Revolutionary Audio Upgrade at York Minster

  • york
Q-Sys d&b xC 24C-E 16 d&b audiotechnik 10D amplifiers

Unprecedented Audio System Installation Powered by Audiotechnik

Audio Upgrade: Enhancing Acoustics in Historic Church

A total of 60 column speakers were installed, powered by 16 d&b audiotechnik 10D amplifiers, making this the largest installation of the xC series undertaken to date. The Cathedral and Metropolitan Church of Saint Peter in York, more commonly known as York Minster is one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world.The historic Minster building is justifiably seen as a national treasure and unsurprisingly boasts Grade 1 listed status with Heritage England.

As part of an ongoing maintenance and refurbishment project, the church leaders commissioned a new audio system for installation throughout the Minster. Understandably the design brief was complex: audio quality and clarity was paramount, both for the spoken word and music. The system has to be able to serve the wide variety of events, services and uses the for which the building is used, often with two or more events taking place simultaneously. Above all, the priority was for ease of use, as many staff need to be able to operate the system.

We were invited to tender for the project, based on Wigwam’s vast wealth of experience working in churches and historic buildings, including installations in Lincoln Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral and Manchester Cathedral.

Audio Upgrade: Precision-Engineered Sound with Audiotechnik

Phil Goldsworthy worked with the Minster to design a system that would meet the exact requirements of the building. He specified d&b audiotechnik column speakers, placed throughout the Minster. The main installation features d&b xC 24C units with a d&b xC 24C-E passive extender on each column. The 24C-E improves the vertical directivity down to 190Hz. Additional d&b xC 16C units were added around the altar and in the Quire.

“The d&b 24C features mechanically steerable high frequency (HF) drivers, which can be adjusted to direct the audio to where it’s needed. This allows you to mount the units completely vertical, 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 one of the grooves within the stone work – all this helps to reduce the visual impact of the installation, which is crucial in a listed building of this type. We further reduced the impact by RAL colour matching the speaker to that of the pillar.”

Phil Goldsworthy – Director UK Operations

Q-Sys Control Ensures Peak Performance

We opted to run the entire system using the QSC Q-Sys platform, which controls and distributes the audio over a digital network.

“We’ve built up a wealth of knowledge on the platform and have used it on projects as diverse as a brewery bar in Saltaire and as the backbone of the audio and crowd safety systems at the new Tottenham Hotspur Football Stadium. We’ve already successfully deployed Q-Sys at Manchester Cathedral where the requirements are very similar to that of the Minster.”

While the key element to any audio system is how it sounds, of equal importance in the church sector is the ease of use. The system needs to be operated by staff, both technical and non technical. We developed touch screen interfaces with custom graphics that allow users to access the various audio menus.

From a screen that shows a plan of the Minster, users can select the areas they want the audio to be distributed to. Touch a ‘zone’ on the plan and the status will change colour from red to green, making that zone active. Touching it again simply reverses the state leaving the zone muted. A number of presets are programmed for the most common configurations for the variety of services and events held in the building.

Inputs such as microphones and audio tracks can be selected via the touch screens and routed to the required zones. The system has EQ settings stored for all the ministerial team and these can be assigned to any microphone ensuring optimum audio clarity at all times. Each microphone has LED’s built in that change colour to indicate whether the microphone is live or not and there is a mute button allowing the microphone to be turned on and off by the user.

The Q-Sys platform monitors the health of the entire network, logging any faults should they occur. Anything from a blown speaker, a failed amplifier channel or a network data fault can be detected. The results can be displayed locally or accessed remotely.

“If the system develops a fault, it automatically sends us an email notification. We can then access the Q-Sys Core and analyse the issue. If we can’t resolve the issue remotely then we dispatch an engineer with appropriate parts to site. It’s often the case that the first time a venue knows it has a fault is the arrival of the engineer!”

Grade 1 Challenges

Working in a Grade I listed building presents a unique set of challenges. For York Minster we worked extensively with Heritage England throughout the design and implementation of the project.

“The listed status impacts the whole process right down to the smallest detail. You can’t just start drilling holes in stonework that’s hundreds of years old. So for the speaker installation we had to drill into the mortar instead. We weren’t even able to clip cables to the stone pillars so these have been glued in place and then RAL colour matched to further reduce their impact.”

Dave McGuigan – Installation Project Manager

The installation includes a comprehensive cable infrastructure throughout. At the foot of each pillar is a metal plate which can be lifted to reveal ports for audio, video and data. Additional audio devices such as microphones can be patched in via XLR inputs. The video infrastructure is broadcast compliant for when services are televised. TV companies can install their cameras throughout without the need to run unsightly cables around the building.

“The sound quality is second to none in a building of this type and the installation is incredibly sympathetic to the Minster. The system provides huge flexibility for a wide range of uses and is simple to operate. It has been a pleasure to work on this project and we look forward to providing the support for the system for many years to come.”

Phil Goldsworthy- Director UK Operations

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