Loudspeaker System Design for Worship, Part 2

The Immaculate Conception Church in Traverse City, Mich., needed an unattended sound system and gear that virtually disappeared into the sanctuary. 4/26/2012 6:34 AM Eastern

Loudspeaker System Design for Worship, Part 2

Apr 26, 2012 10:34 AM, With Bennett Liles

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From Sound & Video Contractor magazine, this is the SVC Podcast Show 56 Part 2 with Jack Conners of Perfect World Studios. Show notes for the podcast are available on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

The Immaculate Conception Church in Traverse City, Mich., needed an unattended sound system and gear that virtually disappeared into the sanctuary. Jack Conners is back to tell us about the mics, the mixer, and the choir reinforcements set up for the church by Perfect World Studios. Coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Jack Conners from Perfect World Studios, thanks for being back for part 2 on the SVC Podcast and we were talking about the Immaculate Conception Church in Traverse City, Mich. We were saying that it doesn’t have to be a huge layout but this is something like a 300 seat sanctuary?

Jack Conners: Yeah.

Yeah, but you can still come up with some acoustic problems especially when you have to position equipment where they want a certain look for the place. We didn’t get into the more nuts and bolts aspect of this, but what would you say was the most difficult part of the installation there? Was it running cable or mounting speakers or what?

It was actually getting the cabling to the speakers. I fortunately had the assistance of the director of maintenance at the church, Randy O’Connor—no relation to me but maybe back in Ireland—but he was very helpful in getting the cabling to the speakers. These were powered arrays so we had to run AC cabling to them and then Cat-5 and then audio. The church building is stucco, but it has steel beams and concrete block behind the stucco. He had some drawings of the building, which unfortunately didn’t really show where the steel beams were. We found that they were almost right behind where we wanted to mount the speakers, but we were able to drill kind of at an angle and drilled a hole back through the block and then found a path back into the attic of the church and then he was able to crawl up in there and push the wires through, so once we got the wiring, the rest of it was pretty easy. The equipment was already back in the sacristy, so we ran the wires from there up to the speaker locations and then mounting the speakers on the wall was fairly easy. It was just put the brackets up and set them up there. [Timestamp: 2:30]

And then once you start the cutting and drilling and they hear the drills and saws going—that’s when the church clients start getting a little nervous.

Yeah, they do. They kind of kept away while we were doing that. It was pretty loud with the hammer drill drilling into the concrete. [Timestamp: 2:47]

And they do have RF mics there. What make and model of wireless mics did you put in and did you have any RF issues to deal with?

No RF issues. We have had some issue with the choir mics we had strung from the ceiling, and I guess the length of the wire on those were just right to pick up a certain air craft frequency and there was a landing that happened every day at around 12:10 in the afternoon and that pilot’s radio would come in over those microphones, but with some RF filtering, we got that out. But the mics, they had were Audio-Technica lapel mics, lavaliere mics, and we replaced those with Audio-Technica BP892 MicroSets, which are head worn sub-miniature microphone. Those work a lot better because they get the microphone up near the speaker’s face where it should be and then we also have a lot less problem with the rustling and the issues with the robes and stuff with the lavaliere mics. Those were a big improvement putting in the Audio-Technica MicroSet mics. [Timestamp: 3:56]

Yeah, that’s great if you can get them to do that. Sometimes that’s tough to get the priests to go with those. They don’t want to look like air traffic controllers, but the audio people just love it when they can persuade the pastor to go with a head-worn mic with the gain before feedback that it offers.

Yeah, there was some resistance to it for those reasons, but these are very small and they’re base colored so when you are more than a few rows back you don’t even notice them. [Timestamp: 4:23]

Like a little strand of linguini.

Yeah, uh huh.

Loudspeaker System Design for Worship, Part 2

Apr 26, 2012 10:34 AM, With Bennett Liles

What sort of pre-existing gear did they have there? Did you recycle or re-purpose any of it?

Well, definitely not the central cluster, the old Altec horns. Though we might try to put those on eBay and see if someone in Japan wants them. A few years ago we replaced the amplifiers and mixers in there with Ashly equipment—we used a little Ashley rackmount 6-channel mixer, I think, and then Ashly amplifiers, which helped a lot replacing. I forget what was even in there but the Ashly equipment we kept. We still use the Ashly 70V amp to drive the speakers that are under the choir loft, which fill in the very back of the church actually behind the last row of pews and then that same system also drives speakers in the vestibule and the cry room, which are isolated from the sanctuary. So we kept those and we kept the mixers and there’s another Ashley mixer up in the choir loft. The choir loft is a totally separate system. [Timestamp: 5:22]

OK, and is there any kind of front of house control or any stage monitoring going on?

Well, the system is pretty much unattended. There’s a rack up in the sacristy, and it’s kind of built into the wall, so we built the rack into the wall. So it’s out of the way, but they just come in and turn it on and then turn their beltpacks on and they’re ready to go. So everything’s preset; they don’t really do anything different from week to week, so there’s just really no need for hands-on mixing. [Timestamp: 5:50]

And how’s the choir reinforcement system set up?

That’s a separate system which is—because they want the choir to sound like they’re coming from the choir loft which is in the back of the church rather than coming through the speakers in the front of the church, so there’s a separate system back there. I think they have some little Peavey speakers up in the corner when I got involved, but we’ve replaced the amplifiers with the—we put Ashly amps in and a Ashly mixer up in there. So they have two mics hanging from the ceiling, Audio-Technica Unipoint mics, hanging from the ceiling that pick up the choir and then they also have a few spot mics up there that they can use for soloists. So then they have control of that system up there and we also put a couple of little Tannoy speakers they’re up in the corners in the choir loft and they’re fed from the main system so that the organist and the choir up there can hear the priest really well up there. [Timestamp: 6:45]

What did they have for mics on the ambo and on the podium?

Those we replace also with Audio-Technica Unipoints, U857 is the model number of those. They’re cardioid condenser gooseneck mics on the ambo and there’s a podium where the soloist sings down near where the piano is in front. [Timestamp: 7:06]

You’ve got a number of mics in there, including the head-worn wireless systems. Is there any sort of automixing thing set up for those?

Yeah, I guess that’s easier to have with the head-worn mics since you don’t need to have the gains up quite as much on those.

Yeah, yeah the problem we had, well also with the lavalieres was ringing and then they were omnis so that when the priest was talking and if he wasn’t right on the mic, if he stepped out in front of the speakers a bit you would get a little ringing. [Timestamp: 8:04]

OK, you touched on this before, but where exactly are the final destinations for the sound signal? I mean have got it going to other rooms and places?

There’s an Ashly 70V amp that drives the speakers that are in the vestibule at the entryway of the church and then also there’s a cry room out there with a window that looks into the sanctuary. So there’s a speaker in there driven off that same 70V system and then there’s also an all-purpose hall next to the church called “Centennial Hall” and there’s a feed into that system also from the sanctuary system. [Timestamp: 8:35]

Well, for a little church that was a pretty ambitious sound system you set up for them. So how’s everything going? Were you there when they sort of broke everything in and test flew it?

Yeah, it was quite exciting actually because the difference is so pronounced from having a central cluster just blowing sound out into the church as far—and having focused sound where its sound is actually focused on the pews. It’s pretty dramatic difference and people were pretty impressed. [Timestamp: 9:02]

So what’s coming up next for Perfect World Studios? Have you got anything in the works you can tell us about?

Well, I have a few CD projects I’m working on and as far as installations, I have another church in Frankfurt, Mich., that’s a Lutheran church and we’re putting a system in there right now and I’ve got on the list of the diocese as a contractor hoping that some more of these reverberant Catholic churches will see that how much of a difference that the focused line arrays can make for them. [Timestamp: 9:33]

Yeah, if you can get anybody from one of the other churches to just go there and hear it for themselves that’s probably all you have to do. It really speaks for itself.

It does, yeah.

Now how did you do the software setup on this? Did you get some help with that?

Yeah, I was just going to say that it was a pretty simple set up even though I hadn’t used the software before. I wanted to have someone who had used it come up and help me so we got Marc Warling to come up, and basically what we did was we measured the height of the speakers, we measured from the speakers to the first pew, and from the speakers to the last pew, and put those numbers into the software then and let it do its digital magic and align the speakers so that they’d focus the sound on that area. We tweaked a little bit the back distance just to make sure that we covered the back row, but that it wasn’t going too far to bounce off the back wall. And then as far as equalization, it was very simple; there was a little bit of a 500Hz enhancement in that room and we pulled some of that out but that was really all we did as far as equalization on. [Timestamp: 10:38]

So Jack Conners from Perfect World Studios, thanks for being here to tell us what you set up for the Immaculate Conception Church in Traverse City, Mich., and telling us about what you have coming up.

Thanks so much Ben, my pleasure.

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