HOLOPLOT's Unique Capabilities Transform Audio Experience At Sphere, Part 1

Sphere Las Vegas made headlines after opening with a U2 residency featuring extraordinary projections and lighting from the band's designer, Willie Williams. Visually, the new concert and film venue is stunning, but while Sphere is much larger and more technologically advanced, there are other buildings with roughly the same design hosting live entertainment, the Avicii Arena (Globen) in Stockholm, Sweden, and Al Wasl Plaza in Dubai are two that paved the way. While its structural design is innovative, the feature that makes Sphere stand out from any other existing venue, is the ambitious sound design throughout the arena. Created by Berlin-based HOLOPLOT in partnership with Sphere Studios, the sound feels personal and immediate, quite an accomplishment in a space which can hold almost 20,000 people.

To create the audio experience for each audience member, HOLOPLOT was commissioned as the exclusive audio supplier for the project. The immersive  systems uses 1,600 permanently installed Holoplot X1 Matrix Array loudspeaker modules in addition to 300 mobile ones, and uses a total of 167,000 individually amplified speaker drivers.

U2’s The Edge called the sound, "The world’s most advanced audio system integrated into a structure which is designed with sound quality as a priority,” and, in terms of the aural experience there are no bad seats in a venue which traditionally would have presented many acoustic challenges.

In part one of Sound of Sphere, Live Design talks to Miguel Hadelich, head of sales and operations at HOLOPLOT USA, about their involvement in the project. 

Live Design: When did HOLOPLOT first become involved with Sphere Las Vegas?

Miguel Hadelich: HOLOPLOT became involved in the Sphere project in 2018. MSG had contacted all the large loudspeaker brands to ask them if they could design a system with their line arrays completely hidden behind the screen. They all said it was impossible. Then MSG heard about a small company in Berlin which was developing a system for the Deutsche Bahn AG railway.

Knowing the inherent problems of delivering crystal-clear audio in such a challenging environment, MSG approached HOLOPLOT and asked if they could further develop it for live entertainment. This was a huge step, as the system was not at the level of performance that was required for that use case, having been developed for very different application. But our CEO, Roman Sick, accepted the challenge. 

LD: Why was HOLOPLOT chosen for Sphere?

MH: HOLOPLOT was chosen because we were able to integrate the needs of the project into its system, and our technology has unique capabilities.

HOLOPLOT’s next-generation 3D Audio-Beamforming and Wave Field Synthesis technology transforms how audio is delivered in large-scale venues. 3D Audio-Beamforming allows audio to be directed across the entire audience area in the bowl, at a volume that remains consistent – even across large distances. In the case of Sphere this is 110 meters. The X1 system allows multiple forms of content to be delivered simultaneously – meaning two people sitting in different seat sections could hear completely different things, such as different languages or instruments – expanding the possibilities for truly unique listening experiences.

3D Audio-Beamforming technology optimizes the level of homogeneity and spectral consistency in each zone. Additionally, it minimizes the sound spill between zones. This unique feature not only provides excellent value in functional applications but also an unprecedented creative potential for designing multiple experiences within one room.

In addition to 3D Audio-Beamforming, Sphere’s audio system leverages Wave Field Synthesis technology. This allows sound designers to create a virtual point of origin, and place it in a precise spatial location, meaning audio can be directed to the listener so that it sounds close, even though the source is far away.

In summary, X1 was the only system able to provide high-fidelity audio for the entire audience area while also allowing for an advanced immersive toolkit for creative effects, which was the brief from MSG Entertainment. The result has achieved the objective: controlled, consistent, and crystal-clear concert-grade audio for audiences of up to 18.600 people, providing each audience member with a truly exceptional and personalized listening experience.

LD: What gear did HOLOPLOT contribute to Sphere? 

MH: HOLOPLOT contributed 1,600 permanently installed and 300 mobile HOLOPLOT X1 Matrix Array
loudspeaker modules. The fixed system consists of the main proscenium array, the largest array in the world as well as distributed arrays, referred to as the Environmental layer of the system, responsible for immersive effects.

LD: Can you talk us through the X1 system?

MH: The system utilizes HOLOPLOT’s 3D Audio-Beamforming and Wave Field Synthesis technology. 3D Audio-Beamforming technology creates unique, highly controlled, and more efficient soundwaves, ensuring uniform coverage and addressing and solving the problem of the uncontrolled nature of sound wave propagation.

The X1’s optimized coverage beams improve the performance and accuracy of sound delivery within a space, providing better audio quality that doesn’t diminish over large distances. An optimized coverage beam not only directs sound where needed but also avoids unwanted surfaces, improving acoustic performance and ensuring enhanced level and spectral homogeneity over the audience area. Its air absorption compensation feature is specifically designed for long-throw applications where high-frequency sound propagation is affected by air absorption.

The entire sound system is completely hidden behind Sphere’s 160,000 square foot interior LED display plane. Any audio transmission losses are fully compensated for by HOLOPLOT’s algorithms in the optimization engine, resulting in clear, full-range sound with virtually no coloration and a completely unobstructed visual LED surface – which wraps up, over and around the audience to create a fully immersive environment.

Wave Field Synthesis technology allows for authentic reproduction of audio objects. The location, distance, and direction of the audio source are accurately rendered so that all listeners in the sound field correctly perceive the Virtual Source’s position in space.

With conventional audio technology, the perceived origin of sound is heavily influenced by the position of the loudspeakers, often leading to a mismatch between what you hear and what you see. With HOLOPLOT’s proprietary algorithms for coverage optimization and panning, a sound designer can seamlessly place and move audio objects across the entire audience area, untethered from the usual limitations of the loudspeaker’s position and its proximity to the audience.