Big Sound

Sophisticated audio for a midsize church. 10/09/2009 11:23 AM Eastern

Big Sound

Oct 9, 2009 3:23 PM, By Dan Daley

Sophisticated audio for a midsize church.

You may have noticed lately that the world-class level of sound you’ve become used to at major league rock concerts has begun migrating into the local clubs, where it’s increasingly common to see small line-array PAs flown alongside the stage with projection video and LCD screens. But it’s more than Moore’s Law that’s driving sound down at the grungy club level; consumer expectations have also been raised when it comes to audio.

The same phenomenon now affects the house-of-worship sector at its loftiest level, and it has been filtering down more recently through the middle level. A perfect example is found at Harvest Bible Chapel in the Grand Rapids, Mich., suburb of West Olive, where a recently completed 41,000-plus-square-foot addition to the church’s existing facility added more seating for its congregation of more than 1,000 members, a café lounge, a tiered 120-seat lecture room, and a choir rehearsal/recording studio that can hold 80 people. It also gave the church the kind of space it needed to support an increasingly contemporary, music-based ministry.

Parkway Electric & Communications was a good choice to do the AV systems integration—Parkway Project Manager Steve Driesenga is also a member of the congregation, which might have contributed to its decision to green-light some pretty advanced technology. That included a Whirlwind digital Ethernet snake from the stage to the FOH position and Ethernet cabling from there over to the amp rack and then back to the stage for the Aviom digital in-ear monitoring system.

“The in-ear monitors allow each musician to control his or her own mix, which is very important to a ministry that emphasizes music so heavily, and using the snake let us reduce cabling by a significant amount, as well as simplified the installation and prepared the facility for future expansion,” explains Jeff VandeHoef, project engineer for Parkway on the Harvest project.

These elements helped Harvest keep costs down, but it also put it at the head end of the trend toward more sophisticated system installs that more and more media-savvy churches are looking for.

“We’re seeing things that have become more common in 5,000-seat churches now becoming part of the system design for 700- to 1,000-seat churches,” Driesenga says.

Big Sound

Oct 9, 2009 3:23 PM, By Dan Daley

Sophisticated audio for a midsize church.

Two Renkus-Heinz ST6/64 and two ST4/44 self-powered loudspeakers are flown across the stage, buttressed by four Renkus-Heinz BPS15-2K subs. Six JBL Control 28 loudspeakers provide front fill, and seven Atlas Sound FAP42T ceiling loudspeakers fill the back, powered by Crwon CDi and XTi series amplifiers.

Sound System

Microphone inputs from the stage can be plugged into floor pockets around the stage that are tied directly into the digital snake in a Middle Atlantic MPR-8 power raceway. The signals come up on the new Yamaha Yamaha M7CL mixer at the FOH position, where three Ethernet cards convert the signal to data that is fed to the monitor system (via Axiom cards also in the console) and to the Lowell and Raxxess Metalsmiths amp racks and back to the PA.

The Yamaha console is a good example of how savings in other areas allowed the church to splurge a bit. “The savings in conduit and wiring as well as the benefits of flexibility and future expansion [more than offset the console’s cost],” Driesenga says. “Church volunteers adapted well to the digital board and ultimately found themselves relying heavily on many of the new digital features such as saving presets, scenes, and entire mixes—which constitute additional time and effort savings.”

The PA is self-powered, using Renkus-Heinz ST series loudspeakers. Four loudspeakers—two ST6/64 and two ST4/44 models—are flown across the stage, buttressed by four Renkus-Heinz BPS15-2K subs placed two per side and built into the base of the stage. Front fill for the first few rows is done using six JBL Control 28 loudspeakers, and seven Atlas FAP42T ceiling loudspeakers with 55 microsecond delays fill in the back of the hall, powered by Crown CDi and XTi series amplifiers.

Acoustics By Design (ABD), an independent consulting company, was brought in by the general contractor, Dan Vos Construction (both located in Grand Rapids), to offer acoustical engineering and AV advice for the project. ABD worked directly with the church to ensure the space was optimized for worship, says Kenric Van Wyk, president of ABD. He says he used the EASE Address software modeling of the space to predict its acoustical fingerprint and to determine loudspeaker selection and location. According to Van Wyk, the need was to redirect the acoustical energy more evenly throughout the room—to overcome node buildups caused by sonic reflections. The solution came in the form of custom-made side-wall reflectors made from drywall and cut into an elliptical shape about 8ft. wide.

“These reflective diffusers deliver the sound evenly throughout the sanctuary,” he says.

Big Sound

Oct 9, 2009 3:23 PM, By Dan Daley

Sophisticated audio for a midsize church.

Content used for services in the main sanctuary are distributed to 32in. LG 32LH20 flatpanel displays in classrooms and other spaces in the new addition using a TVOne CS-470 scan converter and a TVOne CS-5100 switcher. Provisions, in the form of terminated prewiring, have been made to integrate three cameras into the video system in the future.


Harvest Bible’s video content consists mainly of DVD and PowerPoint presentations used in conjunction with services, as reflected in the choice of two Eiki/Sanyo PLC-XF60A rear video projectors that are mounted on custom platforms fabricated by Parkway and projected on to a pair of Da-Lite 84155C 144x188 Da-Snap screens with Da-Tex fabric placed on the angled-in walls flanking the stage.

Video also takes advantage of Ethernet control—two Calypso Systems ION-LT master processors and related software allow control of the project via IP from the FOH position. Content used for services in the main sanctuary are distributed, along with the audio, to classrooms and other spaces in the new addition using a TVOne CS-470 scan converter for non-files-based documents and a TVOne CS-5100 switcher and shown on 32in. LG 32LH20 flatpanel displays. Provisions, in the form of terminated prewiring, have been made to integrate three cameras into the video system in the future.

Harvest Bible’s PA system is optimized both for music and speech intelligibility, using a dbx 231 equalizer and the Yamaha M7’s onboard DSP and its memory recall feature, which lets the mixer flip between optimized settings for speech and music.

“It was much more cost-effective to go with a mono system to address both types of audio given the width of the sanctuary,” says Tim Hamilton, ABD’s senior AV systems designer.

Other innovations include a 10’x10’ clear plastic drum kit enclosure for absolute drum isolation and ButtKicker pads for both the bass player and the drummer, who share outputs from the ButtKicker’s amplifier.

“The first reaction when they played on them was silly grins,” Driesenga says. “But now, they wouldn’t perform without them. It really connects the bass and kick together.”

Harvest Bible Chapel is a model for the future of the midsize house of worship. Its PA system can handle hard rock and spoken word equally well. Its basic video system is more than adequate for its current needs and is future-proofed in terms of camera-ready wire and position points, as well as Ethernet distribution of its signal. And, Driesenga says, the systems were built economically, noting the dramatic lessening of cable runs thanks to the digital snake, the Ethernet signal distribution, and the self-powered PA loudspeakers. The digital patching capability of the console and the snake also make for a more efficient signal routing system. Sophisticated in-ear monitoring, exceptional isolation on stage, and a music-class FOH console make the sanctuary a virtual recording studio and, by extension, a content and revenue generator for the future.

“There’s lots of flexibility for now and for the future in these systems, and they were assembled very cost-effectively—[such as the prewiring for future camera capability],” VandeHoef says.

Driesenga says the sound system’s flexibility comes from the digital console and audio snake. “We’re not seeing investment in those types of equipment happening yet on a regular basis in churches,” he says. “But the operational flexibility they offer is certainly worth their cost because features like preset scenes can let the space be used by a wider variety of performances.”

Driesenga acknowledges the steeper learning curve that a digital console presents, noting that most volunteer sound techs at churches have yet to master digital mix consoles. At Harvest Bible, three volunteers underwent training from Parkway to learn the Yamaha M7.

“But once they realize what they can do with these systems, I think their reluctance will begin to fade away,” Driesenga says.

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