By Tony Allany
McLean Bible Church (MBC) in Vienna, VA, is a non-denominational, multi-site church located in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Approximately 15,000 congregants attend our weekly gatherings at fi ve locations in Maryland and Virginia. Over the last 20 years, we have been committed to technical excellence in our worship services as we seek to glorify Christ. When we completed our initial install of our 2,400 seat Main Auditorium in 2004 at our Tysons Campus in Vienna, VA, our system was comprised of nearly 100 point-source boxes spread throughout the room, including four zones of subwoofers. In October of 2014, MBC began to transition to a different musical style for our worship services, so we wanted to explore what current technologies could help us to move forward with that. Audio was definitely part of those discussions. Since we had two Midas H3000 consoles (which still sound incredible) we turned our attention to speakers. I, along with three other members of our audio and production staff , went to WFX in Dallas, TX to evaluate the current state of the art.
We heard many systems in a shootout with material consisting of a horn section along with a rhythm band, which sounded quite harsh in most of the systems. Then we heard L-Acoustics. It was a Kara rig with a couple of SB18’s flown above the mains. It was warm, punchy and clear. No other system came close to sounding this good! After several months of trying different arrays in our auditorium, and many conversations with Sully(Chris Sullivan, L-Acoustics Applications Engineer) we decided on the K2 array with SB28’s purchased from Bauder Audio in Horsham, PA. Due to the size and shape of our room, K2 was a perfect fi t because of its scale as well as its steerability with mid-hi frequency waveguides located in the center of the box. We tend to have a variety of styles and instrumentation in our services, so we have really been able to evaluate the limits of K2. From a full 60-member orchestra alongside a rhythm band, to a contemporary rhythm band line up, we have been blown away by the clarity, fullness, warmth and power of this system in any and all circumstances. Amplifying an orchestra sounds more natural than I ever imagined possible, dialing in a kick and snare has never been so simple, and vocals, which can be difficult to control, sit perfectly in the mix. From 125 feet away at FOH, it truly feels like a near field mixing experience! A by-product of this is that we have seen a remarkable improvement in our broadcast mix, which has made our live online broadcast experience (http://live. mcleanbible.org) much more engaging.
We have replaced over 100 amps with only 14, and nearly 100 speakers and subs split into four zones with 10 K2 mains and six SB28 subs per side, along with strategically placed rear (4) and front (5) fills. The fills were necessary due to the architecture of our room. The coverage is nearly flawless. King David was able to worship perfectly well a few thousand years ago with no sound system at all, so therefore authentic worship is not dependent on great speakers!… But great speakers provide a seamless, distraction-free environment and offer an optimal experience for worshipers in our current age. I believe that the worship experience at MBC has been greatly enhanced as a result of this system being installed in the auditorium at our Tysons Campus. Thank you, L-Acoustics!
Tony Alany is the Pastor of Worship at McLean Bible Church Arlington Campus, and is the Lead Audio Engineer at McLean Bible Church Tysons Campus. He has extensive experience leading worship, writing/ producing music, and running sound at MBC as well as in the DC area music scene.