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Sidmouth Parish Church -

A look at the transformation in audio quality achieved by APi's new sound system.

New Sound System for an Impressive Listed Church

The Location:

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.

The Challenge:

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.

Our Solution:

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.

Close up of a column loudspeaker installed on the wall.

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.

The view from up high looking down the nave of the church
Sometimes running cables discreetly means getting up high!

The Outcome:

“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

Tel: 01392 677668   Email: info@apicommunications.co.uk  Web: www.churchsoundsystems.co

Large Audio-Visual Project Brings Big Success

The Location:
St Mary the Virgin is a beautiful, large Grade 1* listed parish church, set in the heart of a bustling town in Oxfordshire. The church’s presence in the town has been steadily growing, and they now have a large regular congregation both in person and online.
 
The Challenge:
As with any large project, APi’s Andy Pidsley had a lot to think about when it came to designing the new audio-visual system.

“The church had a strong idea of what they wanted, which helped me quickly narrow down a lot of the equipment I was going to specify. But there was still a lot of thinking to do about speaker positioning and creating a simple user interface for what is a very complex audio and live streaming system.”

St-Mary-Witney-Sound-Streaming-speaker-installation-by-API-Sound-Visual

The size of the building was a challenge in itself - cable routes had to be found from one end to the other and loudspeaker positions and types had to be carefully chosen. As with all of the APi’s designs, there was a focus on creating an audio-visual system that would be simple for everyone to operate.
 
Another consideration was the need to disguise the equipment within the church, with the building’s listed status putting strict rules on what could and could not be done. This ultimately was a big reason for the model of loudspeakers used in the sound system design.

Our Solution:

“We decided from an early stage that a demonstration of the loudspeakers would be important, both so that we could make sure they would perform in the space, as well as to give the client an opportunity to see and hear them.”

After a successful demo, the Audac Krya series reinforced their credentials for the installation and a total of 10 ultra-slim line array units were fitted throughout the church, complimented by two compact 12-inch subwoofers.

The live-streaming system was based around three full HD Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ) cameras, which are able to move between preset positions to give the operator almost unlimited shots to send to the live stream. APi’s custom control interface was configured in such a way that live streaming could be operated with minimal effort, with one button to start and stop the streaming and pages to control each camera independently.

“The customised live streaming control surface we have created takes so much stress away for the person operating the system”, states Andy. “Having buttons which are labelled to tell you exactly what they do allows anyone, even someone who has not used the system before, to sit down and be 90% on their way to operating the live streaming system.”

A Yamaha matrix handled all the audio requirements, routing four Sennheiser radio microphone systems, a four-channel floor-mounted input box and four hanging choir microphones to the desired areas of the church. APi’s engineers configured the associated Yamaha iPad app to be personal to the church, making operation as easy as possible from anywhere within the building.

The Outcome:

Andy reflects on a job well done;

“this project was the largest of the year for APi Sound and Visual but was a glowing success thanks to the hard work and skill of our engineers, who made sure that the system was easy to operate, sounded fantastic and had the smallest possible visual impact on the church.”

St Mary the Virgin, Witney (new AV System) install by APi Sound & Visual

Now the Oxfordshire church has everything it needs to allow both the physical and online congregation to clearly hear and see the message the church is trying to get across. The delicate selection of equipment has resulted in a high-quality audio-visual system without impacting the heritage and grandeur of the building.

In the weeks following the installation of the new audio-visual system, the church has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the congregation (and not the sound system!). The customer was delighted with the outcome and stated that “Our expectations have been vastly exceeded”, adding that working with APi “felt like a partnership”.

To discuss how APi Sound and Visual could assist your church with a sound and projection system, please call us on 0845 5578350 or contact us online.
St Johns in Burford, set right in the heart of the Cotswolds is a fine grade 1* listed building. The inside has many interesting features that have accumulated over the years since its construction began in 1175.

So unsurprisingly any works to update the sound system and add an installed camera, streaming and projection system were examined in fine detail by the DAC to ensure that the impact on the aesthetics was minimal.

Burford is a very attractive Cotswold town which brings in tourists throughout the year and because of the church's strong links to King Henry VIII, the church has a large number of visitors who stop in while exploring the town. This meant that any audio-visual equipment - especially the projection system - had to be as discreet as possible so that it would not impede on the grandeur of the space.

A loudspeaker cluster positioned on a church column, with a mosaic in the background.

Being a large evangelical Anglican congregation, the church decided that it was more inclusive to turn 90 degrees so that they could gather in a more relaxed theatre-style layout of chairs. However, for more traditional services such as funerals and remembrance Sunday they still need to be able to switch back to the original layout.

This was achieved by adding a 3rd loudspeaker so that with a simple switch the audio orientation can be changed.

The audio system is based on our favourite Allen and Heath digital desk, offering a handy touch screen plus full wireless control via iPad. This is a great step up from their existing digital desk with its microscopic screen and fairly daunting control app. A 4-channel digital amplifier gave us a good choice of equalisation options, limiting and crossover adjustment allowing their existing subwoofers to be included in the new arrangement.

Two remote HD pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras were installed in locations which suited both church orientations and were controlled by our own ultra-simple button control pad with backlit displays behind each button allowing the functions to change over various pages of options.

In addition to camera control, this unit also controls the video switching and streaming unit removing the need to understand a potentially baffling array of additional controls. So streaming to YouTube is just a matter of a single button push, with a monitor screen displaying both camera images, the outgoing image and the sound levels.

We set up the audio processing so that the sound was optimised for listening on a device with smaller speakers such as a tablet or laptop, compressing the music and speech to deliver a comfortable consistent level.

Two discreet winch-down projection screens in a large church.

The projection system was successfully installed using two winch-down projection screens, which were able to lift up into the aisle above the archway when not in use. This was important as this side of the church is what you see first when entering the church through the main door, so it was crucial that these screens could disappear from view.

Two laser projectors were installed in the arches on the opposing side of the nave to price a clear and bright image onto the large screens, allowing the congregation to see regardless of where they sit in the nave.

Two projectors hidden just below the arches in a church building.

The projectors were suspended just below the top of the arches, to remain as hidden as possible. The on/off control of the projectors was also programmed into the customised streaming control interface, giving the church a central control panel for both the streaming and visual systems in the church.

On the day the system was handed over we received this message from our customer, “Trial run this afternoon with band practice. All very good and epic sound. iPad App is very easy to use and so great to be able to wander around the church with it”.

To discuss how APi Sound and Visual could assist your church with a sound and projection system, please call us on 0845 5578350 or contact us online.
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