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d&b Soundscape redefines the audio experience, delivers intimate worship at Church at The Mill

ASHEVILLE, NC 11.4.19—From its humble beginnings in 1988 of gathering in the living room of founding Pastors Floyd Loudermilk and his wife Sara, the Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church (known locally as the Church at The Mill), located just outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina, recently outgrew its 800-seat home worship center and moved into a new, state-of-the-art multi-venue facility with a 2,200-seat main auditorium along with other environments to engage all members of the congregation — and especially young people.

To serve their growing vision, church leadership wanted to create an audio environment within their new facility that utilizes technology to offer a captivating worship experience. The new system needed to be able to accommodate the spoken word, full contemporary band performances, and a 150-voice choir.

At the beginning of the project in 2017, the church contacted sound system integrator XL Mediaworks Inc. in Columbia, South Carolina for their help. XL Mediaworks is a leading AVL integrator for the region, and had worked with Church at The Mill leadership for many years. XL Mediaworks is also a long-standing, high-end, d&b audiotechnik systems integrator, and they originally proposed a V-Series system with a trio of Allen & Heath dLive digital audio consoles as part of the new audio, visual and lighting system. With the recent release of the d&b Soundscape system, Jerry Temple and David Seaford from XL Mediaworks invited The Mill`s Executive Pastor, Ken Fisher, to attend a Soundscape demonstration at a nearby church.

“After personally experiencing the huge difference in audio source representation that Soundscape offers,” said Temple. “Pastor Fisher immediately recognized the worship experience benefits, and we decided that the d&b Soundscape approach was the way we needed to go.”

The main auditorium design presented acoustical challenges that are common to contemporary worship spaces: an overall fan-shaped space, with a sloped lower bowl and raked seating in the upper sections.

“The room is very wide with relatively low ceilings,” explained Seaford. “This posed some challenges in obtaining good audio coverage without compromising sight lines to the main video screen and two side video screens. Long line arrays would typically be used but they would block the screen view for many audience members. A distributed system would be the next choice, but with this approach, the audience tends to localize sound to the nearest speaker, not to the presenter or performer — this is where the d&b Soundscape system could solve the problems.”

Using a clever combination of speaker placement and source-position information, the d&b En-Scene software algorithm utilizes the processing power of the DS100 signal engine to sonically reinforce the image of what is on stage by harmoniously localizing individual sources precisely as they are seen. This pivotal change in system design and mix approach allows every voice, instrument or sound source to be represented true to its original form without the limitations or compromises which are inherently present in traditional audio configurations (mono, stereo, or LCR).

“Church at The Mill could not be more pleased with the final result,” stated Pastor Fisher. “The d&b Soundscape solution clearly has the ability to create an intimate setting even in a sanctuary of over 2,200 seats. Our desire is to ensure that all distractions are removed during our time of worship — the quality of sound delivered by Soundscape not only removes audio distractions, but actually enhances the personal worship experience.” From a system point of view, Soundscape means that loudspeaker positions cooperate with each other, using source-relative time and level information to create a completely coherent wave front emanating from the original source.

The XL Mediaworks team explained it best by saying: imagine introducing the principles of time, width, depth and texture as you would find in the subtle nuances of a jazz trio playing acoustically in an intimate venue, and then overlay that experience onto a worship audience. Soundscape delivers a more transparent experience for contemporary or traditional worship, but perhaps most importantly, the spoken word is delivered full of feeling and passion, making the loudspeakers sonically disappear.

From the front row to the furthest seat in the auditorium that’s 120 feet away, Soundscape delivers a consistent level of tonal quality, SPL, and a true imaging perspective for every seat in the house. The system’s added efficiency through Soundscape and ArrayProcessing allows for concert-level music reproduction and localization for every source to every seat and the utmost respect for sight lines with only six boxes per Y-Series hang for the mains, and zero delays. The engineer is able to fine-tune an impactful mix on the Allen & Heath dLive digital mixing console at FOH while reducing overall SPL levels and thus listening fatigue from members of the congregation.

“The Church at the Mill has accomplished their goal of delivering an emotionally-resonant worship experience,” added Asher Dowson, House of Worship Segment Manager, d&b audiotechnik.  “It’s a full sonic production for more than 2,200 congregants — but each person in attendance feels as though it’s all just for them.”

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