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Acoustics for all to hear

Acoustics for all to hear
Images courtesy of Graham & Hyde Architects

Acoustics for all to hear


Church of Our Saviour in Jacksonville, Florida dates back almost 200 years. Founded in 1825, its first brick-built home wouldn’t be inaugurated until 1851. Its current sanctuary was opened in 1977 and the church has constantly suffered from unintelligible speech since . The church is also located near to the Illinois School for the Deaf, so the parish is equally sensitive to the needs of members of the congregation with hearing impairments. Therefore, during a recent remodelling Designed Acoustics was brought in by Graham and Hyde Architects to design a new a new sound system to ensure better speech intelligibility, leading to the installation of a Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Gen5 digitally steered array system.

‘Since the church was built, they've fought with intelligibility of the spoken word,’ explained Designed Acoustics president and senior engineer Kevin Tankersley. ‘They've had four or five sound systems, including the traditional cluster hung up high and, most recently, a distributed system of small speakers mounted about 2.5m up, all the way around the room. Nothing worked; they still had poor speech intelligibility.’

The church is octagon-shaped with exposed brick. ‘The walls are 12m tall, the centre peak is about 15m tall, and there are only a few windows on the upper edge of the walls,’ added Mr Tankersley. ‘It seats about 900 people. The choir is on the floor as there is no loft. It’s all on one level. As you can imagine, we had to keep the sound off the brick in this towering octagon. Also, they only have live music; they don't allow taped or recorded music. They have a small choir, a piano and a pipe organ, and they occasionally have guitarists. So we didn't want to deaden the room but we did need to condition it.’

This meant that some acoustic treatment was needed. ‘There would normally be aesthetic issues with treating the room but after struggling with intelligibility for years, they wanted it fixed, even if it meant an unconventional look.’

Designed Acoustics produced several models of the room with various solutions requiring varied amounts of treatment. ‘The best option was the Renkus-Heinz Iconyx system,’ said Mr Tankersley. ‘It is highly steerable, so we can dictate where the sound is going to go, and we'd only need a little bit of acoustical treatment in the correct places. We showed them in a graph what the sound and reverberation time would look like, and they chose the Renkus-Heinz system.’

Two IC24-RN arrays have been mounted to the left and right behind the altar, approximately 2.5m from the ground. ‘We had to steer the beams around the altar microphone and the cantor microphone, while avoiding the brick walls,’ added Mr Tankersley, who also noted that the results have been great and are loved by the church.

An Allen & Heath analogue mixer serves the choir, pianist, organist and any guest musicians. The mixer and the altar and cantor microphones use feeds in the floor to send to a Biamp AudioFlex processor, which routes to the Renkus-Heinz main system, as well as a Listen Technologies ListenLoop system that Mr Tankersley and his team also installed. ‘I put in a Listen Technologies ListenLoop hearing loop system, which is a wireless system for the hearing impaired that goes in the floor and automatically connects to their hearing aids when they walk in,’ he revealed. ‘Hearing is very important to this parish, which is why we proposed the Renkus-Heinz Iconyx with acoustical treatment.’

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