Sound Solutions has installed a Renkus-Heinz Iconyx digitally steerable column array high-tech sound system, with a single pair of IC24-R-II columns in the Parker Memorial Baptist Church.
Parker Memorial Baptist is one of the most storied churches, with a history dating back to shortly after the Civil War. The landmark 19th century building and its 300-seat sanctuary have been preserved over the years, with its ornate columns and woodworking detail maintained.
As with many older structures, its beauty is somewhat offset by troublesome acoustics.
"It's pretty typical of the architecture of that era," said Glen Ford of Oxford, AL-based Sound Solutions. "It's a rectangle - a long box, with an extremely high peaked roof."
It's an environment well suited for the church's traditional Southern Baptist service, with choir, pipe organ, and full orchestra, but not so great for sermons.
"Acoustically it's very challenging to get good intelligibility in a room like that," Ford said.
The church also has a small balcony that holds approximately 30 people. Above that, about 80 feet from the stage, is the FOH mix position (which, says Ford, is "its own air conditioning zone").
"We chose the Iconyx because it enabled us to steer the sound to focus it on the congregation, and away from the walls and ceiling," said Ford. "We were able to create multiple beams to cover everything from the first pew all the way up to the sound man. We were even able to create a bit of a 'null' at the balcony face to minimize reflections."
The building's landmark status and vintage architecture meant that the system had to meet some strict aesthetic guidelines.
"The building is 125 years old," Ford said. "It was clear from the outset that the system would have to be as visually unobtrusive as possible."
The room is built with plaster walls, which were not an option for mounting speakers. The only alternative, the room's wooden columns, were on top of the front row.
"We matched the paint and mounted them to the columns, and they're practically invisible," said Ford. "And even at close range, we were able to direct the sound so it wouldn't blow away the people in the front row."
A pair of Iconyx IC8R-II columns provides monitoring for the choir and orchestra. System DSP is handled via a Biamp Nexia, connected to a PreSonus StudioLive 24 digital console at FOH.
"The signal is digital right out of the StudioLive, and stays that way all the way to the Iconyx," Ford said. He adds that he only path to bring signal to the speakers was up through the attic and then back down along the beam. "The ability to run a digital signal over a single Cat5 cable for such a long run with no signal loss was another big advantage for the Iconyx."
Ford reports that reaction to the new sound system from staff and congregation alike has been overwhelming.
"The sound was amazing: sweet acoustics with wide, layered sound," vocalist Janet Paschal, invited to perform at the dedication ceremonies, said. "It was difficult to pinpoint the origin of the music - it felt as though you were sitting right in the middle of it."