Megachurch Audio Upgrade, Part 1

Michael Garrison Associates upgrades the speaker system at Southland Christian Church. 6/03/2010 8:09 AM Eastern

Megachurch Audio Upgrade, Part 1

Jun 3, 2010 12:09 PM, By Bennett Liles

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The Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., had grown to include live music, and they called Michael Garrison Associates to come back in and upgrade the system they had installed earlier. Michael Garrison, Steve Shewlakow, and Brian Roggow are here to tell us how it went.

Michael, Brian, and Steve, thanks for being with me on the House of Worship AV podcast, and we are talking about the Southland Christian Church and I believe it’s right outside of Lexington, Kentucky.
Michael Garrison: That’s correct.

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Megachurch Audio Upgrade, Part 2
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You got in there and I think you already had a longstanding relationship with the church, but before we get rolling on that, tell me a little bit about Michael Garrison Associates and what you’re all into there.
Garrison: Well, we’ve been in business for about 34 years—little over that, [and have] focused on churches during that entire time. In the early days, it was just acoustics and audio systems, but as we grew and as the need in churches grew, we added lighting and video experts to our team and so we do all of those systems. We focus on the design of buildings. Most of our work, probably three-quarters of it or at least two-thirds of it, is new construction where we’re working with the architect to help the building get designed correctly and optimized as it can be. The other portion of our work would be renovating existing buildings and then some part of it is also just upgrading systems, but churches are who we focus on and want to serve. [Timestamp: 1:55]

Yeah, that can be a big job because the church works with a lot of volunteers and you got to make it fairly bullet proof. What kind of church is Southland Christian? It looks like a pretty big place.
Garrison: It is big. When we first got involved with them back in mid-1998, they were a growing church and they were embarking on their largest building project to date—they’d had several before then. But to answer the question about what kind of church they are: They’re independent, non-denominational, evangelical church. They’ve always been kind of aimed at the more contemporary modern style of both communications, so the pastors have been more casual rather than formal and the worship style of music has been contemporary as well. Right now, they average about 10,000 in attendance each week. Back when we first met them in 1998, I am not sure what it was. But they came to us as a referral from their sister church in Louisville, Ky., Southeast Christian Church, a project that we were working on at the time. And so we were brought in to be a part of this big building project that included a 3,000 seat multipurpose main assembly, and it’s called “multipurpose” because it’s was also intended to be interim. They have plans for a larger auditorium some day, but this was a convertible space where they could do basketball and sports and all of that as well as have their weekend and midweek services, and they wanted it to perform nice for both. [Timestamp: 3:32]

And churches, as a general rule, are not all that acoustically friendly. So how are the acoustics in the sanctuary there?
Garrison: When we were brought in on the design of the room back in ’99 and 2000, what they said is that it was going to be an interim main assembly space, but they wanted it to have really good acoustics so that it wouldn’t inhibit their growth and the ability that future auditorium. So they gave us a charge to come up with good acoustics, as good as it could be when half of the floor is a wood basketball court. But what we were allowed to do and what they paid for was to put in a tective roof deck, which provided overall reverberence reduction, and underneath that roof deck we hung RPG D-baffles is what the product is called. It’s low-frequency control, so that the room wouldn’t be boomy, and then underneath all of that we had RPG diffusor systems Golden Pyramids. The 4ft. square units make an interesting architectural statement in the building but also provided the diffusion we needed to enhance congregational singing. On the walls, budget prevented them from putting the RPG backpanels that we had prescribed, instead we ended up putting in Tectum Finale panels that are a little more durable, they’re less costly, they look good, and they work plenty good enough to control the lateral and front to back reflections. And so the result of the acoustics when the building was completed in 2001, or whenever, they were surprisingly good. We were surprised at how good the rooms sounded, and the church was very happy with it. So the sound system from that initial sound system and the acoustics were very nice and the church was happy with it. [Timestamp: 5:33]

And Brian, what were they doing for speakers in there to start with?
Roggow: The original system installed was a Tannoy Super Dual system; some had Super Dual MIDI components with a combination of a DDS mid-bass and PAS low-mid section, and so it’s a five-way mono system when you get down through the LF and the subs and then there was also a scaled back stereo system that used the Tannoy T300 speakers. And we had started it when the mono system had began to develop a box series we called the MH, which was designed with the Super Dual components. There was two versions called the Senior, which was a four-way box and then there was a Junior which was just a three-way box. So they had three of the four-way boxes installed in the original install. [Timestamp: 6:32]

Garrison: And I might add that those boxes were built for us by Tannoy. [Timestamp: 6:36]

Megachurch Audio Upgrade, Part 1

Jun 3, 2010 12:09 PM, By Bennett Liles

OK, I know that a lot of time passed between the original installation and the upgrade and the technology had time to march on. What did the church figure they needed in the way of an improvement to the sound of their services?
Roggow: Primarily they were looking for more output, more level from the system. Those Super Duals sonic lead frequency response are very, very good. They do have limits as far as how loud they can get. They really don’t really like to operate much over maybe 100 or 105 at the top end. And just more or less by the feature, they are designed not having any kind of waveguides and such. The church had began to see it as a change in their worship style being yet even more contemporary, more guitar-driven and felt like they were getting to the end of the SPL limitations of the sound system, so they were looking for more head room. [Timestamp: 7:35]

And why did you choose the VQ series speakers for this? Had you used those before?
Roggow: Yes, we had used them in just a few other smaller installations. It is a brand-new series that Tannoy has introduced just in the last few years. It’s an answer to some these similar types of requests for more output. So we chose them, obviously, because of the frequency response, efficiency, and also, in this particular case, it was a very, very easy installation in the sense that we didn’t have to change out the DSP or the number of crossover bands and amplifiers—everything could pretty much stay in place, and physically the devices are similar in size and coverage as well so many of the factors where you could just do a, more or less, a plug and play were present and so we were able to do a fairly quick, low-cost turnkey installation and get them at least a 10DV bar output system for quite a low cost. [Timestamp: 8:45]

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Megachurch Audio Upgrade, Part 2
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Yeah, that’s a huge basic advantage when you’ve already put in the first system, so you already know where everything is and how it’s been done. This is a big place. What kind of throw distance have you got between the catwalk speakers to the nearest seats?
Roggow: I am estimating about 28ft. from the front row to the bottom of the catwalk so it’s moderate, not too far but the mixed position. I believe, [it] is around 60 to 65ft. off the center line. Really it’s very much just a rectangle, and the way the speakers are oriented it tracks the seating. It’s definitely a challenge from a coverage standpoint, but the system is, on the average, to the closest seating about 28ft. to the front rows. [Timestamp: 9:33]

Steve, what kind of amplifiers are they using in there?
Shewlakow: Well, we actually were able to use the existing amplifiers that we had put in at the original install and those were two QSC CCX series amplifiers except for on the subs, which we used their PL series. And we actually upgraded to the PL, I believe it’s the PL380 for the subwoofers. They actually went in very easily. We didn’t really have to do any rewiring since basically everything laid out on one to one for what the old system was. [Timestamp: 10:02]

In some of the stories I’ve read on this line arrays were mentioned. Were line arrays considered for this job?
Roggow: It probably didn’t go too far down that path considering the church was in a very limited budget. It was something they were trying to work into a yearly capital, not making it a special budgetary request, and we knew pretty much that if there was going to be line arrays it would require, obviously, the loudspeakers and amplification and likely DSP as well so the cost difference between an doing something like this would have been 5 to 6 times greater to look at even a compact type of line array system, so I think that was primarily where it started in regards to us choosing this path. Something else that you can maybe add to that Michael? [Timestamp: 10:49]

Garrison: The only other thing: Certainly line array was considered because it’s the buzz of the industry these days, but in this particular case, they have large front projection screens. They were too large to have space behind in the original construction for rear projection, so it would be a real tough trick to add a line array into this facility without blowing up the image display system. You would be hanging speakers in front of projectors. [Timestamp: 11:15]

You had some differences in the spacing between the speakers, I think, with the upgrade than you did in the new one. What did you do that was new with the spacing Steve?
Shewlakow: Well, in the original system, the mono system with the center cluster was a little bit more tight packed, and when we went to replace the system—when Brian and I were talking and the modeling was done—we actually decided that we were going to move the side mono speakers out a bit and make it more of an exploded array, and we were able to get a little bit better coverage off to the side and stuff like that with that and then we also shifted the stereo speakers just slightly to give us more of an even spacing all the way across so that it had a more unified feel as you were going through the different zones. [Timestamp: 11:58]

Yeah, did you originally have some rises and dips in the frequency response as you went across the room?
Roggow: There were definitely some challenges in trying to keep an especially low frequency response consistent out to the seating area since the seats don’t track the stage. It’s really just a straight long, frontal proscenium opening, but the seats are curved. You’ve got the gym-style opening, if you will. It is all straight, and so it’s a bit challenging to keep it consistent across the whole front, but also I think one thing as we evolved and MGA evolves through time and how we approach different system designs there’s what I call a “bull-nose”. It’s built into the center soffit area where the loudspeakers, the center loudspeakers, were originally placed, and I think we’ve found even over time as we put more of these kinds of exploded arrays systems in that perhaps that the center mounting of the loudspeakers of this type just didn’t work quite as well. Although both systems worked well, the VQ system is more consistent from side to side. That’s the biggest challenge, I think, in this space isn’t so much from front to back but it’s the width of the seating area. It’s very, very challenging. [Timestamp: 13:22]

All right, thanks very much guys for being here for part one Brian, Steve, and Michael, and in part two we can get into the subwoofers and a little bit about what they’re doing with live music at Southland Christian Church, but for now thanks for being here for part one.

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