St. Michael’s Church in New York City Discovers New Clarity in Music and Spoken Word with Recent K-array Loudspeaker Installation

Churches can provide an inspirational and pleasing atmosphere for congregants to enjoy both music and sermon messages. But frequently, challenging acoustic environments and highly reflective interior spaces can make creating a quality listening experience an enormous challenge. Recently, St. Michael’s Church in New York City upgraded its audio system for masses and services and chose Sennheiser-distributed K-array loudspeakers — not only for their unmatched audio quality, but also for their ability to blend into the existing aesthetics of the church.

The St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, which is located on the upper West Side of Manhattan, has been a mainstay for parishioners since its construction was completed in 1807. Its reverberant space makes it ideal for music performances, but the existing loudspeaker system that was in place more than 25 years was simply not up to the task of accurately reproducing both spoken word and live music performances with the quality and intelligibility that was required.

Once St. Michael’s made the decision to upgrade, authorized Sennheiser dealer PanAVid recommended installing K-array speakers and amplifiers to increase both sonic integrity and intelligibility, thereby improving the overall worship experience for congregants.

“The church’s reverberation makes it difficult to produce spoken word sound that is clear to all members of the congregation, but the K-array speakers and amplifiers provided crystal clear sound that has solved the problem,” said Robert Loehr, vice president of operations at PanAVid.

PanAVid installed two K-array KK 100 loudspeakers for the main system, two KKS 50s for the main sub-woofer system, and a total of six KK 50s as delay support speakers: two in the balconies and the other four spread throughout the sanctuary, all controlled by a programmable Roland digital mixing console.

“Although the church is beautiful in its classic design, this provides a unique acoustic challenge making it difficult for many of our congregation to hear the services,” said John Edward Cantrell, St. Michael’s Church’s choirmaster, organist and chief audio engineer. “K-array speakers and amplifiers helped us take advantage of the high frequencies the room favors, while boosting the overall quality of our spoken word services.”

The combination of the KK 50, KK 100 and KKS 50 made it possible for PanAVid to design a system that would meet the needs of St. Michael’s Church. The KK 50 and KK 100 speakers are compact line array elements comprised of multiple 2” neodymium transducers in a strong stainless steel chassis — each casting a wide dispersion pattern that can be configured horizontally or vertically. The KKS50 is a compact line array bass system comprised of 4 x 4” neodymium transducers housed in a stainless steel chassis that can also be configured horizontally or vertically.

The interior of St. Michael’s Church, which has a reverb time of approximately 3.5 seconds, has been particularly challenging for spoken word messages to be heard loud and clear. But Cantrell says the new K-array-based system generates a pleasing, crystal clear sound that provides clarity throughout the entire church.

With the new K-array installation now complete, Cantrell is able to spend more time creating inspirational music by playing the organ and leading the choir rather than at the mixing console grappling with interior acoustics and audio intelligibility.

Photo captions:
1. During a recent audio upgrade at St. Michael’s Church in New York, K-array speakers were chosen not only for their sound quality but also to match the aesthetics of the interior.

2. In the recent St. Michael’s audio upgrade, six K-array KK 50s were installed as delay support speakers.

3. View of the St. Michael’s sanctuary.

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