As Clients in the church market continue to increase their awareness about what constitutes high-quality sound, systems contractors servicing these organizations are noticing an elevated need for systems designed to accommodate performances, rather than just sermons.
"All of these facilities - even the more traditional worship centers - are becoming performance-oriented," noted Mark Girardi, president of Real World Audio in Asheville, NC. "To keep people coming to church and satisfied, churches are trying to capture this trend. Even though traditional churches are not into full-blown, high-tech shows, they are still doing a lot more drama and a lot more multimedia presentations. The overall mindset is that they are demanding more out of the systems - they just want them to sound better."
Real World Audio recently completed the installation of an upgraded sound system into Asheville's Central United Methodist Church, an historic building constructed during the early 1800s. Since it was built, the church has undergone four renovations, according to Girardi. "Their long-term goal-and they wanted to do this in phases - was that they wanted better intelligibility in the sanctuary and choir areas. They had some major issues with several dead spots and areas that just weren't up to standard. It really posed itself as a challenge architecturally, because we didn't want to install anything that would damage the aesthetic make-up of the building."
The staff at Central United Methodist contacted Real Word Audio directly, after recognizing a need for an updated audio system. Girardi and his crew set about specifying a new system for the building's main sanctuary.
"It was a dated system," Girardi said. "We started working on the design for a new system and came up with something that we felt would really work well. It actually ended up working out better than any of us had anticipated."
The main sanctuary seats approximately 600 worshippers, including the balcony area. It is a rectangular space featuring high ceilings that reach approximately 40 feet in height.
"Because of the high ceiling, we knew that we were doing to have to deal with a fair amount of reverberation in there. It's a pretty live room, "Girardi explained. "We wanted to install cabinets that were very directional, with focused pattern coverage down to somewhere in the 500-cycle range so that we could focus some of the coverage onto the seating areas. They definitely needed help in the front three pews as well, because from the height where the central cluster was hanging, we couldn't get the pitch on the cabinets to cover the front seating area. We needed front fills badly, which ended up enhancing the coverage for that front area."
Real World Audio installed two JBL Venue Series VS2201-6WH loudspeakers and one JBL Custom Shop CVS124-WH subwoofer with two 14-inch drivers in a centralized cluster configuration, with the subwoofer in the middle and the two Venue Series cabinets on either side. For front fills and balcony fills, the contractor utilized four JBL Marquis Series MS26-WH speakers. The loudspeakers are powered by QSC amplifiers, which were installed previously.
At the front-of-house, Real World Audio installed a Mackie 1604 VLZ-Pro Console. Signal processing is achieved through an Ashly Protea 4.24S 4-channel DSP processor. A number of Shure microphones are used for the choir.
Girardi noted that his crew faced several of the challenges that contractors encounter when working on a project that is a retrofit rather than a new construction. "The biggest installation challenge was that the pews were already in the sanctuary. When you already have the pews in there and a 40-foot peaked ceiling, actually getting into position to rig the cabinets is difficult," he said. "We ended up taking a chain motor into the attic above so we were at roughly 65 feet, and then dropping a chain through a hole we had cut in the ceiling. We hoisted them up that way. Then, a tech went up on a single-man lift to terminate it and do the remaining work that had to be done."
Real World Audio focuses primarily on serving houses of worship in addition to educational and government buildings. Girardi emphasized that the systems his company is installing into churches these days are high in sound