Cherrydale Baptist Church in VA Upgrades System for Speech Reinforcement

Founded in 1913 as an independent evangelical church in the Baptist tradition, Arlington’s Cherrydale Baptist Church places a high value on offering their growing congregation a diverse program of traditional and contemporary services. “As it says in Romans 10:17 ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God’,” says Tim McGhee, Cherrydale’s technology and facility manager. “Sound is the most important thing we do,” he continues, “and we wanted to support the full spectrum of worship.”

  • To that end, Cherrydale chose to install an audio system incorporating a comprehensive suite of Tannoy loudspeakers to meet their diverse needs for the reinforcement of speech, as well as various other sources. Including subtle enhancement of the church’s state of the art Allen Digital Organ, as well as support for a variety of praise bands, which often include a full rhythm section and multiple vocalists.

Upgrading the audio system, however, was only a part of the $9.6 million renovation and expansion at Cherrydale, and the culmination of a project entitled ‘The Imagine Campaign’, originally launched in 2003 and intended to expand the facility substantially, so that they might reach out, invite others to join their congregation, and actually have a place to put them.

Completed in April 2010, just in time for Easter services, the build was no small task, explains Ralph James, project manager of the campaign and a member of the Cherrydale congregation since 1947. “We took our previous sanctuary and knocked out both side walls. We bumped one side out 15 feet and enlarged the seating for the main floor and the balcony and put in a broadcast booth behind that. And on the other side we bumped it out 35 feet to make room for a new stage, the baptistery and changing rooms.”

Given the extent their musical program, Cherrydale’s primary goals were to achieve maximum intelligibility and comprehensive coverage throughout the expanded 580-capacity sanctuary, as well as in various other areas attached to it. But the overall look of the sanctuary was also a dominant concern, says John Rossman, Project Manager for Baltimore-based integrator/installer, Design & Integration Inc., who first became involved in the project in August 2009. “Aesthetics were a very high priority from the inception of the project and from the architect on down. They didn’t want to see any of the A/V equipment, so the speakers had to be as small as possible so that they wouldn’t be obtrusive.”

The idea was to improve on not only the sound of the previous sanctuary, but to disguise the audio infrastructure entirely, creating a solution that offered high impact sound quality but a very low impact visual footprint. Correspondingly, the system designed by Reston, VA acoustic and A/V design firm Miller, Beam & Paganelli was to be compact, but powerful. In all, the system includes one Tannoy VQ 100, a pair of VS 15HL subwoofers as well as nine V8s for reinforcement within the main sanctuary. Additionally, twelve Tannoy CVS 6 in-ceiling speakers and five iW 6DS in-walls provide distributed audio to other areas of the church.

Another priority McGhee and Rossman cite as a key concern was that Cherrydale has the ability to reconfigure the space easily for events such as weddings and other functions. Previously, there had been only one mix position on the upper balcony, McGhee explains. Regardless of the function the sanctuary was being used for, “we wanted the sound mixer to be able to get an accurate picture of what people in the congregation were hearing.” To do so Cherrydale asked that the design make the provision for two additional mix positions, one on each side of the main congregation area. To greater simplify the process of reconfiguring the room an Aphex Systems Digital Snake was specified. “With the Aphex Anaconda we’re able to transmit sixty-four channels of audio over optical cabling, so whenever the user wants to switch mix locations they don’t have to plug in thirty-two mic inputs and thirty-two mix outputs, they just have to plug in two fiber optic cables,” says Rossman.

DSP is provided via the Ashley digital amplifiers used to power the Tannoy loudspeakers and two Yamaha LS9 32 consoles – One located in the main sanctuary and one in the broadcast booth/control room behind the upper balcony. A graphics and video projection system was also installed and includes a Sony robotic camera, Sanyo PDG-DHT 100L projector and an 8’ x 14’ Hurley screen located above the altar’s baptismal fount. Reflections in the space are minimized by carpeting, upholstered pews and seats and 700 sq ft of 2-inch Novawall acoustic treatments installed on the rear and side walls of the sanctuary.

In the sanctuary the single Tannoy VQ 100 is mounted discreetly in a keystone shaped centerpiece at the top of a custom-built proscenium. “It has a very wide dispersion pattern from one single point source, so we were able to install that one speaker and cover most of the congregation,” says Rossman. Also mounted in the proscenium and flanking the VQ to the right and left are Tannoy’s VS 15HL subwoofers to provide low-end reinforcement throughout the entire space.

The V8s, Rossman continues, are installed on the front wall to either side of the proscenium and act as fill speakers for the main congregation area. Two additional V8s are installed to either side of the stage as side fills, while others ensure consistent coverage on and below Cherrydale’s expanded balcony – Two located above the balcony proper, and three more in the ceiling of the under balcony. In every case the Tannoy speakers are mounted flush with the surface of walls and ceilings and covered in a decorative, acoustically transparent fabric designed to make them blend into the architectural details of the room. The Dual Concentric driver equipped Tannoy V8s offer similar benefits to the VQ 100 in terms of power, clarity and size, says Rossman, but they also made the general contractor’s job easier. “They were actually installed in little cubbies in a brick wall that had to be drilled out, so I’m sure that he appreciated that they were a smaller box.”

Given that Cherrydale’s services sometimes attract more people than the sanctuary can hold, care was also taken to be sure that other spaces in the building receive clear, consistent coverage. To provide for this three Tannoy CVS 6s are located in the main foyer and three are installed in the church’s glass enclosed cry room. Three more CVS 6s are split between a separate meeting room and classroom. Additionally, five Tannoy iW 6DS in-walls are installed in the Narthex. All components located outside the sanctuary are time aligned back to the main system to provide consistent sound for anyone moving in and out of the sanctuary during services.

Consistency, in fact, was one of the main reasons Tannoy and this particular combination of their product was chosen for Cherrydale, explains Blair Parker, a senior consultant at Miller, Beam & Paganelli, and the acoustic and AV designer on the project. “The VQ Series in particular has really good pattern control and the line is very consistent in terms of the tonal quality all the way from the V6 up to the VQ Series. Also the Tannoy are relatively transparent – whatever you put into them is what you get out – and in my experience, if you have a flat, transparent system you can get more gain before feedback out of the system.” Here, he adds, “there’s gain for days.”

Perhaps, for Ralph James ears, a little more than he would prefer. “They run it at about 92dB, which is louder than I’m comfortable with,” James says, laughing.

That aside, however, when James heard the church would be using Tannoy, he was “more than pleased”, citing a personal connection to Tannoy that dates back to him having integrated a pair into his home stereo system in 1963; a pair of Tannoy 12-inch speakers he bought from a local audio provider, had a local woodworker build enclosures for and still uses to this day. And while he says that his familiarity with Tannoy had no bearing on Cherrydale’s choice, based on his experience James says that Tannoy provides “lively sound, the way it’s supposed to be heard.”

In a nutshell, exactly the kind of transparency and clarity that makes Tannoy a good fit for multi purpose applications such as Cherrydale, in which the message and the means in which it is conveyed depend so heavily on both speech and music.

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