Historic Dallas Church Goes Ultra-Modern with AV System Redesign

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First United Methodist Church (FirstChurch), a landmark of downtown Dallas for over 165 years, features a rich music program, congregational activities, and two worship services each Sunday for roughly 1,000 congregants. Recently it sought to replace its existing sound system with a more current solution that could deliver greater intelligibility for both music and the spoken word.

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K-array KP102 line array elements were mounted at the proscenium line at the front of the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX.

Jim Burdette of Dallas, TX-based Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (WJHW) handled the overall project design, which had to be sensitive to both the architectural and acoustic requirements of the interior structure: “This was a large, high ceiling space with challenging acoustics,” Burdette said. “The existing cluster was quite a ways up and was not able to deliver the pattern control or throw that we can now achieve with modern technology. So we looked at options and eventually decided on K-array.”

The new system, installed by Electro Acoustics of Fort Worth, TX, consists of 10 custom-color KP 102 line array elements, two KK 52 line array elements, two KM T18P passive subwoofers, four KA40 amplifiers, and 12 custom color K-array KT22 Tornado two-inch point source compact speakers.

Since FirstChurch is a historic and architecturally ornate structure, getting the aesthetics just right was of paramount importance as was the overall sound quality. “Part of the criteria and design directive was to move towards a low-profile column array like the K-array,” Burdette said. “We also wanted to have greater control over the sound dispersion while reducing any gain before feedback issues.”

Burdette arranged to have the K-array KP 102 line arrays brought in for a scaled demo at the church. “In use, we just loved the concept—the performance to size ratio was very impressive,” recalled Chris Jordan, president of Electro Acoustics.”

The installation itself involved a split array of the KP 102s: an upper module consisting of three units, and a lower module of one unit. They were mounted at the proscenium line on the front face of the wall, with the lower array positioned approximately six inches off the main floor directed at the main floor, and the upper array positioned approximately 21 inches off the main floor and pointed towards the church’s balcony. “The precision of the KP 102s afforded us the ability to throw deep into the room while staying close to structure and unobtrusive,” Burdette explained, adding that they were “able to position the speakers so they could disappear among the moldings.”

In addition to the primary line array speakers for the main seating areas, Burdette also specified 12 KT22 point source compact speakers to reinforce audio directly beneath the balcony. “There were some old conventional style speakers there that they were going to reuse, but I recommended switching to the K-arrays because it was much less visually intrusive,” Burdette said. “From an audio perspective, this increases intelligibility for congregants seated under the balcony.”

In the choir loft, a pair of K-array KK 52 line array speakers was mounted. “The choir wanted a little more presence and even coverage,” Jordan explained. “That made it perfect, and now the choir members could not be more delighted.” The overall system was rounded out with a pair of K-array KM T18P ultra-light subwoofers, which were mounted into existing soffits within the structure: “The client didn’t want us to cut into any of the existing structure, so we found old speaker cutouts in the proscenium walls,” Burdette said. “We opened these back up, put grille cloth in front of them and mounted them. This turned out really well for the architecture.”

Since completing the installation, feedback has been resoundingly favorable among the congregation. “The church likes how the new loudspeaker system is performing,” Burdette reported. “Both speech intelligibility and music clarity have increased, and the K-array solution played an integral role in achieving this.”

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