The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament: Blending Modern Sound Technology with Timeless Architecture.

Posted on Mar 3, 2022 3:22:34 PM

Tucked into a wooded notch near the Mulberry Fork, halfway between Birmingham and Huntsville, lies the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Shrine is one of MediaMerge’s oldest clients, sharing a history spanning back to 2007 when MediaMerge first integrated modern audio systems into this revered space.

DSC_0129The Sound of Prayer

The vast spaces and high ceilings in churches present challenges with reverberation. MediaMerge overcame this problem in the original installation using active line source loudspeakers. Unlike conventional speakers, steerable arrays can shape the pattern of coverage, so the sound can be controlled very precisely. Conventional speakers, in contrast, have far less pattern control, often magnifying problems related to speech intelligibility.

“If you install a sound system without taking acoustics into account, you create a situation where the reverberation is fighting back against the sound’s source,” explains Patrick Tisdale, AV Systems Designer at MediaMerge. “Steerable arrays allowed us to direct the sound right where we wanted it. Since the sound was aimed at the congregation instead of the open space, we kept reverberation issues in check.”

These first-generation steerable arrays were cutting edge when MediaMerge originally installed them, but everything ages, especially technology.

MediaMerge recently updated the chapel's audio system with modern steerable arrays, offering an even more finely-tuned experience, including a wireless tablet system to control the AV technology.

The Shrine now uses a tablet to control AV, similar to the system MediaMerge set up for Samford University.

Reaching More in the Digital Age

When services began being presented online during the pandemic, churches had to take a new approach to audio. Systems that were designed for a room of congregants did not translate well to the online experience. MediaMerge took these factors into account on their latest update, actively calibrating the new speakers to deliver crystal-clear sound to visitors in the chapel and to those online.

“Virtual outreach is becoming more popular for religious organizations,” Patrick notes. “People want to feel a sense of togetherness when they join a service online. Audio systems must deliver a quality experience whether in-person or online.”

Keeping Beauty in Mind

Pilgrims from all over the world visit the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament to marvel at its timeless design and immerse themselves in the experience. Intricate, gold leaf adorns the templon, while the stark white vaulted ceilings and walls create a dramatic contrast to the colorful stained glass windows. These elements create a peaceful sense of God’s presence in the chapel. Carelessly hanging a set of speakers would mar the beauty of this serene setting. 

MediaMerge took great pains to seamlessly blend the audio integration with the Shrine’s decor. The speakers are custom-finished to match the colors and architectural accents of the interior. This concealment means visitors can benefit from the best technology available without tarnishing the Chapel’s visual experience.

“We wanted to show that we understood and respected the sacredness of the setting,” Patrick says. “By helping the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament realize their vision while keeping the space’s beauty intact.”

Topics:Church Sound SystemsSteerable Arrays


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