With its impressive size, arched ceilings, soaring columns, extensive stained glass, and other classic features, the beautiful Church of St. Charles Borromeo presents many traditional architectural elements-along with their accompanying acoustical challenges. Located about four miles northeast of downtown Minneapolis, the landmark Catholic church was dedicated in 1959, complementing an existing parish school and convent. St. Charles Borromeo parish, which currently serves 1,500 families, has continued to add to the complex throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
More recent renovations further enhanced the church’s beauty but the sanctuary’s acoustics suffered. “When St. Charles was built, the builders had the presence of mind to use a special plaster that had some acoustical properties to help cut down a little bit on the reflections,” explains Randy Keeley, VP of Sales for St. Paul, Minnesota, systems integrator and dealer Metro Sound & Lighting (MSL). “They decided to repaint the entire church and give it a facelift, which took away those acoustical properties, so the space became very ambient.”
The parish contacted MSL to design and install a new sound system. “We came in and did some evaluations and decided that steerable-beam technology was the best solution,” Keeley continues. “We used two Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Gen 5 IC32-RN digitally steerable line array loudspeakers at the front of the church to serve as the main sound system.”
Renkus-Heinz’ IC32-RN employs 32 4-inch coaxial transducers, each with 3 high-frequency tweeters, along with 32 amplifier and DSP channels. Each low-profile column can deliver up to 12 steerable beams, which can be individually shaped and aimed using software-controlled DSP. Beam control is effective down to 200 Hz. This combination of programmable control and precision beam steering enabled coverage of all pews, while minimizing reflections off the sanctuary’s many hard surfaces. “We were prepared to use fills but they were not necessary, as the two IC32-RN arrays do an incredible job in this space,” Keeley adds.
Although two IC32-RN loudspeakers provide clear, intelligible sound throughout the cavernous space, the MSL team also wanted to ensure that choral music performed in the rear loft was properly localized. “In the back of the church, we hung one Renkus-Heinz IC Live Gen5-series ICL-F-RN digitally steered array in front of the choir loft, and that works quite well,” Keeley avers. “It helps keep the point of reference; it makes sense to people because the music comes from the same location where it is performed.”
Employing five 6.5-inch cone transducers with neodymium magnets and three 1-inch HF titanium nitride compression drivers, the ICL-F-RN is smaller than the IC32-RN but delivers up to 105 dB SPL of clear, clean audio from 80 Hz to 20 kHz. Horizontal dispersion is 150° up to 3 kHz and 120° above 3 kHz, providing broad, even coverage, so at the Church of St. Charles, just one ICL-F-RN with up to four steerable beams provides all the reinforcement needed to localize the choir music for everyone. The array’s slim, low-profile enclosure is visible below the choir loft but unobtrusive.
“We have used Renkus-Heinz steerable beam technology in other churches that presented similar problems acoustically, so we were very confident in using it once again here,” asserts Keeley. “Intelligibility and overall audio quality are excellent throughout the space. Renkus-Heinz Iconyx has been an extremely good product for us. It is quickly becoming our go-to product in challenging applications such as this.”