The 2012 upgrade of the sound system at Sacred Heart Church in Bellevue, Washington presented a number of challenges. “Previously, they had no real high-end in the room. There was no intelligibility. The room sounded muffled and speech was indistinct, so the priest always felt like he wasn’t loud enough,” said Stephen Weeks, AV consultant at Lynnwood, Washington-based Morgan Sound.
Tannoy speakers were chosen for the new system. “Tannoy’s dual concentric technology is very helpful for keeping things coherent. The speakers are very clear, very clean and very warm in the low end and there were no smear issues like you might experience with a more traditional box, which was critical,” explained Weeks.
The 750-capacity sanctuary is a decidedly modern and elegant space. “Although impressive, it’s also very reverberant,” he continued. “It has high ceilings, a lot of marble, concrete, windows and – instead of a traditional altar at the front of the church with seats facing it – the altar platform is extended, so the seating surrounds it by 270°. There are also some areas with low ceilings surrounding the platform that account for 50% of the seating capacity.”
Essentially, there was no way to cover the entire room effectively and discreetly from a single location, so Weeks, along with company founder Charlie Morgan, specified one Tannoy VX 15Q for the main seating area and flanked it with five time delayed VX 5.2s per side pointed out and down towards each section with the low ceilings to localise the sound to the stage. Additionally, five Tannoy IS 52s are built into the stairs of each facet of the octagonal platform for front fill. Two Tannoy VX 6s and a pair of DVS 4s provide a feed from the priest’s podium/headset microphones for Sacred Heart’s choir – which performs from behind the octagonal platform – and for the church’s organist respectively.
Weeks also specified Lab.gruppen amplifiers exclusively; a pair of channels mono-bridged from a C 16:4 for the central VX speaker, two Lab C 20:8 amplifiers for the VX 5.2s and IS 52s and a pre-existing third party amp to drive the stage monitors. “The amps took up very little rack space, but provided the channel count we needed,” he added.
The project was very much about ensuring the spoken word could be heard clearly. As well as that, a diverse musical program that encompasses both traditional and modern styles performed by either Sacred Heart’s choir, individual cantors, or small instrumental ensembles was subtly enhanced to speak to Sacred Heart’s mandate of extending ‘gracious hospitality to all’.
Now Sacred Heart’s congregation can benefit from hearing the Word and the musical offerings of their choir with a dramatically higher level of intelligibility. "The result is night and day,” said Weeks. “Since the install of the Tannoy loudspeakers and Lab.gruppen amplifiers we’ve had nothing but high praise for the entire system and the sound overall.”