The church building of Christ King Parish in the western Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa has been through over half a century of construction, reconstruction, renovation and updates, with the most recent being the replacement of its old sound system with a new rig utilizing L-Acoustics A10i array and Syva loudspeaker enclosures installed over the summer by the local office of Clearwing Systems Integration.
The building, which opened in January of 1957, was designed to seat 1,200 parishioners. However, like many older Catholic house of worship designs, the preponderance of marble, glass and hardwood made for a highly reflective sonic environment that was highly challenging for music, and especially for speech. As is often the case in these types of spaces, speech is sourced at the altar in the front while music emanates from the rear choir and organ loft, so addressing Christ King Parish’s needs would have to come from both directions.
Using L-Acoustics Soundvision design software, Clearwing Systems Integration created a design utilizing a single central array comprising a five A10i—four Focus enclosures over one Wide—flown at the front of the room, and a pair of Syva and Syva Low loudspeakers mounted on either side of the doors to the building’s narthex underneath the loft at the room’s rear.
In addition, four compact 5XT coaxial loudspeakers are mounted two per side under the acoustically shadowed left and right transept areas, while four portable X12 monitor wedges enable the musicians upstairs to clearly hear themselves and the altar audio. Four LA2Xi amplified controllers power the loudspeakers.
“The previous system consisted of a custom horn array, which can be typical of older churches, producing inconsistent coverage and a poor aesthetic,” says Clearwing Systems Integration Operations Manager Mike Jonas. “The trick to making sound work in an environment like this with a lot of hard, reflective surfaces is good pattern control and that’s what the A10i and its Panflex technology offers.”
Panflex, a proprietary horizontal steering technology that combines mechanically adjustable fins with DSP algorithms effective from 300 Hz, let Jonas choose the symmetric 70-degree setting for the top four loudspeakers, which helps keep the sonic energy on the seating areas and away from reflective surfaces. “The A10i gave us plenty of output but not a lot of extra low end, which in a space like this could build up quickly,” he adds.
On the opposite end of the church, the Syva loudspeakers provide the full range for music to accompany the new 41-stop organ the church has installed in the loft. “The Syva are amazing for piano and voice,” he says. “And thanks to the 5XT fill speakers, other areas like the baptismal font, which never had any direct coverage before, now have good, direct sound.
“What’s also great is that you can hear the difference but cannot easily see the systems,” Jonas adds, referring to how L-Acoustics was able to so closely match the exterior color of the A10i enclosures and grilles, as well as the Syva, Syva Low and 5XT, to the very specific beige coloring of the church itself, using the RAL color-standards chart. “It is important that the sound reinforcement system does not distract from the architecture of the church. The form factor of the various speaker options, along with the custom color, allowed us to meet that objective.”
Bill Lieven, Director of Liturgical Music at Christ King Parish, says the difference between the new sound system and what was there previously is literally night and day. “There were places in the church that the old system didn’t reach clearly or at all,” he says. “But now the coverage is very consistent everywhere. It sounds great—very clear and even.”