2 September 2022

Heavenly voices of Renkus-Heinz

This is CUK’s first installation of Renkus-Heinz products since taking over the distribution of this widely respected Californian brand. It offers CUK an alternative to point source and line array, and the means to demonstrate why the steerable column is the right solution for challenging acoustics like this.

The good citizens of Gloucestershire may now, more than ever, enjoy every syllable with pinpoint accuracy in the heart of Cirencester, no matter how dispersed they may be inside one of the biggest parish churches in England. The words, like the stone, may be ancient, but the sound is new-born.

This project was a benchmark for Staffordshire-based event and installation specialist Novum Audio Visual and a typical illustration of its symbiotic relationship with trustable UK-based supplier CUK Group. Their combined success made this project a grand success.

The long-running Christian Resources Exhibition in the UK is where representatives from St. John the Baptist first made contact with Novum. The client was concerned from the start about the visual impact of any sound reinforcement, so Novum purchased a colour scanner so that the nuanced tones of the stone could be precisely compared to the RAL colour codes that were readily available.

Just three Renkus-Heinz ICC36/3 column arrays from the US manufacturer’s Iconyx Compact line were installed in order to accomplish this with the utmost economy. Each column is 3m in length, enabling directional control from 150Hz and full steerability from 300Hz and above. “This goes a long way to ensuring low frequencies do not add excessive amounts of reverberation,” explains James Lawford, live sound channel manager at CUK Group, “by keeping sound off the ceiling and preventing a reduction in speech intelligibility. The columns themselves are completely self-powered, with 36 by 3” drivers, each having its own amplifier and DSP processing channel.”

This many drivers aid in concentrating the dispersion downwards as opposed to the forward shove of point source boxes or even conventional line arrays. Although, larger configurations of Iconyx Compact speakers, which are available in 1m to 4m modules, can accomplish a longer throw. “The physically tall column helps with the LF control,” continues Lawford, “and reflects Novum’s successful no-compromise tender. We didn’t have to ‘engineer’ value or cost as they did a great job of conveying the benefits of the concept. We were able to put in exactly the right solution for the space.”

“In fact, we did a demo of the point source here as an alternative option and to demonstrate the differences between that and a steerable column,” reveals Lawford. “You can tweak and delay it in a distributed system to give a good result. But you still haven’t solved the problem of sound going everywhere, and the more delays you put in the more you increase the amount of energy in the room. Yes, you can run them at a low level, but there’s no control over the LF. The 3m columns have such a strong down-tilt you get a 20dB-plus reduction in upward energy, resulting in a huge reduction in RT and an equally huge increase in clarity.”

Since obtaining the distribution of this renowned Californian brand, this is CUK’s first installation of Renkus-Heinz products. It provides CUK with an alternative to point source and line array technology and a way to illustrate why the steerable column is the best option for these challenging acoustics.

As a loyal client of CUK, this is therefore Novum’s first encounter with Renkus-Heinz, too. “Outstanding,” is the verdict of Stuart Madden, sales, and logistics at Novum. “I’m often sceptical about new shiny things, but when you hear for yourself how accurate the coverage is, and how much control you have across the full frequency bandwidth, you’re soon convinced. You can stand at the front, or 25m back, and the SPL is the same. We already have two more projects in mind that would be perfect for this solution.”

The Renkus-Heinz control software is known as RHAON II System Manager, and it includes BeamWare III, the most recent beam-steering calculation and simulation program from the company. It supports many protocols, including Dante, which is used here. ICONYX speakers can be managed as Lawford says thanks to its UniBeam technology.

“The RHAON graph shows that this system is flat with 3dB maximum variance from 2m to 25m right across the midrange,” he confirms. “This is the large bulk of the frequency range of speech. Even right down at 250Hz the system is within 4dB front to back and the energy has been reduced off-axis; you can see how effective the reduction in the vertical spill is”.

“At the top end, it’s an almost flat line of SPL front to back. What is telling is that during demos we deliberately carry out extremely minimal setup and get excellent results that are compelling for the customer. Then during the system commissioning phase, which is a service we offer at CUK, we can optimise things further and get something amazing for the end user.”

For Novum’s part, Stuart Madden confirms that simplicity is essential in most HOW applications. “All of our touchscreen controls are custom-made to make it as easy as possible for the user,” he says, “and if you’re not careful the technology can scare the uninitiated! The home screen here is literally three buttons, and that’s what gives them confidence. There’s a lot of clever stuff going on, but it doesn’t overwhelm you. For example, it’s easy to mute the goosenecks on the lecterns when they’re not being used, and it’s the same with the lapels and the handhelds.”

“They blend in so well,” Lawford points out, “the main comment from visitors is ‘where’s the sound coming from? This church is the heart of the community,” reflects Madden, “with people flowing in and out every day. That’s why it was so important to achieve a sound system that captures everything that’s going on as accurately as possible.”