MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE - MARCH 2011: Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee had a problem. Despite the fact that its gorgeous facility was only a decade old, the sound system for its 1,600-seat sanctuary had progressed from bad to worse. Although its blended worship style didn't call for hammering SPLs or thunderous bass, it most certainly called for good full-range coverage and intelligibility, both of which were seriously lacking. The church called on Murfreesboro-based Essential Audio to build an audio system they could be proud of. Danley Sound Labs full-range cabinets and subwoofers now deliver even coverage and crisp intelligibility.
"They had a few related problems," said Ben Williams, owner of Essential Audio. "Coverage was lacking. The main cluster had too narrow a vertical beam width and was aimed too high. Most of direct energy missed the ground floor entirely. A few years ago, they installed front-fill loudspeakers on
the stage as a band-aid, but it wasn't very effective and everyone complained about the visual aesthetic of the speakers on stage. For those seats that did get coverage, the sound was heavy on the midrange and light on everything else. Finally, the system was designed as a Left-Center-Right, but the coverage from the side clusters didn't properly overlap with the coverage from the center cluster, so they were really only acting as imperfect fill."
Although every A/V integrator will claim to respect a church's responsibility to be a good steward of its money, Essential Audio puts that as one of the foremost planks in its mission statement. With that in mind, Williams assessed Belle Aire's need for a Left-Center-Right system. "I spoke with the choir director and explained that, so far, they had a LCR system in name only," he said. "For the redesign, we could correct that, or we could redirect that money to the real issues - coverage and intelligibility. They opted for a mono system, but we didn't undo any of the LCR infrastructure. So they can upgrade to LCR in the future without a lot of hassle."
Most of the coverage delivered by Belle Aire's new system originates from a center cluster. A Danley SH-96 oriented for 90-degree coverage in the horizontal plane and 60-degree coverage in the vertical plane covers the balcony and the back seats on the main floor. A Danley SH-95 hangs below it, covering everything from the first row to where the SH-96 picks up. Two Danley TH-115 subwoofers also reside in the center cluster to provide robust, well-controlled, low end. Two Danley SH-100s supply coverage to the front corners of the room, located fifteen feet from the center cluster on either side. "The transitions between the coverage patterns of the SH-96, SH-95, and SH-100s are sharp and yet almost imperceptible," said Williams. "In fact, I was able to orient them so that the seams fell on aisles. In my experience, that kind of precision is unique to Danley designs."
Williams also replaced their aging console with an Avid SC48, and their increasingly finicky DSP's with a Biamp Nexia SP. But functional amplifiers were something that Belle Aire had in spades, and Williams was able to repurpose a third of those amps for the Danley system. "The old system was tri-amped, though it never got very loud," he said. "With the Danley system, we're able to get much louder with only one third of the previous system's amplifiers. Danley cabinets aren't known for being low cost, but there are certainly more expensive units on the market. When you factor in that Danley cabinets only require one amp and DSP channel, and are tremendously efficient, the total Danley system becomes quite cost effective."
The church granted Williams one concession. In the interest of the visual aesthetic, the old loudspeakers had been placed behind a scrim. The physicality and constraints of the space suggested to Williams that a scrim for the new system would dramatically impair coverage and intelligibility - precisely what the new system was supposed to fix. The church officials hesitantly agreed to remove the scrim, though there was some concern that there could be negative comments from parishioners.
"Following the first services after the new system was commissioned, the choir director's wife overheard a group of senior adults talking about how much they had enjoyed the music that morning, though they were unaware of the changes to the system," said Williams. "She approached them and said they had new loudspeakers. One man commented that all these years, he had thought his hearing aids weren't very good. But that morning, he'd been able to understand ever word. The bad sound system had been to blame, not his hearing aids! So it turned out that Belle Aire received no complaints regarding the visual aesthetic... and nothing but glowing praise for the sonic aesthetic."
ABOUT DANLEY SOUND LABS Danley Sound Labs is the exclusive home of Tom Danley, one of the most innovative loudspeaker designers in the industry today and recognized worldwide as a pioneer for "outside the box" thinking in professional audio technology. www.danleysoundlabs.com