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Installation Profile: New Life, New Sanctuary

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Trevor Boyer

A church's construction became an opportunity to integrate a new all-digital audiovisual system.

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New Life's design, which includes a sloping floor and a drop ceiling that threatened to obstruct loudspeaker throws, called for five Nexo cabinets hung with 3ft. to 4ft. of aircraft cable. Bottom photo: John Nation

New Life's design, which includes a sloping floor and a drop ceiling that threatened to obstruct loudspeaker throws, called for five Nexo cabinets hung with 3ft. to 4ft. of aircraft cable. Bottom photo: John Nation


During the time the building design was evolving, AV technology was also changing. PSG Systems ended up specifying and hanging five Nexo cabinets from three positions on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (It's essentially a left-center-right pattern, but the church does not use it for stereo panning.) The loudspeakers are hung with 3ft. to 4ft. of aircraft cable to make them lower than the drop ceiling that would otherwise obstruct the throws.

Because the New Life regularly hosts concerts by traveling musical acts, there had been some discussion of a line-array system, but ultimately, that would have been too expensive and possibly overkill for what the church needed. (It also might have created sight-line problems.)

PSG specified Nexo PS15U 15in. two-way mains loudspeakers for two reasons. First was price/performance: Parish and PSG concluded that the Nexos were the best loudspeakers for what New Life wanted to spend. Second was coverage: Because the Nexos are one of the few loudspeakers on the market with an asymmetrical horn, they're well-suited for the sanctuary — a wide room with a high ceiling (25ft. to 30ft.). From their positions on the ceiling, the cabinets' narrow top (about 50 degrees) covers the back of the room, and the wide bottom (about 100 degrees) covers the front row. “We're able to cover the front row a lot better without blowing a lot into the side walls at the back of the room,” says Chris Hermanson, lead installer and engineer for PSG Systems on the New Life project. “That would have created a lot of echo.”

Three Yamaha IF2205 dual 5in. two-way low-profile loudspeakers are mounted to the front edge at the center of the stage. These aren't to fill gaps, but to make the pastor's voice sound more realistic to the front of the room. “When the pastor's standing at the pulpit downstage center, it feels more like his voice is coming from him as opposed to up in the sky,” Hermanson says. Two Nexo LS1200 SubBass subwoofers are built into the New Life stage, and five Yamaha P7000 units handle power amplification for the sanctuary's system.

According to Parish, a PSG engineer who EQ'd the room after the installation of the loudspeakers was very happy with the coverage. “He was pretty impressed how well the other guys had done hanging speakers at such a trajectory that the whole room got filled, and how well the system sounded straight out of the box,” he says.

Parish says he runs the system between 85dB and 95dB, and the Nexo loudspeakers provide more than enough power for this. “I already run the decibel level a lot louder than what most of the older folks would like,” he says. “Because of that generation, I do pull it down considerably.”

Since the church's reopening this past August, five touring bands have performed in the new sanctuary. When they first see the five cabinets hanging from the ceiling 20ft. up, they're typically not impressed, Parish says, but the bands are more than satisfied when Parish pushes the system to 110dB.

Ultimately, the administrative pastor is happy with the sound of the main sanctuary — especially when he compares it to the old sanctuary's sound. Its A-frame construction means a high, narrow ceiling where sound bounces around. Parish had stressed to the architects of the new sanctuary that the church really wanted an acoustically sound building. The new building is a definite improvement, with less reverb and no dead spots, but it's not quite perfect. “Our system sounds incredible, but when it's a single voice speaking, there is a little too much echo,” Parish says. “We're looking at putting up some baffling, some panels that are decorative.”

PSG Systems specified a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital console to ease the learning curve of New Life's volunteer operators. Photo: John Nation

PSG Systems specified a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital console to ease the learning curve of New Life's volunteer operators. Photo: John Nation


A Yamaha M7CL-48 48-channel digital console sits at the front-of-house position in the sanctuary's balcony, which has no seating. Besides Parish, all of New Life's operators are volunteers. If they had any mixing experience before the sanctuary's reopening, it was with the legacy analog Soundcraft board, on which every knob corresponds to a discrete channel. That's not often the case with digital mixers, which often require the operator to page through menus in order to adjust the proper channel. So the goal for PSG Systems was to specify a powerful console that was relatively simple to use.

“The Yamaha M7 is a digital desk that relates well to an analog desk,” Hermanson says. “It gives you a fader for every input available all the time. If something goes wrong, you can reach over and grab that fader, pull it down.”

Analog mixers provide more tactility than digital boards do, but they don't offer presets. These help the operator in two main ways. First, in case something gets screwed up, the M7CL can be reset with a few keystrokes. Hermanson says PSG Systems typically walks church clients through the first couple services. “We have one of our guys out there mixing,” he says. “We record it as the PSG Start preset and lock it, and say, ‘That's what you go back to whenever you get problems.’”

Second, by creating EQ presets based on personal preferences and presets for common situations, the operators can spend less time doing repetitive EQ tasks. “We have different people that lead our music depending on the week,” Parish says. “High voices, low voices, raspy voices — and I can EQ their voice to a certain microphone and then save that out in our EQ library. And if they're up there that week, it's about a 10-second process to import that EQ setting.” Parish says that even if the OS crashes, he's covered because all his presets are saved on a thumb drive.

Still, the digital console presented a considerable learning curve — not just for the volunteers, but for Parish himself. Even before construction was complete, PSG Systems trained Parish and a core group of operators on the M7CL at its office. In turn, Parish has trained the rest of the volunteers at the church. He says that he continually asked the PSG reps questions during the two months of the installation and for months afterward, whenever a PSG engineer showed up at the church to do some minor tweaking — which happened quite often soon after the new sanctuary opened. “Between the training they provided in the actual sessions and just the questions here and there, I feel, on a church level, very adequate,” Parish says.

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