Thinking Outside The Box

Thinking Outside The Box
  • LITHONIA, GA-New Covenant Ministries boasts an energetic service where progressive music plays an important role. Its church seats 1,200 in a rectangular room that is 80 feet deep, but only 30 feet high, and was scarcely designed for its acoustics. In September 2006, the band played its first notes through the newly articulated, rocking sound system designed by Ronnie Stanford of dB Audio and Video, a firm with 20 years of experience meeting challenges and exceeding expectations in installed sound in Georgia and the surrounding area.

Despite the low ceiling and acoustically-challenging boxy space, New Covenant Ministries was lifted from a poor to rockin' sound system by dB Audio and Video using Danley loudspeakers.
For years, New Covenant suffered through a sound system that provided terrible coverage to much of the room. Those areas that were covered faired little better; comb filters wreaked havoc with intelligibility. There was absurdly little gain before feedback. "Between the mix position and the first row," recalled Stanford, "there was a 25 dB drop. If you got things sounding right at the mix position, you blew the front row away. Altogether, it was a poor design filled with poor speakers.

"But New Covenant had a very sharp tech team," Stanford continued. "They knew exactly what they wanted in the way of fidelity. Pastor Billy Johnson is an amazing musician with an extraordinary voice. When we brought our first demo over, he asked us to turn it off so that he could play keyboard through the system. That was the real test." The challenge for Stanford was to deliver 105 dB of clean sound and smooth coverage front to back of this overly boxy, 80-foot-deep room.

Because of their tight pattern control and exceptional fidelity, Stanford chose to center the installation on Danley loudspeakers. "There are very few speakers out there that can give smooth coverage from front to back in a room that big," he noted. Stanford placed two Danley SH-50 full-range speakers above the center of the stage along with an SH-100 for downfill. An additional SH-100 was placed on either side of the room also acting as sidefills. Stanford's first instinct was to place a subwoofer above the center speakers, as he did in a previous installation at Peachtree City Church, but New Covenant's low ceiling meant that doing so would place the bottom of the cluster squarely on Pastor Johnson's head-not good.

It would have been convenient to place a subwoofer above each of the downfill SH-100s on either side of the room, but Stanford worried that two sources of bass that far apart would beat against each other. He modeled the situation and, assured that the only consequence would be a modest 3 dB trough in the center of the room, ordered a Danley TH-115 subwoofer above each of the side SH-100s. With the installation now complete, Stanford is confident he made the right decision: "You can see a tiny dip on paper, as the model predicted, but even I have trouble actually hearing it." A less audio-obsessed parishioner certainly won't skip a beat.

With top-flight Danley speakers arrayed intelligently, New Covenant's main problem was fixed. But while they were there, dB Audio and Video made a few other upgrades. A new digital Biamp Nexia SP distributed sound to the speakers with minimal processing. In addition, Stanford brought in a 48-channel Yamaha M7CL digital console both to guarantee that input and mix fidelity were befitting the new speakers and to allow the church to save mixes and increase their efficiency.

Finally, dB Audio and Video took New Covenant's video system several leaps forward in terms of technology and overall coolness. They replaced their projectors with a pair of Panasonic PT-DW7000UK large venue projectors to use with the church's existing screens. Stanford introduced an Edirol PR-80 presenter into the video signal chain to give the church the ability to do digital video on demand. The PR-80 is a user-friendly interface that allows New Covenant to be creative with backgrounds, video clips, and visual effects. The system is controlled through an Edirol 440-HD video mixer with four SD inputs and four HD/RGB inputs that allows for seamless mixing between three broadcast video cameras and other sources.