Dating back to the early 13th century, The Church of St. Nicholas in Grosmont, Monmouthshire, UK dates is one of oldest churches in Wales, but it recently received a modern sound reinforcement upgrade with a new system headed by Martin Audio loudspeakers.
The building’s large medieval nave is considered to be of the finest in the country. During the late 19th century the church was on the verge of collapse but was saved by architect JP Seddon in a Victorian renovation that separated the nave from the transept and choir, leaving the nave – which is now used for village events, farmers markets, concerts, private parties and the like – in predominantly untouched original condition, while the church space remains as a place of worship.
As part of a 15-year program of modernization, provision was made for the new sound system in order for congregations and participants to be able to hear voice and musical content more clearly. With funding secured and permissions sought from church authorities, the technical team brought in commercial audio integrator Audiotek to assess the building’s acoustics and propose a solution that would provide high intelligibility and good coverage of the church’s naturally reverberant environment.
Audiotek UK installations manager Chris Kmiec enlisted the help of Martin Audio’s Robin Dibble to specify loudspeaker systems from the company’s O-Line and CDD Series products. “The brief was for two separate but linked sound systems for the church and the nave,” explains Kmiec. “So we opted for six Martin Audio CDD models together with a hearing loop to cover both the transept and the choir – where the primary focus was on clarity of speech – and a pair of O-Line micro line arrays to service the nave with an emphasis on musical quality. The innovative acoustic designs combined with Martin Audio’s powerful software optimisation software gave us the tools to tackle the reverberant challenges presented by the high ceiling and reflective walls, round Norman pillars, and flagstone floor.”
The CDD loudspeakers met the key requirement of natural sound reinforcement throughout the awkwardly shaped church space without sounding obviously amplified. “The words of our newly-installed Bishop, Rt Reverend Cherry Vann, were clearly audible in the blind corners of the transept and in the choir behind her, although she herself believed the system to be inoperative – mission convincingly achieved,” says Reverend Andrew Harter, St Nicholas Church Grosmont.
“The challenges of bringing 21st Century technology into a Grade II listed church were considerable, but I’m delighted to say that the Audiotek team went out of their way to deliver everything we asked of them – which they did with unfailing good humor and commitment.”
Both loudspeaker systems are powered by Martin Audio VIA two-channel class D amplifiers located in the vestry, and processed by a Martin Audio DX0.5 signal processor which provides system equalization and speaker optimisation.
“What really made O-Line work in this environment was Martin Audio’s speaker optimisation,” says Kmiec. “It’s so effective and easy to use, and the DISPLAY software enabled us to deliver focused sound energy precisely where it was needed and keep away from reflective surfaces and ceilings — in effect dialling out the detrimental influence of the space.”
The new sound systems have been universally welcomed, according to Reverend Harter. “So well do the O-Line speakers in the nave hide in plain sight that many locals failed to observe that they were even there. It’s exciting to consider the potential for future social events and village life in this wonderful medieval space.
“The challenges of bringing 21st century technology into a Grade II listed stone church building have of course been considerable – particularly with cabling, equipment siting, Bluetooth coverage and so on,” he concludes. “But I’m delighted to say that the Audiotek team went out of their way to deliver everything we asked of them, installing everything with minimal visible wiring and no structural impact on the building, and often working without accurate plans and in the chill of December – which they did with unfailing good humor and commitment. I would not hesitate to recommend Audiotek for future projects.”