Founded in 1821, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was the first church in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. This traditional Roman Catholic church was completed in 1916, and features soaring ceilings and hard surfaces, creating a very reverberant space with difficult voice intelligibility.
Because the church is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, there could be no changes to the architecture or physical appearance of the building. To address the situation, Gulf Coast Sound of Rayne, Louisiana and architectural consulting firm BAi of Austin, Texas created a custom solution utilizing loudspeakers from Electro-Voice.
“It was a very challenging situation. We were dealing with a nearly five-second reverb time, and preserving the aesthetics meant no acoustic treatment, so a big public address system wouldn’t have worked,” says Larry Habetz, CEO of Gulf Coast Sound. “The old system had speakers under the pews, so we decided to try working with the existing wiring to upgrade that system. The problem was finding a small, physically robust speaker that would deliver quality sound, and that could be mounted in the available space. Fortunately, Electro-Voice had the solution.”
A new addition to the EVID family of compact loudspeakers for fixed installation, the Electro-Voice EVID 2.1 is a surface-mounted 2-inch mid/high loudspeaker that is ideal for both spoken word and musical applications. It is available as part of the S44 EVID Compact Sound System (four EVID 2.1 and one EVID 40S 8-inch subwoofer) and may also be purchased in pairs.
The EVID 2.1 delivers 110 degrees of horizontal coverage for music and 150 degrees for the more limited bandwidth of a speech system. To protect the loudspeakers from impact, Gulf Coast Sound devised a custom mount to integrate one EVID 2.1 into each of the 226 wooden prayer book holders on the pew backs. Where needed, line-matching transformers were used to ensure consistent output from speaker to speaker.
When BAi acoustician Andy Miller saw and heard the proposed solution, he was impressed. “The EVID 2.1 with custom-fabricated mounting from Gulf Coast Sound works very well in this application, allowing us to get the speakers close to the listeners in a very reverberant room,” reports Miller. “I don’t know of a better fit for pew-back systems without moving to an expensive, fully custom solution.”
“The speakers look and sound great in their prayer book holders, which the church staff really love,” reports Habetz. “But when Andy Miller came in to commission the system, he took it to another level.” With a touch of delay, some high-pass filtering and equalization, Miller tuned the installation to align the audio with the distance to the altar, resulting in an even, natural sound that emphasizes clarity of speech. Most importantly, all this was accomplished without disturbing the historic architecture of St. John’s Cathedral.