In December 2017, France’s most revered educational institution, The Sorbonne, prepared to ring in the new year and a new era of highly intelligible audio with the installation of an L-Acoustics Syva system in the university’s Grand Amphitheatre. The configuration was designed to address the challenges of a reverberant space while complementing the stunning architecture of the room, originally inaugurated in 1889 and classified as a national Historical Monument since 1975.
“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,” says the venue’s AV technical manager, Mathieu Miot. “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 that could be installed without any physical impact on the building.”
Audio consultancy firm Altia Acoustics was hired to conduct a public address system audit. Over the course of two years, a dozen people from different departments in the Sorbonne compared systems, which included beam steering technology and stacked line-arrays from a variety of manufacturers. As trials were in progress, Sorbonne event organisers continued to hire external service providers for their ongoing audio requirements and L‑Acoustics Kiva was often the temporary rental solution provided. Hearing Kiva in action prompted the Sorbonne’s team to request that it be included in demonstrations as part of the selection process.
"The initial request was to hear a system comprising three floor stacked Kiva II," says Olivier Inizan, L-Acoustics Sales Manager, France. "A few months earlier we would have agreed, but we had just launched the Syva system and, when we considered all the requirements of the project, we knew that Syva’s wide horizontal dispersion would bring better coverage for the audience at the sides of the theatre, as well as delivering better vertical directivity control in the mid frequencies.” The aesthetics of Syva’s design, its ease of integration, and the fact that fewer cabinets were required, thus making it more cost effective, were also advantages. “The biggest challenge we faced with Syva,” adds Inizan, “was to convince the Sorbonne that we actually didn’t need to demonstrate Kiva II."
Once hearing Syva in trials, the decision was unanimous. French design and integrations company SNEF, who was awarded the tender for the full renovation of the AV cabling and diffusion system, installed the system which was commissioned and calibrated by L‑Acoustics application engineer Arnaud Delorme. It 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 front fill, while a total of sixteen 5XT positioned around the amphitheatre’s two tiers of balcony boxes provide even coverage across the entire theatre.
"This type of very reverberant place takes full advantage of the vertical directivity control that Syva paired with Syva Low offers,” says Delorme. “This results in much greater intelligibility than by using a number of 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 a variety of musical genres. System optimization for a given event is now as easy as pressing a button, saving the 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 colour,” concludes Miot. “The aesthetics of Syva are also a perfect fit for room; 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."
All images © Rectorat de Paris - Sylvain Lhermie