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Houses of Worship

by Thomas S. Friedman • in
  • Installations
  • September 2019
• Created: September 11, 2019

The new 2,000-capacity auditorium at Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch, GA.

Once a simple, set-and-forget production, sound reinforcement sound can be a tough assignment. Worship services range from traditional piano/organ with voices to high-SPL praise bands at rock concert levels; or with many churches, it may be a combination of the two, serving different congregations just hours apart. Unfortunately, few H.O.W. spaces are designed with acoustical needs in mind, often occurring in over-reverberant spaces with extensive use of wood, glass, marble and other lovely — though acoustically difficult — treatments.

Fortunately, today’s technologies have made enabled the creation of worship environments with high intelligibility, wide bandwidth, superb coverage, controlled dispersion and mix tools that allow the FOH engineer to translate the power of the word to the entire congregation, whether seated near the altar or in the last row. And unlike a thumping club system, in this case, the clarity of the message is everything.

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

Allen & Heath dLive consoles handle the mix for the L-Acoustics speakers at FOH and monitor positions at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA

A mainstay of the community since its founding in the mid-20th century, the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (FABC) even withstood Hurricane Katrina in 2005, moving back into its repaired 8th Ward sanctuary soon after the waters receded.

But a growing congregation required expanding to a new $35-million, 126,000-square-foot sanctuary with a 132-foot tower on a 25-acre lot near its original location. Nashville-based integrator Mankin Media Systems designed and installed an L-Acoustics long-throw Kara system for the 3,500-seat sanctuary.

The church’s new Kara sound system consists of three hangs of 11 Kara(i) boxes each. Low-end is supported by six floor-stacked KS28 double-18 subwoofers plus arrays of four SM18i subs flown next to the left/right Kara hangs. Two short-throw X8 extended-bandwidth loudspeakers provide front fill, while a pair of medium-throw ARCS Wide speakers flown behind the SB18i serve as choir monitors. A dozen LA4X and two LA12X amplified controllers power and process the entire system.

“The challenge was the sheer size of the new sanctuary, which also has a 175-seat choir loft and massive stage with a thrust and an orchestra pit,” says Mankin Media president and founder Ben Mankin. “The Kara loudspeakers were the perfect solution. The curve of the line array perfectly follows the rake of the seating, the throw of the Kara is excellent for distance in a large church, and using Soundvision software — which we use for everything — we were able to design and tune the system to cover every seat in the venue within less than 2 dB of any other seat.”

The church’s media director, Jestin J. Quiett, also saw the long-term potential for the church’s in the new sound system. “Moving from the old building to the new building is night and day,” he comments. “The technical tools we have now can help us grow for a long time, and the new audio system is amazing. There’s not a bad seat in the room.”

Mankin added, “In fact, after hearing the new system one of the pastors said, jokingly, ‘We’d better get some new singers, because everyone is going to hear every note through this sound system.’ I understand what he meant, though: the L-Acoustics sound system lets you hear every nuance of what’s coming from the stage. For a church with a message, that’s just what it needs.”

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

  • Capacity: 3,500
  • Key Components: L-Acoustics Kara line array; Allen & Heath dLive consoles
  • Integrator: Mankin Media

 

Christ Place Church installed a Meyer Sound Lyon line array system.

Christ Place Church, Flowery Branch, GA

Christ Place Church is celebrating its new 2,000-seat worship auditorium. The complete AVL technology package in this Atlanta area sanctuary features a Meyer Sound LYON line array system, provided by Production/co of nearby Chestnut Mountain, GA, under the direction of VP Dustin Whitt.

“As a house of worship, our number one priority is speech intelligibility,” says Christ Place Church’s production director, Robert Boley. “In our listening sessions, we would listen to a variety of worship music, but when it came time to run the pastor’s voice through the Meyer Sound system, it was an ‘Oh, wow, that’s the one’ moment for me. I was sold immediately.”

The new structure was designed to allow for easy expansion to 3,500 seats by building out from the back wall. This possibility was another factor tilting toward a LYON solution.

“We were originally looking at Meyer’s Leopard boxes, but then Dustin Whitt showed us how with Lyon we could simply add a box or two per side, adjust the splay angles, tweak the processing and we would be good to go,” says Boley. “We won’t have to replace the whole P.A. or hang delays.”

The Christ Place system is built around two arrays of seven-each Lyon line array loudspeakers with four 1100-LFC low frequency control elements for deep bass. Also included are four UPQ-2P fill speakers, two Galaxy 816 processors and RMServer for comprehensive real-time monitoring.

Boley also explained how the linearity and transparency of the Meyer system allowed the church to save a considerable sum on broadcast facilities. “We do a live stream of our services, and the Meyer system is so transparent that the house mix translates very well into broadcast. That was huge for us, as we saved money on a separate broadcast console, and also I don’t always have an A2 or A3 available to do a dedicated broadcast mix.”

Since opening day, the new system has supported a number of the church’s own special events as well as concerts by Christian guest artists such as Tim Hawkins and Phil Wickham. “Everybody here from the senior pastor on down is extremely pleased with what they are hearing. They didn’t realize how much difference a good loudspeaker system could make,” Boley concludes.

Christ Place Church

  • Capacity: 2,000
  • Key Components: Meyer Sound Lyon line array
  • Integrator: Production/co

 

The new, larger sanctuary features a sound system from Kling & Freitag.

Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, Milwaukee, WI

Presented with a way to expand its ministry by purchasing a large central-city church complex — including traditional auditorium, school and administration buildings — Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church jumped at the opportunity. Milwaukee-based integrator Sven Pro supported the church’s extensive renovation efforts by designing and installing new AV systems through the upgraded worship facilities.

Because the church’s dynamic, charismatic worship service consists of both traditional and modern gospel music and preaching, a top-quality audio system was needed. In addition, with the auditorium’s high, vaulted reverberant space with an arched and domed ceiling that looms more than 60 feet tall, a highly directional speaker system was imperative. And because the church wanted to preserve and improve on the architecture as much as possible, an architecturally pleasing speaker system was also necessary.

The solution came in the form of the Passio line from German manufacturer Kling & Freitag. The system consists of four colored-matched Passio full-range speakers in sets of two with delay rings along with four color-matched Passio SUB 15 subwoofers for maximum bass impact. The Passio elements are compact, high-performance loudspeakers with dual 5-inch woofers, making them hardly noticeable on the walls of the auditorium. They also provides the directivity necessary in the reverberant space. The Passio SUB 15 subwoofer is a long-excursion, single-15 subwoofer in a compact enclosure. The entire system is powered by three Lab.gruppen IPD2400 amplifiers that also provide limiting and system EQ. Tannoy speakers driven by additional Lab.gruppen amps handle overflow areas.

Given the compact dimensions of the Kling & Freitag speakers, some church members were apprehensive about whether they would be sufficient. They were quickly reassured when they heard a full, rich sound reproducing choir, bass, keyboards and an electronic drum set.

Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church

  • Capacity: 350
  • Key Components: Kling & Freitag
  • Integrator: Sven Pro

 

3Crosses Church has been equipped with an EAW Anya system.

3Crosses Church, Castro Valley, CA

The 3Crosses Church was founded in1937 and in the late-1960s, moved from Oakland to a new building in nearby Castro Valley. In 2019, the church decided to upgrade the 20-year-old sound system in its main sanctuary.

The church’s technical staff sought out design/build firm MGA, which has specialized in sound solutions for houses of worship since 1976, to propose a solution for its 1,500-seat auditorium that would improve coverage and deliver better LCR imaging. But what MGA came up with was not what the technical staff at 3Crosses expected.

“The biggest issue in the room was a lack of good, solid low-end,” notes 3Crosses audio director and crew chief Dave Staats. “It didn’t have punch, and it took a lot of EQ to even sound acceptable.” MGA founder Michael Garrison felt a traditional line array system couldn’t deliver the horizontal coverage needed in the wide room, and selected EAW’s Adaptive Systems.

Although skeptical of the choice, the 3Crosses team trusted MGA enough to visit Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso, TX, which had installed a similar system. “To walk into that room and hear what was possible was an experience of a lifetime,said 3Crosses technical director Patrick Brandon. “This was truly a revolutionary new way to hear sound in a room with all kinds of sonic problems.”

Brandon added “the system exceeded our goals, because not only could every person in the auditorium have the same experience, but every person in the room could have stereo.” The decision was made.

MGA installed 16 Anya 3-way full-range array modules, with five modules in each of the left and right arrays and six in the center array. LF was handled by four Otto adaptive subwoofers. Anya columns hang straight, with no splay, eliminating the need for pullbacks of any kind, and can achieve up to 70 degrees of coverage from each column. EAW’s Resolution 2 software controls the performance of Anya’s 22 drivers, each of which has its own DSP and amplifier channel, enabling Anya arrays to exhibit asymmetric, and sometimes downright radical, coverage patterns.

“Being able to keep all of the energy in the areas that you want it and out of the areas where you don’t is mind-blowing,” says Staats. “We have gone from being strict opponents of the idea to being proponents — you might even want to use the word ‘evangelists’ — of this technology.”

3Crosses Church

  • Capacity: 1,500
  • Key Components: EAW Anya line array
  • Integrator: MGA
  • Designer: Michael Garrison

 

Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204 amplifiers handle multiple zones within the church.

Church of the Presentation, Upper Saddle River, NJ

In 2017, the Church of the Presentation began construction on a $6-million design intended to open up more available seating for the burgeoning congregation. However, the design for the new worship space created acoustical challenges when it came to plotting out and installing the renovated church’s sound system. The plans included creating a moveable soundproof wall to separate the auditorium from the nave, or — when opened for larger church services — to supply seating for just over 1,200 congregants.

“The church, having a rectangular shape, has different acoustics when the moveable wall is there than it has when the wall is not there,” said Steve Minozzi, co-owner of Monte Bros., the Westchester, NY-based design and integration firm that performed the installation. “When the church and the auditorium are together, the sound system requires a whole different configuration of time alignment and EQ, because the two discrete spaces have different acoustical properties.”
Monte Bros. came onboard during the early stages of the renovation to pinpoint the most effective speaker locations and designed a hybrid point-source/distributed speaker sound system for each of the possible configurations distributed to over 12 zones, using 15,000 feet of wiring. “Due to the power required for that amount of wire, and because all of 12 zones had to be amplified independently, we needed an amp that could handle it,” Minozzi said. “We chose Powersoft.”
Using three Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204 4-channel amplifier platforms, Monte Bros. powered each zone with one discrete channel per zone. “We use the Quattrocanali amps because they are highly reliable and dependability is extremely important.” While reliability, power, build quality and top-notch customer support — are some of the main reasons Monte Bros. recommends Powersoft in many of its HOW installations, the platform offers an additional service.

Monte Bros. partnered with Powersoft to develop a technology to use the integrator’s proprietary monitoring system in Church of the Presentation, and to have the ability offer it to other houses of worship in future installations. “In a space as big as Church of the Presentation, an owner may not know when a speaker is not working until people start to complain,” Minozzi said. “We offer houses of worship the ability to monitor the sound system remotely, so, if a speaker goes down, we will be notified through the Ubiquiti cloud.”

The Ubiquiti network security feature — which Powersoft is currently fine-tuning for future Monte Bros. church installs using Quattrocanali amplifier platforms — will also allow audio streaming of church services through the Ubiquiti cloud.

Church of the Presentation

  • Capacity: 1,200
  • Key Components: Powersoft Quattrocanali 1204 amplifiers
  • Integrator: Monte Bros.

 

Trevor Wright, technical director at Road to Life Church.

Road to Life Church, Michigan City, IN

Road to Life Church (RTL), an evangelical Christian megachurch located in Michigan City, IN, led by pastors Dave and Vanessa Gargano, has chosen Waves products for its FOH, monitor and broadcast stations, including the eMotion LV1 Live Mixer. RTL’s 1,500-seat main campus is equipped with three eMotion LV1 consoles; a nearby 300-seat campus uses a portable A/V setup with LV1 that’s loaded in and torn down every Sunday.

“We are running a 64-channel eMotion LV1 mixer, a Waves SoundGrid Extreme Server, a DiGiGrid D SoundGrid-compatible audio interface and a switch at mixer,” says RTL technical director Trevor Wright about the system at the main campus. “All three LV1 mixers are connected to three DiGiGrid IOX audio interfaces on stage, and to a DiGiGrid MGB (coaxial MIDI interface). We run keys and Ableton off Waves SoundGrid drivers, going into the MGB to split to the other two desks.” The FOH board has four touch screens, the monitor mixer has two screens and the broadcast board has two as well with an Icon Platform M fader controller with a D2 display.

Wright explains Road to Life’s decision to go with eMotion LV1. “We wanted to update to a larger-format console from our X32, and I wanted to separate FOH, monitor and broadcast. We have always had issues with the bands’ in-ear monitors as well as at FOH — not enough gain, EQ issues because of frequencies we had to cut due to room sound, gating on drums (drummers hate gates!), over-compressed in-ears… We wanted a system that would help us solve all that. Being able to share I/Os across all three consoles, without extra hardware, was also very important.”

There were other reasons as well. “For me, being able to use eight plug-ins per LV1 mixer channel, available from within the mixer itself. The plug-ins are amazing, and I find myself spending less time changing EQ and compression week to week. Second, the SoundGrid drivers are simple, yet so powerful and easy to set up. No I.P. addresses, just download the driver, plug in Ethernet, and it’s there and works without hassle. And, third — the price. I was able to get all three consoles for less than the cost of one large-format digital console from other companies.”

Wright added that “The plug-ins that are included in the eMotion LV1 channel strip are fantastic too. Training volunteers on it has been really easy. The sound quality is unmatched; especially at 96k, it produces incredible sound and it combines a digital sound board with a DAW.” 

Road to Life Church

  • Capacity: 1,500
  • Key Components: Waves eMotion LV1 consoles
  • Integrator: In-house

 

The sanctuary features a new Danley system

St. Leo the Great Church, Lincroft, NJ

Established in suburban Lincroft, NJ more than 60 years ago, St. Leo the Great Church is a beautiful sanctuary that seats approximately 800 but provides tough acoustics for intelligibility. Recently, local AV integrators Concept Professional Systems designed and installed a new solution for its aging sound system.

“After several years, the old system fell into disrepair to the point that everyone agreed that it was time to start fresh,” says Concept Professional owner Don Gspann. “The space itself is quite reverberant. The walls are all block, the floor is linoleum, and the ceiling is wooden and shallow — a tough situation. We had had success with Danley SBH10 column-form speakers at another Catholic church in the area. It was easy to imagine that the SBH10s would work a similar miracle at St. Leo the Great.”

Gspann brought a pair of Danley’s SBH10’s and the smaller SBH20 speakers for a demo. “Everyone was thrilled with the clarity from the front to the back,” Gspann said. “We were a little concerned about where the speakers would be located permanently, in relation to the pulpit and lectern mics, as well as all of the musical elements — piano, choir & orchestra — which are located in front of the SBH10s.” The Danley phase coherence that offered better than expected gain-before-feedback in the demo also helped out with the odd arrangement in the permanent installation. “They’re able to reinforce those instruments without trouble,” Gspann said.

The Danley SBH10 has the perfect coverage pattern: 140 degrees horizontal but only 10 degrees vertical, perfect for hitting ear drums but avoiding ceilings and walls. In addition, a pair of SBH10s could cover the entire sanctuary, making the installation to either side of the chancel relatively easy. A BSS Blu-100 DSP system also serves as a behind-the-scenes mixer and Crown XTi amplifiers power the system.

“The system was a godsend. We had many years of poor communication during our worship services, says the church’s Joe Manzi. “People were constantly complaining of hearing no sound or the sound was too noisy. This new system allows for uniform distribution of sound throughout the church and in the entranceway. We have received many compliments about the system and people comment that it is a joy to worship at Saint Leo’s.” 

St. Leo the Great Church

  • Capacity: 800
  • Key Components: Danley SBH10 speakers
  • Integrator: Concept Professional Systems

 

 

 

 

 

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