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House of Worship Projects

Thomas S. Friedman • February 2019Installations • February 12, 2019


Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Moorestown, NJ


No matter what faith or style of service, all churches share a common goal — that of spreading the message. Some have a greater emphasis on spoken word; others rely more on music in any variety of styles, whether it be folk, liturgical, gospel or flat-out rock and roll. But these days, one thing that is common to all houses of worship is a need for a sound system that provides clarity to all worshipers.

With that in mind, we present some recent installation projects, with both whole system and incremental upgrades. Each of these took a different route in their approach, proving there are numerous solutions to any audio problem — large or small — for any sanctuary.


The church’s design — with its five main domes and mosaic tiled walls — created reverberation problems.

Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross
Belmont, CA

The ICONYX system solved the intelligibility issues and blended with the décor.

Since its construction and dedication in 1964, the Byzantine-style sanctuary of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross has graced the city of Belmont, CA. The church’s cruciform design features a center dome, surrounded by four half-domes, all with hard surfaces, which focus sound in a way that works very well for choir, organ, and chanting.

Spoken-word intelligibility is another matter, however. “Most of the Orthodox liturgy is chanted,” notes parishioner Jim Smith. “There’s a lot of music, and that’s usually not a problem. But there are times during the service where Father speaks to the congregation, and nobody could understand what he was saying.”

“Every Sunday people were telling me that they couldn’t understand what I was saying in the sermon,” confirms Reverend Father Peter Salmas, who has served as pastor since 1988. “We did a lot of different things to try to improve the sound, and although the volume went up, the intelligibility did not change.”

After several different sound systems disappointed, the church called South San Francisco-based event production and system integration firm Spider Ranch Productions and acoustics and integration firm Layer 8. They specified a new loudspeaker system based on Renkus-Heinz ICONYX Gen5-series IC24-RN digitally steered arrays.

“I could immediately see this would be an acoustically challenging space, with those domes and acoustically hard spaces,” observes Layer 8 president Rocky Giannetta. “The space sounds about five times larger than it actually is,” details Spider Ranch Productions senior engineer Mark Sweet. “Even when one person is speaking to another from five or 10 feet away, many times it’s problematic.” Mulling over the challenges, Sweet remembered a successful demonstration he did with ICONYX several years earlier, in a different church. “In a room that seated about 1,500 people, ICONYX was amazing,” he recalls. “Even at 100 feet, the source sounded like it was only about 10 feet away. I knew if ICONYX would work in that room, it would work effectively in this room.”

The Renkus-Heinz IC24-RN loudspeakers chosen for the Church of the Holy Cross employ 24 4-inch coaxial transducers, each with three tweeters. Each coaxial transducer has a dedicated power amplifier and DSP channel. One array can generate up to 12 steerable beams, each of which can be individually shaped and aimed. As a result, sound could be directed at the church’s pews and away from the reflective surfaces. The ICONYX’s precise steering, combined with clarity, provided the speech intelligibility the church had sought for so many years. “The feedback we’ve gotten from the congregation has been that it’s a night-and-day difference,” Smith reports.

“I was very impressed with the fact that no matter where you sit in the church, the sound is not only intelligible, but it seems that the volume of the sound and the quality of the sound are the same,” praises Father Peter. “It doesn’t diminish if you are in the first pew or the last pew. When we started using the Renkus-Heinz system, it was the first time in the nearly 30 years that I’ve been here that the congregation finally understood what I was saying.”

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross

  • Key Components: R-H ICONYX Gen5 Series
  • Integrator: Spider Ranch Productions/Layer 8, Inc.


Nils Lorvick, a Church at Viera volunteer, mixes FOH on the dLive S7000 surface

Church at Viera
Melbourne, FL

A volunteer mixes a youth center rehearsal on the SQ-6

The Church at Viera holds four modern worship services in two different venues each week using Allen & Heath dLive, GLD and SQ Series mixers for FOH and streaming broadcast and a ME-1 Personal Mixing System for monitoring.

Production director Eli Higginbotham, alongside technical director Brock West, leads Church at Viera’s production team. “We had an older digital mixer with reliability issues,” Brock said. “So, when I came onboard, I looked for a replacement. We considered several brands but there wasn’t another console in the same class and price range as the dLive.” The church has standardized on Allen & Heath digital mixers for FOH, broadcast and their youth center. “The architecture is very similar, so it’s easy to train a volunteer to mix in one space and then move them to another,” said Eli.

Church at Viera’s dLive includes an S7000 Surface and DM64 MixRack both located at FOH. Two DX168 Expanders accept sources on stage. Wireless mic receivers, audio from video and Ableton Live tracks connect to the DM64 at FOH. An SQ-6 Digital Mixer serves the church’s youth center supplemented by an AR2412 AudioRack. A GLD-112 digital mixer handles streaming broadcast mixes for the church’s website. Dante cards in each mixer implement audio networking throughout the church’s systems.

Brock West trains the Church at Viera’s production team volunteers. “We want them to be engaged with the band and be in tune with what’s happening on stage,” he said. Each FOH volunteer starts from a personal dLive scene and uses layers to manage as many as 60 sources adding dLive internal compressors, EQ and effects where needed. Eli added, “The quality of the dynamics and effects built into the dLive are so superior that we don’t need external effects. We have world-class tools sitting at our fingertips.”

A total of 12 ME-1 Personal Mixers with a ME-U Hub form what Brock and Eli describe as a “killer” monitoring system. Six ME-1s, located backstage, feed wireless IEM’s for vocalists who can adjust their mix during rehearsals. The other six serve static locations, like the drum enclosure and keyboard rig. Eli commented, “When we installed the dLive, the congregation erupted with positive comments about the sonic quality and I kept hearing this for months. The dLive is warm and musical and I love it. Even if I had $100,000 to buy another mixer, I don’t think I would do it.”

The Church at Viera

  • Key Components: Allen & Heath dLive, GLD and SQ Series mixers
  • Integrator: Guitar Center Pro


Main sanctuary at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Moorestown, NJ

OurLady of Good Counsel Church
Moorestown, NJ

Panaray MSA12X (on pillar) blends into the architecture

Founded in the 19th century, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It reflects the traditional basilica-type design of Catholic churches, with soaring ceilings supported by tall pillars that can produce pleasing reverberation for the ear to enjoy — except when it comes to speech intelligibility, a traditional challenge in this type of building. So, as part of a larger building renovation project, the church brought in AV systems integrator Whitaker Brothers North to design and install a new sound system.

The installation employs the Bose Professional Panaray MSA12X self-powered digital beam-steering loudspeaker as its core solution, with a range of other Bose Pro products, including FreeSpace speakers and ControlSpace processors. The project was installed and on-site managed by Whitaker Brothers’ long-term senior tech Doug Taylor.

“Churches of this type have acoustical and aesthetic challenges that sound systems have to address,” explains Whitaker Brothers North founder and president Kevin Whitaker, Sr. “They need to address speech intelligibility but also need to do so without impeding sightlines or taking away from the design of the church. There aren’t many sound systems that can do all of that. We chose Bose.”

Seven of the MSA12X loudspeakers are mounted on the columns of the church, six facing the congregation and one on the reverse side of a front column acting as a regional monitor for everyone on the altar. These are managed by a Bose ControlSpace ESP-1240 processor, accessed by a ControlSpace CC-64 wall-mount control center. In addition, the choir loft in the rear of the church now has its own sound system: a pair of Bose Panaray 402 Series IV full-range-driver arrays and PowerShare PS602 amp installed as a separate choir P.A., with a pair of Bose FreeSpace DS-16 speakers used as monitors for the choir. In the church’s elementary school, where a large space is used as both a gym and an auditorium, two MA12EX speakers per side, are mounted at the stage’s proscenium, along with a pair of Bose MB210 compact subwoofers.

“Speech intelligibility had been a problem for some time, as was even coverage,” says Kevin Whitaker, Jr., the founder’s son and company operations manager. “The Panaray MSA12X came along at just the right time — we needed the kind of coverage it could provide but we had to keep the speakers mounted higher on the columns for aesthetic reasons.”

The Panaray MSA12X articulated array configuration allows wide, 160-degree horizontal coverage, with vertical angles of up to 40 degrees and vertical beam steering angles of ±20 degrees. Kevin Sr. notes, “The MSA12X array gave us more flexibility for speaker placement and greater control over the coverage area, and solved all of the challenges the church faced.”

Meanwhile, the school’s combined gym/auditorium had been plagued by both speech intelligibility and feedback issues. “Now, with the MA12EX modular line arrays installed,” says Kevin Jr., “speech is crystal clear and feedback is just a bad memory.

Kevin Sr. adds, “That space is used for multiple purposes, everything from school plays to overflow for holiday masses, to basketball,” adds Kevin Sr., noting ball guards were installed in front of the loudspeakers to protect against errant passes. “Operation of the sound system is simple and user-friendly — anyone who needs to use the space can easily operate the sound system. The whole thing was a breeze — the installation was completed on time and on budget, and it exceeded the church’s aesthetic expectations.”

Any former sound system components with any life left were cleaned and donated to a non-profit organization for use in Haiti. “In fact, the old system is on its way to Port-au-Prince as we speak,” says Kevin Sr. “It’s a great outcome for everyone.”

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church

  • Key Components: Bose Panaray
  • Integrator: Whitaker Brothers North


The wide sanctuary is covered by a 160° center cluster and two side fills for the outer edges.

Christ the King Vineyard Church
North Olmstead, OH

Christ the King Vineyard Church recently completed an extensive renovation, including a sound reinforcement upgrade. The new system included a PreSonus WorxAudio X5i-P powered compact line array, an X118i-P powered sub and WorxAudio Wave Series W-12Ai powered speakers. Additionally, the existing digital mixer was replaced with the PreSonus StudioLive 32 Series III console and two PreSonus EarMix 16M personal monitor mixers.

Breeze Stage and Studio LLC of Jensen Beach, FL, an AV design/build firm owned and operated by Jennifer Breeze Timmerman, was contracted to design and deploy the new SR system. After consulting with church leadership, Timmerman deployed a combination of line array and point source loudspeakers to fill the uniquely shaped sanctuary.

“The sanctuary at Christ the King Vineyard Church is very unique,” she says. “It’s a triangle-shaped hall, with each of the three sides of the room measuring approximately 110 feet. The stage spans the majority of one of those three walls and faces the rear corner of the room at a distance of 95 feet. Seating is moveable, with a capacity for approximately 400 worshippers.”

Services are contemporary in nature. There is a full worship band with drums, multiple guitars, keyboards, bass and percussion — along with a vocal team. “It was crucial that the new system deliver a high level of speech intelligibility and first-rate music reproduction characteristics. This ultimately led us to select the PreSonus WorxAudio product line.”

Timmerman and her team flew a X5i-P powered all-in-one compact line array, attached under a WorxAudio X118i-P powered sub, positioned over the front center area of the stage. For sidefill, two suspended Wave Series W-12Ai powered high-efficiency point-source speakers hang left and right to provide even coverage to the entire room.

While most of the people on stage during services are outfitted with wireless in-ear monitoring systems, the drummer and percussionist are now use a PreSonus EarMix 16M 16 x 2 AVB-networked personal monitor mixer. “These monitor mixers are ideal for those two musicians,” Timmerman reports, “as they provide greater ability to fine-tune what’s important to them while also ensuring plenty of level for their headphones.”

“With the old SR system, members of the congregation complained about poor coverage and lack of intelligibility. As the WorxAudio X5i-P has an unusually broad 160-degree horizontal dispersion pattern, this single speaker system covers most of the room’s approximately 180-degree span. With the W-12Ai powered speakers, we were able to comfortably cover the extreme sides of the room—knowing these two would carry the same great sound as the center cluster. This combination provides even coverage that was sorely needed with great intelligibility and natural sounding music reproduction. Further, the single X118i-P subwoofer packs plenty of punch and does a great job of filling in the bottom-end of the frequency spectrum.”

The project was completed in August 2018 and since that time the new system has performed exceptionally well. “Everyone at the church is very pleased,” Timmerman reports. “The coverage is even and the sound is amazing. No matter where one happens to be seated, the entire congregation can understand the presenters when they speak, which wasn’t the case prior to installation. And the new StudioLive console has given the church more flexibility, with an easier interface, which means their volunteers can maximize their performance as sound engineers.”

Christ the King Vineyard Church

  • Capacity: 400
  • Key Components: PreSonus WorxAudio speakers, StudioLive Series III console, EarMix 16M monitoring
  • Integrator: Breeze Stage and Studio LLC



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