We had just landed in Orlando and were still acclimating to the insanely high humidity of early June. Scott got a text from a friend of ours letting him know he just talked to the pastor of his former church. This pastor told Joe he needed help with getting a new PA installed, and fast. Joe told them to call us. We didn’t think too much of it until we got into the rental car and started driving toward the hotel when the phone rang.
It was Pastor John who told us that the church had been renovating the sanctuary and it was nearly complete. There was concern that the existing speaker system was not going to be adequate for the newer worship style they were going for in the newly upgraded space. [It was pretty bad…] Funds had become available to install a new PA, but there was a catch; it needed to be installed by the end of July, just over 5 weeks away.
We talked with him for about 30 minutes, learned about the church, the style of worship they were going for, what their values were and what they desired from their new PA. The worship style would be contemporary, but not rock and roll. A big value was evenness of coverage as the current system was not great in that regard, especially with the sound booth being in the balcony. There was a big disconnect between what the sound guy heard and what the congregation heard. He texted us some pictures of the space and a solution began to form in my mind.
A traditional A-Frame building, the peak was high up in the air—over 40’—and the ceiling was all wood. There was no treatment in the room, and it is more than twice as long as it is wide. A line array would give us the distance, but at the expense of putting a lot of energy onto the wood ceiling, which would find its way down to the audience area out of time and out of phase.
The more we talked, the more I became confident the solution I was envisioning would work. But, I wanted to talk to the manufacturer first. Thankfully, we were in Orlando for InfoComm, and we had an appointment with Bose the next day. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” And that was true, 10 years ago. But when they released their RoomMatch product line that all changed. With 42 coverage patterns in the lineup, it’s possible to almost exactly tailor the coverage of the arrays to the seating area—something that would be critical when we’re trying to avoid energizing all the hard surfaces surrounding the seats.
A Plan Comes Together
I showed some pictures and floor plans to Rick Boring, my technical sales rep at Bose the next day. I simply asked, “What would you do in this room?” His response was almost exactly what I was thinking. The rest of the crew at Bose told us they could make the deadline work, so we left Orlando with a reasonably well thought out plan.
Getting back to the office the next week, I did some modeling, sent it to Rick for validation, and worked up a budget. By the end of the week, we had a contract signed and a check in hand. Orders were placed, riggers and structural engineers were engaged and we reached out to our friends at Wired Electric to provide the additional AV power and sequencing and low voltage wiring.
After a few back and forth trips with structural, we came up with a plan to fly the speakers. The design was fairly simple; a four-box array with a two dual 15” subs for the main floor, and a two-box array with a dual 15” sub for the balcony. The reason I went with RoomMatch becomes clear when you look at the coverage patterns of the boxes. For the main array we had:
55 x 10
55 x 10
70 x 20
90 x 20
The delay hang was a 55 x40 over a 70 x 20. Those coverage patterns allowed us to walk the edge of the pattern right down the outside aisles, minimizing the interaction with the walls. One of the biggest problems I see in many PA designs—especially ones that won’t be regularly run at ear-bleeding levels—is the walls getting too much energy. This creates all kinds of nasty reflections when there is no treatment, and those reflections cause phase cancellation in the seating areas. If you run it loud enough, you can overcome some of this, but they weren’t going to be rocking at 104 dB SPLA all day long. Or ever.
Getting the system installed was a bit of a challenge as the building was about a week behind getting finished up (shock of shocks!). But, we were able to get our team in there to get the rig in the air, wiring run and the equipment rack re-built. Our rigger, Mike Linn, does amazing work and I’m pretty sure the building could collapse, and the PA would still be suspended in the air.
Dialing It In
When it came time to tune the PA, Rick came out and spent an evening with me getting it all dialed in. Our biggest challenge was that we had to tune without the carpet or chairs being in the room. We went back and forth for a while trying to decide how much extra HF to leave in the system, knowing it would get knocked down a bit once the room was finished. Overall, it sounded pretty dang good when we left and the trace from FOH stacked neatly on top of the trace from the middle of the seating area.
I had to fly home for my daughter’s birthday, so I couldn’t be there for opening weekend. Our friend Joe was able to help out, and we heard it all went well. After a few weeks, I went back out to adjust the tuning once the room was complete.
We had guessed about 2 dB too low on the HF, and after putting just a little back in the system, coverage matched the prediction almost exactly. We’re pretty much +/- 2dB SPLA from 1-4 KHz over the entire seating area, including the balcony. The coverage drops off right at the edge of the seating area, which keeps wall reflections to a minimum.
It took a little bit to get the sub timing worked out, but once we did, the low end coverage is very even throughout the room as well. They didn’t need giant thump, or mule kicks to the chest every time the kick hits, so we didn’t go crazy with subs. All they needed was some ewey-chewy goodness on the low end, which this system does in spades.
Amps and DSP
As you might expect, we used the PowerMatch 8500 amps for this project. In a rare error in judgement, I accidentally spec’d the non-networked amps for this project, which made system optimization harder than it needed to be. In the future, I’ll be doing all networked amps. We also used the new EX-1280 DSP with the also new Amp Link interface. Amp Link is a simple 8-channel digital transport over Cat cables. It makes wiring the amps and DSP dead simple; just cascade short Cat 5 or 6 jumpers from DSP to amps, and you’ve got your audio flowing.
For this project, I V-Bridged two amp channels for the LF and used a single channel for HF. Because the RoomMatch boxes will go down to 60 Hz on their own, the extra power makes for really nice low end.
Each of the sub is driven by four channels of the amp, providing 2000W to each sub. While the dual 15” won’t likely shake anyone’s fillings loose, they do provide ample bass.
As part of this upgrade, we also supplied and installed a Digital Audio Labs Live Mix system for in-ear monitoring. I’ve lost track of how many of these systems I’ve installed, and they always deliver great results.
The grand opening of the room ended up being six weeks from our initial phone call, but I like to point out that we were ready in five. We talk a lot on the podcast about the importance of great relationships, and this project proved why it’s so important. I’ve been working with Bose for over six years, and have built up high levels of trust with them. Our rigger and installers are guys we’ve known for years as well, and when we called with challenging timelines, they made room in their schedules to get it done.
The church is thrilled with the system and we’re already planning the next upgrade to be installed this year—a new video system. This system looks and sounds great and will provide them with rich, clear audio for years to come. And that makes for great stewardship.