Creating Invisible HOW Sound with Sabine

St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., needed an audio system for a modern-style service with electric bands that wouldn’t be visible to the traditional parishioners who valued th 12/20/2007 3:00 AM Eastern

Creating Invisible HOW Sound with Sabine

Dec 20, 2007 8:00 AM

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In what is becoming a fairly typical problem for many houses of worship, St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., needed an audio system for a modern-style service with electric bands that wouldn’t be visible to the traditional parishioners who valued the sanctity of their sanctuary.

As installer Les Stephenson of MusicMasters says, “St. Paul’s is a traditional Methodist Church that has a contemporary service with an electric band sandwiched in between two traditional services. So we were faced with a situation where there was an 8:30 traditional Methodist service with pipe organ, choir, etc. and then at 9:45 there was a contemporary service with an electric band and 12 wireless systems on stage. That plus the fact that the people attending the more traditional 8:30 and 11:00 services didn’t want to see any-thing that has to do with the band in terms of speaker hangs or amps. They didn’t want their sanctuary changed.”

With no interference from TV or DTV because of the frequency it transmits on, MusicMasters chose Sabine’s 2.4GHz wireless for superior sound quality, 70 simultaneous channels to choose from, onboard DSP including Sabine’s exclusive FBX Feedback Exterminator technology, and Microphone SuperModeling for more sounds for the most discriminating wireless user.

“St. Paul’s is a very traditional, beautiful mid-sized Southern Methodist church sanctuary,” Stephenson says. “It's been preserved that way since it was built in the 60s, and they didn't want it mucked up with a bunch of gear.”

Creating a sound system that was essentially invisible to the naked eye was quite a challenge, but MusicMasters was up to the task. “We had to create a comprehensive wireless audio system so that the band could walk in there, and everything would be wireless, their vocals, instruments, everything,” Stephenson says. “So to save time, money and still have the control we needed, we chose Sabine 2.4GHz wireless mic/instrument systems and the Sabine Navigator processor to control the speaker system.

“Using wireless eliminated cabling plus it gave us more performance and setup flexibility,” he adds.

According to Stephenson, “We had three different bands and needed 12 channels of wireless to handle the vocals and instruments. And another reason the Sabine systems were appealing—and the ones we put in are the network version—was that you can connect a computer to the system and see everything that's going on with all 12 wireless channels, and you can change channels and EQs and many other parameters, so that worked well both at the mix booth and the front of the church in the performance area.”

In terms of loudspeakers, he says “They wouldn’t allow a traditional speaker system to be installed because they didn't want a bunch of stuff hanging off the ceilings. It's sort of a domed-shape ceiling, and they were not going to put anything up there that changed the lines of the ceiling.

“To solve that problem, we came up with a six-zone distributed system using small JBL custom speakers down each side of the sanctuary, which are all time-aligned using the Sabine Navigator. And there's a two-zone balcony fill system because the balcony is big and there's a front section plus a second section that's almost like a stadium-seating situation with close to 100-150 church members sitting up there. Downstairs, there is room for about 400 at maximum capacity.

“We chose the networked version of Navigator because we wanted to be able to roll in there with the computer and easily get to everything if we needed to tweak stuff. We try to design our system with as much flexibility for modifications and updates as possible, and the Navigator was a big part of that. We have a network connection in the mix booth so we can go in there with a laptop and Ethernet cable and, in a matter of moments, be into the system processor. Easy access is a big part of its appeal. Plus, we'd already used a few and they sound good and are reliable. It's a good product and like the home team and we support Sa-bine, because even as a small company, their support is excellent.”

The second-generation Sabine Navigators feature a new hardware platform, new remote control software, intuitive wall-mounted remote controls panels, and a broader range of input/output choices for even greater flexibility. All of the Navigators offer fast setup of any production audio system via a new front-panel design, easy and secure configuration of commercial or worship sound systems, and complete signal routing for multi-room venues and superior sound quality with 96kHz sample rates on the NAV4802 and NAV8802.

Generally, the audio system components for MusicMasters included two Yamaha 01V96 consoles, JBL loudspeakers and monitors, Aviom monitoring, and QSC amplification.

The entire project took about three weeks because Stephenson and his team had to build a whole new wiring harness despite the fact that what they were installing was mostly a wireless system, so the install took a while, as it always does in older buildings.

As to the client’s reaction, Stephenson says, “For the most part, they were really happy. One of the rock bands wasn't thrilled about using a distributed system, which was a bit too sophisticated and smooth for people used to garage band sound.

“Other than that, everyone was thrilled with it. The main objective of speech intelligibility was achieved in a good way. Every seat in the house pretty much sounds the same. You can hear the pastor whisper—it's clear. The traditional services sound great, and so does the music, which is always subjective. Now they can hear everything, and we didn't destroy the look of the sanctuary.”

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