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K-array Makes Waves at the Asian Games

Spectacular and ground-breaking, the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in China was always going to invite comparisons with the Beijing Olympics, but organisers were determined that Guangzhou would be unique; creatively different from anything that had gone before.

To begin with, this was the first time an opening ceremony for an Olympiad had been held outside of an athletics stadium. From the performances to the setting, this grand welcome to China oozed innovation. This spirit of the cutting edge extended to the audio set-up, with K-array speakers making an impression for their slimline appearance combined with powerful output.

Guangzhou, a Chinese coastal city not far from Hong Kong, is proud of its maritime tradition and 'water' was a main theme of the opening ceremony, in recognition of Guangzhou's seafaring heritage. The event took place on an island in the middle of Pearl River, with the Guangzhou skyline as an illuminated backdrop.

Four giant LED screens resembled sails, as though the entire island had become a sail boat. The athletes arrived floating down the river in 45 Chinese sail boats, one for each country at the games, which arrived at the ceremony one by one. Each decorative boat was equipped with a KR200s system, connected to the main PA by radio, which enabled the athletes to listen to live feed from the ceremony as they arrived. It was essential that the speakers on the boats should be heard but not seen, because 21st Century sound equipment would have been a little out of place on historical Chinese sailing boats. KR200s were the ideal choice as they could be easily concealed whilst still guaranteeing superb sound for all athletes aboard the vessels.

The firework display to open the night was breathtaking. 140,000 firework shots fired from 970 different locations across the city filled the sky, with the city's two main towers sending volleys of red fireworks out in all directions.

The highlight of the ceremony were the high-wire performers suspended in front of the giant screens. A total of 1,320 acrobatic artists from the oldest Kung-fu school in the city were raised and lowered by teams on the ground to create human formations against a projected city backdrop.

In all, 250,000 metres of wire were used to winch the acrobats. Music was a central part of the evening with 21 composers charged with writing music for the event. The most famous of these was Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who played a piece on the piano especially written for the evening. There were also speeches from athletes, performances from drummers, and a series of amazing traditional dances with a modern twist.

The variety of performance on the night meant that the sound system had to be capable of precision from top to low end, and also large coverage: the main stand seated 27,000 people. The main sound engineer for the opening ceremony, Tony Liu, chose K-array speakers for a variety of different applications, with 140 K-array systems used in all during the event.

As well as accompanying the sail boats, KR200s were also used as main PA for the spectators, placed every ten metres all the way up the main stand. A conventional PA would certainly have blocked some spectators' view of the event, but the 5.7cm (2.24”) wide KR200s are so thin, they enabled maximum vision for the entire crowd.

Tony Liu, mixing engineer for the ceremony, using K-array for the first time, was amazed by the performance of the KR200s, describing the low end as “deeper than expected” and “tighter” than other sub-woofers. Marc Vincent, president of Sennheiser China, commented on the lack of phasing effect between the systems on either side of the crowd. Moving across the stand from left to right, it was impossible to notice the phase between the two banks of speakers. Even the sound team were surprised. No one had expected a system of such economic size to fill this type of application.

Almost invisible K-array Kobra KK50s were placed along the front of the VIP section, which hosted the Chinese Prime Minister among other dignitaries, offering exceptional sound quality from only 50cm of hardware. Due to their unique performance-to-size-ratio, the Kobra was the only choice for this area, as they were able to nestle just under the hand rail in front of the VIPs, becoming virtually invisible, while still providing top-line performance at one of the most stunning opening ceremonies ever seen. This year's games will be the biggest in Asia's history, with 14,000 athletes from 45 countries taking part in 42 disciplines over the next two weeks.

Guangzhou's and K-array's big moment in the limelight was watched by two billion spectators live on CCTV, the Chinese state television channel, with images and clips being instantly sent all over the world. The press were above-all keen to hear the judgement of Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, on the proceedings.

While he refused to compare Guangzhou to the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony, he was effusive in his praise for this cutting-edge welcome to the 2010 Asian Games, describing it as 'absolutely fantastic,' and 'technically very sound.' K-array are used to making sound waves, but at Guangzhou it seems they have made waves among audio-lovers in the largest nation on the planet.





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