: “The program was delivered safely and to very tight timescales. Coordination between contractors and the added risk of working at height were the biggest challenges but the installers and project teams — including d&b — were fantastic at working together and resolving any issues that we were faced with. For me, the moment that truly encapsulated what has been achieved was at the UEFA Euro 2020 Final and experiencing the d&b system, together with the new LED lighting system, in front of a capacity crowd.”

DJ Tony Perry said: “I’ve been fortunate to play at many stadiums. At Wembley this summer, there was a notable difference in clarity and depth. Whether the stadium was at its lowest 20,000 cap audience, or during the epic closing ceremony, the sound was remarkably well balanced. Perhaps what stood out most was how the sound maintained clarity both at low level, and when being pushed to its loudest. It’s something I hadn’t experienced in a stadium environment before.”

Merv Knock, Audio Visual Manager for the FA: “With so many different types of events at Wembley, d&b’s R1 software enables us to quickly configure the system and cater for any event-specific PA requirements, for example reducing the sound levels in temporary press/broadcast locations.”