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Missouri's Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church Achieves Perfect Coverage with MAPP
The new worship space at Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church in Branson, Mo., blends the spaciousness of the classical cathedral with the elegant simplicity of contemporary architecture. However, the visually striking interior – with seating for 1,300 – is not without acoustical perils: the vast open ceiling space and surrounding hard surfaces presented obvious intelligibility hazards. In order to keep sound directed precisely on the parishioners, and away from reflective surfaces, veteran system designer Bob McCarthy used Meyer Sound's free but very powerful acoustical prediction software, MAPP Online, to precisely design coverage of the church's new system of self-powered Meyer Sound loudspeakers.
"This project was the first where I did the MAPP Online predictions and then went back in and did the SIM work myself," says McCarthy. "I brought along my laptop with the saved MAPP Online predictions, and I saw that it showed a little bit of overlap. If you sat at one end of the pew, you could get up and walk a few steps out in the aisle and still hear before the sound dropped off. But I checked the other end of the pew, and we were about one seat short. So we turned the speaker cluster one degree and – bingo! – we were right on, from side to side. We had exactly what we needed, and none of the reflective surfaces are causing problems."
The system at Our Lady of the Lake comprises four identical clusters, with one suspended over each quadrant of the sizable worship space. Each cluster has a CQ-2 full-range narrow coverage loudspeaker for the longer throw, plus a UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeaker suspended underneath for the shorter, wider throw. Using MAPP Online, McCarthy was able to determine the optimum height (about 28 feet above the floor) and angle required to ensure that the 6 dB down points appeared precisely on the middle and side aisles.
Very few people know the coverage patterns of Meyer Sound loudspeakers better than Bob McCarthy. Yet even he confesses that MAPP Online has become an irreplaceable tool. "My confidence level goes way up with MAPP Online," he confesses. "It makes my work far more accurate. Also, I feel much more confident when I can provide the client with pictograms that can be easily understood. It helps them make informed choices without relying totally on what I tell them."
This system was one of many collaborations between McCarthy and Pete Savel of A-1 Audio in Branson. Savel makes the initial client contact, determines overall project requirements and manages the system installation. McCarthy, based in St. Louis, does the actual system design and also, in most cases, comes on site for commissioning with Meyer Sound's SIM FFT analyzer.
After some apprehensions about the room's large volume and hard surfaces, Savel is now equally delighted with the intelligibility and predictable behavior of the MAPP Online-aided design. "It's really a beautiful sounding system," he says. "The priest can stand at the altar, right under the clusters, wearing a tiny little Countryman earset microphone, and we still have gain for days."
Although voice intelligibility was the key criterion in the design, the system also is used for a music program, which incorporates cantors and the sounds of grand piano, flute, acoustic guitar and a chime choir.
In the final analysis, much credit for the quality of the system must go to the pastor of the church, Monsignor Phil Bucher. After years of observing the troubles engendered by inadequate sound, he told Pete Savel that he didn't want to compromise this time around.
"I'm grateful that Pete was able to put this together for us," he says. "Too often sound is one of the great downfalls in churches. It's one of the last things they think about. But I decided this time that we'd had enough of the cheap stuff. It was time to go first class. And Pete said, 'We'll do it, and we'll make it affordable.'"
According to Father Bucher, the parishioners have noted the value of an investment in good sound. "People continue to comment about it every Sunday, saying that finally they can hear everything. And when people can hear better, it makes them feel like they are much more a part of the celebration."