Vox Church, a multi-site, non-denominational church whose campuses cover much of New England’s central and southern tiers, from Stanford, Connecticut, to Worcester, Massachusetts, puts a lot of emphasis on music performances and communication from the stage. But operating their eight locations (with a ninth expected to open shortly) in a region of the country crowded with television broadcast stations, and heavily populated with event sites that use wireless mic and in-ear monitor systems, makes for a challenging RF environment.
That’s what Vox Church’s A1 audio engineer Eugene “Geno” Mulcahy was facing when he came aboard several years ago to help the fast-growing church deal with its proliferating number of wireless channels, used for both vocals and speech, and for in-ear monitoring. Mulcahy came to Vox Church after a decade at the massive Mohegan Sun Casino, about 25 miles east of the church’s main Branford, CT location. Helping build and manage the resort’s sprawling RF infrastructure “was a trial by fire, putting wireless microphones into every aspect of the property,” Mulcahy recalls. “But it really taught me the importance of establishing a good RF infrastructure for wireless.” At Mohegan he also encountered what would become a foundational part of that infrastructure, when he met RF Venue co-founder Chris Regan as the new brand was first getting its RF product line off the ground. “Chris really showed me how critical the antenna and its distribution is to a reliable wireless system,” he says.
Mulcahy brought those lessons learned to Vox Church, where he implemented its wireless systems using wireless antennas and signal combiners from RF Venue. “Antennas and distribution are the non-fun part of working with wireless, but they are mission-critical to making any event happen flawlessly,” he says. “The RF Venue products do the one thing that absolutely has to happen with wireless, and that’s make sure there are no dropouts. If you lose audio during a service, especially during the streaming audio that’s going out to other campuses that depend on taking their music cues from us, it’s game over. It’s as bad as losing video. We do what is called point-to-point streaming, where we send various channels to our other church campuses so the band at the remote locations can play along with the main worship band at our broadcast location. If the worship leader’s mic fails, it not only fails in the live performance area but also at the other locations.”
The Vox Church antenna, distribution and combiner systems include the RF Venue Diversity Fin Antenna, a multi-purpose antenna that can make an RF system less susceptible to dropouts thanks to a patented cross-polarized design. It provides a diversity solution in a single package by combining one log-periodic dipole array (LPDA) and one dipole antenna in an orthogonal (right angle) configuration (where one element captures vertically polarized waves, and the other horizontally polarized waves). Unlike traditional “paddle” or “shark fin” antennas, the Diversity Fin allows receivers to see a constant signal regardless of microphone orientation, allowing the user to hold a wireless microphone in any position relative to the antenna without signal loss. These antennas interface with RF Venue’s DISTRO4 and DISTRO9 distribution amplifiers, which feed RF to multiple wireless microphone receivers of any brand. The DISTRO4 has dual inputs that combine the two outputs of the Diversity Fin Antenna for distribution to up to five wireless microphone receivers, along with regulated 12 VDC power. Six DISTRO4’s can be connected together to feed up to 25 receiver channels. The DISTRO9 features dual-zone inputs for reception from dual Diversity Fin Antennas. Its nine outputs can be used to directly feed wireless mic receivers, or to feed the inputs of additional DISTRO9 units to in turn feed up to 81 receiver inputs. To ensure a consistent signal with in-ear monitors, RF Venue’s COMBINE4 and COMBINE8 can combine the outputs of four or eight wireless monitor system transmitters into a single output to feed the CP Beam Antenna, a lightweight, circularly polarized helical antenna.
Mulcahy has implemented RF Venue products throughout most of Vox Church’s campuses and is adding more as opportunities present themselves, creating what he calls a “soup-to-nuts reliable infrastructure for wireless.” At the same time, he adds, RF Venue allows him to use any wireless microphone and IEM systems he wants. (Vox Church is using Shure ULX-D for the former and Sennheiser IEM G4 for the latter.) “Antenna choice, placement, and management are the most important aspects of wireless, and RF Venue has made those aspects easy to take care of,” he says. “At our New Haven campus we have as many as six channels of wireless microphones and 12 monitor mixes each Sunday. For our big 10th anniversary show [which took place in September] at the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven, we had 16 IEM mixes plus the eight handhelds. And never a single drop out. RF antennas aren’t the glamorous part of audio, but without them there’s no show. With RF Venue, there’s never a drop out.”