With roots dating back to the 19th Century, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, USA, was designed by architect, Patrick Keely. After quickly outgrowing its first home on Franklin Street, work began on a new structure. It naturally suffered delays due to the American Civil War, but finally received its dedication in 1875.

The cathedral is the largest church of any faith in New England and has long served as an important gathering place and ‘Mother Church’ for Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Boston. It can seat almost 2,000 people and is also home to the largest, and arguably finest, organ built by the world-renowned Hook and Hastings Company in 1875.

Despite being a very old building, little renovation work has been completed over the years, perhaps partly due to the local Roxbury puddingstone and grey limestone that was used for construction. However, last year, it was decided that an extensive upgrade would take place now that the Gothic revival cathedral is 150-years-old.

This renovation included a full-scale overhaul of the cathedral’s sound system, which includes an Innovox Microbeam PA system powered by Powersoft amplifiers.

System integrator, Landry Audio Division, Commlink Integration Corporation designed and installed the new audio setup, with Landry Audio CTO and President, Evan Landry heading up the project.

“The primary focus of the system acts as an acoustic anchor, so that all the sound, sounds like it’s coming from the chancel – the place where it looks like it’s coming from,” Evan said. “The purpose of this setup is to increase listener engagement, clarity and intelligibility.”

Due to dimensional limitations in the cathedral, a customised sound system was required, and Evan turned to Innovox for a solution. According to its website, all Innovox loudspeakers are ‘designed using decades of multisensory research, and provide extraordinary speech intelligibility, precise musical detail and enhanced visual aesthetics’.

Evan settled on two Innovox MicroBeam 32 column loudspeakers, which serves as a focal point for the entire sound system. However, rather than featuring the usual 32 drivers in a continuous line array configuration, only 26 per array were used for this project. The customised arrays also make use of Powersoft’s D-Cell 504 module, which provides processing and power for the dipole spaced low frequency section and processed line level outputs.

The Innovox MicroBeam steerable line arrays use a total 26 active mid-/low-frequency elements (2.75-inch cone drivers), as well as 26 high-frequency elements (3.25-inch ribbon drivers). “Virtually everything Innovox does as a company uses either ribbon or AMT [Air Motion Transformer]-type high-frequency elements,” said Chris Oswood, owner of Innovox Audio. “We do this for the principle reason of improved transient response over conventional means, and that has everything to do with delivering the speech chain to the listener without the degradation that results in loss of articulation. We do that to keep the transient information present, and to optimise for speech clarity – but it has a kind of corollary benefit, which is clarity and detail in musical reproduction.

“We use the D-Cell modules in our MicroBeam designs primarily because of the sound quality of the processor and amplifier sections. Additional benefits that we find useful are the form factor, small physical size and power density of the modules. Many of our products are columnar in shape, and these modules are easily integrated as a result,” Chris continued.

In addition to the MicroBeam columns, a further 18 Innovox line arrays were installed as delays, to extend the coverage from the chancel to the rear of the nave, which covers 200ft. The line arrays are mounted on the support columns that run along the aisle.

For powering each of the support line arrays, an additional five channels of monitors, plus another loudspeaker acting as a mirror image of the acoustic anchor, Evan and Chris selected Powersoft Ottocanali 1204 amplifiers.

“We knew that we needed one discreet channel per loudspeaker in the column, because we needed to have them appropriately delayed from the perspective of the MicroBeam,” Evan said. “There are 18 columns that essentially have to have unique delay times, so we knew our channel count was going to be high, and we knew the amount of power we were going to need was going to be relatively low, since the column loudspeakers were just used for articulation extension. The Ottocanali 1204 had the combination of high channel count and low power channels, while maintaining the sound quality that we needed to make this a world-class installation.”

Chris said that it’s not just sound quality that keeps him using Powersoft amplifiers on other house of worship projects in which Evan installs his Innovox loudspeakers. “We certainly encourage the use of Powersoft,” he said. “The difference in sound quality between Powersoft and other manufacturers is significant, and – in my opinion – really under-appreciated in the industry.

“Build quality is also very high with the product, as well as the package density. Often various parties in projects really battle for rack unit real estate, and high power density is really helpful on these projects. The efficiency of the product is not lost on us either, in terms of power consumption over time, cost to operate, and environmental considerations. That’s another area, of course, where Powersoft is leading – but the real driver for us is sound quality.”

And, to set up the system’s DSP, Chris used Powersoft Armonía software, which he now knows very well. “We use Armonía routinely in other products by Powersoft,” he said. “It’s a very easy-to-use platform, and it has a lot of flexibility. We’re kind of lumping together a number of things when we talk about sound quality, but that refers to the quality of the amplifier sections, as well as the sound quality of the DSP. And the quality of the Ottocanali DSP is very high.”

With a new state-of-the-art sound system in place, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is ready and waiting to serve its parishioners for years and years to come.