Built in the early 1990s, the current worship center at Calvary Church of Santa Ana (California) offers an aesthetically beautiful environment. However, the facility’s sound quality wasn’t quite living up to it’s pleasant surroundings until recently when Gates Sound partnered with key church staff to implement a new sound reinforcement system offering concert-type performance and functionality.
Gates Sound, based in nearby Buena Park, California, is headed by Doug Gates, who has successfully transitioned his work in live sound to a thriving installation business, counting work with churches as a primary specialty. On this project, he worked closely with Calvary Church Technical Arts Director Trevor Behrns and several of his crew, including Kyle Gish, Teddy Bourgeois and Ryan Wilkinson, in devising a system solution and then making it a reality.
Several factors drove aspirations for a new sound system at Calvary Church, now celebrating its 75th anniversary. Topping the list: performance of the previous system had denigrated to the point where a supplemental, portable system needed to be rented. Another key issue was a continuing transition from largely spoken word presentation and traditional (choir, organ) music to a more contemporary worship style, furthered by the proposed addition of a Sunday service featuring passionate, modern electronic music in addition to teachings by a team of pastors.
“We were facing the need to produce quality audio for two different worship formats each Sunday with only about 30 minutes of turnaround time in between,” Behrns explains. “We have to allow time for the first service to clear out, and then allow time before the second service to get people in. This compressed time window doesn’t leave much opportunity for set-up and soundcheck, which in general necessitates a system of much higher quality, and specifically, one with built-in presets and repeatability.”
To further the decision-making process, he prepared a document for key church personnel, clearly stating the numerous benefits of a new system in straightforward yet compelling language. The document defined and justified the need for a system to meet objectives that Behrns called the “7 C’s” – context, clarity, coverage, consistency, capabilities, consultation and cost. It went right to the heart of the considerable benefits of a new system, and as a result, was a lynchpin in helping to engage the full support of church elders, trustees and Senior Pastor David Mitchell.
“It really came down to plainly defining what the overall capabilities of a new system would mean in helping further our specific needs and wants as a church,” notes Behrns. “Key issues such as sound pressure levels, distortion, intelligibility and so on were explained and put into context, so we could all get on the same page.”
The worship center interior measures about 200 feet wide and 150 feet deep, with more than 2,700 seats fanning outward from the large (80 feet by 40 feet) front platform. The acoustical signature is acceptable, especially given the volume of space, with the surfaces of both walls and ceilings “broken up” by architectural design elements. In addition, the theater-style seats are padded and the floor is carpeted.
The biggest challenge is the width of the room, which requires well over 100 degrees of horizontal coverage from the loudspeakers. Even with this wide coverage requirement, the sound team committed to a line array loudspeaker approach, which would fit more easily and seamlessly within the existing room structure. Three leading line array models, all providing wide enough coverage for this application, were identified and subsequently brought in for evaluation in the worship center.
A group of church representatives made the final decision based upon this direct comparison, choosing EAW KF730 small-format line arrays that offer 110-degree horizontal dispersion and plenty of output despite their compact footprint. Each KF730 includes dual 1.75-inch-voice-coil compression drivers and dual 7-inch cone drivers both working with a mid-/high-frequency horn that fills the entire face of the enclosure, maintaining horizontal pattern control throughout the MF/HF pass-band.
The sound team deployed EASE modeling to help determine loudspeaker locations and proper coverage, with EAW KF730 Wizard software also providing an assist on array structure, cabinet count and aiming. Audio Geer, EAW’s sales representative firm for the region, provided an assist on both of these facets.
The system is configured in stereo, with left and right line arrays made up of seven modules each, flown above the very far sides of the stage. The modeling showed this approach to be optimum in terms of coverage, except for a slight “hole” in mid-/high-frequency presence at the very front/center seats. The small gap was addressed with dual KF730 modules flown centrally above the front of the stage, tucked tightly to the ceiling.
“What we wanted, and what has been delivered by the KF730’s, is a really full, really warm sound signature,” Behrns says. “We didn’t need gigantic rock music levels, even though this system can deliver it, but rather, full-bandwidth and very even coverage at every seat, without variance. When someone would complain about the old system, we’d ask ‘where did you sit?’ because the coverage was so spotty. We don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
All arrays were flown from a beam handily located above the stage, traversing the room from one side to the other. Standard KF730 flying hardware was the only thing needed to securely fix the arrays to the beam. Splay brackets were also included with the hardware package so that the installers could easily fix the splay angles between enclosures.
“This was really an easy install as far as the loudspeakers,” Gates notes. “The arrays go together very easily and the hardware is precise and solid.”
The low-end is bolstered by eight double-18-inch-loaded subwoofers, divided into groups of two that are placed equidistantly beneath the front of the stage. All loudspeakers are driven by premium power amplifiers, rack-mounted backstage with a digital signal processor providing all individual loudspeaker and overall system processing.
The project also saw a move of the house mix position from one of the sides of the audience area to its center, a dramatic upgrade in terms of both position and layout for Behrns and his crew who mix on the system. While some existing conduit had been previously routed to the new mix location, it wasn’t nearly enough to accommodate a full-fledged copper cable snake.
Considering alternatives, the sound team decided to implement a Whirlwind E Snake digital transmission system utilizing fiber optic cable that easily fit within the conduit structure. “This made the installation and booth location transition a lot easier,” Gates says. “And the cost ended up being about the same by the time you factor in the added labor it would have taken to install a traditional copper snake.”
A new Yamaha PM5D digital console anchors the mix position, and it also provides all effects, rendering outboard units unnecessary, thereby saving additional space in the booth. With this console at the “hub” of the system, audio signal remains in the CobraNet digital domain from and to the stage, converted back to analog at the power amplifiers.
“As usual with a retrofit, there were a couple of weird wiring things that had to be figured out, but overall, the project went well,” Gates says. “It serves as a great example of forward-thinking about system capabilities while also remaining prudent in component selection. Intelligibility is now superior, full-range impact and clarity are stellar, and functionality is efficient and practical.”
Audio Geer returned to the project to provide an assist on system tuning and analysis, utilizing SIA SmaartLive to help locate and identify specific problems. Behrns notes that the collaborative effort of the entire sound team produced the desired results.
“The new system is working out really well, but it’s not been without some challenges, particularly in integrating the new with the old,” he concludes. “As a result, I strongly recommend partnering with experienced professionals that have done this type of thing before, to help develop the clear goals and smart planning that are probably the biggest factors in a new system meeting expectations.”