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Grace Cathedral Upgrades Audio Capability with APB Spectra Series

Sep 20, 2007 8:00 AM

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Grace Cathedral, built in 1849 during the California gold rush, has survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and several incarnations to become the third-largest Episcopal cathedral in the nation, visited by well-known religious figures such as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Actively involved in contemporary technology—with extensive online programming, podcasts, MP3s, and live streaming of services and talk shows on the Internet—Grace Cathedral recently undertook the first step in an audio upgrade, highlighted by the installation of a new Spectra-C 40-channel console from APB-DynaSonics.

This upgrade was under time constraints from the start because the first phase had to be completed in a few short weeks for the installation of the new Bishop of California, a major event attended by close to 3,000 dignitaries, and political and religious leaders. According to AV consultant Arthur Yeap of Novo Group, “The project was part of phased installation that also involved replacing an old wireless system with a new system of headworn and handheld mics and an assisted-listening system.

Yeap says, “The original console was also obsolete, so we had to move quickly with a replacement. The church hadn’t heard of APB, but they were familiar with the quality products that the principals had designed for other leading console manufacturers. So we made the recommendation and assured them that if it didn’t work, we would recommend something else.”

The Spectra was rushed from APB in New Jersey after being measured in detail for a raised wooden enclosure for the console located in the cathedral nave in front of a column. Once installed, the difference in audio quality was immediately apparent. As Yeap says, “Even using the existing column speakers, which are delayed, you could hear an immediate difference with the APB console. We heard it, their technical staff heard it, and we were all astounded.

“The improvement in clarity and increase of gain before feedback is really amazing. Even the bass sounded better. There was more of it, but it was very natural and clean, with significantly increased intelligibility.”

David Allen Jr., the chief audio engineer for the cathedral, echoed Yeap’s comments. “[The sound is] much cleaner, warmer, and requires much less EQ." The cathedral’s pastoral staff, along with Yvette Jackson, the webcast director, has also noticed the significant improvement in audio quality.

Yeap acknowledges the other main challenge with the console: “Because of the short prep time, the operators were concerned that they might be overwhelmed by the Spectra, but that turned out fine because the board is so logically designed and well laid out.

“And the best part of course is that the cathedral really loves it. In fact, they were tempted to put off the speaker installation because the sound quality was so much improved.”

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