Renkus-Heinz Iconyx loudspeakers now cover the The Catholic Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, MD.Bethesda, MD (April 7, 2008)–The 1960s were a time of upheavel and social despair, but many found solace in houses of worship, including an 800-seat church in Bethesda, MD: The Catholic Church of the Little Flower. Times change, however, and so do sound requirements, which is why the facility recently gained a new audio system based around Renkus-Heinz Iconyx loudspeakers.
When consultants Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago, IL were brought in by the church’s business manager, Gerry Mehlbaum, they found the wide, angular, almost hexagonal worship space faced by two tall niches in the limestone wall either side of the altar–homes of the church’s original multi-driver column loudspeaker system. “When we saw those niches,” says Jonathan Darling, Senior Consultant at Kirkegaard, “we realized they would form the perfect location for the loudspeakers that we knew would work best in such a tall, highly reflective, reverberant space.”
A pair of Iconyx IC16 16-driver fully active column arrays was already in town, in the hands of integrators RCI Sound Systems of Beltway, MD, who at Kirkegaard’s request provided the church with a live demonstration. Winning the church’s approval on the spot, an RCI team led by project manager Gene Ingham duly installed the arrays in a 21st century recreation of the original designer’s aspirations. Each Iconyx is supplemented by a PN212 subwoofer, providing full frequency response for music reinforcement.
“They had exactly the right idea in the 1960s,” says Darling, “but only now does the technology exist to deliver the combination of directivity and intelligibility they were hoping to achieve. They tried to get even distribution from the two niches, but the technology lacked adequate pattern control.
“We also discovered two very interesting things about the ICONYX. One, it was amazing how counter-intuitive it is to people that the column can distribute sound so evenly from the front to back of the room even though the loudspeakers are located quite low down: people assume it will be much louder in front yet it isn’t.
“Two, there’s an education process both for priests and lay speakers. Because of the ICONYX’s directivity there’s very little reflected sound from the walls and balcony back to the sanctuary, so celebrants and lay readers think they’re not being heard, even though they are, very clearly. Put simply, they had to learn to trust the system.”
The loudspeakers are driven by a BSS London processor which both replicates a previous unit’s auto-mixing function and provides loudspeaker routing and processing, as well as interfacing with the church’s requested touch panel control units for simple system setup. A pair of small infill loudspeakers provide foldback for the choir loft, which is no longer covered by the general sound wash from the old main system – and even less so by the tightly focused pattern control of the Iconyx.