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Crystal-clear speech intelligibility for Lugano Cathedral with RCF speakers

Resplendent before beautiful views of Lake Lugano and the Alpine foothills, the cathedral of San Lorenzo rises above the town centre of the Swiss town of Lugano. Dating from the 11th century, it is one of Switzerland’s oldest churches. A comprehensive restoration programme begun in 2011 included the recent installation of a new audio system based around digitally steerable VSA column speakers by RCF.

The system was installed by CEM Audio & Light services based in Bellinzona. “For the audio system we installed in the cathedral of San Lorenzo in Lugano, we selected RCF’s VSA 2050 and VSA 1250 speakers, comments Virgilio Kohler, owner of CEM. “RCF column loudspeakers offer the ideal coverage pattern for difficult acoustic environments like the Cathedral of San Lorenzo,” he added.

The RCF Engineering Support Group aided the customer in realising this system, taking into account the architectural conditions and adapting to both the building restrictions as well as the electro-acoustic limitations. The installation planners decided on digitally steerable speakers to provide the best possible speech intelligibility in an environment with natural reverb tails in the speech frequency range of up to 4 seconds.

“We placed four VSA 2050 on the columns along the side aisles in a symmetrical pattern. These cover the main nave area (the operating range for each speaker being up to 15 meters), providing crystal-clear speech intelligibility and a good signal-to-noise ratio across a wide frequency range. That lets the congregation experience and participate in the mass in a very immediate way,” explain RCF technicians. “With its 20 individually steerable speakers, the VSA 2050 allows a vertical dispersion from 10° to 30° as well as vertical steering between 0° and -40°. This lets us focus the sound on the desired area and avoid unwanted reflections, guaranteeing the best possible speech intelligibility, even in environments with long natural reverb tails like this one.”

"the best possible speech intelligibility across the entire church while integrating the speakers into the architecture in an unobtrusive way. we are more than happy with the results."

The other main system component is made up of four VSA 1250 column speakers. These provide the same characteristics as the VSA 2050 but incorporate 12 speakers. This model was selected to cover the altar and visitors’ areas which are used during larger events. For the choir, the engineers deployed the TT051-A, an ultra-compact active loudspeaker from RCF’s professional TT+ range. This speaker can be subtly and unobtrusively integrated into any environment. All speakers are controlled individually and can be activated or deactivated as needed. Managing the entire system of VSA and TT+ speakers is accomplished via the RDNet control and monitoring software. The VSA speakers can be remote controlled using the Smart RC remote control and the VSA Remote app which is available for download in the Apple and Android stores.

The ESG team has also adapted the app to better meet customer requirements. The installation process also integrated all stand-mounted arrays. The team also handled the initial set-up and subsequent fine-tuning of the system using careful acoustic measurements and analysis.

In summary, Mr Kohler commented: “RCF’s ESG team and its expert technical support were very helpful during the design and implementation stages. They advised us on the equipment and components that would be needed, helping to guarantee best possible speech intelligibility across the entire church while integrating the speakers into the architecture in an unobtrusive way. We are more than happy with the results.“
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