Here's Renkus-Heinz's Solution for 42-Foot-High Ceilings and Tricky Acoustics

St. James Basilica high arching ceiling in gold and blue, with audio powered by Renkus-Heinz.
(Image credit: Renkus-Heinz)

Dominated by 125-foot-tall spires flanking the main façade, St. James Basilica serves the spiritual needs of the community in Jamestown, ND. Designed in the Gothic Revival style and completed in 1914, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 as St. James Catholic Church and was elevated to a minor basilica in 1988. The old audio system consisted of a single loudspeaker cluster at the front of the nave. Parishioners began complaining about not being able to hear the sermon clearly, and worship services could not be heard at all along the ends of the pews closest to the walls. The 42-foot-high ceilings and reverberant acoustics required a highly targeted audio solution, which Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers are renowned for.

Church staff reached out to Dallas Anderson, system designer at Tricorne Audio, to help design a new sound system capable of directing sound to the congregation and increasing speech intelligibility. Architectural modifications to the church were limited or not permitted due to its historic designation, which greatly reduced the options for the replacement audio system.

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“St. James Basilica has amazing architecture but problematic acoustics as a result,” said Anderson. “We calculated nearly four seconds of reverberation in the sanctuary, which is immense. Our only options were to either install acoustical treatments and replace the loudspeaker cluster or install steerable arrays. Acoustic treatments weren’t allowed under the historic designation, so when steerable arrays became the only viable path forward, we immediately turned to ICONYX loudspeakers from Renkus-Heinz."

St. James Basilica high arching ceiling in gold and blue, with audio powered by Renkus-Heinz.

(Image credit: Renkus-Heinz)

To improve speech intelligibility and provide even coverage for the entire seating area, a pair of ICONYX IC16-RN steerable arrays were installed in the nave while four CX-62 point source loudspeakers were deployed as fills in the balcony.

The fact that only two loudspeakers were able to provide adequate coverage for the entire sanctuary speaks to the power of beam steering technology. Beam steering allows ICONYX loudspeakers to tightly control the sound and direct it at the audience while keeping it away from other surfaces that cause echoes and reverberation. This acoustic directionality greatly improves speech intelligibility and ensures every listener receives the best sound possible. Fewer loudspeakers equate to fewer architectural intrusions, which was also of great importance to the historic basilica.

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The church leadership and congregation were ecstatic about the audio improvements.

“Renkus-Heinz reviewed our acoustical modeling prior to installation to ensure we had designed a robust audio solution,” said Anderson. “I’ve always been happy with their products’ performance and commitment to customer service.”

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