The long, rich history of St. Joseph University Church in Buffalo, New York has played out over the past 160 years in a series of ever more glorious buildings. Where once an austere wood-frame church capable of accommodating 280 stood, the timeless stone and stunning architecture of the current St. Joseph University Church now holds 800 congregants.
Above its traditional cross-shaped stone floor soar pillars and walls of white stone and breathtaking stained glass to a 45-feet plaster ceiling. Although it was dedicated in 1925, it has taken until now, 86-years later, for sound reinforcement technology to deliver the word from the pulpit to the pews with perfect intelligibility, despite a reverb that is, to put it poetically, lingering. Together with very directive Klein + Hummel loudspeakers, a powerful and modular Ashly Protea ne24.24M digital signal processor proved to be the solution.
New York state firm AV Solutions designed and installed the new system, which replaced a collection of loudspeakers that had been in place for 10 years.
“The room is almost one-hundred-feet long with a very tall ceiling and nothing to absorb sound except for the church members,” says Karl Maciag, design engineer with AV Solutions. “The previous system was an afterthought in the glare of a major structural renovation. The loudspeakers, which were placed on every other stone column from the pulpit to the rear wall, had an inappropriately wide beam width. Even worse, none of them were delayed. Rather than dealing with the very serious challenges presented by the room’s acoustics, the old system actually exacerbated them!”
More than anything, St. Joseph University Church needed intelligible speech reinforcement. Members of the congregations regularly complained that sermons were difficult, and sometimes impossible, to hear. In addition, a gospel choir joined one of the services each weekend, tying into the house sound system via the output from an on-stage mixer. The smear of arrival times induced by the un-delayed sound system was like an extra helping of mud heaped up on a mud pie.
To begin with, Maciag specified Klein + Hummel Pro X 6 N loudspeakers, which have a well-defined 90-by-60-degree beam width. “Using very controlled loudspeakers with a tighter coverage pattern was a big help,” he said. “We were able to aim them very precisely so as to excite ears and not walls.”
A rack of Crown CTs 600 amplifiers provide power. An Ashly Protea ne24.24M DSP delivers all of the frequency-domain controls, to remove energy that detracts from intelligibility and all of the time-domain delays to synchronize the direct sound waves throughout the sanctuary. An Ashly WR-5 wall-mounted remote control supplies intuitive user control of input volume.
“The Ashly ne24.24M was ideal for number of reasons, but its modularity was probably the most important,” explains Maciag. “The church was unsure of how many inputs they wanted, and they were speculating about adding additional loudspeaker channels down the road. With the ne24.24M, we could start at a 4×4 configuration and then add inputs or outputs as needed.
“In fact, before the installation was completed, they did decide to add some inputs. We just added another input card to the back of the unit and we were ready to go. On top of that, the price is very competitive and Ashly’s support has always been peerless. Finally, I have a concert audio background, and Ashly got its start in that industry. Ashly processors sound great, and I know what to expect.”
Like all Ashly NE-Series processors and amps, the ne24.24M is network enabled out of the box, and Maciag put that to excellent use. He linked the unit into the church’s wireless network and then used his laptop to tune the system from the pews. “Not only that,” he laughed, “I tuned it during the first weekend’s masses. I got some pretty funny looks using a laptop in church, but that was the only way to tune the system with all of the absorption, er, people in place.”
The St. Joseph University Church officials and members are overjoyed with the clarity delivered by the updated sound system. In fact, several members have stopped relying on hearing assistance technology while they are at mass. The Ashly WR-5 wall-mounted remote control lets church officials select from a modest number of inputs and then change their volume. The new system couldn’t be simpler or more effective.