Founded only a few years after the city of Birmingham, Alabama itself was founded, Cathedral Church of the Advent is over 130-years-old and holds a place in the National Register of Historic Places. It is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and home to 4,000 congregants who fill its stunningly beautiful sanctuary for five services every weekend. Its music program has earned accolades, and the church has branched out to include a modern music ensemble for its last service on Sunday. Georgia-based A/V design and integration firm, dB Integrations, recently remedied Cathedral Church’s sonic woes with a single Danley GH-60 Genesis Horn loudspeaker, two Danley SM-60s for side fill, a Danley SBH-20 column loudspeaker for choir fill, and a Danley TH-118 subwoofer. In addition to delivering impactful, highly-intelligible music and speech reinforcement, the new Danley system performs without taking away from Cathedral Church’s amazing architecture, woodwork, and stained glass.
“The church was getting complaints about the poor sound reinforcement on pretty much a daily basis,” explained Ronnie Stanford, director of sales and marketing at dB Integrations. “They were contending with column loudspeakers that had been installed a few years ago on either side of the chancel, slightly behind the pulpit. They couldn’t reach 90 feet to the back of the room. Compounding the pattern mismatch, gain-before-feedback was terrible. They really couldn’t make the pastor any louder. Their modern service includes ensembles, such as acoustic guitar, cello, and djembe, and the musicians were actually positioned in front of the loudspeakers. It was impossible to get their open-mic volume where it needed to be without feedback.”
dB Integrations designed an outrageously simple system: a single Danley GH-60 Genesis Horn covers almost everything. The GH-60 is designed with several of Danley’s patented technologies so that its phase-coherent, point-source audio falls off appropriately with distance and angle so that seats near and far receive the same SPL. “The pattern of the Danley GH-60 and the requirements at Cathedral Church are identical,” Stanford said. “We provided a demo for the church officials with a GH-60 on a Genie lift. They loved the clean sound, which extended all the way to the back of the room, but we also instructed them to pay attention to how quiet it was behind the GH-60.”
Stanford knew the church was planning to bring other firms in to demo their solutions, and he also knew those other firms would recommend industry-darling line arrays, which would have much less intelligibility and gain before feedback than the Danley solution. “I told them to be sure to walk behind the line array demos as well, and when they called us with the job, they remarked how loud it was behind all those line arrays as we predicted,” he said. “But even if you forget about the poor audio performance and the way a line array would energize the cavernous peak of the room, how would a line array look in that sacred, beautiful space? Terrible.”
In contrast, the four-foot tall Danley GH-60 is flown at 35 feet, just below an impressive stained-glass window. It’s custom-painted to match the wall, minimizing the aesthetic impact. The two Danley SM-60s tuck into the corners of the room and practically vanish. The SM-60s cover the thirty or so seats on each side that the GH-60 misses. The small number of loudspeakers is the best-case scenario for intelligibility, and their impressive pattern control gives Cathedral Church abundant gain-before-feedback. To really fill out the entire frequency spectrum, dB Integrations installed a Danley TH-118 subwoofer at the peak of the roof – 60 feet up – and in the center of the room. From that location, its arrival time works well with the GH-60 and covers all the pews with equal low-frequency SPL.
The back area of the chancel located behind the pulpit is reserved for the choir and organist throughout the service and is reserved for clergy during the celebration of Communion. It was always a challenge to provide adequate audio coverage to this area. “A Danley SBH-20 proved to be the perfect solution for this application because it has the right pattern control,” Stanford said. “By installing the SBH-20 in the corner at approximately seven feet above the organist, we were able to provide great coverage for the entire area while keeping SPL at the organist’s position to a comfortable level.”
Crown amplifiers power the system, and a BiAmp Nexia SP system provides input conditioning, routing logic, and modest loudspeaker conditioning. A new Allen & Heath dLive DM64 digital console allows the church to handle complicated services or events, and its simple iPad remote control provides a basic interface for simpler scenarios. The console is mounted in a custom road case from Georgia Case.
With their new system installed, everyone at Cathedral Church of the Advent is thrilled to have intelligible spoken word and transparent music reinforcement. They’re just as thrilled to have that kind of performance without taking away from the splendor of their beautiful, historic sanctuary.