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On The Wings Of An Angel

Shure UHF-R wireless tames RF interference in historic downtown LA cathedral

LOS ANGELES, CA–Rising majestically within the steel and concrete canyons of downtown LA, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels fulfills the spiritual needs of over four million Catholics. As the heart and soul of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, it leaves footsteps for all 287 parish churches in the surrounding communities to follow, and is the place where Archbishop Roger Cardinal Mahony celebrates the major liturgies of the year.

“Its importance among the clergy and laity alike can’t be underscored enough,” Bill Lightner says with a reverence transcending his professional role at the church, which has been to help meet and maintain systems integration goals for the past six years. “That’s why we take every step humanly possible to insure that the sanctuary’s audio system delivers premium sound with rock-solid reliability.”

As VP of sales at Santa Clarita, CA-based AMT Systems Inc., Lightner walked into the church in the early days of this decade to launch a comprehensive new systems build. Serving the congregation well overall for a successive number of years, the housewide system AMT ultimately built remains largely as it was constructed in 2001 with one exception: Its wireless systems.

“The wireless systems were state-of-the-art when they were put in, but along with the growing number of HDTV channels operating here in LA, interference grew at an alarming rate,” Lightner relates. “While there is an amazing array of hardwired microphone locations located in the church, everyone uses wireless except for those in the choir loft. With the onslaught of digital television, it didn’t take too long before frustrations were constant. It became a serious fight to keep the system running, and the church was clearly not winning.”

Aided by AMT VP of Systems Integration Criss Niemann, Lightner’s search for a solution to the problem led to the selection of eight channels of UHF-R wireless from Niles, IL-based Shure Inc. Deployed using a combination of bodypack and handheld transmitters, the UHF-R systems offered the application 2,400 selectable frequencies over a 60 MHz bandwidth. Along with this expansive window of operation, UHF-R also provided the benefits of Shure’s proprietary Advanced Track Tuning Filtering Technology to maximize isolation from interference, and an automatic frequency selection feature with group scan that was used to coordinate frequencies within the sanctuary.

“We were pretty dazzled by the automatic frequency selection process,” Bill Lightner admits. “On the first press of the button we found 20 open frequencies. We chose the eight we needed from that group, set the system, and haven’t had any problem with any interference at all. I say that without having any wood to knock on too. We’re really comfortable with the systems–they work as advertised.”

Along with an end to the sanctuary’s RF interference dilemma, Lightner is also happy to report that sound quality has gone up as well. “We monitored everything very closely, and found that we were obtaining a much better signal at the receivers,” he adds. “Everyone also agreed that the systems just sounded better as well. Making this move resulted in about as much of a win-win situation as you could hope to find. Things are running smoothly, just like on the wings of an angel.”

Photo available upon request

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