CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 2010: In just four short years, Elevation Church has grown from a congregation of 121 attending a portable service in the atrium at Providence High School (PHS) in Charlotte, North Carolina, to a congregation of over 5,000 attending services at a former Ashley Furniture Warehouse, a portable setup in the McGlohon Theatre, and the very same portable PHS location that started it all, only now in the 800-seat auditorium. Outreach Magazine has proclaimed it the fourth-fastest growing church in America, and the technology that delivers the captivating sermons of twenty-something Pastor Steven Furtick has kept pace with the growth. Recently, Elevation donated a permanent sound system to PHS, with the understanding that the church would use it every Sunday.
Headquartered in Charlotte, Audio Ethics designed and installed the system, relying on an Ashly ne4400 DSP to elegantly and inexpensively interface the school’s analog outputs and
the church’s EtherSound outputs with the new d&b amplifier’s AES/EBU inputs.
There were three principle goals for the permanent system at PHS. First, the church wanted to expedite the setup and tear-down for its series of Sunday services, which had previously been a laborious, multi-hour process involving several dedicated volunteers. Second, it wanted to “level the playing field” across its multiple campuses so that attendees at one site experienced the same engaging multi-media presentation as attendees at the other sites. The old PHS system was, in the words of Audio Ethics project manager and frequent Elevation PHS FOH mixer Trey Blair, “Okay, but far from great.” Third, Elevation wanted to build a system that would benefit the school, which uses the auditorium for both performances and meetings.
The new system accomplishes all three goals while still coming in under budget. On the stage, a new multi-pin snake with pre-labeled inputs for the live band connects to three Yamaha SB168 input boxes that present an EtherSound signal to a wall plate at the FOH position. A Yamaha M7CL digital mixing console plugs into the plate and outputs EtherSound to a new amp rack loaded with d&b D12 and D6 amplifiers configured to drive a new left and right d&b T-series line array, with T10 center fill and B2 subs.
For Blair, the trick was to unite the school’s analog signal with the church’s EtherSound signal for AES/EBU digital input to the amps in a way that was utterly transparent to both the school and the church. Technicians for either entity needed to be able to turn the system on and go, without worrying about switching things over “by hand. Apart from Ashly,” added Blair, “only two other companies make something that would unite those three protocols. One of them is needlessly large and costly. The other is notoriously difficult to program. All of my experiences with Ashly have been positive and I knew the ne4400 would do the trick, so we went with it.”
The Ashly ne4400 is a network-enabled DSP with four standard analog inputs and outputs. Four option bays support network audio (e.g. EtherSound!), digital AES/EBU, and microphone preamps. In contrast to his previous experiences with other manufacturers, programming the ne4400 was easy. “With the unit and my laptop plugged into the school’s network, it was a simple matter to navigate to it and ‘get inside,'” said Blair. “And it sounds absolutely transparent. I know, because we had the system on line for a few weeks before we added the Ashly, and the ‘after’ sounds no different than the ‘before.’ I recommend Ashly for anyone who needs analog, EtherSound, and AES/EBU to play nicely together!”
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PHOTO CAPTION Ashly DSP chosen for Elevation Church, one of the fastest-growing “portable” churches in America and one that is making the most of modern technology.