As with all large cathedrals, Westminster Abbey covers a huge area and has many flat surfaces, which make for a highly reverberant acoustic space. Itâ€˜s a tribute to all involved, therefore, that the installation and commissioning of the new system was carried out with no impact on the building's daily services, the many other events which take place there, and the large number of visitors.
At the heart of the audio system are two Yamaha DME64N digital mixing engines, installed in the main rack. These are connected locally to Yamaha AD8HR microphone input modules and Yamaha DA824 line outputs. Five remote equipment racks contain a number of Yamaha DME24N and DME8o-C units, with audio connections from the user rack via CobraNet and a fiber optic â€˜backbone' comprised of two multiâ€‘core fiiber, installed between all of the rack locations and forming two continuous rings to provide full redundancy. The decision to employ multiple racks was taken to localize cabling wherever possible, avoiding long runs between areas where cable routes did not exist and would be difficult to create because of the Abbey â€˜s historic structure.
Overall control of the system is by The Abbeyâ€˜s Vergers using Crestron touch screens, which have been installed in various areas to maximize flexibility. A further touch screen by the organ console gives control of the audio and video elements that are specific to the organist. In addition, the system can be controlled by a portable screen that can be plugged in at a number of locations, along with a wireless touch screen that can be used throughout the main areas of the building. The Crestron AV2 processor also provides control over other elements of the installation such as CCTV cameras, audio and video recording, and playback equipment.
Audio inputs to the system include 32 wired microphone circuits in key areas, each of which can be switched on and off locally by the user, or by remotely using any of the touch screens, which specific electronics to interface with the Yamaha DMEs and Crestron system. There are also six wireless lapel mics, two wireless handhelds and a paging microphone at the user rack.
There are no less than 47 zones of loudspeaker coverage, including external sockets by the Abbey â€˜s north and west doors to enable standâ€‘mounted loudspeakers to be connected to the system. A range of presets enable the loudspeaker zones for regular services to be selected via the touch screens. The zones are shown as a mimic of the building, allowing any one or more to be manually selected.
Other input and output options include a solid-state audio recorder, plus CD and DVD units, the record and playback functions for all of which are accessible via the touch screens. The system also includes a number of preâ€‘recorded announcements for various emergency situations. Once an announcement is selected, it is automatically fed to all loudspeaker zones. Auxiliary inputs and outputs are also provided to enable external equipment to be connected, while an Internet link allows the system to be remotely monitored and managed.
A separate system is installed to reinforce the sound of the choir for the congregation in the nave. With a screen between the two areas acting as a sound barrier, microphones suspended above the choir stalls feed audio to a pair of loudspeakers mounted at organ loft level at each end of the screen, facing the nave.
Further ancillary systems connected to the main system are installed in the Jericho Chamber, the Ringing Chamber and St Margaret â€˜s Church (which stands between the Abbey and the House of Commons). Completed ahead of Thanksgiving service which marked the 450th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth I granting a Royal Charter to the Abbey in 1560, the new system has already seen a great deal of use for the Abbey â€˜s regular services, as well as concerts, drama performances, lectures and television broadcasts….and just in time for The Royal Wedding.
For more information on the Yamaha DME System, visit www.yamahaca.com.