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Case Study: St Louis Bertrand Catholic Church, KY

One hundred fifty years after its founding, St Louis Bertrand Catholic Church in Louisville, KY attracts more than 2,000 parishioners on major holidays.

The characteristics of English Gothic churches such as St. Louis Bertrand are well known: They are very beautiful and have long reverberation times that complement choirs and pipe organs but make it difficult to understand the spoken word. One hundred ten feet long and 50 feet at its highest inside point, with lots of hard surfaces, St. Louis Bertrand is a prime example. Columns lining the interior and a choir loft with a pipe organ present further acoustical complications. Several unsuccessful attempts had been made at sound system upgrades over just a few years.

To solve for this environment, David Knight of Louisville’s Knight Audio installed a pair of ICONYX Gen5 IC24-RN digitally steered line array loudspeaker systems on the left and right at the front of the sanctuary. In the back of the room, a pair of ICONYX Gen5 IC8-RN steerable loudspeakers mounted on columns provide rear fill, their signals delayed to synchronize with the IC24-RNs.

The architecture of St Louis Bertrand’s new sound system is simple. Priests use wired microphones—“The priests don’t like to wear wireless,” Knight remarks—while a table mic covers the altar. The mics run into a Biamp TesiraFORTÉ processor, the outputs of which drive the loudspeakers throughout the building.

In the sanctuary, the IC24-RN and IC8-RN feature multichannel audiophile amplifiers powering arrays of purpose-designed coaxial transducers, each with its own triple tweeter high frequency array. This triple tweeter “array within an array” design reduces the distance between HF sources for greatly improved high-frequency performance with consistent, broad horizontal dispersion. Up to 12 steerable beams can be individually shaped and aimed from a single IC24-RN column using powerful software-controlled DSP, while the IC8-RN can shape and aim up to four beams. This enabled Knight to direct the sound where needed, while keeping it off of walls and ceilings.

“The columns don’t line up exactly on both sides,” Knight points out. “But even when you’re standing behind a column, you’re getting enough coverage from the speaker on the other side of the room.”

While custom finishes are available, the parish chose standard white loudspeakers to go with the church’s largely white interior. “I took another customer to look at the system, and she didn’t even notice the ICONYX columns. An IC8-RN was on a column ten feet in front of her and she asked me, ‘Well, where’s the speaker?’”

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