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Product at Work: Tannoy QFlex

Feb 14, 2012 11:30 AM

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Home to one of the oldest Catholic congregations in the United States, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is sometimes referred to as the heart of Santa Fe, and for good reason. Although the Cathedral Basilica was dedicated in 1887, the site has been a focal point of worship for the community since 1610. The first church built where the current structure now stands was destroyed during the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680, but was rebuilt in 1714; a portion of which still stands within the existing building—a small adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora, housing the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the nation.

In addition to serving the spiritual needs of its own congregation, the cathedral Basilica’s rich history attracts approximately 100,000 visitors annually. As beautiful as the cathedral is, however, for some years it has had a problem, says Wanda Vint, director, development and donor relations at the Cathedral Basilica. Put bluntly: “You couldn’t clearly hear the word of God.”

That changed last summer with the installation of a state-of-the-art sound system that depends heavily on a pair of Tannoy’s QFlex digitally steerable column arrays.

The system was inspired by a 2009 visit made by the cathedral’s Rev. Monsignor Jerome Martinez y Alire to the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Minn. Surprised that such an old and similarly acoustically reverberant space could sound so good, he asked who had designed and installed the system and was referred to Minnesota-based, Audio Video Electronics (AVE).

The project that initially caught the monsignor’s ear was undertaken before QFlex was available, explains Kevin Crow, AVE’s VP of sales and marketing, but both spaces had similar issues: In the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the RT was 5 to 6 seconds in the mid-frequency band.

In order to meet the Cathedral Basilica’s needs, Stefan Svard, AVE president and system designer, specified a pair of Tannoy QFlex 40s. Placed on a pair of columns roughly 6ft. above the floor just in front of the altar, the QFlex provide coverage to approximately 75 percent of the 1,200-capacity, 90’x65’ space. They also provide low-frequency support throughout the nave, the south transept, and the Our Lady La Conquistadora chapel. (Additionally, smaller Community Professional Entasys arrays supply rear fills for the nave and provide reinforcement for the chapel and other ancillary spaces.)

The Cathedral Basilica’s atmosphere had an impact on the choice of QFlex, as did the ability to diagnose any issues the church might have using the QFlex array’s remote monitoring capabilities. But the main reason for choosing QFlex, Svard says, was experience. When he first heard QFlex he was cautious in his assessment. After a shootout with a competitor’s product in a St. Cloud, Minn., house of worship, however, he chose QFlex. In that case, the Tannoy was the clear winner.

“If I’m in the front, middle. or back of a room, the EQ that I need to correct is the same,” he continues. “Other products I’ve used shift in character. QFlex is the only product of its kind that retains its frequency response—its spectral consistency—across its coverage pattern.”

The result is a dramatic improvement in speech intelligibility and the sound quality of both background music and live performances by the Cathedral Basilica’s choir.

Monsignor Jerome Martinez y Alire describes the sound quality as “incredible—as is the appearance of the loudspeakers themselves. We were concerned about how modern speakers would look in such an old, historic church; with custom paint finish to match our walls, they all but disappear. The clear, audible sound is a gift to our parishioners.”

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