Erie, PA (February 23, 2006)–Built in a traditional French Gothic style by architect Patrick Keeley, Saint Peter’s Cathedral seats 896 persons, and for major events, chairs are brought in bringing the number closer to 1,100. While parishioners love the building’s marble and stone look and the organist and choir director enjoy the room’s six-second reverberation time, the long reverberation has made speech intelligibility almost impossible with any of the previous sound systems.
Eric Johnson, owner of regional contractor Fact AV Technologies, remarked, “This was probably the toughest church I’ve ever heard in terms of its natural acoustics, with a reverb time of up to six seconds. The style of worship is very traditional, liturgical and around 12 years ago they had a pew back system installed as a speech reinforcement system for the rector, but it never really worked very well. We had been making an effort to improve the situation but some of the remedies that may have worked technically were aesthetically unacceptable to the mission.
When Renkus-Heinz came up with the new Iconyx technology, it really was the perfect solution. The slim and unobtrusive design fits architecturally very well with the church and was readily acceptable to the Bishop for installation.
With the help of Ralph Heinz, Johnson did a demo of a single Iconyx column in the church, and the applications team at Renkus-Heinz helped with an EASE model. Fact AV then proposed a design using four columns which was approved, making the best use of locations that they were allowed to use within the church.
A single Iconyx column is positioned either side of the altar platform area, with a further pair located on the right and left hand sides of the main area of the church, midway back. Using Renkus-Heinz’s dedicated BeamWare Lobe Selector software, the team focused the sound directly at the seating areas and away from the troublesome hard surfaces. The result, said Johnson, is that “the sound coverage is even throughout the church from front to back, and the parishioners have stopped complaining.”
To complete the installation, Fact AV also specified Audix OM-6 handheld and Micropod 12 podium mics, along with an Audix ADX-60 boundary microphone on the altar. A Rane RPM-88 is used for automatic microphone mixing and feedback supression.
The installation also incorporates one element of the old system, a Peavey MediaMatrix Mini Frame. “It’s a pretty simple package,” said Johnson. “Just four powered loudspeakers, a processor and a bunch of microphones, yet it has elegantly solved what seemed to be an intractable problem. The bishop is delighted because every member of the congregation can hear him properly now and he has a happy congregation rather than a complaining one.
Msgr. Biebel has the last word: “As rector of the cathedral, I find that we have gone from wholesale complaining every weekend to a quiet satisfaction. In-house surveys have been conclusive that we have hit the mark. Volunteer contributions from parishioners came in at over $33,000 towards paying the bills incurred. I am grateful to all who worked with us in this critical project, and especially to the team from Fact Audio who have really put in the hours and done the homework. Finally, we have solved the unsolvable.”