Clark, a full service design, engineering and integration firm specializing in Houses of Worship, recently deployed a Martin Audio sound system based on MLA arrays as part of an audio upgrade to solve late reflection problems on stage and ensure consistent coverage in the huge 5,000-seat sanctuary of the Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Calvary Church is known for having one of the largest pipe organs in the world valued at approximately $3.7 million with 205 ranks and 11,499 pipes, which presented a significant challenge for the integrators in terms of providing reinforced sound that wouldn’t have a negative impact on the organ and the room’s natural acoustics.
Houston Clark, principal and co-founder, describes the problem his team had to solve: “It’s a newer building that embraces both traditional and blended worship––regularly using its massive pipe organ. So the challenge was very unique in two ways: the church wanted reinforced sound in the room for speech, a choir, orchestral and modern instrumental music without negatively impacting the acoustics for the pipe organ.
“We needed to calm the room down acoustically when we energized it with reinforced sound without treating it acoustically,” Clark continues. “We also needed to eliminate reflections off the back wall that were causing intelligibility problems for the Pastor and choir, so we came up with a unique solution using the Martin Audio MLA system that would solve those problems and ensure consistent coverage for every seat in the congregation”
The system Clark devised for Calvary starts with three hangs from the center of the ceiling with 16 MLA enclosures on the left and right side and 6 MLX subwoofers in the center. An array of 8 MLA Mini facing the choir and orchestra pit is hung behind the subwoofers to provide effective monitoring for the stage.
Additionally, two flown Martin Audio H3H+ speakers per side are used for outfills and two D12 speakers in the greenery at the edges of the stage are used as planter fills for the outermost sections of the seating. Under balcony fills to cover a small section of the congregation at the back of the hall are provided by 6 Martin Audio DD6s and upper balcony fills by 4 XD15 speakers.
“What’s unusual about Calvary is the fact that they blend traditional choir, organ and orchestral music with a modern electric band in one service,” adds Houston. “So we had to make sure the PA was effectively reproducing all of those elements without over-energizing the hall. MLA allows us to do that and control the slap-back echo off the back wall of the room that was negatively affecting the Pastor’s sermons. With the previous system, he had to meter the tempo of his sermon because his voice was coming back at him and creating intelligibility problems. With the MLA, we could use the hard avoid feature and eliminate those reflections for the Pastor and the choir.
“The other thing that really works now is going from the main floor, to the second and third floor balconies, the sound experience is consistent at every floor,” Houston concludes. “You have a dream when putting together this type of PA that every seat will have the same audio experience and it was truly amazing to walk all of those floors and not perceive a difference in the sound.”
Calvary’s Technical Director Dan Smith is also impressed with the MLA system: “It’s been working great, we’re really pleased. We don’t have to worry about all the reflections and mix around them anymore, we can get a fuller, truer mix out there. A typical Sunday service includes the choir, full bands with drums, keyboards, electric bass, and a brass orchestra with percussion. I usually run between 60 and 65 inputs, so it’s a pretty big production. I can get all the elements to come out where it was really difficult before.
“The best part of using MLA is that we can do all of this without affecting the organ and the room. That’s one of the main things we looked at from the get-go when we were looking at different speaker systems because we didn’t want to pad or treat the room because it’s such a great sounding room. And the control is amazing now. I was sitting on stage last night and you can’t even detect the slap-back of a snare off the back wall. It’s like being in a big room with no back wall.
an>Discussing the system’s ability to eliminate typical problems, installation team leader George Clark adds, “Normally in a lot of these larger spaces, you spend just as much time evaluating the impact of the PA in terms of what’s happening on stage as the auditorium. That’s 50% of the battle, you may have covered the room well but if you’ve destroyed intelligibility on stage, what have you gained? The main thing for me about MLA is we could take care of people on stage and those in the audience.”