Do the maths: 62 dual power amplifiers x 600 watts per channel each. Cape Town stadium’s mind-boggling sound system shows how things have moved on from the days when a stadium PA consisted of a half a dozen battered horns dangling from lighting flex and squawking gibberish.
Popular Mechanics joined a group of visiting media on a tour of the sound systems at South Africa’s new World Cup stadiums. Our hosts were local company Prosound, who have done plenty of mega-installations over the years and were responsible for sound at nine of the new stadiums.
Clear, powerful sound is no longer just an add-on or a nice-to-have at big arenas. It’s integrated into the overall design so that, no matter where you sit or stand, you can hear the PA system clearly.
The 2010 contract ranges from the 94 700-seat Soccer City in Johannesburg to venues such as the Royal Bafokeng stadium, holding less than half that amount. We joined the group on the Cape Town leg of their tour after they’d already been to Johannesburg.
For sheer scale Soccer City, which hosts the final, takes the breath away. A total of about 175 Electro-voice speakers powered by 147 Crest Audi Cki amplifiers gets the sound out to the arena, and in addition to that there are 760 RCF PL60 ceiling speakers.
Cape Town is unique among the stadiums in having its sound design done by an outside company – ADA in Berlin. For all the sophisticated tech that went into installing the Cape Town system, we were told, it’s capable of being be run by a single person who doesn’t need any advanced technical qualifications.
Of course, it’s only partly about sheer volume. Loud is no good if it’s wrongly directed – so the systems at the new stadiums are designed to radiate sound to where it’s needed. In fact, at Cape Town, we were told, the volume is limited to 105 dB.
Best of all, even with the stadium empty of sound-absorbing bodies, there was limited echo off the highly reflective interior and the clarity of sound was impressive. Maybe, just maybe, the PA systems at our new stadiums will be able to drown out the noise of the vuvuzelas.
* Video: Anthony Doman, our deputy editor, interviewed Mark Malherbe of Prosound, who were responsible for sound at nine of the new stadiums. Malherbe puts it all into perspective for us… watch the video!