Pray for perfection: Inavation Awards 2023 House of Worship winner

When it comes to catering to the needs of a diverse, interfaith community, nothing but perfection will do. Reece Webb discovers how Auris Populi delivered an award-winning house of worship project.

Located in Awali, Bahrain, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia stands tall as a unique and shining jewel rising from the desert sands. Believed to be the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the Arabian peninsula, this architecturally-distinct marvel is home to both a cathedral and auditorium, boasting capacity for up to 2,300 people.

Officially inaugurated in December 2021 by the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the new cathedral required a comprehensive AV system that provided functionality without harming the traditional interior aesthetics that worshippers expect.

Enter Auris Populi, an Italybased AV integrator tasked with bringing this project to life. This cathedral would go on to take home the Inavation Award for the House of Worship category in 2023.

Marco Itta, AV designer, Auris Populi, explains: “We worked with the architect who was involved with this project, Mattia Del Prete. He contacted me to be the electro-acoustical designer on this project. At the beginning, our job was only to design the system, not to carry out the installation. We did the design, purchased all the materials and carried out the installation ourselves.”

The newly constructed cathedral and auditorium required a state-of-the-art sound system to meet the needs of its diverse congregation. The cathedral wanted a system that was compatible with the Roman Catholic Church’s traditions: a powerful but unobtrusive sound system. For a traditional Roman Catholic audience, this would mean catering for clear vocals and some instruments, while also meeting the needs of other groups within the congregation.

Itta explains: “The Christian community in Bahrain is from all over the world: India, the Philippines, Korea, Europe and more. The cathedral wanted a mix between an AV system for conventional Catholic requirements and something a bit more efficient. In the liturgy of Indian worship for example, they use a lot of instruments like drums and keyboards, so they wanted a full range system to play all of these instruments. At the same time, they wanted something smaller than a line array system for aesthetical reasons.”

To accomplish this, Auris Populi turned to a d&b audiotechnik audio system, relying on xC column loudspeakers. The cathedral’s left and right sections are supported by two 24C model column loudspeakers, with 24CEs for extension, providing directivity in the medium frequency range. This system is installed parallel to the wall and is equipped with an internal pitch mechanism that enables the speaker to aim downwards while remaining in its vertical position.

Under the balcony, 4S loudspeakers are placed along the external perimeter, with the speakers’ small footprint providing discretion for aesthetics without compromising on sound quality. The balcony itself is equipped with twelve point source speakers, also 4S models, installed in a frontal position.

d&b’s 16C two column loudspeakers were also used in the presbytery, offering reduced dimensions and punchy sound for closer coverage. Lastly, the bishop’s throne is supported by one 4S point source loudspeaker for spoken word coverage. The loudspeakers are installed in purpose specific racks, offering flexible use over some or all of the system as required.

“We have the main system in a rack in the back of the church, this is turned on automatically and is used for vocals and the organ”, says Itta. “We placed a second rack with another mixer in the choir section, with another in the upper tier, so each rack could use the system partially or completely with their own mixer.”

The loudspeakers are also colour matched to the cathedral’s stone, blending in with the cathedral’s interior to allow worshippers to focus on the lavish interior architecture without being distracted by obtrusive equipment.

For spoken word and vocal pickup, four Earthworks FM 550 gooseneck microphones were selected due to their small dimensions which made them easy to blend in with the architecture.

The system is managed by a Yamaha MRX7D digital control matrix, located in the auditorium. This matrix is capable of handling up to 16 analogue or digital channels. Additionally, a Yamaha TIO 1608D remote preamplifier unit is provided for the choir microphones, accessible via Dante network on TCP/IP protocol.

Additionally, each Earthworks microphone can be managed automatically via Dugan modules within the Yamaha MRX digital control matrix. “The microphones are rated for 139 dB, so if you sing or speak, the capsule is still efficient. It is a mix between a good mic for music and a podium microphone” says Itta.

For additional acoustic support, d&b 12S-SUB subwoofers were installed to cover the low range of the system.

Itta adds: “When we deliver a system, we give the end user a number of presets, so that the system can be adjusted to meet the different needs of the cathedral. We took measurements and adjusted the coverage for when the cathedral is empty, half full and full. “The system is also remotely controlled, so that the client can call us if there is any problem. It’s a benefit for us and for them.”

Projecting faith

While the audio complement of this installation was paramount, a projector setup also sits at the heart of this installation. Three ScreenLine motorised projection screens are discreetly installed inside the false ceiling of the cathedral, keeping them sufficiently out of sight when not in use.

“When it’s the mass for the Lebanese people, they don’t want to see screens and projectors as they do not use them”, explains Itta, “However, if the Filipino community is using the space, they use projection to display the readings, all the hymns, psalms etc. so that people can follow from the screen.”

"The most critical thing was to design the project without seeing the cathedral at all." - Marco Itta, Auris Populi

An Optoma ZU660 laser projector is used in combination with the ScreenLine screens, with a PC for PowerPoint presentation installed in the choir area. A Roland XS-62 is also installed to manage the distribution of the signal to the projectors.

PTZ Optics cameras are used with the NDI protocol, enabling the live streaming of proceedings via vMix software. Itta clarifies: “The cameras are used to send a live feed to the auditorium. There is one camera in the auditorium that sends footage of live proceedings to the cathedral itself.”

A Neets control platform sits at the centre of the installation, offering remote control of all devices that make up the system. The control architecture is based on Ethernet infrastructure to enable access from anywhere in the network via dedicated touchscreen control panels or via WiFi through mobile device apps.

“The Neets control brain allows control of not only audio but also the lighting system, projectors, monitors, video system matrix and PTZ cameras”, says Itta, “The control platform controls the camera presets and the up/down control of the projector. For the user, one click on the touchscreen and the screen goes down, the cameras go on and that’s it.

“You can also choose the camera feed through the Roland matrix, everything is NDI or SDI. We also installed two screens in the baby changing room to allow adults to view what they want to see, either the PowerPoint presentation or the cameras.” Auris Populi decided to divide video and audio, using the control system by Yamaha due to its enhanced security. Itta clarifies: “You don’t have a touchscreen; you have a remote control straight into the matrix and it always works. The audio doesn’t have any problems. We had to play it safe with this installation, the cathedral needed a stable system.”

Virtual sound

Auris Populi took this project on during the height of the Covid pandemic and was faced with designing a system for a building that had not been constructed at the time that Itta’s team was brought on board. Itta explains: “In order to choose the right speaker with the right SPL on average and without compromising the quality of the sound, we had to test products in a virtual environment through software. We needed several calculations with different software, as we had to be sure that the SPL and the SPI was correct.

The system is also remotely controlled, so that the client can call us if there is any problem. It’s a benefit for us and for them." - Marco Itta, Auris Populi  

“The most critical thing was to design the project without seeing the cathedral at all. We ran tests with different software to work out an average RT60 (measurement of sound decay over time by 60 dB) so that the calculation wasn’t an average but was precise. This was the most difficult part of the project.

The project was ongoing all throughout Covid, and I flew frequently to Bahrain. Once the cables were inside the conduit, there was no way to move it as all the walls were covered in marble. Everything had to be perfect.”

Reflecting on this project, Itta’s team delivered a system that not only met the needs of the cathedral and its congregation, but also stood out as the Inavation Awards 2023 winner for the House of Worship category.

Itta closes: “The satisfaction to work with d&b audiotechnik was fantastic. This was the right project to work with their products and since then, we are a dealer in Italy [for d&b]. We were lucky to be part of this project, and we worked on this design for over a year, continuously changing with the architect’s needs and the client’s needs. “When we heard the system for the first time, we were seriously impressed, because it was tough to work on this project throughout the pandemic.”  



d&b audiotechnik Xs PA loudspeakers, xC series column loudspeakers,12SSUB subwoofers

Earthworks FM550 microphones

Yamaha MRX7D digital control matrix, TIO1608D remote preamplifier


Optoma ZU660AL laser projector

PTZ Optics cameras

Screenline motorised projection screens


Neets remotecontrol platform

Roland XS-62 video switcher 


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