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Big Sound

Oct 9, 2009 3:23 PM, By Dan Daley

Sophisticated audio for a midsize church.

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You may have noticed lately that the world-class level of sound you’ve become used to at major league rock concerts has begun migrating into the local clubs, where it’s increasingly common to see small line-array PAs flown alongside the stage with projection video and LCD screens. But it’s more than Moore’s Law that’s driving sound down at the grungy club level; consumer expectations have also been raised when it comes to audio.

The same phenomenon now affects the house-of-worship sector at its loftiest level, and it has been filtering down more recently through the middle level. A perfect example is found at Harvest Bible Chapel in the Grand Rapids, Mich., suburb of West Olive, where a recently completed 41,000-plus-square-foot addition to the church’s existing facility added more seating for its congregation of more than 1,000 members, a café lounge, a tiered 120-seat lecture room, and a choir rehearsal/recording studio that can hold 80 people. It also gave the church the kind of space it needed to support an increasingly contemporary, music-based ministry.

Parkway Electric & Communications was a good choice to do the AV systems integration—Parkway Project Manager Steve Driesenga is also a member of the congregation, which might have contributed to its decision to green-light some pretty advanced technology. That included a Whirlwind digital Ethernet snake from the stage to the FOH position and Ethernet cabling from there over to the amp rack and then back to the stage for the Aviom digital in-ear monitoring system.

“The in-ear monitors allow each musician to control his or her own mix, which is very important to a ministry that emphasizes music so heavily, and using the snake let us reduce cabling by a significant amount, as well as simplified the installation and prepared the facility for future expansion,” explains Jeff VandeHoef, project engineer for Parkway on the Harvest project.

These elements helped Harvest keep costs down, but it also put it at the head end of the trend toward more sophisticated system installs that more and more media-savvy churches are looking for.

“We’re seeing things that have become more common in 5,000-seat churches now becoming part of the system design for 700- to 1,000-seat churches,” Driesenga says.

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