The First Church of Christ, Scientist Enhances the Sound in the Visitor Center

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The Publishing House portion of The Mother Church recently underwent renovations. The renovations include new permanent exhibits and an immersive Welcome Hall to the Visitor Center. “The Church wanted everything done right with the sound of the visitor experience” said Kevin Peterson, Senior Acoustic/Audio Consultant for SH Acoustics of Stamford, Connecticut. Luci Creative out of Chicago was hired to create the exhibit “How do you see the World?” Luci partnered with Creative Technology Group, SH Acoustics, and Bag End Loudspeakers on the AV system design, implementation and installation.

Nine custom Bag End T33-SHV1 column arrays were installed in the Welcome Hall. As a result, they were able to accomplish the soundscape desired. The speakers had to fit precisely on existing beautiful stone columns, which surround the room, and provide balanced sound down to 100Hz. “Our research did not find any off-the-shelf column array that would meet the dimensional and performance specs required, so we approached Bag End to develop a custom solution,” explains Peterson. SHA has previously worked with Bag End on the development of custom sized and shaped IPS subwoofers to fit in a variety of unique spaces within dozens of their museum exhibit projects.

The column array speakers were designed with 8 woofers and a tweeter for vertical directivity control. SHA’s audio design distributed two array speakers on each of three walls, and three on the fourth. This allowed for a fully immersive experience with a flexible setup that could be instantly reconfigured via the DSP. The room was set up for two primary uses. First an originally-composed 2-hour musical soundscape by Winikur Productions plays through the arrays and an overhead distribution of speakers and subwoofers. In addition, regular events are held with a platform situated on one of two sides of the room. All nine arrays were calibrated in a unique time-delayed and level-balanced manner by SHA Principal, Steve Haas. This was done to deliver even sound throughout the Welcome Hall that localizes to the presenters at the front in either of the two physical setups.

Next, you walk through one of Boston’s historic landmarks, the “Mappariumtm Experience”. There were unique acoustical challenges in this three story, stained glass, walk-thru, inside-out, globe of the world. First, it was all glass, except for the doors and bridge. In addition, it was almost completely spherical (as most globes are!). When you speak in the room, the person ten feet away may hear you better than the person right next to you. A 10-minute audio narration explores the history of the world and Christian Science. The sound had to reach the ears of a seven foot tall person down to that of a three foot tall person, anywhere along the bridge. As a result, everyone could enjoy the experience – but without spreading the sound all over where the highly-focused acoustical surfaces would wreak havoc on the intelligibility of speech. Two custom Bag End TS33-SHV2 column arrays worked perfectly in this unique space. They were mounted horizontally, on either end of the room, above the doors and engineered to match the width of the bridge where people gathered. Along with a precise downward rotation of each array, SHA’s DSP calibration proved that intelligible sound can be made to work in even the most challenging acoustic spaces. “We are thrilled with the outcome of the revamped sound in the Mappariumtm and have received so many pleasantly-surprised reactions from both the clients and visitors,” says Peterson.