ANNISTON, ALABAMA - JULY 2010: Stop any random person on the street and the odds are excellent that he or she will have no idea how to operate a mixing board. It almost goes without saying, right? Despite this, most churches can draw on the knowledge and enthusiasm of a small collection of self-identified "techies" with a history of musicianship and a penchant for the gear that makes music loud. But Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Anniston, Alabama had a long run of bad luck in this regard, to the extent that the FOH chair frequently sat empty and services were sometimes interrupted so that the Father could make requisite changes himself! Integrator Joey Hutto of Sound Solutions in nearby Oxford, Alabama solved the church's troubles with the introduction of a SymNet-centered DSP audio system controlled by a simple ARC-2 interface located right in the Father's lectern.
modern solution to such an irksome problem came with the blessings of a complete sound system renovation. The 800-some-seat cathedral imposed considerable acoustical challenges to intelligibility. Its slate floor, cinderblock walls, and a wood ceiling conspired to raise decay times spectacularly. Hutto mitigated that problem with a new Electro-Voice line array carefully tuned with the filters, EQs, delays, and dynamics of an open-architecture SymNet 8x8 DSP. This was all well and good, but easily within the scope of a day's work for any good A/V integrator.
The real challenge came from the sixteen channel analog mixer that sat with no one to keep it company on so many Sundays. "When there was no engineer, which was often, they were forced to un-mute every channel that would be used during the service," explained Hutto. "It was a 'cross your fingers and hope for the best' kind of situation, and the best wasn't very good. On good days, they had a lot of noise and bleed. On bad days, they had feedback or levels that were far out of line." In addition, unidentified fingers made a habit of tweaking faders and knobs.
Combined with a SymNet BreakIn12, the 8x8 DSP provides the requisite inputs, mixes them intelligently, and keeps that mix from meddling hands. Hutto set the system up such that most channels could sit "open," but now with high-threshold gates keeping them quiet when unused. Together, with intelligent auto-gaining, an integral part of the SymNet's skill set, the mix usually takes care of itself.
Access to the system comes in the form of three Symetrix ARC-2 interface panels: one at the lectern, one in the choir loft, and one in the equipment rack. The ARC-2 contains an eight-character backlit display, a menu button, and a pair of buttons to raise or lower values. The Father or an assistant can now make changes in real-time right from the pulpit. The choir can change their monitor volume from the ARC-2 located in the choir loft. Lastly, Hutto himself can make changes directly from the ARC-2 located in the equipment rack.
"The new system does two things that make everyone's life much simpler and more predictable," said Hutto. "First, many of the problems that would have required the attention of an FOH mixer, whether a dedicated volunteer or the Father himself, no longer exist. No feedback. No tweaked knobs. No unused, open channels. So there's less to do from the outset. But if something does need to be adjusted, it is simple and possible right from the lectern. No more interrupted services!"
He continued, "SymNet was the right tool for the job because it offered the processing power and wits to get the mix right together with an appropriate and simple interface for the user. On my end, it was easy to set up and configure."
With the new system in place for several months, Sacred Heart is enjoying a Sunday trifecta of great sound, uninterrupted services, and a much less distracted Father.
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