The Sagrada Familia is probably Barcelona’s best-know tourist attraction, as well as being one of the most unusual and fascinating churches in Europe. Towering above its surroundings, it stands in the northern part of the city. In 1883 Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to complete a neo-Gothic cathedral that had been begun one year before. The church became his life’s work: he radically changed the plans and spent the last years of his life, right up to his death, on the building site. Even today, the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia, as the church is called in full, has yet to be completed, but it has grown to become an impressive building and total work of art, nevertheless.
However, it is this very spectacular architecture that constitutes such an enormous challenge in terms of audio technology. Gaplasa, beyerdynamic’s distribution partner in Spain, accepted this challenge and developed a tailor-made sound reinforcement system. “In terms of acoustics, the Sagrada Familia was the most complex system that we had ever planned”, says Oscar Valero, Marketing Manager for Gaplasa. “The church is so large and has such an enormous air volume, and the materials used reflect sound so strongly that the resulting reverberation time is very long. This makes it extremely difficult to achieve good speech intelligibility.”
The long reverberation time requires the use of precise unidirectional microphones as well as loudspeakers with precise directivity to achieve high transmission quality without the risk of getting feedback. The highest of standards are also required for audio processing, mixing and distribution. A digital signal processor is responsible for the equalization, dynamics processing and delaying of all signals received.
In this case, it was necessary to plan the entire audio chain, from the microphone to the loudspeaker, precisely and to fine-tune the system to achieve the optimum result. The optical aspect was also an extremely important part of the planning to minimise the effects on the overall appearance. There were only a few places where it was permitted to install loudspeakers and lay cables.
Although the system in the church is mainly for voice transmission, concerts and choir recitals also take place there. This also had to be taken into account in the planning of the audio concept. This involved initially planning the project in the utmost detail using an acoustic simulation program in order to guarantee optimum speech intelligibility. Subsequently, tests were conducted on site. A great variety of microphones with different polar patterns and constructions were tested in order to achieve the best-possible result. After all the components of the public address system had been matched up, the final installation phase of the project took place in December 2012.
Good sound from the start
To ensure ideal electro-acoustic conditions, it is necessary to start with the right choice of microphone as the first link in the public address chain. In the Sagrada Familia, for example, the following microphones are used:
Slim-line gooseneck microphones from the beyerdynamic Classis series are used for voice transmission from the altar and the cathedra. Using the flexible neck, these microphones can be directed precisely towards the speaker. Thanks to their optimised cardioid polar pattern, these microphones ensure maximum volume, combined with high feedback stability. The microphone installed at the cathedra is the GM 314 S gooseneck, with a switch and a ring that lights up when the microphone is switched on. In this set-up, the microphone forms a unit with a height-adjustable stand, the STF 900, in which the connection cable is concealed. The Classis microphones are also used in different lengths at the altar and in the pulpit. MC 836 and MC 930 true condenser microphones are used for capturing the choir and for events. Four wireless microphones from the Opus 910 series are combined with a 4-channel receiver for flexible wireless usage. The organ is amplified by a double-ribbon microphone with a figure-eight polar pattern. This microphone picks up the sound from precisely the direction defined in the project plan and has strong attenuation in the other directions.
With more than 85 years of experience, the German audio specialist beyerdynamic offers a wide range of microphones with many different constructions and directional characteristics, thus providing optimum sound solutions for any application and acoustic environment. Most of the microphones are made in Germany at the company’s site in Heilbronn.
For more information on church PA, please visit www.beyerdynamic.com/how