The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, located in Charleston, South Carolina, recently upgraded its sound reinforcement system with Tannoy VLS passive column loudspeakers.
The church has experienced many upgrades and renovations since the first cornerstone was placed in 1850. Unfortunately, none of the sound reinforcement systems seemed to solve the intelligibility issues caused by the highly reverberant space.
A traditional Catholic cathedral, the sanctuary is a long rectangular room with wooden pews that seat up to 1,200 parishioners. The room features beautiful stained glass, plaster walls, columns separating the main and side seating areas, and a small rear balcony; the services are of a traditional format, with a full choir and organ.
Joe Bennett, owner of Spectrum Sound located in nearby Summerville, South Carolina, was tasked with providing a sound reinforcement system that would give each Mass the clarity it deserved.
“After a thorough review of the components in place it became obvious that the existing system was bits and pieces of older systems patched together,” explained Bennett. “There were speakers firing everywhere. Frankly it was amazing that anyone could hear the services at all.”
Bennett suggested installing new loudspeakers that would keep sound away from hard surfaces and on the parishioners where it belonged. After a demonstration of Tannoy’s VLS passive column loudspeakers, the facilities manager and the Monsignor were sold.
“They were very impressed with the natural and realistic sound quality of the loudspeakers,” said Bennett. “They needed a system that would offer vocal intelligibility without sounding overly amplified – the VLS were perfect.”
The first Tannoy loudspeakers to incorporate FAST – Focused Asymmetrical Shaping Technology – the VLS Series produces an asymmetrical vertical dispersion that shapes the acoustic coverage towards the lower quadrant of the vertical axis. The result is a passive loudspeaker that keeps the coverage on the audience and away from walls and ceilings.
A pair of VLS 30 column array loudspeakers were mounted on pillars in front of and to the left and right of the alter. Each box is loaded with 14 3.5in LF transducers mounted in vertical arrays with 16 1in HF transducers mounted coaxially over a section of the LF drivers. Each box produces a maximum average SPL of 120dB – more than sufficient for the space.
“The installation was pretty straightforward,” adds Bennett. “We are using the VLS loudspeakers with a Biamp AudioFlex system with auto-mixer – that’s all it needs. We tweaked the system for a few days during Noon Mass to make sure the EQ and auto-mix settings were all dialled in and it's been running like a charm ever since. The parishioners and church leaders are thrilled.”