Mariners Church recently upgraded its sound system with a pair of SSL Live. L500 consoles for their 3,400-seat, 81,000-sq. ft. worship center. Nestled on a scenic hilltop next to the Newport Coast, Mariners Church features contemporary Christian worship and averages 14,000 attendees per week. This is a substantial increase from its humble start in the 1960s, when the church held worship at the homes of Newport Beach families and a series of rented locations, including Mariners Elementary School after which it was named. Since building its current worship facility in 2006, Mariners has opened additional locations in Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana.
It was nearly a decade since the church first installed its audio system, which included a 48-channel analogue FOH console, and the audio team knew it was time for an upgrade. They turned once again to CCI Solutions, the integrator on their original sound system, which this time supplied a pair of new SSL L500 consoles for both FOH and monitors.
“The clarity of the console and the way we can separate the mixing functions has been spectacular,” says Mariners Network Technical Arts Director Jeff Stewart, who joined the church at the same time as the consoles. “It’s not just me who feels this way, everyone has been telling me that it’s a night and day difference over the old console, which was gone before I got here.”
Previously a systems engineer at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, Stewart was tasked with consulting on the purchase prior to the move. “During my transition from Willow, the team was still deciding what console to choose and I said, from an engineering standpoint, that I’d go with the SSL,” he says. “I told them that SSL has been making consoles for 45 years, so they know what they are doing. My first day on the job, I installed the two L500 consoles.”
Among the people on Stewart’s team who have noticed the difference is Scott Clement, who has been mixing FOH at Mariners for the past year. “I’ve worked on many different digital consoles at other venues and with other acts, so when I was told that SSL was being considered, I knew it was the right way to go,” he says. “It’s been a lot easier to mix and I’m using much less EQ, especially for our pastor, who doesn’t like head-worn microphones, but instead uses a lavalier mic. On the old console, we had to do a lot of carving just to get enough gain before feedback. I’m not spending time getting the sound to cut through; it just does it automatically. I can hear everything, and I don’t have to gain it up a lot to get what I want.
“The first time we used the console was for our Christmas production, during which we had a choir and string percussion and horn sections, and still, with all of those things going on, I could still hear the shaker from the percussionist coming through,” he continues. “The SSL Live has both a clarity and warmth that gives me what I call the ‘soul of the music,’ in the low- to mid-range.”
While Mariners has a recurring core worship band each week, individual guest performers are a frequent staple for services. “The ability to save channel profiles for recurring guest performers is a great time-saver,” Clement adds. “When a musician returns, I can simply load the settings for their instrument or vocal and we’re up and running. Even if we have to patch them to a new channel, it only takes seconds.
Mariners’ two Solid State Logic L500 consoles share four 32-channel ML 32.32 analogue stageboxes, for a total of 128 stage inputs. “We haven’t had to use the full 128 yet, but we wanted something we could grow into as well,” Clement explains. “For Christmas, the main stage had close to 100 people on it, and there was also a small ensemble out in the middle of the house, so we were pushing around 80 inputs. We know that our productions will keep getting bigger.”
SSL’s Live Recorder, which can support 64-channels of 96 kHz record and playback, is being used in conjunction with the SSL Live consoles. “Our Live Recorder has already paid for itself,” declares Clement. “Since I can instantly playback the audio, I use it to discuss with Jeff and our music director, what adjustments they’d like me to make. I haven’t been able to do that with other consoles because they just don’t have the tools. Now, it’s so easy for us to transfer over into virtual sound check. It’s literally a push of a button, and you’re ready to go, which is amazing. It’s also useful for times when someone has to cover for me. They can just fire up the tracks from the previous week use them to set their EQs and dynamics to their preferences for a quick and simple setup before rehearsal Saturday.”
Solid State Logic is the world’s leading manufacturer of analogue and digital audio consoles and provider of creative tools for music, broadcast, live and post production professionals. For more information about our award-winning products, please visit: www.solidstatelogic.com