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Preserving Acoustics and Design in a Historic Church, Part 1

Jun 6, 2013 4:28 PM, With Bennett Liles

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And of course speakers were the big thing on this one. What kind of speakers did you decide to use in there?

It was the Entasys 200 series, and we went with four of the 212s on the main level, and there’s also, up towards the altar area, there’s a total of four—two on each side—filling in like a center fill for the people in the very, very, very, front row. And then some going back to the priest during mass and those were the 203’s. Then up in the choir loft we just used 203s to supplement the clarity of sound that you were maintaining or getting from the system below. What you shouldn’t get with the Entasys system just becomes unintelligible above its dispersion point, which is what we were looking for. [Timestamp: 5:28]

I know there are multiple features there. What was the big draw of the Entasys 200 series? Had you used those before?

No, and since it being a new product. We’d used their flagship product Entasys speaker—their 4in. box, the three-way system—in a few other churches in our area and this is definitely a box people have been looking at. When they launched this it became more of a price point versus a three-way. Being a Catholic church, there wasn’t a need to go to the three-way box for just spoken word. I mean there’s not really any music that comes through it. Again, being liturgically correct in the church you don’t play CD’s and music and stuff like that. Traditionally it’s just organ and piano. And I think sometimes they do have a folk group in there and they play a little acoustic guitar or something, but very traditional, so obviously no recorded music during mass. So it’s just a spoken-word system and the 212’s just did a phenomenal job covering the area that we needed to cover intelligibly. [Timestamp: 6:27]

So I guess that’s pretty much what you had to do to balance the need for a robust and lofty choir sound with the requirement for speech intelligibility when the pastor talks.

Right, exactly. They do kids’ masses in there once, twice a week, and children have a tendency to rattle or go quickly through scripture when they’re doing readings and stuff. And several comments have come back from the people that they finally can understand the words that the kids are saying because we lost all the overtones, all the slapping around of sound of the old point-source system and it really just – we just really changed over everything you heard. You don’t have to struggle to hear the clarity and the diction. [Timestamp: 7:15]

What was the timeframe on this thing? Did you have to dodge around services or did they give you plenty of time to work?

Through the daytime, normally through the week. I did have a Eucharistic Adoration in there every Tuesday, so we didn’t even go in. That starts at 8:00 in the morning until, I think, 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and so we just didn’t do anything in there on Tuesdays. Kind of a leisurely timeframe, but we wanted it done, obviously, before Christmas. We did this in late November or so last year—late December I think, and wanted everything up and done by, obviously, Christmas for the services and stuff. But then, you know, we got lucky, and fortunate for everybody there were no funerals that we had to dodge through. Yeah, it was kind of like I said, they get the kids in there and practice the children’s service and the choir practices and stuff like that, so it was kind of timing my frames and getting in there. So it just took us roughly there abouts—dodging Thanksgiving and stuff—just two or three weeks to do the job kind of ducking in and out and getting it a couple days at a time. [Timestamp: 8:11]

Did you run into any surprises from architectural or electrical situations?

No. They just put the new heating and cooling system in there, so I guess the only surprise I found, being an old church like that I found out they built the heating and cooling system on the way out. And to get back to the back speakers we actually had to belly crawl and take a spade shovel down there on our belly and kind of scoop as we got underneath the heating and cooling system. So it was just a little bit of a dirty job on that side of it, but honestly it did go very, very smooth. So it leant itself to a pretty nice install with not a lot of problems along the way. [Timestamp: 8:50]

And the intelligible speech depended in large part on the dSPEC processor. Where did you have that?

That’s actually located up in one of the sacristies by the altar area in the back, which is where the amps and the existing equipment that they did have in there we worked with. So we put the dSPEC in and with Community already presetting all their speakers in there, I was able to go through and select the outputs—the speakers that we were using—and then kind of we measured it out and checked the delay times and stuff and then went though and used the processer just really, really leant itself to the job and to clean things up. Since it’s digital, I don’t have anybody in there that can get into it with a laptop, so nobody can push a button, tweak a button. Anything that can be done can be undone within five or 10 minutes, or walk somebody through on the phone. The processor really leant itself to kind of shooting from the hip and tuning and balancing out the room. We did use SmartRig 6 program to get in there and actually look at the room dynamics, and then we put SmartRig 6 away and we got out and started talking on microphones and reading and using them good RTA’s that God gave us, that all of us have on the side of our head, and just really did some minor adjustments after that. But it was really, it was pretty much set right the first time. [Timestamp: 10:19]

Alright, I’m glad that things worked out pretty well and thanks for the details on it. It’s Steve Merrill of Stage Right Productions and the St. Augustine’s Church sound system upgrade. In part two we’ll get into the microphones in the system and what you did with some of the original sound gear, so thanks and we’ll see you then.

Thank you.

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