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Rock and Roll Audio Upgrade

Jul 29, 2014 11:15 AM


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Two and half years ago Sun Valley Tempe merged with Bethany Church. Sun Valley inherited Bethany Church’s large campus and an auditorium with technical capabilities that were deficient by today’s standards. The audio system was old and primarily designed for natural speech, orchestra, and choir reinforcement in an acoustic setting. “That, plus the building is a complex geometrical design, basically a five-sided pentagon with a seven-sided auditorium that’s about 160 degrees wide, has a raked floor, many complex angles, and no parallel surfaces,” says Eric Johnson, technical director for Sun Valley. “Needless to say, this presented a real challenge when it came to choosing a new loudspeaker system.”

Though the original system had worked for many years, it no longer served Sun Valley’s electric rock-and-roll-style music. The job would require a major renovation that included ripping out the traditional pews and the old carpet to make way for modern theater-style seating and new carpeting in the aisles. The stage size was reduced by about 12ft. Most importantly, the lighting and audio systems were upgraded.

“There was a real concern as to whether or not we could put in a system that would adequately reinforce rock and roll without overwhelming the live-sounding room. We discussed acoustically treating the room, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or completely tearing down the ceiling and remodeling the room from the inside which wasn’t feasible either,” Johnson says.

Fortunately, Johnson was aware of the Martin Audio MLA system. He first heard it several years ago during a demo at Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix. “I had an idea of what the technology was about,” he says, “but I was really impressed with what I heard. The possibility of MLA and the MLA Compact system specifically, led us to realize that the technology would allow us to precisely control the audio output and put the energy onto the seats while keeping it off the ceilings and walls. So that’s the direction we decided to pursue.”

The installed system for the 1,300-seat auditorium consists of nine MLA Compact enclosures per side in left-right hangs with seven Martin Audio DSX subs in bunkers arranged in arc formation along the downstage edge. Two WT3 speakers for extreme left and right outfill and six DD6 speakers for frontfill complete the system with Martin Audio MA3.0 and MA2.8Q amplifiers and a Merlin Processor that manages the outfills and front fills, as well as communications between the speakers. The rest of the setup currently includes a Soundcraft MH2 40-channel desk at FOH and Sennheiser Evolution series wireless and DPA microphones.

Johnson adds that the installation team—which included Ed Crippen from Clark, the system integration company; Jon Hunsacker and Kevin Hull from SVCC; and Sean Stinson’s ream of riggers from Clearwing—had to bring in a considerable amount of additional power to accommodate the new lights and audio system since the building was already over capacity for electrical service.

Completed in the first week of April, the system debuted on Palm Sunday with overwhelming success. Crippen stayed behind to listen to the rehearsals and the first service and take measurements. “One of the things we discovered during the sermon was that realtime intelligibility readings were off the charts,” Johnson says.

“There was a band playing that averaged between 95dB and 104dB with subs, which was clear and not too loud. With the MLA Compact, the musicians can now focus on the nuances and subtleties of their music that can finally be heard without overwhelming the space. I even had to adjust the drummer’s toms because we could hear them rattling against the support post.”

When we went to the portion with just the pastor speaking downstage, we averaged 72dB over a 10-minute window. Not only was it loud enough, it was incredibly clear and you felt as if he was talking right in front of you at 72dB. It’s unheard of to put a message out at that volume and not suffer any fatigue because it’s not loud enough.”

PRODUCT AT WORK

Martin Audio MLA Compact

Martin Audio’s MLA Compact system features five dedicated Class-D amplifier channels per enclosure, powering a three-way configuration comprising two slot-loaded 10in. woofers, two 5in. neodymium midrange drivers, and four high-frequency 0.7 exit neodymium compression drivers. The frequency response is 65Hz to 18kHz, and the maximum peak SPL is 135dB. The horizontal coverage pattern is 130 degrees.



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