Abr 2021 | News | Houses of Worship | GEO M6 | ID Series | USA

Alpha Sound’s elegant system design for St Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Oregon (USA) is a classic story of how attention to detail and going the extra mile for a client can produce timeless results, in both aesthetic as well as technical terms. 

A year ago, Alpha Sound was contacted to solve audio intelligibility problems for St Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland.  The beautiful and prestigious house of worship was built nearly 100 years ago.  Although refurbished in 1996, it remained troubled by the congregation’s complaints of not being able to hear or understand speech in its highly reverberant acoustic space.

Devin Sheets, lead engineer at Alpha Sound, describes the church as “the only venue of its kind in our area; modernized yet classical, and quite traditional in a way that is rare in the USA these days.  The original point source PA system was located in the ceiling behind cloth panels, and it’s fair to say the sound was bad, and the coverage awful.  The room is so reverberant, with some 4.5-5 secs of decay, that a line array solution was the only option.”

Based in Salem, Alpha Sound has become a committed user of sound reinforcement solutions from the NEXO and Yamaha marques, and Sheets explains that NEXO’s compact GEO M6 line array stands out as the most successful design for their house of worship installations.  “It is our best shot at getting intelligibility in these situations,” he says, “instead of spreading unwanted sound everywhere like a floodlight, which leads to a muddy and frustrating result, the unique M6 high-frequency horn focusses the sound like a laser beam on the seating areas alone.  This produces a very big and very clear sound from a very small package.”

Using NEXO’s proprietary NS-1 software modelling tools to plan the system, Alpha Sound arrived at a deceptively simple design.  Main arrays of 6 modules of NEXO M6 per side handled the nave: additional smaller 3-module clusters of M6 per side took care of the transept and aisles, maintaining consistency of sound.  A pair of NEXO’s super-compact ID24 point source cabinets in the ceiling provided contingency coverage for the small balcony area.

Having decided on the design, the Alpha Sound team had to ask the client if the main arrays could be hung in the open air, rather than being hidden away like the previous system.  “Our clients were very nervous about the aesthetic impact of the loudspeaker hangs,” says Duane Sheets, President of Alpha Sound.  “We had to promise to do everything in our power to make them disappear.”

That promise involved trying no less than 20 different paint samples on the M6 cabinets, and 14 different designs of hand-painted gold embellishment, to help the arrays fit discreetly into the architecture of the church and match its Classical Italian decor.  “This client paid more attention to detail than anyone I’ve ever worked with, in fact it was rather thrilling to collaborate with them!  And it shows in the results.”

Less glamorously, a Yamaha MRX7-D processor ensured an easy day-to-day operation of the system, which was configured to allow turn-key control by iPad and wall panel so that non-technical church staff could utilize the essential system elements with intuitive simplicity. 80-90% of the time, the system is used for spoken word, with occasional piano, trio, quartet or choir, but the client wanted to future-proof the system for special events and concerts in the long term.  A Dante digital network provides incredible stability and future expandability, as Devin Sheets explains that any visiting engineer can just plug into the system and have immediate digital access to all of the mics, processing and NEXO NXAMP4x1Mk2 amplifiers.”

Duane Sheets reports that reactions to the new system have been incredibly positive. “NEXO’s GEO M6 line array speaker system provides smooth and even coverage to every seat, and possesses a very natural frequency contour which compliments the venue acoustics for both speech and music.  We had people telling us they could understand everything effortlessly, some for the very first time.  For St Mary’s, this system has met their highest expectations both in terms of intelligibility and aesthetics.  As we say with the NEXO product, you could spend a lot more money but you can’t buy better.”

Main speaker components:

6x Nexo M6 nave fill per side

3x Nexo M6 transept fill per side

1x Nexo MSUB18

2x Nexo ID24 balcony fill

4x Nexo ID14 monitor

2x Yamaha VXL1-16 apse fill

3x Yamaha VXS1M narthex fill


Main Dante digital components:

1x Yamaha MRX7-D

2x Yamaha RIO1608-D2

2x Shure ULXD4Q

1x Nexo DTD system

4x Nexo NXAMP4x1mk2


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