Audio Video Electronics (AVE) recently completed an upgrade of the historic First Baptist Church of St. Paul. Understanding that a successful church is all about an engaged congregation, no matter where they sit or what style of worship, this sophisticated new sound system was based on a Martin Audio OmniLine micro-line array system.
First Baptist Church
First opened in 1875, the First Baptist Church’s structure has a peaked roof over forty feet high with embellished wooden buttresses and a spacious sanctuary dominated by a large and elaborate pipe organ. This classic house of worship aesthetic and the historical significance of the sanctuary meant the audio upgrade could not intrude on the building’s traditional appearance.
Making this project more of a challenge was the fact that First Baptist houses different congregations. As AVE president Stefan Svärd points out, “The needs of the three congregations were quite different. The original church in the building is more liturgical in nature with a beautiful organ and more of a spoken word style. The other two congregations have modern worship bands with drums, keyboards, amplifiers and guitars.”
This was further complicated by many hard reflective surfaces that wreaked havoc on the acoustics of the modern praise and spoken word in general, while actually working well for the organ. Existing sound solutions provided something loud at the front, but with the sound and intelligibility greatly diminishing further away from the front rows.
- “Getting a system in there that would not only provide excellent intelligibility for the spoken word but also modern praise is not easy with these kinds of buildings which are more reverberant,” Stefan continued. “We’ve done projects like the Basilica of St. Mary’s in Minneapolis and the cathedral of St. Paul that have five second reverb times where we used steerable line array column speakers, but those are not the most ideal for contemporary music.
- “All of which explains how we came to the Martin Audio OmniLine. It’s a good-sized line array system that is slender, attractive and has exceptional fidelity. I’m quite particular about audio, and the fact that we were able to achieve absolute consistency of sound quality and a very clean frequency response from front to middle and back is amazing. OmniLine was very smooth and natural sounding, very clear and was able to handle the contemporary music just fine.”
- The rest of the audio system includes a Behringer X32 digital mixing console housed in an HSA roll-top desk with a Behringer S16 16-channel digital snake. The whole system is run through a QSC CX404 4-channel amplifier housed in an equipment room near the pipe organ. The Behringer mixer is used to mix contemporary worship bands, while the QSC provides an automatic mix for more traditional services.
As with most traditional House of Worship upgrades, aesthetics was a critical issue. Stefan explained that “a lot of the projects AVE does are either going to be a wall-mounted line array system which doesn’t provide the output level for the contemporary worship side. Or we’re going to do a large point source box, which is a problem because in order to have pattern control they need to be big. And we have that nice organ and the architectural embellishments with the lighting to make the sanctuary really pop, so we just didn’t have the space for that kind of a speaker system.”
Concluding, Stefan added, “That’s why the OmniLine offered a really fantastic solution because it’s compact and the color actually matched the walls so it literally blends into the space and works really well, so we and the Church are really pleased with the results. The whole combination of the system being sensitive to the architecture with the exceptional audio performance, I really feel like we hit a home run with this one.”