Sioux Falls, SD – November 2011… Built in 1919, St. Joseph Cathedral is the largest church in South Dakota and one of the larger Roman Catholic cathedrals in the United States. This historic structure recently marked the completion of a massive $17M restoration and renovation with the blessing of the cathedral doors and the dedication of a new altar. Returning the cathedral to its 1920’s-era glory was a huge undertaking and, as part of the project, a new sound reinforcement system was placed into service. Audio processing and wireless microphone technology are an integral part of the new sound setup and, to ensure the best possible performance, the system designers specified equipment from Rio Rancho, NM-based Lectrosonics.
Grand Rapids, MI-based MuSonics, a full-service acoustics design and consulting firm specializing in all facets of architectural acoustics, music, and sound in liturgical spaces, was contracted to design and oversee St. Joseph Cathedral’s new sound reinforcement system. Peter Borchard, the firm’s audio designer—working in conjunction with video designer Roger Willey of Hot Springs, SD-based Willey and Associates—penned the A/V system blueprint that would ultimately be installed by Audio Connections of Brooking, SD.
As unattended operation of the sound system was a critical aspect of its design, Borchard specified Lectrosonics’ highly acclaimed ASPEN SPN1624 Digital Audio Processor for automixing and related tasks. For wireless microphones, he insisted upon the company’s Digital Hybrid Wireless technology. Borchard discussed the project and his decision to deploy Lectrosonics.
“St. Joseph Cathedral is a positively stunning space,” notes Borchard. “There’s a tremendous history in this facility and every aspect of the renovation was meticulously planned. The space—even after the acoustic treatment—still had a very long reverberation time of 6.2 seconds. This necessitated very careful alignment and calibration of the equipment—particularly the loudspeakers and the audio processing components. Since unattended operation was a key aspect of the new sound system’s design, I elected to deploy the Lectrosonics ASPEN SNP1624 audio processor. I’ve used Lectrosonics equipment for years and I view the ASPEN unit as the perfect ‘one stop solution’ for managing audio in an unattended environment. The processor’s automixing, signal routing, and equalization facilities are first rate and its ability to be externally controlled—such as from a tablet like the iPad—made this unit the most viable choice for a project of this nature.”
For wireless microphones, Borchard specified an 8-channel setup consisting of two Lectrosonics VRMWB Venue Series receiver mainframes—one fully stocked with six VRS receiver modules and the other with two modules, leaving room for expansion should it become necessary in the future. Transmitters include six Lectrosonics LMa Digital Hybrid beltpack transmitters and two UT Digital Hybrid Hand-Held Transmitters with the VMO omnidirectional capsules. The beltpack transmitters are mated with a combination of earset and lavaliere microphones from DPA Microphones.
“Each member of the clergy has his own individual microphone setup,” Borchard explained. “This way, we were able to fit the earsets very carefully for each person to ensure maximum comfort and optimum microphone positioning. Since each priest has his own mic and transmitter, the ASPEN processor has a channel specifically configured for that person and this further enhances system performance.” Borchard notes that one priest prefers a lavaliere microphone and that, when not in use, it serves as a mic for guest speakers or backup.
When queried about those aspects of the Lectrosonics wireless equipment that made these products the ideal choice for this project, Borchard offered the following, “The sound quality of Lectrosonics wireless equipment is on par with cabled systems and the range we achieved with the Lectrosonics UFM 230 RF filter amp is exceptional. There’s a good 150 feet between the antennas in the altar area and the location of the receivers and the system’s dropout-free performance extends out the front doors of the cathedral. This enables priests to lead processions through the entire space and be heard clearly. I’m equally impressed with the build quality of the equipment. No matter how much you try to impress the need to be careful when handling the equipment, mistakes will invariably happen and something gets dropped. Lectrosonics reliability is very reassuring under such circumstances.”
St. Joseph Cathedral’s restoration was completed in early July and on the 26th of the month, the re-dedication ceremony took place. Since that time, Borchard reports the new sound reinforcement system has been very well received by all involved. “Everyone is very happy,” he said. “We haven’t encountered any issues and already, the success of this project has translated into new business for our firm—and that’s a good as it gets.”
To learn more about St. Joseph Cathedral, go to
. For information about MuSonics, visit
. For information about Willey and Associates, call (605) 745-4290. To learn about Audio Connections, visit them at
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theatre technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company's dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at
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Photo info: Image of St. Joseph Cathedral’s interior.