The Zepp Hall Network, part of the concert-going experience in Japan since 1997, has arrived in Taiwan. From Singapore, it brings a tried-and-tested equipment formula, which includes NEXO STM modular line arrays and Yamaha RIVAGE digital mixing systems.
The Zepp concept, whereby all venues are permanently equipped with standardised sound and lighting systems, 4K projection and stage machinery, offers advantages to tour promoters and artists alike. Nine pre-equipped Zepp venues in Daiba, Fukuoka, Haneda, Nagoya, Namba Osaka, Osaka Bay Side, Sapporo, Tokyo and Yokohama enable bands to simply turn up and play without having to stage a full production.
“When I heard that Zepp – which at that time was a 100% subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan – had a plan to develop its concert hall model overseas, it really interested me,” explains Shinichiro Honda, Zepp Hall Network vice president of hall operation division. Honda joined Sony Music Group in 2014, becoming part of a team set up to research expansion into other territories.
In 2017, Zepp formally established Asia Pacific operations out of its native Japan. A joint venture between Zepp Hall Network and Singapore-based Big Box Investment, Zepp@BIGBOX Singapore is a third level conversion at the Jurong East Big Box complex. The decision on what equipment to install in Zepp@BIGBOX was made following dialogue with a Japanese sound consultant who had assisted with all Zepp venues in Japan. Breaking with the Japanese template, a decision was made to employ a Yamaha and NEXO system for Singapore.
“We needed a good support network,” explains Shinichiro Honda, Zepp Hall Network vice president of hall operation division. “Yamaha has subsidiaries throughout Asia, offering excellent support for their systems. In addition, sound engineers in Japan are very familiar with Yamaha consoles. We wanted to open the doors to everyone, while at the same time, providing very good sound quality. And that’s why we chose to use Yamaha consoles and NEXO speakers for our first overseas venture.”
A local systems integrator was paramount to development and so Honda turned to Yamaha Music Electronics Taiwan for local recommendations. After deliberation, Honda appointed The NineTai Audio Group to assist him in the system design and installation of the audio equipment. Ultimately, a NEXO STM line array loudspeaker system and a Yamaha RIVAGE PM10 digital mixing system operating on a Dante network were selected for the venue. In addition to fulfilling the equipment management contract for the venue, NineTai Audio also deploys sound engineers for those artists and performers who do not come with touring crew.
Seasoned in concert audio production and familiar with the Zepp audio system, NineTai Audio is the confident custodian of the venue’s audio system. “STM is the ideal choice for the venue,” comments NineTai Audio system division manager, Tsai Tsung Che. “In addition to being modular, the STM is a very directional system that can be easily controlled to target the audience without dispersing onto different surfaces. Furthermore, when we need to reconfigure the existing seven-cabinet hang, we simply lower the rig before uncoupling each STM module onto a dolly for redeployment when required. With over 11 sites to their name, we needed to provide Zepp’s clients with consistency in terms of the capacity, accessibility and operability. With rapid changes in technology, it’s important to strike a balance between maintaining the original design and using the latest user-friendly technology.”
The system, designed to be highly efficient and energetic enough for a rock music venue, consists of seven per side STM M46 main modules and seven STM B112 bass units, hung two-deep. Two STM M28 omni purpose modules are suspended from each cluster to provide down fill, and 18 STM S118 subwoofers have been arrayed along the front of the stage to ensure even low frequency coverage. P12 and PS15 are used for stage monitors. The system is driven by 21 NEXO NXAMP4x4 4-channel Powered TD Controller fitted with NXDT104 Mk2 Dante audio network cards, providing a total of 84 amp channels. Side fills consist of four NEXO GEO S1210 cabinets and four LS18 subwoofers, with four GEO M1012s for front fill.
The NineTai Audio Group worked remotely with NEXO’s Nicolas Poitrenaud, who assisted with system setup and alignment. NEXO’s NS-1 configuration and simulation software was used to reduce any problematic acoustic issues and to calculate the best solutions for the 4,900m2 room. “Zepp New Taipei is similar to the Japanese venues,” continues Tsai. “With a limited number of loudspeakers, the presence of the upper balcony together with reflections emitting off the back wall and ceiling made even coverage within +/- 3dB quite challenging. The NS-1 calculations really helped us in that respect and saved us a lot of time correcting the rigging. The actual measurements we recorded within the venue mirror the simulations.”
A Yamaha RIVAGE PM10 was selected for FOH, with a CL5 digital mixer on monitors and a QL1 providing a main system feed. The entire system is connected to microphone inputs on stage via RiO3224-D2 I/O racks to the Dante network through dual Yamaha RPio222 I/O rack units and dual SWP1-16MMF L2 network switches. All inputs split to monitor and FOH system, ensuring both full and independent controls for house and monitor engineers. As for FOH system, the RIVAGE PM10 and NEXO NXAMPs are connected via Dante with redundancy with three dual SWP2-10MMF L2 switches.
With a second level balcony equipped with 291 fixed seats, the hall space is extremely flexible, easily transforming from hosting a 2,245-capacity live performance to a round table banquet or gala dinner setting for 1,025. VIP seats located on the left upper balcony have a clear view of the 14.5m-wide stage. “The venue is quite large and spread out,” adds Tsai. “The redundancy built in over the Dante network between the console, Lake processing and back end has resulted in lower cabling costs, and realtime, stable transmission. We can continually monitor and manage the network from a PC without having to check the individual parameters on location.”
“The local support behind Yamaha in Asia is second to none,” says Honda. “In addition to the performance and reliability of their engineering, this offers you something that no other manufacturer can provide.”
Honda is now involved with the day-to-day running of Zepp New Taipei, working closely with concert promoters to fill the venue. “Right now, life is currently on hold because of the pandemic,” he says. “In Japan we normally run at 80% capacity, with a show almost every day, because there are so many domestic artists who want to play at our venues. In Taiwan, we’re going to host events for the local music industry and overseas artists in addition to corporations, businesses and houses of worship.”
With thanks to Richard Lawn from ProAVL Asia for contributing this article. You can watch the video on this topic here: https://youtu.be/b4C8esRcZDA