ICONYX Delivers Musicality, Intelligibility at St. Michael the Archangel Church

Cary, NC | October, 2017 - St. Michael the Archangel Church is about 20 years old, and its distributed ceiling-speaker system was barely adequate at best when new. Speech intelligibility was an issue, and coverage was uneven across the space. Back then, masses were entirely traditional. Today, the church offers both traditional masses with choir, organ, piano, and orchestral instruments and contemporary-style masses with guitars, bass, piano, drums, and so on. To design and install a sound system that could handle their needs, church leaders turned to AV systems integrators AVCON, which, like the church, is based in Cary, North Carolina. AVCON's solution: Renkus-Heinz' ICONYX digitally steerable line arrays.

"Renkus-Heinz speakers were a great choice for this space," offers AVCON Account Manager Mike Dunn. "The old system had issues with left-to-right and front-to-back coverage and with lack of intelligibility. It's a very wide room and not as deep and seats about 500 to 700, depending on whether the chapel is open. Renkus ICONYX IC24-R-II arrays fit this room well because of their wide coverage pattern and the control they give us, as well as their great sound quality." The loudspeakers were custom painted by Renkus-Heinz to blend with the walls' white trim.

The IC24-R-II offers up to 12 steerable beams with adjustable beam centers. "Traditionally we might not use a loudspeaker like this in a fan-shaped room, especially where we have the arrays mounted," declares AVCOM Design Engineer Eb Strickland. "But this space is really more of a rectangle than a fan. We paid close attention to that. We also realized that there wasn't the budget to address all of the room acoustics. We had to find a loudspeaker that could focus energy down onto the listeners and keep that coverage even throughout the space. In addition, we needed to provide both speech intelligibility and music reinforcement for a variety of musical programs. Finding a loudspeaker with the dynamics to handle that, provide equal coverage, and keep gain before feedback to a minimum was critical."

Fortunately, AVCOM had experience with Renkus-Heinz ICONYX systems. "We've done three or four other projects using ICONYX, and it was a comfortable go-to loudspeaker," confirms Strickland. "We used modeling programs to determine that the coverage was going to be great, and the intelligibility was going to be greatly improved. We had a high level of predictability."

AVCON configured a monaural main system with two IC24-R-IIs, mounted left and right of the altar area. "The music is performed on one side of the room, and there's no source on the other side," Strickland notes, "so we have things panned to the other side to balance it. We used multiple beams to make sure that the energy to the near-field listeners wasn't too much and to keep it balanced," Strickland reports. "We have a good ±3 dB window from front to back and side to side."

"With the old system, if you were right under the speakers, you had a different sound than if you were in the back pews or in the middle of the sanctuary area," recalls long-time St. Michael Music Director and Liturgist Wayne Cusher. "It was hard to hear the music, especially. The Renkus-Heinz column speakers made a great difference. You can hear everything in the last pew now."

Cusher admits that he was initially concerned about column arrays up front but Renkus-Heinz' steerable beam technology allayed his fears. "I was afraid that people in the front row would be blasted," he admits. "But the speakers are adjusted so that the people in the last pews hear the same as the people in the first pews. It's unique. We're very happy with the sound. It sounds really good!"

One far side area, with about 40 seats, needed a little extra reinforcement. AVCON covered it with one Renkus-Heinz ICX7-II mechanically steerable line array. Employing the same triple-tweeter technology as the digitally steered ICONYX, the ICX7-II's fixed acoustical beam is ideal for side fill, front fill, and "short throw" applications that don't demand programmable control.

Monitoring was also an issue. "When the cantors do Responsorial Psalm, they're way down on the altar, by the ambo, and the piano and organ are in a distant location," Cusher avers. "So they couldn't hear each other. Not having monitors in the choir area was a big challenge, as well." AVCON resolved these issues by installing Renkus-Heinz TRX81 two-way Complex Conic point-source monitors on stage. "Now," relates Cusher, "when singing a psalm, the cantor can hear the piano and the time, and the pianist can hear the cantor. The choir can hear, too. It's a huge improvement."

Ultimately, of course, the success of a project is measured by client satisfaction. "We've been working with this client for some time," Strickland relates, "and they're extremely happy with the product, the service, and the support we got from Renkus-Heinz." "As with any Renkus Heinz speaker, the IC24-R-IIs give a very warm sound and great clarity," praises Dunn. "It is a great sounding speaker. People at St. Michael's commented that they can hear what the priest is saying for the first time in years. They're getting every word. The ICONYX system gave us a great result in this room."