Built To Last

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Landmark Episcopal Church Receives An Audio Transformation

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WAYNE, PA—Located in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia, St. David’s Episcopal Church, which celebrates its 300th Anniversary in 2015, was first settled at end of 17th century by Welsh colonists in Radnor, PA. Today it is the largest of the 157 parishes in the Diocese of Pennsylvania and it continues to grow and flourish, adding a new chapel to its 40-acre campus in 2006.

The chapel’s original audio system, intended to amplify sermons and choral voices in a large, reverberant space dominated by an impressive 3- manual, 47-rank custom Dobson organ, consisted of 32 speakers mounted around the upper tier of the long rectangular worship area. Unfortunately, what seemed a creative idea never resulted in coherent intelligible audio for the voices. As John Schofield, parish administrator, put it, “When the chapel opened, the announcing system was impossible. You couldn’t hear a word anyone was saying or understand it, for that matter.”

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With a lot of reverberation in the room, Martin Audio’s OmniLine micro-line arrays were the right choice for St. David’s.

The church sought the services of Spinnaker Multimedia Solutions, a design/ installation firm that specializes in houses of worship. “St. David’s wasn’t happy with their audio, so we performed an acoustic study and 3D modeled the room using EASE acoustic prediction software,” said Fenicia Redman, VP project development. “Additionally, we field tested three brands of speakers for them. It came down to two brands, one of which was the new Martin Audio OmniLine array, and we installed each system on two successive Sunday services for everyone to judge. The reaction was like night and day.

“We replaced 32 speakers,” Redman continued, “whose intelligibility was very poor from front to back and across the listening area. Vocal clarity was key here because there’s a lot of reverberation in the room to enhance the 50-member choir and organ sound, so we worked with Rob Hofkamp and Martin Audio’s engineers to develop a solution consisting of two of the new OmniLine micro-line arrays with six modules each hung left and right in the front of the space facing backwards at an angle. Before and after data proved we made the correct choice for St. David’s. SPL deviations before were 8 dB and after 3.2 dB. Speech intelligibility improved dramatically from 17 percent Alcons to 2.5 percent Alcons.”

The rest of the system, designed for easy operation, consists of Crown amplification, along with Allen & Heath iDR8 rack-mount digital signal processing system and two PL10 control panels. Bottom line, “OmniLine delivered the best sound distribution for the least investment. People can finally clearly hear the leaders no matter where we sit,” Redman concluded. “As it turned out, these two small arrays solved the problem one hundred percent. People in the front could hear as well as the ones in the rear and it sounded even from front to back for the first time. And they’re light, really small and easy to rig.”

Schofield, impressed with the system’s intelligibility, added: “We chose the Martin Audio system, and we’ve been thrilled with the sound ever since. This has become a popular venue for many types of productions and shows.”

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