The reverberant nature of many church sanctuaries is often a major challenge to sound system designers, integrators and contractors. But as systems become increasingly sophisticated, the latest loudspeaker and DSP management and processing technology provides the tools to help optimize audio system performance in any venue.
The First Presbyterian Church upgraded its audio system earlier this year to incorporate some of the latest cutting edge audio technology. Clair Brothers Systems handled the design-build.
Gene Pelland, Vice President and Director of Marketing at Clair Brothers Systems in Lititz, PA, recalls that the company received a call from First Presbyterian’s consultant, Dave Thomas of Ultrasound Communication Systems in Colorado Springs, requesting a bid on behalf of the church at the end of 2002. “I handed the initial design off to Dan Hines, who works out of the Clair Brothers Systems Nashville office,” says Pelland. “Dan met with Dave Thomas and the church and created the initial design for the system. Shortly thereafter Dave and I went together to the church and made our presentation, and they accepted the proposal.”
The Clair Brothers Systems design was centered on the company’s new Curved Line Array loudspeaker system and the Lake Contour digital speaker controller. Lake Contour, which had evolved from a joint project between Clair Brothers and Lake Technology that resulted in the Clair iO processor, was just about to come to market, and the First Presbyterian Church represents the very first church installation of the device.
Three Clair Brothers Curved Array Technology CAT-2 speakers are flown per side in the main system, with a single Clair CS-18 subwoofer positioned on top of each cluster. The finish was matched up in the Clair Brothers Systems paint shop to blend in with the existing interior of the church. The CS-18 and custom rigging frame were additionally dressed in a one-of-a-kind enclosure and grille to match the appearance and color finish of the CAT cluster to create a single, homogeneous unit.
Previously unavailable to the public, like the Lake Contour, the Clair CAT speaker system is the result of four years of research, design and road testing. The system has a notable pedigree, as Clair Brothers Associates’ curved array systems have toured successfully all over the world and been heard by millions of people at major concert events.
As with any traditional line array system, the CAT offers minimal lobing and cancellation. Each wave-guide module provides 80 degrees of horizontal coverage and 25 degrees of vertical coverage. Thus, vertically flown, four of the modules will provide an 80-degree by 100-degree coverage pattern.
“In this highly reverberant space the controlled directivity of the CAT clusters provides very good intelligibility of the spoken word and more than sufficient levels for music reproduction,” comments Pelland. But unlike typical line array systems, the Clair Brothers system uses fewer cabinets to achieve larger coverage areas. The patented system has been designed with an integrated rigging system that results in a seamless, cosmetically appealing vertical array.
The CS-18 subwoofer is designed to provide maximum sub bass reinforcement and low frequency augmentation in fixed installations. The unit is unobtrusive, utilizing a compact 26.5-inch cube design, while its symmetrical eight-port configuration extends the low frequency response of the 18-inch woofer to produce a usable in-room frequency response down to 30 Hz.
A single Lake Contour unit drives the left and right CAT/CS-18 system. Lake Contour is a two-input, six-output device that offers unique sound reshaping capabilities through digital equalization, crossovers, dynamics and delays. Contour synthesizes filters, providing precise and flexible equalization for optimizing loudspeaker systems and supporting a virtually unlimited number of EQ curves. For example, equalization may be applied to compensate for a speaker’s phase response, then additional, multiple parametric and graphic curves may be overlaid to optimize the entire sound system. The resultant frequency response of the unit is the combination of all of those layers.
Contour also introduces an entirely new type of filter, named the Mesa Filter by the company, which offers users the ability to custom tailor a single curve to a frequency response that would normally require multiple channels of parametric or graphic EQ. That allows users to create an EQ curve in which the two sides may be adjusted independently to produce asymmetrical functions, optimizing high and low frequency roll-off without introducing out-of-band frequency emphasis. As an example, a brickwall filter could be applied at a specific frequency, allowing the power of the relevant amplifier to be focused more productively.
The business manager at the church, Ed Ward stated, “We had some speakers installed at the front of the sanctuary, on the steps of the chancel, then speakers on each side of the chancel, as well as speakers under the balcony. That did the trick for us.” A BSS Soundweb 9008i drives the four under-balcony speaker feeds. Four OAP NF-241 speakers were installed on the steps. A pair of JBL Control 29AV speakers provides additional coverage.
According to Pelland, the installation of additional speaker elements was necessitated by the acoustics in the sanctuary. “Along with our CAT/CS-18 clusters we used Clair UB-2003 under-balcony loudspeakers to provide additional sound reinforcement in areas where the ratio of direct to reverberated sound from CAT’s was not acceptable to the system’s designers.”
Clair Brothers additionally supplied six Clair Wedge-P stage monitor wedges for use with choirs, praise ensembles and other musical presentations, together with four Shure P4MTRE1 wireless personal monitor systems, which feature onstage mix control. Crown CTs series amplifiers, comprising a combination of CTs1200, CTs2000, CTs3000 and CTs4000 units, drive all of the system loudspeakers. Clair Brothers also supplied a Yamaha 02R96 digital mixing console, with four-channel monitor mixing expansion cards, as well as Klark Teknik KT360 and KT360B equalizers and an HHB CD recorder.