At St. Peter Chanel, Natural Beauty Meets New Technology

Foothill Ranch, CA | October, 2009 - Founded in 1998 as a mission of St. Ann’s in Marietta, Georgia, St. Peter Chanel has grown continually from its original six families, becoming a parish in 2000, and today includes over 2500 families. A new church, completed in 2008, adds a traditional neo-Gothic note to the St. Peter Chanel campus, yet features a highly contemporary audio system featuring Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Digitally Steerable Array loudspeakers.

Designed by CDH Partners Inc. and built by Van Winkle & Co., Inc., the traditional cruciform church includes a 1224-seat sanctuary and a smaller chapel that is open 24 hours a day for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.

Lee Sound Design of Atlanta, Georgia designed the acoustical treatment for the new church. The sound system was designed and installed by Baker Audio of Norcross, Georgia. "St. Peter Chanel contacted us in the spring of 2007," recalls Vice President Jason Hicks. "They had some budget constraints, but needed a sound system that would do three things at once: accommodate the needs of the currentcongregation, be ready to handle further growth, and preserve the beautiful traditional aesthetics of the sanctuary."

Services at St. Peter Chanel can include an orchestra or the Life Teen band in addition to the pipe organ and choir. Of course, speech intelligibility was a principle requirement as well. Yet even with the treatment designed by Lee Sound, the church presented an acoustical challenge, with abundant glass windows, polished wood and plaster surfaces, and very little absorption.

"Our EASE analysis revealed that we needed highly directional loudspeakers," says Hicks. "At the same time, we needed something compact. Our objective when working in a space like this is to emphasize its natural beauty in a transparent fashion by using speakers that are aesthetically pleasing."

Baker Audio’s solution was a pair of IC8 Iconyx Digitally Steerable Arrays. The IC8’s are indeed compact: just over three feet high and about six inches wide and deep. But with each of the eight co-axial transducers controlled individually by its own 100 watt digital amplifier and digital signal processor (DSP), the IC8 provides precise, programmable directivity. Up to four beams of sound can be programmed in BeamWare, the design software. Meanwhile the physical enclosure remains flush mounted, becoming nearly invisible in a wide range of architectural settings.

Microphones and other inputs are mixed on a Yamaha M7-CL console whose 48 channels provide lots of room for expansion as the church continues to grow. "It’s user-friendly, and an outstanding value," says Project Manager Jacob Dylan. A Biamp Audia handles signal distribution and processing duties. Aviom Personal Monitoring makes sure that the Life Teen band’s backline doesn’t over-excite the reverberant sanctuary.

"The client loves the system," Hicks reports. "It sounds phenomenal, and they have commented that Baker Audio went ‘above and beyond’ in taking care of their needs. This project was one of the most beautiful spaces we have worked in. St. Peter Chanel is a great example of natural beauty meeting modern technology."