ATLANTA, GEORGIA: With a 1,500-seat sanctuary, energetic R&B and gospel music, and a popular live Internet stream of its services, audio-visual systems are critical to the success of West End Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Yet the state of its A/V systems left huge "holes" of coverage, vastly underpowered bass response, and many areas - including the entire balcony - where speech was only marginally intelligible. On top of this, visual support - in the form of screens and cameras - was of noticeably low resolution. Gainesville Georgia's dB Audio & Video gutted both the audio and visual systems, retaining and repurposing many items to help the church's money stretch as far as possible, and put a new system in place centered on Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers.
Motivated by budgetary constraints and buoyed by the well-intentioned help of volunteers, West End walked a familiar path. Over
the course of decades, the church attempted to address deficiencies in its A/V system with "patches" - devised, purchased, and installed by church staff and volunteers - to save money. Predictably, a point came when everyone could see that the patches were no longer adequate. Poor intelligibility left huge sections of the congregation focused not on praise and worship, but on struggling to understand what the pastor was talking about. Badly balanced frequency response, with no low-end to speak of (let alone feel!) made mixing the band nearly impossible and robbed what were otherwise very spirited performances of their vitality. The system needed a professional overhaul, and West End timed it to coincide with other structural renovations in the sanctuary.
John Hogg, design engineer at dB A&V, attacked all sources of frustration and imperfection in the audio path, starting with the stage. Prior to his arrival, all of the musicians kept their guitar, bass, and keyboard amps on stage. "Sound was going every which way," he said. "It was a mess and made it very difficult for the FOH engineer to deliver an acceptable mix, let alone a great one." Hogg arranged spaces behind the back wall for the amps to reside and mic'd them, dramatically reducing stage noise.
At FOH, dB A&V installed a Roland M-400 digital mixer with digital snakes running signal from the stage and back again. On stage, each musician now has a Roland M-48 personal monitor mixer with wireless personal monitors. "Every musician gets to create his or her own custom mix," said Hogg. "The musicians love it because they get exactly what they want and the FOH engineer loves it because he no longer needs to think about monitor mixes!" In addition, Hogg replaced West End's choir mics with Audix MB8450s and its flagging collection of wired mics with items from the Audix wireless series.
Hogg also gave the house reinforcement system a thorough going-over, replacing a hodge-podge of poorly considered boxes with a purposeful and seamlessly integrated array of Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers. A central cluster of one SH-95 and one SH-96 for full frequency and two TH-118s for bass, cover the bulk of the seating area. On either side of the stage, a Danley SM-60 molded horn loudspeaker provides side fill with Danley's characteristic fidelity at a remarkably low price point, helping to keep within West End's budgetary constraints without sacrificing quality. "Now the church has nice, even coverage with no holes courtesy of Danley's uniform response and arrayability," said Hogg. "The low-end used to be an indistinct rumble, but now it is tight, integrated and musical. You don't just feel bass, you feel the music."
Also to keep the project out of the red, dB A&V reconditioned and repurposed much of West End's existing equipment. The old loudspeakers, revitalized with new components as needed, have found second lives as balcony fill and choir monitors. Only a pair of new QSC RMX Series amplifiers were needed to supplement the existing bank of amplifiers, which continue to power the show. A single new Danley DSLP48 DSP provides input conditioning, crossovers, modest EQ, dynamics, and other system functions.
dB Audio & Video also addressed West End's video system. Hogg replaced existing cameras with two Panasonic AGHPX370 HD cameras and two Panasonic AW-HE50 robotic HD cameras, which are capable of any number of pre-programmed zooming and panning shots. Whereas the old broadcast and projection images were the same, the new system gives the broadcast and projection engineers independent control of whatever images, be it from the cameras, a DVD, or a computer. Perhaps most importantly, the image quality for both live projection and broadcast has gone from bad to fantastic.
"The difference between our old audio system and the new audio system is night and day," said Kevin Boone, chief technical director at West End. "Before, the system was basically loud and piercing, with a lot of dead spots. Now it's even, with a perfect balance between low-end, mid-range, and high-end. But apart from all of that, the biggest difference is that the entire congregation is now completely engaged in praise and worship. Even in the balcony, everybody is on their feet!"
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
PHOTO CAPTION Atlanta's Seventh-Day Adventist Church audio system is anchored by a center cluster of Danley SH-95 and SH-96 full-range loudspeakers backed by two Danley TH-118 subs and two SM-60 molded horns for side fills.