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Meyer Sound M1D Bridges the Centuries at St. Anthony's
Though strikingly contemporary in its elegant simplicity, St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in The Woodlands, Texas also resonates — literally! — with the architecture of 14th century cathedrals: soaring ceilings, cruciform architecture and the abundant use of stone and glass. However, during the youth-oriented Life Team Mass on Sunday nights, the amplified sounds inside St. Anthony's are undeniably from the 21st Century. The demanding task of reconciling these two acoustically opposing eras falls principally on a sound reinforcement system based around M1D Ultra-Compact Curvilinear Array loudspeakers from Meyer Sound.
"St. Anthony's is an incredibly tricky space to work in," says Brad Daigle of Beaumont, Texas-based MSC Systems, the installation contractor for the system. "It's a highly reverberant space, but with the M1Ds everything is working out surprisingly well for both spoken word and music. The M1D gives us the ability to adjust coverage to multiple zones but still maintain very high Q."
Bill Schuermann of HFP Acoustical Consultants, based in nearby Houston, designed the system at St. Anthony's. Schuermann favored the M1D not only for its exemplary performance and tight coverage control, but also for it diminutive size.
"Architects seem to believe that loudspeakers should be heard and not seen, and that was a real problem here since the loudspeakers had to be suspended in order or achieve our coverage and intelligibility goals," notes Schuermann. "They had to be hung down at the level of the lights, so it was crucial to keep them as small as possible. That's where the Meyer M1D was far and away the loudspeaker system of choice. It kept our visual footprint to an absolute minimum, yet it still gave us the power and the precise coverage we needed."
The worship space at St. Anthony's is divided into three areas, seating roughly 500 parishioners each. For the two facing areas in the transept, Schuermann specified a center-hung array of three M1D cabinets per side, supplemented by a floor-mounted UMS-1P Ultra-Compact subwoofer on each side of the altar. Schuermann's preference was to place a third M1D array in the nave, but a center cluster would block sight lines from the entrance to a tall crucifix behind the altar. To keep the center clear, he instead specified two UPA-2P Compact Narrow Coverage loudspeakers, which, in Schuermann's words, "paint a clean stripe down the pews on either side of the aisle." For the pews in the very front, the design called for four UPM-1P Ultra-Compact Wide Coverage loudspeakers on the steps of the altar.
According to contractor Brad Daigle, the installation proceeded without a hitch. "It all went up quick and easy," he comments. "We were in and out of there in four days, and we're certainly pleased with the way it sounds."
System designer Bill Schuermann is equally satisfied with the final results. "According to what I've heard from the congregation and the priests, they just can't believe how well behaved the system is. The priests can walk around anywhere using their wireless lavaliers with no problems. The response curve is so smooth that feedback is just not an issue."
Speaking on behalf of the church, director of facilities (and praise band member) Michael Mort says he's heard nothing but positive comments on the system. Uniformly high intelligibility of the spoken word has proven the single most important factor in the system's acceptance, he explains, "as scripture readings and homilies are a very important part of our Catholic Mass. But the results with music have been appreciated as well. Our music covers a wide range of styles, with a full choir at the Sunday morning service, the high-energy rock-style band at night, and traditional services with a cantor. Yet with the Meyer system, you are able to clearly distinguish all the individual voices in the choir, and all the instruments in the contemporary group. We couldn't be happier with it."