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Colored d&b columns at Carondelet chapel

Sensitivity can mean a number of things in the world of professional audio, yet rarely does it relate to the visual spectrum. But then rather like the nature of the d&b audiotechnik installation made by Audio Logic Systems (ALS) in Minnesota’s Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel of Carondelet, the whole purpose of that sensitivity was to be as unobtrusive as possible, to the eye and ear alike. “To be heard and not seen, to turn an old cliché on its head,” said John Markiewicz of ALS. “I’ve encountered this before, but not with such emphasis. Yes, speech intelligibility was of paramount importance for the project we were asked to undertake, but visual appearance had equal weighting in the mind of our client.”

Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel is in the classic European Christian style, the wooden interior laid out with a long parallel sided aisle facing toward the altar. Quite dry acoustically, the abundance of wood makes for a fairly warm sound, intimate even. “The first time I was there after we made the installation,” recalled Markiewicz, “it raised the hair on the back of my neck when I heard one of the Sisters speaking into the system.”

John Viktora-Croke is Director of Facilities for the Sisters: “The chapel is used mainly for speech oriented service and it is not uncommon for our guests to have hearing impairments. But I cannot emphasize enough how appearance is a standout point, so I needed a company that supported me in getting the color just right.” Markiewicz elected to use d&b xC-Series column loudspeakers. “The adjustable vertical pattern projection in the HF of these loudspeakers meant we probably could have covered the room with just a pair of 24Cs left and right near the top end of the chapel, but by adding delays of 16C extensions down the aisle at the middle and close to the rear achieved two things: a more even sound level coverage from front to back of the congregation, and the ability to create a more natural vocal sound. In effect all listeners experience the intimacy of the first few rows. The cardioid nature of the LF section only enhances this effect while shielding the choir from unwanted low end energy.”

Markiewicz had d&b’s ArrayCalc to confirm his design concept in empirical terms, but color matching was a much more subjective process. “John (Viktora-Croke) went to great lengths, building cardboard models of the 24C and 16C loudspeaker cabinets. We then positioned the d&b brackets, painted the cardboard models to the suggested RAL color, and mounted them for viewing and approval. I have to say the Sisters made what we thought at first was an odd choice; instead of matching to the wood of the interior, they matched to the wood of the pews, lectern and other furniture. But of course they were absolutely right and you see the system as all of a piece with the fixtures and fittings. Just shows you what audio guys know about visual perception.”

The system design was complimented by a fourth pair of 16Cs in the chapel’s stone hallway, which is often used for smaller functions and overspill from the main chapel; a pair of the tiny 4S loudspeakers for the choir, which are mounted rearward facing of the lectern, that they might hear the officiate, and finally a small 12S-Subwoofer. “Occasionally they have live music for certain functions which requires additional low frequency weight for warmth,” explained Markiewicz. “Just three two channel d&b D6 amplifiers are needed to drive the whole system, all networked over their R70 Ethernet to CAN interface. Because the hallway acoustic is much harsher than the chapel we applied an SPL limit within the network to ensure sustained intelligibility in this area.”

“It was a pleasure working with ALS,” concluded Viktora-Croke. “John is a very thorough man and did a great job. He understands how to work around issues and have them solved to everyone’s satisfaction.”

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