Brand’s Mics Ensure Smooth, Intelligible Sound for St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland
PORTLAND, OR – St. Mary’s Cathedral is one of the most popular and beautiful Catholic churches in the Portland area. It serves as its parish’s diocese, hosting weekly masses, services and sometimes daily visits for a large, devoted congregation. The church needed to ensure its audio-visual equipment could convey its important messages in a smooth, intelligible manner—something that was previously lacking due its domed cathedral and marble walls. When it came time for an AV upgrade, St. Mary’s turned to Alpha Sound, a leading AV installer in the Pacific Northwest. With 40 years’ experience, the Alpha Sound team was ready to tackle the live acoustical issues at the cathedral while also choosing equipment that would not impede the church’s elegant décor. To accomplish this, the installer selected more than 20 mics from DPA Microphones, the largest DPA install to-date in the area.
“Everything about this space is elegant and high-end,” says Devin Sheets, lead engineer, Alpha Sound. “They have gone to great lengths to beautify the space, and we wanted microphones that would complement the aesthestics of the church. The placement was also crucial, as they did not want any microphone stands regularly in the way.”
Built in 1925, St. Mary’s Cathedral has experienced concerns with its congregates not being able to clearly understand spoken word and the music portions of services due to the reverberant acoustics in the church. This also affected the livestreams of services, which have become an integral part of its offerings since the start of the pandemic. With these challenges, it was critical to choose mics that perform well, yet fade into the background to allow for the live masses and services to shine. Included among the many DPA mics at St. Mary’s are 4097 and 4098 goosenecks, 4099 instrument mics and 4080 miniatures, along with 4006C and 4011F pencil mics.
“In addition to eliminating the need for stands on a regular basis, there was an immediate requirement to solve the intelligibility issues both in the room and for the livestream,” continues Sheets. “The space is very reverberant, so we needed microphones that would sound as natural and clean as possible. This way, we could ensure that we were not compounding the inherent difficulties of the acoustics. There are also several fill speakers nearby, which frustrates the ability to achieve gain from the presenter microphones as they move about the venue. The DPA 4098 Gooseneck Podium Microphone and the DPA 4080 Miniature Cardioid Lavaliers are absolutely astonishing in terms of inherent gain before feedback. For the livestream, having dedicated pairs of microphones for the piano, organs and choir really help to clear up the sound when combined with the 4006C ambient mics in the center of the room to pick up audience responses.”
Alpha Sound also selected eight DPA 4097 CORE Micro Gooseneck Microphones hanging from the ceiling above the choir and above the front and rear organs, supported by a pair of DPA 4006C Omnidirectional mics for ambience. This setup gave the church the audio solutions it needed without sacrificing the visual appeal. The team also installed four DPA 4011F Cardioid Capsules on MMP-F Modular Active Booms and two 4011C mics on short stands for various special events where the choir changes and instruments were added. Two DPA 4099P Piano Microphones were also selected. The 4099P mics can be left inside the piano when the lid is closed for storage, eliminating the need to set the mics back up before each use.
DPA was initially chosen because of its impressive performance in past Alpha Sound installations. “Going this heavy with DPA was a really big step for our company; it means the brand really impressed us,” says Sheets. “We previously used DPA microphones with incredible results. The sonic quality really stuck in our minds. That, combined with the industry name recognition, made it obvious that we should be moving in the direction of DPA for our high-end clientele. The DPA 4098 Gooseneck Microphone was so impressive in a prior install that we amended the St. Mary’s quote to include this mic.”
The DPA microphones also work seamlessly with the rest of the equipment Alpha Sound selected for St. Mary’s Cathedral, which includes a Dante-enabled network with a Yamaha MRX7-D processor to ensure day-to-day operations perform without skipping a beat. A custom-decorated Nexo line array speaker system was additionally installed in the open air high above to enable maximum sound quality in what the team dubbed, “a difficult acoustic space for amplification.”
“In our opinion, you can’t buy better than DPA,” says Sheets. “People all around the world respect the brand and we know that it’s good. We’ve experienced the mics and we love them.”