Frankfurt MesseIt’s a long-standing truism that the worst feature of a music industry trade show is usually the music. Smilarly, a regular embarrassment for a pro audio trade show is the exhibition centre's own sound system. So who would be sufficiently bold to put their name to the installed sound system at a major international show venue – Frankfurt’s Messe, for example?

Step up QSC…

Along with shows of the stature of the IAA car show and the International Book Fair, the Frankfurt Messe has long been home to Musikmesse/Pro Light & Sound, bringing many aspects of the musical instrument and professional audio industries together under one (well, several actually) roof and attracting a genuinely international audience. Between them, Messe’s many halls have seen industry-changing product launches and provided the backdrop to countless photographs documenting the business and its people. Once heard, the sound of the ‘piano hall’ is never forgotten. In contrast, some demonstrations of equipment and instruments are best forgotten.

Messe Frankfurt's Harmonie HallWhile pro audio has been spending time in Amsterdam’s RAI (IBC), New York’s Javits Center (AES) Shangai’s SNIEC (Music China) and London’s ExCel (Plasa) recently, the Frankfurt Messe has also been busy with audio – installing a QSC-Sys audio networking system to manage the PA/VA systems in its Congress Center, one of the most important buildings in the Exhibition Centre. Accessed by two custom paging stations based on TSC-8 touchscreen controllers, this uses a QSC Core 1000-based Q-Sys system controls, which is routed audio to 15 QSC CX254 amplifiers throughout the building, via seven DAB-801 redundant amplifier switchers.

The Congress Center Messe Frankfurt (CMF) houses conference and meeting rooms, as well as a 2,200-capacity multi-purpose auditorium (the Harmonie Hall), which can be divided into up to 15 partitions, each served by its own PA feed if required, or combined into a single large conference and event hall. The floor in the Harmonie Hall can be flat, or be lowered up to 3.2m in sections to create a raked audience seating area by means of bespoke underfloor hydraulic systems.

Prior to the installation of Q-Sys, the Congress Center was using a PA/VA system dating from 1996, which no longer met the stringent safety standards now required by German and European law. Design Consultant Frank Sokat of German firm IFB Consulting was engaged by the Messe administration to draw up the specification for a new system, which included the construction of a completely new control room.

‘This was a project with many requirements,’ Sokat begins. ‘The new PA/VA had to fulfill DIN0828 and EN60849 standards, and all of the components had to be networkable with full redundancy. In terms of performance, the system had to be capable of dealing with up to 50 paging sub-networks, and to manage up to 60 different types of simultaneous audio inputs and up to 40 outputs at any one time. It had to interface with, and route audio to and from the existing analogue loudspeaker systems – Crestron control systems and paging stations, which were not being replaced – while adding two new paging stations for fire alarm announcements and stage management in the Harmonie Hall.

Messe Frankfurt

‘Our choice to meet all of these very exacting requirements was Q-Sys. For control, we installed two TSC touchscreen panels. The one used for stage control in the Harmonie Hall is portable, and can be plugged in anywhere there is an Ethernet port – it’s often used to control the systems from the dressing rooms. The other paging station/touchscreen controller is installed in the fire control centre, next to the bi-directional communications with the fire brigade. Standard alarm messages can be called up and transmitted quickly from the TSC-8 if required.’

‘We created the paging stations by customising QSC TSC-8s,’ explains Torsten Haack, Director of the Systems Group at Shure Germany, the local QSC distributor. ‘The one in the porter’s lodge at the fire control centre used a TSC-8 in combination with a Shure 514B microphone, while the mobile version used for stage control consisted of a TSC-8 and a Shure Microflex microphone.’

Shure Germany supplied the Core 1000-based system for the CMF building, which was installed by local contractor BFE Studio und Mediensysteme. The Congress Center is in use all year round and never shuts down, so the Q- system had to be installed alongside the older PA/VA system, and the old one switched off only when Q-Sys was up and running. Audible improvements were noted in the quality of the sound throughout the building from the first day the new system was switched on: ‘The 100W amplifiers in the old system were running at full capacity all of the time, and were sometimes distorted,’ Sokat says. ‘Now, with the 250W CX254s, they have 3dB to 5dB of headroom at all times.’

‘Even though the old loudspeakers were retained throughout the Congress Center, the sound of the new PA/VA is much better,’ Haack confirms.

‘The new audio system for alarm messages is further evidence that the congress infrastructure on the Messe Frankfurt exhibition grounds is among the very best in the world,’ says Claudia Delius-Fisher, Director Congress Frankfurt. ‘We work continuously to improve and refine the quality of our facilities, and to add new services to benefit our customers. We apply this principle in every area, from the types of room and spaces we can provide, to the latest technical equipment and catering.’

Perhaps all that is now missing from the Messe’s audio sound installation is an ‘intelligent’ DSP filter capable of blocking ‘Hotel California’ whenever a pro audio show is in residence.

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