New Sound System for an Impressive Listed Church
Sidmouth is a charming town on the Devon coast, with a pebble beach and a bustling town centre. The parish church sits at the heart of the town, just off the high street and is used regularly for community events, such as the annual folk festival.
APi Sound and Visual were called in as the church was in dire need of a new sound system, which had not been sufficiently invested in when it was put in 20 years ago. This led to a serious lack of clarity due to poorly positioned loudspeakers and a system that could no longer keep up with the requirements of the church.
With the Nave stretching 20 metres front to back and 17 metres wide, with an open-style layout, the new sound system needed to cover a large area, whilst remaining as discreet as possible. Flexibility was another key factor for the new audio equipment, with the church being used by a number of different groups for a variety of events throughout the year. This meant that, although speech was the primary use for the new sound system, it needed to be adept at reproducing full-range music from CDs and other music sources when required.
As with any audio-visual installation in a church or heritage building, great care was taken by APi both during the design process and installation to ensure the fabric of the building was disturbed as little as possible.
APi’s Stephen Neath designed the system and speaks about the challenges faced in the design and implementation phases. “With the space being so large and the central columns not suitable for positioning loudspeakers on, I decided on a column speaker with a wide coverage, so that they could sit on the outside walls but still cover the centre pews.”
The client was treated to a demonstration of the selected equipment before the final go-ahead was given by the church council. This also gave Stephen a chance to test his proposal and ensure the coverage would be as even as he hoped. “A demonstration is both great for the client, but also a useful exercise for us as engineers, as we have the chance to test the products we are recommending in the space before it gets installed.” He adds “It gives both parties confidence - I know I’ve designed a system which will deliver, and the client gets to hear a preview of what is to come.”
Other areas of the church were covered by smaller columns, which were fitted lower down the walls than the previous speakers, to decrease the distance between the loudspeakers and the listening height. Choir microphones were installed in the chancel to give an ambient feed into the existing live-streaming setup and give the choir a boost in volume in the church.
“As with any sound system, you have to find the sweet spot between performance, visual impact of the installation and ease of use for the customer”.
“But with our years of experience installing into church and heritage buildings, I feel we are always able to get this balance right and deliver exactly what the customer is hoping for.”
A digital mixer with both physical and app-based control was installed, to give the church the option to operate the system in whichever way suited them best. A subwoofer complimented the column loudspeakers, giving warm depth to music and speech that had been lacking with the old sound system. Cables were painted in and run at a high level wherever possible to minimise the visual impact of the installation.
“I am really pleased with the quality and intelligibility of the sound we have been able to achieve”, says Stephen. “You can go anywhere in the church and hear exactly what is happening, with a consistency to the level and tone of the sound.” At the end of the installation, the sound system was fine-tuned by APi’s engineers to minimise feedback issues and ensure optimum audio quality. “The difference is night and day!” states Stephen. Within a few days of completion, the client received a detailed walkthrough document which can be kept at the operating position and be referred to when required.
“When you have to point the speakers out to people during the training session, then we know we have chosen the right product to blend into the environment!”
APi Communications Ltd, Unit 9, Sandpiper Court, Harrington Lane, Exeter, Devon, EX4 8NS