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Temple Beth El

The sound system had to be transparent, and it had to be multipurpose. Located in the historic East Side neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island, Temple

Temple Beth El

Jan 1, 2001 12:00 PM,
By Shane Swisher

“The sound system had to be transparent, and it had to bemultipurpose.”

Located in the historic East Side neighborhood of Providence,Rhode Island, Temple Beth El has served the city’s Jewish communitysince 1849, when a small group known as the “Sons ofIsrael” gathered for daily services. Today, the Temple’sfounders might be surprised to know that their synagogue containscutting-edge sound reinforcement technology, namely Yamaha digitalmixing consoles and AMX automation devices.

“The need for a new sound system grew out of a series ofupgrades to the Temple’s mechanical systems, which began severalyears ago,” explains Steve Basile of the Foxboro,Massachusetts-based MaGuire Group, Beth El’s mechanical consultant.“One upgrade always seems to lead to the next.” Themain goal was to provide zoned reinforcement while maintaining theaesthetic integrity of the interior spaces, which consist of a highdomed roof, arched ceiling and cast concrete structure. Basile andMaGuire’s Charlie Waskiewicz brought in A/V consultant Ralph Gibsonof New Hartford, Connecticut-based Gibson & Associates; A/Vproject manager Eric Leineke of North Haven, Connecticut-based HBCommunications; and electrical contractor Henderson Electric ofPawtucket, Rhode Island.

Beth El contains a main sanctuary flanked by eight classroomswith moving walls. When the classrooms are opened, the space canaccommodate up to 2,000 worshippers during special events and HighHoly Days. At the front of the sanctuary is the Bema, the Ark whichhouses the Torah, and a choir loft directly behind and above. RabbiLeslie Gutterman, Rabbi Michael Cahana and Cantor Ida Rae Cahanalead weekly Shabbat services and monthly casual-format familyservices. In addition to services, Beth El is home to celebrationsof weddings, confirmations, remembrances, High Holy Days, B’naiMitzvah. It is also a concert venue, hosting traditional andcontemporary Jewish musical events.

Gibson, along with HB Communications Tech Center, designed thesystem around a main and distributed P.A., two Yamaha 01V digitalmixing consoles and a Panja Axcent 3 control system with AXD-CA1010.4-inch color active touch panel. This color active-matrix LCDpanel provides interactive, touch-sensitive graphic images.“The sound system had to be transparent, and it had to bemultipurpose,” explains Leineke. “The staff also wanteda system that was easy to operate and would be consistent. Thoseneeds had a big influence on equipment choices.”

He continues, “The AMX has various services imprinted inthe memory — Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, funeral and the like.The AMX also provides a visual on the touch screen, so it’s veryeasy to operate. When one of the staff members selects a service,the 01V’s recall functions — mic inputs, levels, EQ —work in tandem and snap to a pre-selected setting, or‘scene.’ We even took precautions. For example, therabbi’s and cantor’s mics are on manual override, and all scenescan be re-adjusted by re-pushing the appropriate AMXbutton.”

The Yamaha 01V provides 24 full-featured channels, two stereoeffect returns, six busses, six aux sends plus direct outputs onchannels 1 to 16, moving faders and automation functions. Primaryinput channels (1 to 16) each feature a 4-band parametric EQ,limiter/compressor/gate, plus a 250ms delay line. The 01V can storeand instantly recall all mixer settings in 99 on-board snapshotmemories, allowing the user to return at any time to a previousmix.

Components are housed in one 40-space rack and two 27-spaceracks from Middle Atlantic Products. The 40-space unit, installedin the choir loft, contains all amplifiers and speaker processingequipment. Henderson Electric installed a dedicated 100 Amp/120 VACservice for the rack and its components.

The 01V consoles are stored in one of the 27-space units andride on sliding shelves for easy access. The second 27-space rackhouses playback equipment consisting of a Panasonic SV-3800 DAT,Marantz PMD320 CD, Marantz PMD500 cassette and four Shure DFRII EQunits for equalization and feedback suppression.

Other control components in the system include an FSR lecternvolume control, voltage controlled amplifier and FSR power sequencesystem (to prevent overload when the system is turned on), plus aline distribution amplifier, ST-MMX3 mic mixer modules and theST-MPA2 phantom power module from Radio Design Labs.

“When Beth El hosts musical events, the Yamaha consolerack can be rolled to the rear of the sanctuary via a 35-foot ProCo snake,” Leineke says. “When the operator hits‘Spare’ on the AMX, the settings on the 01Vs will null,allowing the console to be used as standard front-of-house boards.HB Rentals, the sound reinforcement arm of HB Communications,provides personnel and auxiliary equipment for thoseprograms.”

The system’s main speech reinforcement and program playbackspeaker cluster consists of four Renkus-Heinz TRAP 40/6Kbi-amplified speaker cabinets. Gibson provided data from hisself-designed sound system modeling program, which set the speakercluster’s vertical and horizontal angles, along with height anddistance from the mics, for maximum gain before feedback.“Gibson’s model was the guide in choosing specific speakers,microphones and power amplifiers,” notes Leineke. “Theprogram also predicts speech intelligibility, gain before feedbackand speech sound pressure level at all listening positions in theTemple. The importance of this design method appeared when all themodel’s predictions were proven accurate during test measurementsof the system. And, of course, the best proof was that the systemsounded great — intelligible, natural speech at a comfortablelevel.”

The distributed speech and program material speaker systemconsists of eight EV S40B cabinets in the side rooms, each withappropriate delay times. Two EV S40B speakers cover the lobby area.Five Renkus-Heinz TRC 121/9 cabinets provide stage monitors for theBema, choir and visiting musicians. All cabinets are driven by aselection of Crest CKS Series amplifiers. Drive electronics includea Peavey IDL-1000 delay unit, Shure DFR-IIEQ5 equalizers and ShureSCM810 auto level mixer. The temple also maintains a collection ofwired and wireless microphones from Shure, Vega, EV and Crown,complete with a variety of stands and cabling, to accommodateservices and visiting musicians.

The project was scheduled to be completed in time for the HighHoly Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, leaving only a 4-weekwindow. “That’s four weeks to get the system installed andfunctioning,” Leineke remembers. Due to the concretestructure, all conduits had to be surface-mounted andconcealed.

“All parties really came together. A tight schedule willdo that,” Leineke continues. “The electrical contractorhad hundreds of feet of wire to run for the speakers and controlsystems, but they got all the conduits mounted, wiring pulled andmountings ready in a short time. HB was able to go in and installcabinets, racks, components and terminations and have plenty oftime for Gibson Associates to do the testing, level setting andequalization.

“Now that the system has made deadline completion and isin general use, everyone is pleased. This was a well-coordinatedteam effort between the owner, consultant andcontractors.”

“Finally,” he states, “It’s an interestingjuxtaposition, having such high-tech equipment in this application,and such a historical structure. I think the Temple’s founderswould be amazed.”


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