There is a particular challenge in working with sound in an ancient building. When that building is Chichester Cathedral – famous for its 277-foot spire, double aisles and unique free-standing bell tower – it is essential that the job is done well.
In 2004 Adrian James Acoustics was appointed to design and commission a new sound system at the Cathedral. There were three major elements to consider. Firstly, the Cathedral is used for a very wide variety of events. This requires many and varied microphone deployments and zoned loudspeaker coverage.
Secondly, it was vital that cables and loudspeakers did not detract from the visual appearance of the building. Finally, the system was to be flexible yet easily controlled by staff who were not necessarily trained technicians.
In order to find solutions to these issues, we worked very closely with the client and produced a series of visualisations of loudspeaker placements. The Nave features single tall and slender column loudspeakers which are digitally steerable to allow a precise sound coverage.
Elsewhere in the cathedral there are small discreet flat-panel speakers, concealed within choir stalls and beneath light fittings.
For the sound control system, we designed a simple touchscreen interface on a wireless tablet computer. By employing single-button preset levels, all staff can easily choose the appropriate sound design assigned to specific services or functions.
In addition, a graphic representation of the Cathedral shows which microphones and loudspeaker zones are active. These zones can be selected individually in order to adjust the volume manually if required.
The result is a sound system design which seemlessly incorporates 21st-century technology into an eleventh-century building.