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Church of the Presentation Gets Sound System for Variable Acoustics

Sound System to handle adjustable spaces featuring Powersoft amps and Terra Speakers CAMM Series installed by Monte Brothers – Show 126-1

On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Steve Minozzi of Monte Brothers in Westchester, New York about their design and installation of a new sound system for the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Steve outlines the concept of covering a very unusual building layout with multiple spaces meeting at an angle in the center and he details the Ubiquiti Networks secured remote access system they use for remote monitoring of system performance.

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Church of the Presentation has a facility that presents a challenge to sound design and requires twelve separate sound zones. Monte Brothers in Westchester New York are the experts at tough church projects and they came up with a design that allows the church to use separate areas or combine them into one. Steve Minozzi has the story next on the SVC Podcast.

Steve, wonderful to have you here with us for the SVC Podcast from Monte Brothers in Westchester, New York. Nice of you to take time to hook up with us.

Good to be here.

We’ve got a sound system project for Church of the Presentation with a very unusual architectural layout. First though, tell us about Monte Brothers. Do you concentrate on churches and how long have you been around?

This is our 50th year, so we were incorporated in 1969. We concentrate 95 percent on houses of worship. However, basically because of the business we’re in, we’re a national company, we go all over the country because we have the ability to remotely access and control and monitor sound systems probably more accurately than a local sound system company can do. They don’t have enough clients to have manpower that would provide that service. [Timestamp: 1:28]

That sounds like a good bit to handle in keeping track of a lot of different churches.

Yeah. We have about 1,500 accounts nationally. Specifically, Monte Brothers does not advertise. It’s a brand name. It’s a registered trademark. In the church field everybody communicates so 95 percent of our business comes from recommendations of other clergy or churches. Also we specialize in fixing badly-designed sound systems, which we do quite often. So a lot of the diocese, the Catholic diocese and even the Episcopal ones, they pretty much want us to be involved when there’s a renovation or new building going up; then they know this system will work. That’s a big problem in a lot of houses of worship. [Timestamp: 2:21]

Yeah and there are probably other challenges, too, as far as getting experienced operators to handle things locally so your outfit comes in very handy.

Well, the idea being that 90 percent of the time the maintenance facility can provide the hands-on service to the owner and we can remotely control the program and do whatever we have to do from our headquarters building, from one of our service vehicles. We have intellectual property that allows us to monitor access control and actually stream audio from sound systems anywhere at any time. [Timestamp: 2:57]

And we’re going to be getting into the details of that. I wanted to get into this particular church though, the Church of the Presentation really has a long history. I think it’s been around since 1961.

I believe so, yeah.

Yes. So how did that facility sort of evolve into what they’ve got now which is a very unusual layout.

You know, it’s the biggest church parish in the archdiocese of Newark. Evidently the clergy that was there over the years was very good so they began, I guess, by word of mouth, to get people from other areas. We first did work for them in 1995 and it was big then. And now Father Stagg, who is there now, has carried the torch and it’s growing even more. That being said, they have phenomenal attendance; a very active parish. So it requires, first of all, a sound system that is automatic because it’s used by so many people for so many different things that is has user control for special events. It does have a big auditorium that becomes part of the worship space on big events and then it becomes indigenous to itself on other events. And they have a lot of concerts in the auditorium and then they open up and use the whole worship spade and have major concerts during the holidays in which they use 18 wireless microphones at the same time in the space along with all the hard-wired and choir microphones. They record everything. They control the sound system from very simple user-friendly control panels or they have software that they can just take any laptop computer with the software on it, password protected, and they can go out and use that as a remote mixer in the space. Which, if you compare that to the control systems at other companies sell, it’s an after-market. It’s not part of the original product like a Tesira processor. The control system that we use is Canvas software, which comes with Biamp Tesira processors. So you have the manufacturers’ software which comes with the package to the owner and you don’t have to pay a brain surgeon to make little changes in it. We can do this remotely and accommodate the client very quickly without having to visit there or charge them in many cases if it’s a quick adjustment. This is very difficult to provide if you’re a local sound contractor because you don’t have enough clients to have enough people that you pay enough to know how to do that. [Timestamp: 5:39]

The auditorium and worship spaces meet at an angle and can be used separately or as one larger room.

Yeah and they have a very unconventional layout, something like a triangle or L-shaped situation that you had to deal with.

Well, it was right-angle at one time. It was a church with a smaller section and then there was this big auditorium at a right angle. So in the sanctuary where the altar is on the pulpit the clergy was forced to look at a corner; the corner between the old church – the little church – and the big auditorium. What they did now is they put an 80-foot steel beam in and took all that out and made that a big open space so that when you walk into the worship space it looks like one big space and you’re not looking at a corner when you give your homely from the pulpit. You’re looking at people sitting in a big space with a beautiful gathering space, narthex as you walk in, all glass. I think it’s 40-50 feet high. So it gives you the impression of a stately house of worship which people, I think, find comfort when they go to a house of worship. [Timestamp: 6:42]

And this required something like twelve different sound zones for separate control?

Right. Well, because of the acoustics in that particular installation – let’s call them mobile acoustics as opposed to fixed acoustics. Like we did the Papal Mass in 2015 in Philadelphia when the Pope came to the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia. We were brought in six weeks earlier to design and install and sound system not just for the Papal Mass, it would reside at the cathedral thereafter which it still is and it’s working very well. But that’s fixed acoustics. That also had a lot of acoustical zones but they were consistent. So you had your knave, you have your transepts, you had your sanctuary, you had your choir loft. All of those required different acoustical treatment sound-wise. You can’t do anything with the surfaces because of the ornateness of the space and cost of putting acoustic materials. So that’s fixed acoustics. This particular church, Presentation, has mobile acoustics because they configure it differently. Sometimes they shut that wall and it becomes a smaller worship space and an independent auditorium. When the auditorium is independent from the total worship space it’s configured in the opposite direction. They speak and perform from what we would consider the real wall of the auditorium when everything is open. When you’re standing at the pulpit looking out, when you look down at the auditorium, the wall at the end is the real wall. When you shut that wall and you’re using the auditorium the people are focused from what we call the real wall, which becomes the front wall, toward the closing doors that separate those two spaces. So not only are the acoustics different when the wall is closed, but the configuration of the speakers is different because your time alignment for digital delay for intelligibility has to be reversed. So it’s mobile acoustics. That would be a good word for it. It changes. This occurs also in temples. We do some major temples where they have the same scenario when they open spaces up. So mobile acoustics in a Catholic church is not very common, but you do what you have to do where you have to do it. [Timestamp: 9:10]

You used Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204 amps, I believe, and Terra Speakers Camm Series on the house system. How is that arranged as far as which channel of which amp covers what area?

The amplifiers, the Powersoft Quattrocanalis, are four-channel or multichannel amplifiers. We went to Quattrocanali, or Powersoft, because we did have difficulty with companies prior to that with dependability. If you poll any contractor in our field dependability is number one. The problem with a lot of amplifiers is some of these companies went to China and when they did that for their manufacturing the amplifiers started to become problematic. Problematic amplifiers for Monte Brothers is not going to work. Everything we do is guaranteed and serviced by replacement so if a church has an expensive amplifier and it goes down after three months we have to send vehicles out, replace that unit, sent it back to the manufacturer. And we were finding that when we were doing that we were getting back the so-called repaired piece of equipment and it failed again. And that became evident that there was some design problems. So we really looked around and Powersoft has a phenomenal reputation in the industry and that’s how you really find things. You ask people who use them. And we need that relationship with the ownership of companies. Even Audio-Technica. We have a direct relationship with the president and all of the vice presidents. We have a very close relationship with Biamp. We have known Ron Camden, one of the vice presidents, for 30 years now. So when we deal with companies there has to be a personal relationship so that if there’s a problem with our client the companies make sure that goes away. [Timestamp: 11:04]

So the multiple channels are a way you can have separate control for all these different sound zones.

That’s correct. Not only that, the multichannel amplifiers from Powersoft also sense the ohmage. If it happens to be a section in some of our installations, including that one, where some of the peripheral speakers in the ancillary areas of the space, not critical acoustically, have impedance matching transformers. The Powersoft amps automatically sense that and accommodate it. This is not the case with most power amps. Unfortunately, all your big companies, their power amps have a lot of muscle but they can’t sense when there’s impedance matching transformers on a particular channel and therefore you have to use other transformers to talk to the amplifier. This becomes complicated and makes it a lot more difficult for the owners’ maintenance staff to swap out a device. Whereas an amplifier, you unplug everything, put the other one in, plug it back. We come in and make whatever adjustments we need to make if they even have to be made. Usually everything is preset because we keep everything on file. So Powersoft excels in all those areas, so we moved into Powersoft. We do use other companies, but in major heavy lifting type installations like this we go right to Powersoft. [Timestamp: 12:27]

Tell me about the Ubiquiti Networks secure remote access system setup that you mentioned before.

We do 95 percent houses of worship. That being said in all of these houses of worship they want it all over the university. They have big outdoor fields where they want to have sound from their chapel to go out to 5,000 people so we have to provide that type of sound. Fordham University has a big football/baseball stadium they want sound. They’re our account so we do it. Typically we don’t do things other than houses of worship and high-end audio unless it’s related to a client. Cardinal Dolan, we just redid his executive boardroom at St. Joseph’s seminary, which has 23 microphones. It’s a full boardroom operation for the clergy to run the Archdiocese of New York. We do that because we do all their work. Also, in New York, NYPD, we’ve been their contractor at headquarters, One Police Plaza, since 1995 – prior to 9/11. The reason I’m telling you this is 9/11, when that happened, there was no communication in the internal police department. New York City had almost 40,000 police and they couldn’t communicate. The phones were dead. All phone companies went down. The only communications we had was with Nextel Press-to-Talk. Us and our technicians could speak with the police and technicians on the emergency operations center, which was then called the command and control center, but that was our communication – by satellite. And after 9/11 we had to do all of their counter terror meetings that was formed. The government formed the joint terrorism task force. New York City formed the counterterror division. We were commissioned by the NYPD to outfit their new secret location for the counterterror division and also we had to handle all the meetings that they had in the auditorium at One Police Plaza because the command center that Giuliani built in the World Trade Center obviously went to ashes. The reason I’m telling you that is we were then commissioned by New York City to create failsafe communication system between all of the precincts so if another event like 9/11 happened you could not take out communications between all the precincts in the city. In doing that we had to hire really smart people that could do really smart things and one of those guys was Dave Sullivan who designed that whole failsafe system. So we went to Dave to develop for us a VPN cloud. That’s the Ubiquiti system. It was developed by the same guy that designed that failsafe system right after 9/11 for NYPD. That system gives us remote access and monitoring of sound systems and control of sound systems 24/7 from a VPN-protected cloud that they designed that is our intellectual property. And Powersoft had also technology on their amplifiers that will tell us if speaker zones are down or not functioning properly. It will notify us by email. It will notify our cloud. Our cloud will therefore notify our technicians that the cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, the speaker in zone number N5 is down. The owner may not know this. They might not know it because they would have to go out there and hear it or wait for somebody to complain. Let’s say you’re a house of worship in Metuchen, New Jersey and you hire a local sound contractor. He’s not gonna answer the phone from Friday at 5:00 until Monday at 9:00. If you use Monte Brothers we have 24/7. Even major installations, like even in One Police Plaza, they don’t want ugly speakers on the walls either. They didn’t want a black speaker with a name written across it. So Camm, they’re designed cosmetically. So if we did something like Patterson’s Cathedral – St. John the Baptist in Patterson – when they brought us in to do it, we matched the grill clothes, the screens with a computer to match the columns. The speakers are painted the color they have to be. In a house of worship they don’t want to see a brand name on the item. They want it to be cosmetically integrated as good as it could be. [Timestamp: 17:10]

Well, I can certainly understand that as well as the multi-zone sound control. This was a very unique setup and you’ve got to have it work right.

When you outfit a space like this that holds 1,200 people you don’t want those amps to fail. And that’s what we were experiencing, failure on the amplifiers. So number one is dependability. You can’t install things that you don’t believe are dependable. [Timestamp: 17:33]

So a multi-zone system with unusual architecture and in Part 2 we’ll get into the Audio-Technica wireless mic system and how you set up the antennas and how they use it. It’s been nice of you to give us the tech story on this one and next week we’ll get into those other aspects of it. I appreciate having you here with us.

Okay.

Church of the Presentation has its multi-zone control with remote support directly from Monte Brothers. Next week Steve will give us the story on the wireless mic system and the final sound system calibration. Get back with us for that on the next SVC Podcast.

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