Steering Chapel Sound

Founded in 1861, Vassar College is proud of its Norman Revival Chapel on campus. Services include a weekly Catholic Mass as well as weddings and funerals for members of the Vassar community.

For all its wood and stonework Gothic beauty and historical significance, the acoustics in the Vassar Chapel were being compromised by a 20-year-old antiquated sound reinforcement system that negatively impacted every event held there. Charged with finding an acoustic and sound system consultant to correct this significant issue, Susan Stephens, who at that time was the manager of media resources at the college, discovered a world-renowned acoustician literally in her own back yard. Walters-Storyk Design Group is based in Highland, NY, just 15 minutes from the campus.

Project principals Dirk Noy and John Storyk matched Vassar's enthusiasm for preserving the building's historical integrity.

"Uses for the chapel have changed dramatically over the years," Stephens said. "It's one of the few venues on campus capable of accommodating a large audience. We had long been aware of the unintelligibility problem.
With a requirement for ease of use for non-technical personnel and auto/manual modes for more sophisticated technicians, WSDG also had to make the systems as close to invisible as possible.

Room measurements revealed a RT60 at 2.5 seconds in mid frequencies, far afield from the room's optimal 1.5-second requirements. Fixable, yes, but complicated by Vassar's aesthetic mandate.

Extensive research and planning led the WSDG team to recommend a digitally controlled, electro-acoustical solution capable of covering the entire 1,100-seat area and balcony. To assure the integrity of the manual mix mode a password must be entered into a programmable remote before integrating multiple microphones, an additional analog mixer and other sources into the system.

The complex speaker install was a formidable undertaking involving careful mounting of the speakers at a height of over 30 feet from the floor. Connecticut-based systems integration firm HB Communications completed the installation.

The main front left/right loudspeakers are EAW DSA 230/250 digitally controllable line arrays installed one above the other. EAW JF80s were chosen for the rear seats and the balcony. The system includes a CD player, tape deck, multiple wireless microphone receivers, Crown amplification, BSS Soundweb DSP and a BSS Jellyfish remote.

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