Holoplot’s Audio Tech Sets New Standard For Live Shows

CONTROLLING SOUND: Holoplot’s out-of-the-box thinking led the German-based company to develop a complex system that recreates sound, allowing every person to hear the same audio, regardless of where they’re sitting. (Courtesy Holoplot)

It’s been more than two months since U2 opened the $2.3 billion gamble that was Sphere in Las Vegas, and rapturous reviews are still pouring in from their shows. Demand is so high that the iconic band added more dates in early 2024 to give more fans a chance to experience the unique concert that delivers dazzling visuals and remarkable sound to match it. Even cinephiles are raving about the immersive venue with the release of Darren Aronofsky’s 50-minute film, “Postcards from Earth,” marking a momentous shift in the presentation of cinematic and live experiences.

“There is a world before Sphere and after Sphere. It’s going to change the industry, maybe not in one go, but it sets a landmark, a new kind of standard of where to go on a number of different aspects,” said Holoplot CEO Roman Sick.

Sick would know best as he and his team worked rigorously with James Dolan’s Sphere Entertainment to reinvent live entertainment and had the daunting task of developing a 3D audio system for the unconventional structure. Holoplot was using its technology in German train stations, attempting to steer sound to develop a clearer, more efficient public address system and achieving never-before-seen Speech Intelligibility Index measurements, proving that they were onto something.

Holoplot’s divergent thinking drew the attention of Sphere’s developers and the company was tasked with the challenge of taking sound to another level and developing a state-of-the-art system that would give the audiences at Sphere a truly immersive experience regardless of where they are seated.

“One of the early key questions was, ‘How can you create an audio experience that is not dominated by the space you’re listening in?’” Sick said. “So much effort is put into the whole sound production from musicians and the mixing engineers, but the moment it goes out of the speakers you lose that level of control. If you can control sound, you can control the experience. That’s what we tried to do from the beginning.”

Sick explained that when listening to a stereo setup, there is a source on the left and on the right, and the perfect position is to be in the middle of the two, but someone listening away from that center will hear an unbalanced sound. Holoplot looked into a system that would enable operators to recreate the original wave point and synthesize it.

To eliminate any constraints, the company designed a different category of audio system called Matrix Array, which, combined with capable software and algorithms, enables users to “control sound with unseen-before granularity,” Sick said.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) was intrigued by Holoplot’s endeavors and had a vision to create a venue without visible speakers and audio that gave everyone the same experience.

“It’s nearly impossible to do that with conventional speaker technologies for a number of reasons,” Sick said. “We both believed we could do it with ours.”

Holoplot not only had to create a remarkable system that is only a fraction of the size of audio setups seen in other 20,000-capacity venues but also software that can appropriately deploy sound from it. The company ultimately came through on both ends, developing an audio system consisting of 1,600 permanently installed and 300 mobile Holoplot X1 Matrix Array loudspeaker modules — that’s a staggering 167,000 individually amplified speaker drivers combined —  as well as AI-powered software tools that facilitate tuning for sound technicians. Information is simply put into the system, sent into the cloud for calculations and brought back with a perfect outcome for the parameters set.

“Manually tuning a system with this kind of complexity and at this size would take a long time, but the software that we have developed does that automatically in a fraction of that time,” Sick said.

With an ever-evolving audio system, there truly is a world after Sphere and it’s one that, according to Sick, will not only enhance the live experience but life in general.

“Ultimately, the experience for humans will change, and that’s important because it changes the memory you have of a certain moment,” Sick said. “If you have a great experience, you will have a good memory, and that’s what life’s about.”