House of Worship Sound

Apr 27, 2010 2:58 PM, By Sarah Benzuly



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The 41,000-square-foot addition to Harvest Bible Chapel features a Renkus-Heinz ST Series P.A.

The 41,000-square-foot addition to Harvest Bible Chapel features a Renkus-Heinz ST Series P.A.

Located in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, this parish recently completed a 41,000-plus-square-foot addition to the church’s existing facility, adding 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 logical choice to do the A/V 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 front-of-house 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. “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.

Microphone inputs can be plugged into floor pockets around the stage that are tied directly into the digital snake in a Middle Atlantic MPR-8 power raceway. The signals come up on the new Yamaha M7CL FOH mixer, where three Ethernet cards convert the signal to data that is fed to the monitor system (via Axiom cards also in the console) and to the Lowell and Raxxess Metalsmiths amp racks and back to the P.A. The P.A. is self-powered, using Renkus-Heinz ST Series loudspeakers. Four loudspeakers—two ST6/64 and two ST4/44 models—are flown across the stage, buttressed by four Renkus-Heinz BPS15-2K subs placed two per side and built into the base of the stage. Front-fill for the first few rows is done using six JBL Control 28 loudspeakers and seven Atlas FAP42T ceiling loudspeakers with 55ms delays that fill in the back of the hall, powered by Crown CDi and XTi series amplifiers. The P.A. system is optimized for music and speech intelligibility, using a dbx 231 equalizer and the Yamaha M7’s onboard DSP and its memory-recall feature, which lets the mixer flip between optimized settings for speech and music.

As for the Yamaha board, Driesenga says, “Church volunteers adapted well to the digital board and ultimately found themselves relying heavily on many of the new digital features—such as saving presets, scenes and entire mixes—which constitute additional time and effort savings.”

Acoustics By Design, an independent consulting company, was brought in by the general contractor, Dan Vos Construction (both located in Grand Rapids), to offer acoustical engineering and A/V consultation for the project. ABD worked directly with the church to ensure the space was optimized for worship, says Kenric Van Wyk, president of ABD. He says he used the EASE Address software modeling of the space to predict its acoustical fingerprint and to determine loudspeaker selection and location. According to Van Wyk, the need was to redirect the acoustical energy more evenly throughout the room, to overcome node buildups caused by sonic reflections. The solution came in the form of custom-made side-wall reflectors made from drywall and cut into an elliptical shape about eight feet wide. “These reflective diffusers deliver the sound evenly throughout the sanctuary,” he says.

Other innovations include a 10x10-foot clear plastic drum kit enclosure for isolation and ButtKicker pads for both the bass player and the drummer, who share outputs from the ButtKicker’s amplifier.

All the while, the design had to be flexible and economical. Driesenga notes the dramatic lessening of cable runs thanks to the digital snake, the Ethernet signal distribution and the self-powered P.A. loudspeakers. The digital patching capability of the console and the snake also make for a more efficient signal routing system. “We’re not seeing investment in those types of equipment happening yet on a regular basis in churches,” he says. “But the operational flexibility they offer is certainly worth their cost because features like preset scenes can let the space be used by a wider variety of performances.”

Driesenga acknowledges the steeper learning curve that a digital console presents, noting that most volunteer sound techs at churches have yet to master digital mix consoles. At Harvest Bible, three volunteers underwent training from Parkway to learn the Yamaha M7. “But once they realize what they can do with these systems, I think their reluctance will begin to fade away,” Driesenga says. 

Sarah Benzuly is Mix’s managing editor.

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