Extreme Innovation

Novatech turned the Tour Down Under's home straight into a party zone. Outdoor event production will never be the same.


8 November 2019

Audio reinforcement for large trackside sporting events presents a unique challenge: courses over hundreds of metres can stretch to kilometres and that usually means hundreds of speaker boxes! Now in its 20th year, Australia’s premiere cycling event, The Santos Tour Down Under (TDU) in South Australia has traditionally employed large numbers of 100V line horns to get coverage, using up to 100 bullhorns on some circuits.

For 2019, TDU organisers changed suppliers and Novatech Creative Event Technology took a clever left-of-field approach and went with quality over quantity. Novatech deployed 24 x L-Acoustics Syva colinear line source loudspeakers for the main area and another 24 L-Acoustics Kara modular line source units for infill. Essentially, these upmarket indoor boxes were used for an application normally serviced by more meat ‘n’ potato technology. Although utilised beyond their intended design parameters, the L-Acoustics speakers and supporting backbone were a roaring success for all involved.


Novatech worked with L-Acoustics and the supplier Jands to design a solution consisting of a Syva every 30 to 50 metres on the four main straights of the course. The wide 140° dispersion angle and excellent full range throw (from 50 up to 75 metres in places) of these units allowed total coverage for 200 metres either side of each starting position and a full 400 metres either side of the finish line.

Full range Kara boxes filled in around the sharp corners of the criterium stage on a couple of days and were stacked either side of stage for a podium presentation PA when required.

L-Acoustics LA-RAKs housed LA4X and LA12X amplifiers to power the Syva and Kara speakers. A full fibre backbone distributed all audio, vision, control and monitoring over the entire course, delivering audio via AVB-over-Ethernet and video using Riedel’s MediorNet. To make this easy, Novatech created custom cabling with links to multiple drop points and a single trunk back to central control and the amp racks.

A cool feature of these L-Acoustics amps is built-in cable length compensation which will send optimal signal to each speaker. From here, each cabinet had a unique delay dialled in – a first for the TDU event. Delays were set to optimise sync and clarity all over the listening area, particularly when near the large LED screens. Much of this was pre-mapped with L-Acoustics Soundvision software but refined in real time on site.

Novatech’s PA configuration featured a traditional FOH setup for overall control but importantly gave their system tech the ability to roam with a wireless tablet and update individual speakers on the fly. It meant they could isolate and mute one cabinet whenever a TV interview happened in front of it, leaving the rest of the array broadcasting to the remainder of the course, not to mention being able to move around the whole course and tweak system dynamics on the fly.


The AVIA judging panel reported that one project stood head and shoulders above the pack this year, in the simple, thoughtful, but radical way that it solved a long-standing problem for outdoor productions. Not only does Novatech’s AVIA award-winning system simplify and expedite the rigging process, it completely removes an entire class of workplace health and safety risks for the crew and the public attending the event.


Custom speaker mounts were the other standout feature of this production design. With speaker dispersion and placement somewhat different to that of horns on lightpoles, a sympathetic mounting solution was required. Novatech designed a winch-up stand that facilitated quick and efficient setup but ensured safety for racegoers and the general public. Engineered to SafeWork SA standards, the winches had many safety factors built in. Multiple failsafe height protections, removable handles and lockable straps kept meddling fingers from prying. These stands and speakers were securely attached to permanent structures, giving minimal intrusion into pedestrian access.

The time and money saved in setup and pack down was another huge benefit of the production design. Previously, it had taken weeks to hang and cable numerous horns at 5-6 metres above ground, with all the attendant disruption and safety risks to passers-by. With Syva’s attached to the custom winches, everything could be set from ground level on the day. All of stakeholders benefitted from the more efficient approach and this particularly pleased the government client.


First awarded UCI WorldTour status in 2008, the TDU has gone from strength to strength. 2019’s unique AV approach has taken that to another level. Audio quality and presence was so good that professional tour riders were air guitaring to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck on the start line. Race officials, commentators and punters alike enjoyed the clear, even and present sound.

Equally impressed were the folk at L-Acoustics. They’ve been spruiking the TDU solution worldwide and Novatech has since deployed the same approach on several other events, including Adelaide Fringe and Vivid Sydney.

Full-range, high SPL music and speech with punch and intelligibility – not always associated with outdoor audio – but a big feature here. Novatech hit on a winner, as did cyclists Amanda Spratt and Daryl Impey, 2019 winners of the Tour Down Under. – John O’Brien

Novatech Creative Event Technology: (08) 8352 0300 or ncet.co
Jands (L-Acoustics): (02) 9582 0909 or jands.com.au


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