Location: Ft. Worth, Texas
TMS Scope: Loudspeaker System Renovation.
Project: The need to update UCC's twenty year old loudspeaker system had become almost legendary. But when key components started to fail, interrupting the well-attended Sunday morning worship services, the urgency to move towards its replacement rose to the top of the list. I worked alongside Media & Technical Coordinator Jack Stewart to nurse their old system along for a time. Yet it was a full year from my first visit to the church to the date when I commissioned their new state-of-the-art loudspeaker system.
The typical Sunday morning worship service at UCC is relatively simple from a technical perspective. Gooseneck mics stand at the Pulpit and Lectern, with a third mic at the Communion Table. Their pastor wears an earset microphone. They have an absolutely beautiful pipe organ that supports the choir. A very capable bell choir is positioned high in the house-left transept seating, which acoustically supports their sounds. A grand piano sits in the corner, used only a handful of times throughout the year.
So just a few mic inputs are involved. However the last pew on the main floor is 120 feet from the main loudspeaker location, with a balcony seating area that extends back another 20 feet. As you can see from the photos, this is architecturally a very traditional looking room. Getting the technology to blend into the room as much as practical is important. System installers from Plano-based SAV did a first class job of installing the loudspeakers exactly where they needed to be while also going the extra mile to paint the loudspeaker enclosures on site so they would blend into the background.
The most logical place to put the main loudspeaker was on the truss directly over the Chancel, upstage of the Pulpit location. So obviously we needed great pattern control from the main loudspeaker. That meant choosing either a very large format horn, or some type of line array. A large format horn would have been unsightly to say the least. Instead, I chose a Tannoy QFlex 48 column line array as the main loudspeaker.
I knew that loudspeaker would work, but to help the church project team led by Minister of Administration Ellen Lewis experience my recommendation firsthand, we arranged a demo of a Tannoy QFlex 40 in their sanctuary, courtesy of Tannoy specialist Graham Hendry. It was so much fun to see the eyes brighten and the smiles open up when the committee first heard that demonstration. The uninitiated tend not to believe me when I tell them that one tall, skinny column of loudspeakers can provide even sound coverage to listeners seated in the front row as well as 140 feet away. The eyebrows really start to raise when I tell them that we can mount such a column vertically against the architectural truss, and "steer" the sound energy down to the listeners.
Thankfully hearing is believing, and just a few weeks later we were on track to design the new system. Once I had the acoustical model built in EASE, I asked Graham to engage his extensive knowledge of working with the Tannoy loudspeakers to help me craft the right solution.
The QFlex 48 is nearly 10 feet tall, and had to be raised as high as possible to minimize how far it protruded below the truss. Because of that, the next truss out in front of the QF48 location blocked the high frequency section for listeners seated in the last six pews on the main floor. So we mounted a single Tannoy VLS-15 to a nearby truss and aimed it steep to cover those last few rows. Another VLS-15 covers the entire balcony seating beautifully.
In fact, we used a total of fourteen Tannoy VLS-15's in this project. Most of those cover the lower and upper side transept seating areas, with two more to cover the choir (which was overjoyed by finally being able to hear the pastor's message after many years of sitting in the choir risers!).
The placement of their production booth earns its rank in the top 10 of my Worst Mixing Locations on the Planet. Take a look at the photo on the right and you'll note that the person sitting at the FOH console cannot see the pulpit location without standing up and moving over a couple of feet.
Jack's predecessor installed a Software Audio Console as the FOH desk. To say that console choice was an overkill is an understatement. However, its saving grace is that since it is computer-based, it can be driven by a wireless laptop or tablet computer. That allows the person mixing to move freely about the sanctuary and mix their services from any seat they choose.
Their first service took place on November 25, 2013.
Worship Center Equipment
• Main Loudspeakers: Tannoy QFlex 48 plus multiple VLS-15's
• DSP: BSS London
• Power Amps: LAB.gruppen
The installation went relatively smoothly. A new release of the software used to load the beam steering files onto the QFlex 48 experienced some problems. Enough so that Graham Hendry delayed the start of his vacation by a day to come and rescue us. Thank you Graham! And thank you as well to Ivan Schwartz who suffered through a dozen phone calls and text messages from me in a span of a few hours to help sort things out. That is service way beyond the call of duty. What a blessing!