Crystal Clear on the Metro Málaga

Málaga, Spain | July, 2013 - Málaga, one of Europe's most historic cities, is building a much-needed new metro / subway rail network. And with the expertise of PA / VA integrators LDA AudioTech, Iconyx beam steering systems will make individual station announcements crystal clear.

Now dubbed the capital of the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, Málaga, whose 2,800 year history makes the port city one of Europe's oldest, has a profusion of excellent tourist destinations including the world famous Picasso Museum, a pedestrianized shopping centre, sea port, innovative restaurants and stylish hotels - many featuring trendy rooftop terraces with bars, pools and stunning views. And with its subtropical-Mediterranean climate, Málaga enjoys one of the warmest winters in Europe.

The main economic and financial center of southern Spain, Málaga thrives on tourism, construction and technology services, while other sectors such as transportation and logistics are beginning to expand, with the growth of the Andalusía Technology Park (PTA) setting a fine example.

But what Málaga also has in abundance, like any modern city, is road traffic. From its suburbs to the historic old town, its streets are crowded with vehicles. That's why it's about to follow the example of Spain's other large cities with the opening in 2014 of the MetroMálaga, a light metro train network that will eventually see six lines built, radiating outwards from the city centre where the lines are in tunnels, the rest being overground. It's Andalucía's largest infrastructure investment in history.

The two first lines are currently under construction. Line 1 will reach from the centre to the University of Málaga; and Line 2 to the José María Martín Carpena Arena. Some 25 million passengers are expected in the first year, and the two lines will connect the centre of the city with access to essential services such as hospitals, the University campus, the City of Justice, the Sports Palace and the port.

Málaga-based LDA AudioTech, Spain's leading specialists in PA/VA, have been brought in to provide all audio systems for the first phase, covering 22 stations around the city, of which 12 are underground in the center, the rest at street level. The company's huge experience includes audio integration for the metro/subway networks of Bilbao and Seville.

Currently being installed, the complex design will include 52 separate sound systems, in 67 zones. Based on a CobraNet network over a dedicated VLAN, everything is supervised from a central control station 20km from the city centre. The network's central station is integrated with train and bus terminals, and each station on the network is divided into three different zones: the booking hall, platforms and an interior zone.

Renkus-Heinz Iconyx systems form a key part of the project, as LDA marketing manager Diego Velazquez explains. "At every underground station at platform level, facing the passenger entrance, is a single Renkus-Heinz IC24, equipped with an LDA STE21 device for Ethernet control, and to monitor the array with LDA's SIME software at the central control room. So the close integration between Renkus-Heinz's and LDA's technology provides station managers with a combination of centrally coordinated announcements, and assurance that everything is working correctly, in real time. There's also complete control at local level, with microphones in some stations, mostly LDA MCA microphones, an 8 zone microphone, with LDA STV series multichannel amplifiers and an LDA ZES-80 digital multi-zone matrix system."

The IC24's strengths faced one of their toughest tests. Each platform measures 230ft (70m) long by 25 ft (7.5m) wide and 32ft (10m) high, and with multiple horizontal concrete beams at 16ft (4.9m) above platform level. A subway station's acoustic environment is endlessly challenging, but Renkus-Heinz's ever-evolving technology makes sound work where, quite simply, it shouldn't.

"Iconyx modules, both the digitally steerable IC24 with its multiple individual beams, and the 37 mechanically steerable IC7s that we installed in the 160ft (49m) long by 164ft (50m) wide booking halls, offer great audio quality and intelligibility in covering large areas," continues Diego.

"So, by using just one IC24 for each platform, it was possible to achieve even sound pressure distribution along the area, avoiding acoustic shadows that could be created by concrete beams and columns. Another great 'plus' is that they are very easy to install and maintain, with no need for a complex wiring infrastructure.

"Also challenging in this type of environment is extreme variations in background noise with the arrival and departure of trains and the sudden influx of people. To solve this issue, we used LDA Dynamic Sound Adjust technology which automatically monitors and adjusts the volume level of each IC24 in every zone, so that it's delivering a few dBs above the ambient level, without being too loud or too weak. Our SIME system also has the ability to detect if an announcement might not have been intelligible, and in this case the system will automatically repeat the message after a few seconds."

As he notes, "Delivering pure announcements is very important to every passenger. And in the Metro Málaga it's remarkable to be able to say that in every zone the STI is approximately 0.6 or higher, so it has speech intelligibility of a quality similar to that found in most concert halls."

The company's focus spans every sector - airports, train stations, concert halls, sports centers and shopping malls, with clients including El Corte Ingles shopping malls in every Spanish city, IKEA and Carrefour, along with Barajas, Valencia and Malaga airports. There's also a large portfolio of projects in Latin America.

"With more than 35 years' experience in the AV industry," concludes Diego, "we focus on innovation, quality and trust, which is why we are the market leaders in PA/VA in Spain. What also makes us different is that more than half our staff work in research and development. I feel safe in saying the relationship between LDA and Renkus-Heinz has resulted in a tremendous solution for our customer."