Saying that downtown Orlando’s St. James Cathedral is impressive is putting it mildly. Historically and aesthetically, the cathedral, the seat of the Orlando, Florida, Diocese of the Catholic Church, is truly distinct.
For all intents and purposes, explains Antonio Aguerrevere, senior director of design and construction services for the diocese of Orlando, the building is an entirely new build; a comprehensive $10 million renovation freshly completed in late 2010. “We put in a basement and replaced every single system; mechanical, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning. We redid every single finish – the doors, the furniture, the landscaping. Everything was refurbished. We had new stained glass windows done. We even replaced the roof.”
The installation of a new state of the art audio system, in which Tannoy loudspeakers and Lab.gruppen amplifiers figure heavily, took place in November 2010 just prior to the Cathedral’s scheduled November 20th dedication.
When Teer Engineering first got involved in the project in May of that year, they were the second firm to offer up a design for the project. “We stepped in on another consultant’s design, which, to be honest, had a few problems. We pointed them out, did some budgets and came in well under the original contract.”
One of the key challenges in the project was balancing the need for intelligibility against the client’s aesthetic requirements. “That was huge,” Teer says. “I’d say probably eighty percent of the conversations we had about design were about how the system was going to look and where we were going to put it.” Not something the previous contractor’s design had taken into account adequately, Teer adds. “Literally, they had touring grade line array clusters hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the sanctuary. Our design was a complete redo.”
It’s a build and an installation that’s very important to the diocese overall, Aguerrevere explains, but also to those who call the cathedral their church home. “I recall an interview I had with the rector at St. James,” he says. “I said ‘Father, what’s the most important thing for you?’ And he said, ‘to me, the most important thing is that I can be heard’. Because if you can’t hear the word, what’s the point? That was my personal directive on top of everything else, to make sure that he could be heard and understood. That’s why we went to the extra measures of having a system that could provide that for us.”
In the new, larger space it was important to provide adequate coverage not only throughout the main sanctuary, but also in the narthex, and below the cathedral’s balconies. To do so Teer specified a system that includes twelve Tannoy CMS 401s and three CMS 801 subs as fill speakers for those areas, along with Lab.gruppen C Series C 48:4s (3), C 28:4s (2) and an NLB 60E NomadLink Bridge & Network Controller. Additional components include a Yamaha LS9 digital console, Soundweb BSS London DSP and Crestron control.
One of the primary reasons for choosing the CMS 401s was the fact they could be easily aimed in the more challenging areas where detail speakers were required, specifically in the under balcony areas. “Which, by the way, turned out to be the best sounding place in the house. It’s crystal clear. You hear every little pin drop. Those ceiling speakers really did a great job.” Quite beyond power and clarity, the Tannoy CMS in ceilings also provided a core benefit in terms of versatility. “Most ceiling speakers are designed primarily for background music, not foreground, which is why this is one of our number one speaker choices when we design systems,” he adds.
Teer, once a full time professional musician himself, also has a personal preference for Tannoy, and has been a fan of their loudspeakers since first hearing Tannoy near field studio monitors. “That’s where I actually got turned on to them. They’ve always had good intelligibility. They’re a fine product and I’ve used them myself for quite some time in my home system. Their dual concentric drivers are great.”
Teer also has high praise for Lab.gruppen and the NLB 60E’s capability to allow him to access virtually every parameter of the system remotely. “One of the things we like about the NomadLink is that it talks to the amps in a closed loop type network configuration. So even if an amplifier doesn’t have power, NomadLink can still tell us what the status of the amps are. The amplifiers have a lot of power for their size, they’re an amazing amplifier for clarity and transparency, and they’re geared towards integration; even down to the way the wires terminate off the back.”
Although he’s been in the industry for nearly twenty years, Teer Engineering was only formed in 2004. “It’s a small company,” he says. “And there are a lot of big boys on our block that we compete against, but we’re doing pretty good. We sell people on the fact that they want to work with us because we’re us. Most of our clients are long-term clients. We’re very service-oriented.”
That’s a key element for maintaining their competitive edge. “When you get those last minute phone calls and there’s a problem, you can either jump in your car, or jump on your computer and fix it. There are products that have been available for several years that have these capabilities, but it’s rare you actually see new installations taking full advantage of them. One of the things we pride ourselves in is that we are taking advantage of all the cool things that set these products apart.”
Having said that, ease of use was also an important consideration on the project. “Because they didn’t have a full time audio engineer we needed to integrate a system that could used in a very simple fashion. So, by taking some key microphones and inputs they would be using on a regular basis and running them through the Crestron and the DSP we were able to create two different modes. A scenario where a non-technical user could come in and recall basic presets – like a preset called wedding – by pressing a single button, as well as providing a ‘console’ mode that they could use for larger events with an actual operator.”
“Initially that wasn’t a requirement,” he adds, “but when we started discussing the system with them, with our experience working with different churches, it quickly became one.”
Even so, at first the system did present a bit of a challenge. “It wasn’t that it wasn’t working. It was just that we didn’t know how to play with the new toy,” says Aguerrevere.
That’s only natural, Teer says; “They’ve gone from a small system where they had one microphone they’d turn on with a switch, to a system where they have a digital console and thirty some odd inputs.” And in the end, meeting that challenge has not only improved the quality of sound in this Orlando landmark, it has inspired those who participate in the services there. “You can see it in their eyes when they started using the system; the door’s wide open for expanding the way they do things. They’re very happy.”