Designing and installing a PA system for a cathedral has to be one of the toughest challenges in audio. Typically, the acoustics of the space are extremely hostile; the heritage and aesthetic considerations severely limit speaker placement and cabling options; and the budget is often well below the optimum. Queensland-based integrator 5thCorner met this challenge with considerable success in Brisbane’s St Steven’s Cathedral using Renkus Heinz Iconyx digitally steerable line array loudspeaker systems.
The previous PA was no longer meeting the expectations of the congregation, and the brief was for a new speaker system that would tame the reverberation in the space and provide clarity throughout the expansive nave and transept of the Gothic revival building. At the same time, the existing analogue mixer was to be replaced by a digital system with flexible control options and matrixed outputs that would also cater for the regular live webcasts of services.
HERE BEGINNETH THE LESSON
The 5thCorner team knew that the key to providing clarity for the spoken word would be keeping sound away from the vast vaulted ceiling of the cathedral. A steerable beam array would be the best fit, so they involved their trusted supplier Hills SVL early in the design phase. The Hills team modelled the space, taking multiple acoustic measurements before recommending a design based on the Renkus Heinz Iconyx range of speakers.
Andrew Gable was the project manager for 5thCorner. “The quality of the sound was really important to the client,” he recalled. “They wanted the space to sound like a cathedral – they didn’t want a booming noise coming from the front. They wanted a sound system that worked within the cathedral – not the other way around.
“The Renkus-Heinz speakers have worked incredibly well in that space,” he continued. “The steerable beams gave us the ability to be very specific in where the audio actually went.”
The final design uses a pair of the larger IC16-RD columns at the front of the nave supplemented by a pair of smaller IC8-RD further back as delay speakers and another two IC8-RDs covering the left and right transept seating. Keeping the number of boxes to a minimum and mounting them on the main support columns has minimised the visual impact and kept the architectural elements uncluttered.
For the front end of the system, 5thCorner chose a Mediamatrix Nion DSP. This easily handled the requirement for eight analogue microphone inputs plus four radio mic systems and provided digital output to the Iconyx speakers via Dante. A separate set of matrix outputs provided a fully controllable mix to the webcasting system. A simplified control system was created using the MediaMatrix Kiosk2Go software running on an iPad. This allows cathedral staff to have simple one-button control to turn the PA system on and off as well as a separate mixer interface to control individual levels when needed.
As part of the installation, all wiring was re-routed to a new basement control point and a fibre backbone was provided to allow for expansion and a future video display system in the cathedral. Rounding out the project was a new Williams Sound IR hearing assistance package with emitters covering the seating areas and a receiver charging station located adjacent the entry.
The new installation has definitely proved its worth and has attracted plenty of favourable comment from both the cathedral staff and the congregation. Andrew Gable is convinced they made the right equipment choice: “One of the main reasons we did go with the Renkus-Heinz was definitely the backing that we got from Hills,” he notes. “If we do have any questions or concerns we can pick up the phone and anyone that we talk to within their support team is very much across the product. And we don’t necessarily need to wait for someone to call us back. We can get the support that we need – at the time that we need it.”
5thCorner: 1300 584 267 or 5thcorner.com.au
2 x IC16-RD Steerable Line Array Speakers with Dante
4 x IC8-RD Steerable Line Array Speakers with Dante
MediaMatrix Nion DSP with Dante
WilliamsAV IR Hearing System (TX90 transmitters, WIR RX22 Receivers)
AKG WMS470 Series Wireless Handheld Microphones
AKG WMS470 Series Wireless Lapel Microphones
AKG Boundary Microphone
AKG Gooseneck Microphones for Cantor and Ambo
AKG High Gain Paddle Antennae & Omni Directional Antennae with combiner
Crestron CP3 Central Processor with TSW-760 Touch Panel
Crestron 16×16 DM Frame with Fibre Input & Output Cards