The O2 Arena, London

Since 2007, The O2 arena has continuously hosted events for 2,000 to 20,000 people, including award shows, concerts, sporting events, corporate gatherings, and the 2012 Olympics — two hundred live events every year. It’s the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue based on the number of tickets sold, snagging the title from Madison Square Garden in 2008 and holding it every year since. The arena has been visited by more than 60 million people.

Clearly, conducting a major audio overhaul in the world’s busiest entertainment venue is no simple task. But venue operator AEG and the experts at SSE Audio Group were up to the challenge.

Constructed inside the former Millennium Dome, The O2 arena was purposely built to reduce echoing and nuisance ambient noise. The new public address and voice alarm system (PAVA) needed to complement and enhance that design, not put it to the test. SSE’s mission was to provide a future-proof system that would not only meet the strict PAVA system criteria, but also deliver excellent audio quality throughout the venue and allow for further expansion as needed. They chose the Bose ShowMatch line array solution.

SSE Audio Group Technical Specialist Eddie Thomas designed the system. From a central circular truss, eight Bose loudspeaker clusters were installed, each comprising eight ShowMatch cabinets, providing audio coverage across the main audience area. The system has a total of 24 RMS218 cabinets in six vertical, roof-mounted arrays powered by Bose PM8500 amplifiers. For sub-bass frequencies, the ShowMatch range utilizes the Bose RMS218 subwoofer.

Of course, the system was designed to work for myriad applications. As with most modern venues, The O2 is customizable; the seating arrangement throughout the arena can be modified as needed. And the ground surface is continually changing as well. It’s an ice rink one day, a basketball court the next, then an exhibition hall, conference space, or concert arena. An additional four Bose ShowMatch production delay clusters were added to provide coverage for upper-level seating, with each cluster comprising eight ShowMatch cabinets.

To ensure guests enjoyed a seamless experience during the upgrade, SSE approached the PAVA project in phases: audio network and amplification first in August 2017, with the central cluster completed later that year. SSE added delay loudspeakers in March 2018 with the sub-bass upgrade completed in May 2018. The VIP areas will be the next phase of the project, followed by the concourse areas in 2019. They expect to have Bose speakers installed throughout The O2 by 2020.

“We have worked closely with SSE Audio since the venue opened and their knowledge of the system and the venue’s operational requirements are crucial to us as a business. We were convinced by SSE Audio that the Bose product would provide us with not only meeting the venue’s statutory requirement for a PAVA system but also deliver an improved sound performance. On hearing the system for the first time we have been incredibly impressed ... very pleased with our decision to go with Bose.” -Lee Lacey, The O2 Facility Director