The Central Christian Church Mesa Campus recently completed an overhaul of its main worship center built around a Martin Audio MLA Compact system.
According to lead audio engineer Milk Arnold, “the system consists of four hangs with six MLA Compact enclosures each above the thrust but all the way back against the proscenium––the pastor actually stands in front of the PA. We also have four Martin Audio DD6s as lip fills that give us amazing coverage for the front rows.”
The building that houses the 1900-seat worship center was built in the late seventies with a balcony built for future use that was never completed and is now unused, posing a legitimate challenge for any speaker system.
“The Church was replacing an older system that didn’t cover the space well, in large part because of the unfinished balcony,” says Milk. “We’re always trying to get sound under that balcony and that’s one of the reasons we chose MLA.
“We needed the control to put the sound exactly where it needs to be with the clarity and audio quality to cover the Pastor’s speeches and the contemporary worship service instrumentation which includes electric guitars and bass, drums, keyboards and half a dozen vocalists.
“That, plus the fact that the Pastor is often in the audience but still has to be heard by everyone in the room. They also do a broadcast video capture of his sermon for the other campuses, so he wears an omnidirectional lavalier mic that can be a real problem in a live environment. The MLA Compact system gives us the control to handle that issue and doesn’t generate any noise off the PA onto the stage, which is a major advantage for this kind of situation.”
Asked for more details about the room’s main audio challenge, the unused balcony, Milk responds, “This room would take nothing less than the absolute control offered by the MLA system. And it was an instantaneous change in terms of speech and intelligibility for the pastor’s message. Suddenly, there were no bad spots in the room; everywhere was good.
“And music reproduction is great as well. Now the bass guitar can be heard but isn’t overwhelming, we can put drums in the mix, and turn up the vocals without too much screechiness or distortion.
“I’ve mixed pretty much on every sound system there is at this point because of my touring and corporate background, and I’ve never had anything respond like the MLA system. You can hear the tiniest little fader moves. It’s crazy.”
In addition to MLA Compact, the sound system includes a Yamaha PM5D for Front of House and an Aviom monitoring system that includes the wireless in-ear systems.
Summing up with reactions to MLA, Milk explains, “the people in charge aren’t really audio experts and for them to really hear the difference and be aware of how MLA represents such a significant upgrade makes it a totally worthwhile investment for them. They walked into the room with MLA and it was a ‘light switch turning on’ kind of change. It made everyone feel good about doing the project.
“One of the funniest reactions we had was from the band members who kept asking us if the PA was on because they were so used to the noise from the previous system down on the stage below!”