Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Moorestown, NJ, has been an anchor for the region’s Catholic population since it was founded in the 19th century. The church building, which is part of the historic downtown area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reflects the traditional basilica-type design of Catholic churches — soaring ceilings supported by tall pillars that can produce pleasing reverberation for the ear to enjoy (except when it comes to speech intelligibility, the traditional challenge in this type of building).
So as part of a larger building renovation project that includes new ADA-compliant access ramps, the church brought in AV systems integrator Whitaker Brothers North to design and install a new sound system. This installation employs the Bose Professional Panaray MSA12X self-powered digital beam-steering loudspeaker as its core solution, with a range of other Bose Professional products, including FreeSpace loudspeakers and ControlSpace processors, to round out a complete renovation of the parish’s audio systems. The project was installed, and on-site management was provided, by Whitaker Brothers’ long-term senior tech Doug Taylor.
“Churches of this type have both acoustical and aesthetic challenges that sound systems have to address,” explains Whitaker Brothers North founder and president Kevin Whitaker, Sr. “They need to address speech intelligibility but also need to do so without impeding sightlines or taking away from the design of the church. There aren’t many sound systems that can do all of that. We chose Bose.”
Seven of the MSA12X loudspeakers are mounted on the columns of the church, six facing the congregation and one on the reverse side of a front column acting as a regional monitor for everyone on the altar. These are managed by a Bose ControlSpace ESP-1240 processor that is controlled through a ControlSpace CC-64 wall-mounted control center.
In addition, the choir loft in the rear of the church now has its own sound system: a pair of Bose Panaray 402 Series IV full-range-driver arrays powered by a Bose PowerShare PS602 amplifier are installed as a separate choir PA, with a pair of Bose FreeSpace DS-16 loudspeakers used as monitors for the choir.
In the church’s elementary school, where a large space is used as both a gym and an auditorium, four MA12EX loudspeakers are mounted, two per side, at the stage’s proscenium, along with a pair of Bose MB210 compact subwoofers. These are all powered by two Bose PowerMatch PM8500N amplifiers and controlled with ControlSpace ESP-1240 and CC-64 units.
The sonic challenges in the church were too much for its existing PA system to handle, explains Kevin Whitaker, Jr., the founder’s son and the company’s operations manager. “Speech intelligibility had been a problem for some time, as had achieving even coverage. The existing sound system is 12 years old, and there were substantial gaps in its coverage, front to back and left to right.”
The choir loft had similar problems from the back of the room, never able to fully reach every part of the seating areas. “The Panaray MSA12X was the perfect solution,” adds Kevin Jr. “The Panaray MSA12X came along at just the right time — we needed the kind of coverage it could provide but we also had to keep the speakers mounted higher on the columns, for aesthetic reasons. A typical linear array would have had to have been installed at a lower level, which would have interfered with the look they wanted to achieve.”
The Panaray MSA12X articulated array configuration allows wide, 160-degree horizontal coverage, with vertical angles of up to 40 degrees and vertical beam steering angles of +/-20 degrees. Kevin Sr. notes, “The MSA12X array gave us exactly the tool we needed for this project. It gave us more flexibility for speaker placement and greater control over the coverage area, so it solved all of the challenges the church faced.”
In the choir loft, the Bose Panaray 402 arrays now bring the vocalists’ performances to every corner of the sanctuary. “The placement of the 402 speakers really provided the kind of localization that the choir needed,” says Kevin Sr. “Before, the choir could get lost in the overall reverberation of the church, which could be disorienting. Now, the sound is balanced. The first week the new choir system was installed, the congregation turned around and gave the choir a standing ovation.”
In the school, the combined gym and auditorium had been plagued by speech intelligibility problems as well as feedback issues. “Gain before feedback was a real problem there,” says Kevin Jr. Now, with the MA12EX modular line arrays installed, speech is crystal clear and feedback is just a bad memory.
And, Kevin Sr. adds, the entire system is easy to use. “That space is used for multiple purposes, everything from school plays to overflow for holiday masses, to basketball,” he says, noting that ball guards are placed in front of the loudspeakers to protect against errant passes. “So the operation of the sound system had to be as simple and user-friendly as possible. And it is — anyone who needs to use the space can easily operate the sound system. Turn it on and it’s ready to go. The whole thing was a breeze – the installation was completed on time and on budget, and it exceeded the church’s aesthetic expectations.”
The installations took place in the spring and the late summer and have been “bulletproof” ever since, says Kevin Sr. He adds that any of the older sound system components that had any life left in them are cleaned and then donated to a local non-profit organization for use in Haiti. “In fact, the old system is on its way to Port-au-Prince as we speak,” he says. “It’s a great outcome for everyone.”