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Intelligible Speech Amidst York Minster's Ethereal Reverberation with the d&b xC-Series

Steeped in centuries of history, the city of York's magnificent Minster holds a revered place in the lives of locals and visitors alike. The Minster's in-house team recently completed a ground-breaking project by installing over one hundred loudspeakers from the d&b xC-Series of cardioid columns, forming the largest system of its kind in any Minster -- and becoming the largest single installation of the xC-Series to date. As a space designed for reverberant excitation by the choral songs of old, which now hosts a myriad of services and events, the requirement and challenge of this project was to deliver a sound system like no other, and to enable a platform for transparency, engagement, and spiritual intimacy no matter the expression of worship.

d&b partner Wigwam, part of SSE Audio Group and now Solotech, in response to a commission from church leaders, commenced work on a solution capable of delivering the spoken word without distraction, and reinforcing live music for a variety of events within the Cathedral situated at the heart of Christianity in the north of England since the seventh century.

Wigwam installation manager Phil Goldsworthy was familiar with the two-way passive column loudspeakers from the d&b xC-Series, which are elegantly engineered to provide effective solutions for acoustically challenging environments whilst being architecturally complementary to their surroundings. Inevitably, a RAL color matched system was the perfect companion to the soaring masonry on display throughout the Minster.

Goldsworthy worked closely with Minster representatives, and as a result, specified d&b 24C cardioid column loudspeakers along with their 24C-E extension companions on each column, with the 24C-E's providing an additional octave of vertical pattern control down to 190Hz; alleviating the nuisance of commonly problematic low-mid frequencies. Additional d&b xC-Series units in the form of the smaller 16C loudspeakers, were added around the altar and in the quire. All 108 loudspeakers are efficiently powered and individually processed by the d&b audiotechnik 10D amplifiers, with complete control via R1 and Q-SYS integration to ensure the system is harmoniously flexible for every possible outcome.

"The 24C features mechanically steerable high frequency drivers, which can be adjusted to direct the audio to where it's needed," says Goldsworthy. "This allows you to mount the units completely vertically, tight up against the pillar and quite high up, yet still achieve an even audio coverage to the congregation below.

"The units are narrow enough to fit within the grooves of the masonry -- helping to reduce the visual impact of the installation, which is vital in a listed building of this type. We further reduced the impact by color matching the speaker to that of the pillar."

All xC-Series products deliver high intelligibility, remarkable directivity control, even off-axis frequency response and full bandwidth cardioid dispersion pattern. The incorporated 4" drivers radiate through waveguide elements at the front and via perforated metal, through damped ports at the rear of the cabinet. The resulting cardioid dispersion pattern minimizes interference caused by wall reflections in the low and mid frequency bands by 18dB -- minimizing the energy dispersed on to surfaces to the rear of the loudspeaker, thus negating destructive cancellation in the listening plane.

Alexander McCallion FRICS is director of works and precinct at York Minster: "When we went out for tender, we were inviting people to put forward solutions which included premium speaker systems. We shortlisted, interviewed, and selected Wigwam, who had put forward the d&b solution. Before we signed any contracts, we invited them in to let us listen to this product, and the clarity just from one speaker meant that we were positive that we wanted to appoint and proceed with the d&b product.

"We're very happy with how the system looks and of course, how it sounds. York Minster, I believe, has the best sound system on the market."

Goldsworthy concludes: "The sound quality is second to none in a building of this type, and the installation is incredibly sympathetic to the Minster's architecture. The system provides huge flexibility for a wide range of uses and is simple to operate."


(15 November 2019)

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