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Complex Audio Worship Upgrade, Part 1

Aug 14, 2012 10:51 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The massive sound upgrade at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, Conn., involved a hugely complex delay system, remote control, and wireless mic systems. It was a tremendous project with lots going on behind the scenes while the priests just push a few buttons. Steve Minozzi of Monte Brothers Sound Systems is here to give us the details coming up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Steve, its good having you here on the SVC Podcast with what has got to be one of the most complex sound system upgrades I’ve seen in a while. Monte Brothers Sound Systems took on the job and made it all work. Before we get into that though, tell me about Monte Brothers Sound Systems.

Scott Minozzi: Well, basically Monte Brothers specializes in the design, installation, and service of sound systems in houses of worship. We’ve done many cathedrals—Sacred Heart in Newark; Saint Patrick’s in Harrisburg in Beaumont, Texas. So that’s our specialty. We do other projects for NYPD headquarters and counter terror division after 9/11, which involves similar technology just applied a little differently but basically 95 percent of our business is houses of worship throughout the country. [Timestamp: 1:31]

St. Joseph’s is a huge place and when you say cathedral, the first thing I think of is reverberation. So what’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral like and how is it acoustically?

The challenge with St. Joseph’s Cathedral besides the acoustics,which is present in other cathedrals, is the size of the space like St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The seating capacity is 1,750 people. The ceiling is 108ft. high. It’s just a big space. Logistically with St. Joseph’s Cathedral the features that they wanted in the sound system are unique because we’ve really expanded the capability of the sound system to do many things over and above dealing with the acoustics, so there were a lot of challenges in this project. [Timestamp: 3:13]

I’m sure that one of the main goals on this would be speech intelligibility in that kind of acoustic environment. How did you approach that?

This is a Roman Catholic Cathedral, so every denomination has different logistical requirements in the worship space. Typically in a Roman Catholic cathedral the celebrant, the priest, the bishop, the archbishop, or the cardinal—depending on which cathedral it is—they will physically be in many areas of the space. For instance, besides the sanctuary where the alter of sacrifice is they will also use the nave or the transepts of a cathedral to, for instance, do the Stations of the Cross during Easter, to meet a body during a funeral at the front entrance to the cathedral, to have the vigil mass outside the front doors of the cathedral on Holy Saturday. So they use this space, and therefore a sound system has to be designed to provide intelligibility, but at the same time it has to provide logistic capability for the multiple wireless microphones to be used anywhere in the space. For instance, if the priest, the bishop, or the archbishop wants to go down the center aisle of the nave and speak from there, which is done quite often. And then if you don’t have a system that gives feedback, meaning acoustic feedback, back to the person speaking, if you don’t have a system that gives a comfortable level of the person throughout the space they have difficulty with that. For example, if he uses a source system where the speakers are projecting from one source as the person or the priest walks towards the back or the entrance of the cathedral, they’re going to distance themselves from the sound source that is amplifying them. In this case that is not a very high comfort level, so we designed for that cathedral what they call a “hybrid sound system,” which uses source speakers, which are typically line array devices that have a cylindrical waveform for quite a distance and then we have support speakers distributed down the sides of the cathedral. And then in the side chapels and everywhere else then they’re time aligned with digital delay technology so you have directional realism and you reduce the sound of multiple sources from different speakers as you approach the entrance of the cathedral. This enhances intelligibility for the congregation and it also enhances the comfort level for the priest, bishop, or archbishop or cardinal who happens to be walking and standing in the entrance of the cathedral, which is quite a distance from the sanctuary. [Timestamp: 4:33]

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