Will Worship-Specific Loudspeaker Technologies Boost Business?
The need for great HOW sound has increased due to the adoption of praise music style of worship, which demands a high-performance system.
It’s a market that works in mysterious ways. As donations lag and budgets shrink, new offerings and advancements in technology are still infusing the house of worship (HOW) segment with energy.
Innovations for the HOW market this year consist mainly of improvements rather than dramatic new products, said Chris Foreman, vice president/COO of Community Professional Loudspeakers.
“We’ve seen digital mixing consoles come down in cost,” he began. “That’s a big deal because as HOW sound system operators are likely to be volunteers, it’s nice to be able to push a button and call up a scene. We’re also seeing innovations in loudspeakers designed to meet the challenges of a reverberant HOW as well as more compact and attractive products to meet aesthetic needs. I love the slender, attractive microphones and boom stands designed for HOW applications.”
New Community offerings include its MX8 and MX10, stage monitors using coax transducers to pack a lot of performance into an attractive, low-profile enclosure, he said. “The MX8 and MX10 are available in black or white; they’re paintable and nicely portable with a pocket handle. The idea was to create a high-performance stage monitor that was attractive and compact to minimize the visual impact and sell it at a competitive price.”
Community’s Entasys three-way column line array uses line-array technology to provide excellent speech intelligibility all the way to the back of a reverberant HOW. “A single Entasys column on each side may be sufficient for a small HOW, or several can be stacked for a larger space,” Foreman said. “The innovation here is to make line array performance happen in a slender and attractive column that can be painted to blend with the HOW architecture. In a typical application, the Entasys columns are placed on each side of the room so they don’t block religious symbols.”
At Tannoy, newer technologies are applied to solve age-old problems of sound systems in tough acoustical environments, explained Ivan Schwartz, Western sales manager of the install market for TCGA (Tannoy, Lab.gruppen, TC Electronic). “We’re finding that we can apply our group expertise in transducer and amplifier technology, and DSP development, and come up with real solutions to controlling the directivity of a loudspeaker system. Most importantly, we can do this while maintaining excellent intelligibility and musical fidelity. The active Tannoy QFlex digitally steerable column embodies all of these attributes, and as does the new, passive VLS Series of passive column array loudspeaker systems. We predict the VLS will be very successful in budget-sensitive applications where excellent vertical control is required.”
The VLS Series, with more transducer technology, incorporates FAST (Focused Asymmetrical Shaping Technology), delivering unique acoustic performance benefits including asymmetrical vertical dispersion, gently shaping the acoustic coverage towards the lower quadrant of the vertical axis, said Graham Hendry, vice president of AET Group (Applications Engineering & Training), TC Group International. “This also means that the loudspeaker does not have to be tilted down to achieve the desired aiming angle. Until now this was an attribute afforded only by digitally steerable columns. Both the VLS Series and QFlex products will be aimed, in part, at the HOW market.”
The increase in system capability for the HOW market over the last five years has focused on line arrays and larger systems to support growing music programs, said Paul Chavez, director of the systems applications professional division at Harman. “Those larger systems are more visible, and their sales draw attention, but there also are a lot of smaller churches taking advantage of smaller line arrays.”
The JBL CBT loudspeaker line is doing well in HOWs because of its performance/cost ratio, he said. “It’s a well-performing product at a relatively low cost, which does well in a market in which general donations are doing down. With three versions, the CBT line is designed for medium to smaller churches. It bridges the need between voicefocused HOWs, such as Catholic churches, and those churches that offer music programs. The top-of-the-line CBT product can also suffice for a smaller music program, so there is a continuation to our VRX and VerTec lines.”
The Budget Challenge
With the install market down in general and HOW sales so diffuse, it’s hard to capture the picture in one metric, Chavez explained. “Sales range from mega church systems usually designed by consultants to those purchased by church representatives buying portable systems at big box stores. Sometimes these smaller church representatives are intimidated even by going to the large music stores. Some Best Buy stores now have created small music stores inside their traditional stores, and one of the reasons why we wanted to be there was because these are comfortable places for the many smaller churches to shop for products like our JBL EON loudspeakers and AKG Perception line of microphones.”
Despite tight budgets, the need for great HOW sound has actually increased, Foreman said. One reason is that more and more Christian churches are adopting the praise music style of worship, and that demands a high-performance system. I do some volunteer work with local churches and I find that the smaller churches grab onto anything they can and that may or may not be successful for them. One church bought a portable system from an out-of-work DJ. It doesn’t look very pretty and it needed some repairs but it makes sound, so they’re accepting the compromises for now. Another church I work with has applied for grants to buy new systems.”
Like most of us in this economy, churches are putting more thought into how they spend their money. “While the time from initial contact to purchase decision is longer than it used to be, the purchases are still being made,” Schwartz said. “New construction is down from a few years ago, but retrofits and upgrades seem to be on the rise.”
Community MX8 and MX10 stage monitors using coax transducers to pack a lot of performance into an attractive, low-profile enclosure.
Will new, worship-specific audio technologies come to the rescue and boost business? “It’s quite apparent that a number of companies have leveraged their core competences in high-quality column loudspeaker technology,” Hendry said. “The emphasis is on high-quality speech and music reproduction rather than a concentration solely on the spoken word. Achieving a decent level of intelligibility in most columns is possible due to the fact that STI figures are measured in the mid-band area. You can, in essence, achieve this with threeand four-inch full-range drivers. This is how early beam steering products and, up until now, most current ones are configured. You can still have a high level of intelligibility, with the subjective sound quality akin to that of a cheap paging horn. Natural sound at a specific frequency is made up from many harmonics at different frequencies; therefore, effective control over the full frequency band is needed if you desire even natural sounding paging calls.”
End-users are embracing real solutions to these HOW challenges, Schwartz said. “In many cases, we are seeing older facilities that have been fighting intelligibility issues for years, and have only recently found a real solution using beam steering devices. Often, a demo of these products in their church will give them the confidence to move forward with a new sound system purchase.”
At Harman, the subject of the HOW market comes up frequently in meetings when the discussion centers on making new products that are easy to operate. “Often, HOWs do not have people who know how to operate complex sound systems,” Chavez said. “In an ideal world, the church market system has an on and off button and works without any operator, and ethernet AVB networking is a much simpler way to run audio over ethernet and can be done by someone who is not a networking expert. As we develop products that use ethernet AVB, HOWs are on our mind.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO.
HOW Installation Showcase
Evergreen Christian Community Church
Olympia, WA CCI Solutions
Challenge: Upgrade their mid-80’s sound system to one that delivers both highly intelligible speech and music in a reverberant room with 50-foot ceilings, minimal acoustic treatment and a deep under-balcony area. They needed a system that provided excellent horizontal directivity control, tailoring the sound away from the reflective side walls and directing the audio towards the seating area.
Solution: Bose Professional Systems products: six RoomMatch RM9020 array modules; four RM9010 array modules; five RM7010 array modules; four PowerMatch PM8500N configurable power amplifiers; and one ControlSpace ESP-00 for global processing and signal routing. The FOH console is an Avid/VENUE SC48.
Four Oaks Community Church
Tallahassee, FL Les Stephenson
Challenge: To accommodate its rapid growth, a new sanctuary was planned to replace its aging 300-seater—a 1,000-seat high-school auditorium was rented to house its services until the new complex was built. All of that changed two years into the deal when Four Oaks went in another direction—a multi-campus model anchored by a sanctuary in a repurposed shopping center.
Solution: A Peavey MediaMatrix NION system allowed for the flexibility to take the 48x48 I/O footprint from the auditorium to the old facility across town every week for rehearsal. With a simple Cat-5 connection, the MediaMatrix NION recreated the exact audio environment the worship team enjoyed during Sunday worship.
St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church Sings
Poway, CA AMT Systems
Challenge: Provide a steerable system with high intelligibility and musical output.
Solution: Iconyx digitally steerable line array loudspeaker technology from Renkus-Heinz. Two IC32/16-R systems are columnmounted on either s side of the domed ceiling. The pastoral mics route back to a DSP processor controlled by a Crestron touch screen and iPad. All musical instrument inputs route to a Yamaha LS9 mixer. Both inputs remain live throughout the program or service.
First Baptist Church Lincoln Gardens, NJ
Challenge: Upgrade their existing sound system to a concert line array system and new digital consoles for the 3,500-seat church.
Solution: Ten NEXO GEO S1210 speakers, two GEO S1230s, two NEXO RS 15P subs, six Yamaha IF2108 Installation Series speakers (four for choir monitors and two for front fills), two Yamaha T3n power amps for monitors, two NEXO NXAmp 4x4s for front of house along with a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital console. A Yamaha LS9-32 digital console with Aviom card is used at monitors and enables the church band to have complete control over their personal mixes.
Auralex Acoustics’ SonoSuede System
Auralex Acoustics’ SonoSuede System is a cost-effective, decorative room treatment system that tames reflections and low-frequency anomalies. Consisting of trapezoidal and rectangular panels, the SonoSuede Systems presents various aesthetic options, and its unique mounting blocks increase sound control.
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Acoustical Solutions AcoustiArt
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Acoustics First PhaseFOAM
PhaseFOAM allows users to configure the sound and room design using the key components contained in two acoustic foam kits. PhaseFOAM Box A includes 16 pieces of high density wedge pattern acoustical foam used to absorb sound, prevent phase cancellations, and design visual interest. PhaseFOAM Box B contains two pairs of triangle traps. The design of the bass trap allows for various corner configurations and installation direct to a wall or ceiling.