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Lourdes undergoes a divine audio upgrade for millions of yearly visitors

A total of 70 APG iX8-Os outdoor loudspeakers and ten Active Audio StepArray column loudspeakers ensure efficient and serene audio for thousands of worshippers at one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage sites.

Nantes (France), 6th December 2023 – The Sanctuary of Lourdes stands as a beacon of faith, covering an impressive 53 hectares and 22 places of worship. A testament to time, history and devotion, the basilicas of Lourdes have seen over a century of prayers, worship and contemplation, drawing in six million pilgrims from around the world every year. In a contemporary transformation, the Sanctuary of Lourdes’ Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary recently embarked on a sonic journey to revamp its exterior and interior sound system with Active Audio and APG speakers from Arbane Groupe.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is the most important pilgrimage site in France. Built between 1883 and 1889, and consecrated in 1901, the Byzantine style basilica boasts impressive mosaics covering over 2000sqm and is capable of accommodating 1,500 worshippers.
After a record three decades of loyal service, the outdoor APG audio system, installed by local integrator Audiomaster Technologie, found itself showing the signs of its journey after weathering extreme temperatures (-10°C winters and +40°C summers), humidity and daily operation. It was time to bring a modern audio experience to the worshippers. “Thirty years ago, our engineers spent almost a year on the site to design and make the product exactly as the client wanted and I believe this is why the APG speakers lasted through the harsh weather conditions,” says Rodolphe Portet, technical sales engineer at Arbane Groupe. “It really is a great testimony to the quality of the product and the bespoke engineering efforts behind it.”
Audiomaster Technologie, a subsidiary of ACE EVENT GROUP,  rose to the challenge with a goal to revamp both the outside and the inside of the basilica with a sound system capable of ensuring perfect intelligibility for spiritual teachings, sermons and traditional Catholic music while respecting the basilica’s architecture, mosaics and decorations.
Following numerous series of tests and comparisons, Audiomaster Technologie once again turned to APG speakers, drawn by its warm audio and wide coverage, as well as having the manufacturer close by. “This close relationship between us and Arbane Groupe is very important for us. It allows to develop better projects by building upon the ideas from when we first started working together,” says Loïc Bourgain, engineering design officer at ACE EVENT GROUP.
Eric Grandmougin, marketing director at Arbane Groupe, believes another reason Audiomaster Technologie chose to work with Arbane Groupe once again was the ability to create bespoke speakers, explaining: “We could custom make the speaker’s colour to seamlessly merge with the environment and hide them from the pilgrims.” “We also organised demos to Audiomaster Technologie prior to the installation and created a 3D model showing how we’d cover the sound in the basilica, giving them a much better idea of what the end result would be,” adds Portet.
Audiomaster Technologie installed 70x APG iX8-O compact outdoor loudspeakers, embedding a two-way coaxial design, bass reflect and an IP54 rating. Thirty-six speakers were fitted to the lighting poles along the 421m-long main driveway. Sixteen loudspeakers graced the Rosary esplanade and an additional 16 units were positioned alongside the river and the sacred grotto. All speakers are powered by six Powersoft Quattrocanali 2404 DSP amplifiers coupled with a Xilica Solaro processor. The end user wanted to give people walking down the main street a more immersive and smooth sound experience, hence the decision to have no delay and install the loudspeakers facing each other to deliver the same sound everywhere at the same time.
Inside the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Audiomaster Technologie needed to transform the ageing sound system which was lacking intelligibility. “Thousands of pilgrims come from the other side of the world and for some it’s the journey of a lifetime. This is why great acoustics is crucial,” states Vincent Fernandez, head of the audiovisual department at Sanctuary of Lourdes. It was important to find discreet speakers that would not be noticeable by the pilgrims while ensuring perfect clarity. “The first aspect we considered was the visual element which led us to column speakers. We then needed directivity control to achieve a better speech transmission index,” explains Bourgain.
Portet agrees that aesthetic dimension was critical within the sacred space: “It was vital that the visitors wouldn’t notice the sound system so they could focus on the preaching and also to respect the historical location. The integrator did a fantastic job in hiding the speakers,” he explains.
Within the Sanctuary, Fernandez regarded the acoustics as the most important, stating: “Good acoustics can help with prayer. Visitors go there to attend mass, meditate and pray, and if the sound is not good, the worshippers will not be able to listen properly and therefore be disturbed.”
To achieve the aesthetics and high quality sound requirements, Audiomaster Technologie used four Active Audio StepArray 180P (1.8m long) column speakers and two StepArray 250P (2.5m). The StepArray range features digital and geometric radiation control (DGRC) patented technology and electronic directivity adjustment, ensuring precise directivity while remaining compact and secure.
“The presence of numerous surfaces meant that the number of loudspeakers had to be kept to a minimum, and called for precise directivity control to limit the impact of interfering sound,” describes Grandmougin.
To achieve this, Audiomaster Technologie separated the six Active Audio StepArray speakers in three groups: two StepArray 250P column speakers located at altar level to offer sufficient directivity control while respecting the layout constraints; two StepArray 180P located in the 30m long nave behind the area occupied by the dome to cover a more favourable acoustic environment; and two installed for the transepts to provide control and directivity while limiting reflections on the curved walls of the chapels. All speakers are powered by Active Audio MPA82000 amplifiers and a NUT audio processor, while a Powersoft Mezzo 322A amplifier is used for speaker monitoring. A Xilica Solaro processor handles the delay and equalisation settings.
According to Grandmougin, the entire sound system provides “identical coverage throughout the site and excellent intelligibility despite the very complex acoustic challenges.” Fernandez is extremely pleased with the final result, stating: “not only was the work carried out on schedule and equipment was integrated discreetly, the sanctuary’s sound system has greatly improved. The Sanctuary has a duty to provide a warm welcome to the worshippers, and that includes good acoustics.” 


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