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Emergency Audio for Worship, Part 2

St. Lucy Parish, a church with both traditional and more contemporary services in an unusual layout. Its old sound system suddenly collapsed and they called for help from Zamar Media Solutions.

Emergency Audio for Worship, Part 2

Jun 25, 2013 10:43 AM,
With Bennett Liles

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Part 1


Part 2

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

St. Lucy Parish, a church with both traditional and more contemporary services in an unusual layout. Its old sound system suddenly collapsed and they called for help from Zamar Media Solutions with a completely new sound setup. Mike Dow is back to take us into the front end of the new sound system there, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Mike Dow, back with us for part two here on the SVC Podcast with the St. Lucy Parish sound system upgrade. Not your average church sound installation. This one has lots of different kinds of services and a sort of in-the-round staging area. The last time we talked about the architecture and the speaker layout, but this time I wanted to get more into the front end of the system with the mics. I think part of that was your addition of some new Shure ULXD digital wireless mics . Why did you decide to go with those?

Mike Dow: Well as most metropolitan areas are subject to, there’s a lot of stray signals running around, especially living in Silicon Valley, which this church is right in the heart of it. So we’re trying to make as best as possible [to make] any new wireless purchases future-proof, and we believe the digital gave us the best choice of packing as many wireless into one space as possible so that they won’t be too much confusion with the extra stuff coming in. There are churches around them, within a block or two, which we also were concerned about, so the ULXD’s performed very well. We also went with the rechargeable battery system for them. We also installed some remote antennas to give them some rejection capability from outside signals, so they perform very, very well. And we’re also using the Dante bus, which has been quite interesting, to move stuff around. [Timestamp: 2:15]

Yeah, we talked a little about that last time. Another good thing about the Shure wireless gear is the support you get with that. They have no end of expertise in wireless mics that you can tap into whenever you need it.

Absolutely. We get great support from the factory as well as the local rep.

And you also went with some new hard-wired mics. You chose the Audix MG15 podium microphones?

Yes we did. We like those a lot. We believe them to have superior sound at an incredible price point, and they’re performing really, really well along with the Optogate mic mutes that we added. We also installed an RDL product called their mic compressor, which provides an interesting phenomenon where they compress at the microphone level, which is a very different deal than at the line level inside the mixer. What that’s does is the combination of those three products have given us the ability for virtually anyone at any height, any volume of their voice, any tone, to walk up to one of these microphones and be heard clearly everywhere in the room. So that combination has been kind of a little magic bullet for the typical podium that gets used by lay people who come up and are afraid to talk, afraid to stand up to the microphone. All of those things have been improved greatly by the implementation. [Timestamp: 3:33]

Lots of different speaking styles at this church, so you have to have something on the podium that works for just about anything, and I think you used the Audix condensers for the choir, right?

Yes. We’re very fond of those. They provide amazing gain before feedback, and tonal quality that matches microphones three to four times the cost. So they’ve been very happy with those. One of the things that as the groups who were testing the system during the commissioning and allowing us to preprogram their band mixer for them, walked around the room just listening to what they were hearing and they were like, “We’ve never heard the choir before.” And it was a combination of the microphones as well as the speaker implementation. [Timestamp: 4:13]

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Emergency Audio for Worship, Part 2

Jun 25, 2013 10:43 AM,
With Bennett Liles

That’s great when you can just walk into a job like that and do a few things and really knock them over when they hear it. Now the mixer is where this all comes together, so what kind of mixer did you put in on this one?

Well the mixer for the band/choir area, which is different for every one of their seven different services, is the Presonus 16-channel board, which has the capability of iPad control, which they’re very excited about, if need be. But they leave it right there and different bands plug into it and they have each been trained on how to plug in to make sure that the bass is plugged into the right channel, the guitar and so on and so forth; keyboards. So that’s been preset for them and there are presets that we dialed in for them, both gain and EQ have been working adequately for them, and then they have a little bit of volume control over the whole band’s mix, which is great, right there in front of them. So that has been very helpful and we like the sound quality of the Presonus mixer. It’s been what they asked for. [Timestamp: 5:15]

I would think that they probably have some people there who want to really see what they can do with the mixer and really tweak things along with those who would rather just set it and forget it.


And you’ve got some other outputs for the sound system on this.

Correct. Yeah, it’s a blend. Right now the DSP, which is the Symetrix Radius unit—their new Dante-enabled unit—handles most of the microphones: wireless, podiums, choir, a few bonus microphones across the front of the stage when they need them. And then it’s blended together within the Radius unit. The Presonus mixer feeds that and it’s all blended together. The touchscreen control system, which is the Extron TLC 10in. unit is the one that allows them to get in and make minor changes. One of the things we’ve done is, within the DSP, we give them, instead of a fader they can slide up and down, we give them soft, medium low, medium high, and high—just four selections. The lowest one is not completely off. There is a mute button, however. And then the highest one will not allow them to get into feedback. One of the problems you face in a Catholic church with five and six open condenser microphones in an acoustically not-friendly space, is issues with volume. So we tried to solve that with good coverage of the speaker cluster and processing that we added in, as well as microphones that are known for good gain before feedback. [Timestamp: 6:40]

And you’ve got an assisted listening system in there, too?

Yes. One of the things that they were trying to accomplish is help the old folks out who couldn’t hear so well, or folks with hearing issues. It turned out they’ve not needed them all that much. The new system is so much clearer, so much more clarity, especially in the vocal range, that I believe they’re not handing out the units near as often as they were. The beauty of the listening system is it sounds good. It actually sounds like something you would want to listen to; good, full-range sound for the folks who can’t hear so well to begin with. And we also used a little rechargeable suitcase that comes available with it so they can just, when they give them out, they hand them out and they bring them back in, drop them in the charging station and they’re ready to go for the next service. [Timestamp: 7:28]

In setting up this system I think I read somewhere that you used the Symetrix SymNet Composer software.

Yes, yes. We were familiar with that. It had some minor tweaks to it for the new Radius unit, but my programmer was very comfortable in programming it. We do like the feedback algorithm that SymNet uses. It’s very friendly to what we try to do. We try not to notch the whole system to fix one microphone, so we try to do most of our feedback control at the microphone, which makes for better musical reproduction in the system and so we’re not breaking the whole system to fix one podium mic. [Timestamp: 8:07]

And you’ve got the Extron touch panel for control. Those are great. I use some of those myself and they’re so easy to set up and program. Tell me about the dual-screen projection. That was one of the first things I noticed when I saw pictures of St. Lucy Parish.

Yeah, that was a project we had done five or six years before. One of the requirements was for their Saturday night contemporary-type service they needed some way to be able to show two different images. So early on we selected a TVOne, I believe it was a C2-7000 series, which had dual output capability. It’s a very good price point for that level of capability. They are still using non-full, high def. They are four-by-three aspect ratio screens, but the capability is there to step up to full high def if they want to. One of the things we were able to do is we had installed an earlier touchscreen system to control the video portion. What we did was we actually integrated everything, both the old video controls and the new audio controls, on the same TouchLink system from Extron, so everything is now on one panel. It features also something that’s coming out in the next few months hopefully, the ability to have an iPad control of that TouchLink system, which is permanently mounted in a back room. So they’re very excited about that and looking forward to that release. [Timestamp: 9:33]

I hear about that all the time, people working iPad control into just about everything so that’s here to stay.


And what video signal are you taking up to the projectors?

I think we’re just sending VGA up there right now because it was a legacy system that had been in for quite a while, so it was their choice. They didn’t want to go anything but VGA because that’s what everybody was using computer-wise at the time. [Timestamp: 9:56]

And lots of stuff available for that. So what’s up next for Zamar Media Solutions. What’s in the pipeline there?

Yeah, we’ve got quite a few projects, some real exciting ones coming up. A lot of church customers, of course, that we’re working with that are working on everything from lighting upgrades to video upgrades and some audio as well. We changed our name from Zamar Sound quite a few years ago to Zamar Media Solutions with the belief that we needed people to understand we did more than just sound, and that has worked to our advantage definitely. We’re also working on a basketball facility at a local college, which we’re very excited about. That was a system put in about 10 years ago that is not covering all the seating properly, so we’re working on that. We’ve got several churches we’re working on putting in the new Bose Line Array system, which has been very successful for us in church facilities. So we’re real excited. [Timestamp: 10:54]

Plenty to keep everybody busy. Mike Dow at Zamar Media Solutions in San Jose, Calif., and the big sound system upgrade at St Lucy Parish, a system they can grow into and add onto later. Thanks for being with us, Mike.

You’re welcome. Thank you very much.

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