Detroit, MI—April 2018…Founded by a charismatic and provocative priest—the fascinating story is on the church’s web site—and dedicated in 1893, the historically Polish Sweetest Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church is the largest, and arguably the most impressive, Gothic Revival church in the Midwest. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and, along with St. Josephat church, is part of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish. Services are traditional, with a Schola Cantorum choir, the oldest (1893) Austin pipe organ still in service, and spoken word.
For years the gorgeous, cathedral-style sanctuary suffered with an inadequate and outdated sound system. A couple of small speakers were mounted 20 feet off the ground, “assisted” by equally inadequate rear fills. “It was very difficult to understand anything anywhere in the building,” observes Steve Newby, principal of family-owned AV systems integrator Annunciation Audio-Visual Services, which designed and built a new sound system for the historic church. “We have used Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers before, and we knew the solution would be Renkus-Heinz ICONYX Gen5 loudspeakers because of their digital beam-steering and clarity.”
Newby reached out to Mike Somerville, his rep at McFadden Sales, and Somerville helped set up a demo. “We showed them ICONYX IC24-RDs for the demo but we knew the space required a pair of IC32-24-RD to get the full robust vocal reinforcement they needed,” Newby recalls. “The church leaders had been told the previous system would work, and it didn’t, so they needed to actually hear the new system to be convinced. After the demo they were ready to go with ICONYX. In fact, the IC24-RDs sounded so good that the hard part was explaining why they needed the larger IC32-24-RD arrays!”
The church is 88 feet tall and 202 feet long on the exterior, and 90 feet wide for the main body of the nave, while the transept is 188 feet wide. “For the size, it’s fairly acoustically friendly,” asserts Newby, “partly because the transept isn’t the rectangle you normally would see in a cruciform-shaped building. Its corners are at 45 degree angles, so it is almost octagonal but not so much so that it turns this into an in-the-round type building. Front arrays normally hit the back wall of a transept pretty hard but with the front and back walls of the transept at a 45 degree angle, it softens some of the early reflections and provides the width we need, despite being further from the seats in that location. This is still a long, mammoth building, and there are dead spots. But as ‘caves’ go, it’s a better-sounding ‘cave.’”
Renkus-Heinz’ IC32-24-RD arrays feature 19 4-inch coaxial transducers, each with 3 high-frequency tweeters, plus 5 4-inch low/mid-frequency transducers, progressively spaced. With 24 amplifier and DSP channels and multiple beams and acoustic beam centers, Newby’s team was able to cover the entire nave with just one IC32-24-RD on each side of the sanctuary, while minimizing reflections. “We criss-crossed the left and right arrays a little, as it was the best way to get around the blind spots behind the two rows of substantial columns,” explains Newby. “With the width of the transepts and the nave, we didn’t have horrific overlap. But some overlap is necessary because seats are masked from their near-side array, and we need the far-side array to cover those masked areas.”
Since the system is almost entirely used for speech reinforcement, subwoofers were not required. Speaker management and processing are entirely handled by the arrays’ onboard DSP and Renkus-Heinz’ RHAON II System Manager software. All audio connections are analog. Microphone processing and mixing is provided by a Symetrix Radius DSP, with audio distributed to the speakers via Dante.
“ICONYX Gen5 was definitely the right choice for this space,” Newby concludes. “Renkus-Heinz’ digital beam steering technology enabled us to cover the entire sanctuary, transept and all, wth just two arrays, including dealing with the blind spots and hard surfaces. IC32-24-RDs are slim and low-profile, as well, so they’re not visually obtrusive. Best of all, Sweetest Heart of Mary finally has the clear, intelligible audio they’ve long wanted, and they’re delighted.”