The Sorbonne University
The Stunning Sorbonne Grand Amphitheatre Receives a Pristine Modern Audio Design
The Sorbonne University, a public research university in Paris, France, is one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the world, with alumni and professors who have won 33 Nobel Prizes, six Fields Medals, and one Turing Award. Its monumental Sorbonne Grand Amphitheatre provides a space for official speeches and events, official ceremonies, degrees, and prize awards by the Sorbonne universities and the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris. Inaugurated on August 5, 1889, the historic Grand Amphitheatre holds a capacity of approximately 1000 people.
Classified as a National Historic Monument in 1975, the Grand Amphitheatre’s stunning architecture is highly reverberant; thus, the Sorbonne team needed to find a sound system that would respect the architecture and address the reverb. According to the venue’s AV technical manager, Mathieu Miot, “The events we hold in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne range from conferences, speeches, and awards ceremonies to concerts and are all highly prestigious. However, this is a very reverberant space with few sound absorption elements. Our old system was desperately lacking in directivity and resulted in a significant loss of intelligibility. We needed a system that would address these issues, respect the venue’s historical aesthetics, and could be installed without any physical impact on the building.”
Over two years, a dozen people from different departments in the Sorbonne compared systems, including beam steering technology and stacked line-arrays from various manufacturers. When the team considered all the project requirements, they eventually decided that L-Acoustics Syva’s wide horizontal dispersion would bring better coverage for the audience at the amphitheatre’s sides and deliver better vertical directivity control in the mid frequencies. The aesthetics of Syva’s design, its ease of integration, and the cost-effective fact that fewer cabinets were required were also advantages. The French design and integrations company SNEF was awarded the tender for the full renovation of the AV cabling and diffusion system and installed the commissioned and calibrated system designed by the L‑Acoustics application team. The system comprises a pair of Syva atop Syva Low positioned on either side of the stage. Four 5XT cabinets, evenly positioned across the stage lip, provide frontfill, while a total of sixteen 5XT positioned around the amphitheatre’s two tiers of balcony boxes provide even coverage across the entire venue.
The reverberant space takes full advantage of the vertical directivity control that Syva paired with Syva Low offers, resulting in a much greater intelligibility than by using several cabinets in a variable curvature configuration. The system is also versatile thanks to presets created in LA Network Manager suited to different situations: everything from speech to various musical genres. System optimization for a given event is now as easy as pressing a button, saving time and effort of moving loudspeakers around the room.
By installing the Syva system, we have gained enormously in intelligibility and homogeneity while keeping vocal depth and the color. The contrast between Syva’s modern design and the historical beauty of the Grand Amphitheatre is really interesting. Syva adds a form of presence to ceremonies as well as audio quality.
AV Technical Manager, The Sorbonne