LAKE FOREST, California - March 2017 -- Lake Forest, California’s Saddleback Church, the host campus and broadcast site for the sizeable worship community led by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren, has been in its current location for nearly 25 years, but never had an audio system upgrade—until now. Seeking to improve intelligibility, the church turned to the installation division of Escondido-based Sound Image, which replaced the site’s aging point-source system with a new L-Acoustics Kara array setup.
“There were all kinds of physical challenges,” recalls Sound Image’s Scott Coyle. “The room is basically a big square with about 200 feet per side, and the back quarter of the space is bleacher-style seating. Plus, there are glass walls down each side measuring 30 feet high by 90 feet long, so we started out faced with a 2.2-second reverb time.”
“The previous PA was put in when the room was built almost 25 years ago,” notes Saddleback Audio Lead Aaron Ruse. “It served the church fairly well, but audio technology has leapt forward so much in that time—especially in the past decade—that we knew that in order to provide the best experience for the congregation, it was time.”
“They did several comparative listening tests, including a final one in the actual room,” continues Sound Image’s Mike Fay, who was the integrator’s point of contact on-site. “They heard five or six PAs and kept coming back to L-Acoustics,” Coyle adds.
Ruse says it was an obvious choice. “Every time we put multiple PAs head-to-head and ranked them, no PA was consistently in the top three except Kara, which was in the top two every single time.”
The space being retrofitted, known as the Worship Center, is the biggest room on Saddleback’s flagship campus in Lake Forest and the room is consistently busy. “It’s booked pretty much five nights a week,” says Fay. “And a regular meeting every Friday that can only be held in the Worship Center—because no other room is big enough—meant that we had to do this retrofit in two parts.”
After a week of structural prep and pulling wire, the old system came down and the Kara system went up in just three days. All parties agree that the Soundvision modeling done by L-Acoustics’ André Pichette was crucial to working within the very tight timeframe.
“The customer service aspect before, during and after the install from L-Acoustics has been outstanding,” Ruse reports. “And this new relationship with Sound Image gives us the chance to work with a company that is both world-class and local to our flagship campus,” he notes, nodding to the fact that Sound Image’s touring sound division regularly reinforces some of the biggest names in music, including Maroon 5, Santana, Kid Rock and many others.
Saddleback’s new L-Acoustics system comprises six Kara per side with an additional 12 Kara boxes total as side-fill, all powered by a total of six AVB-ready LA4X amplified controllers offering enclosure-check capabilities. Low-end support is provided by a quartet of KS28 double-18-inch subs ground-stacked and powered by a single four-channel LA12X. Front-fill is further provided by eight X8 enclosures, while delay fills are a combination of a dozen ARCS Focus and Wide units.
With the new system—and without any significant acoustic treatment—Sound Image was able to greatly minimize reflections in the room, improving sound quality and delivering better, more consistent coverage, Coyle describes.
In following up post-install, the Sound Image team asked what comments the church was hearing about the sound of the new system after it had been in for a few weeks. “People thought it was louder, but it’s really clarity that they are hearing,” says Fay. “They run a full-time SPL meter there and the room is mandated not to go beyond about 94 dB.”
Ruse points out that Kara seems to “feather” out on the edges of the horizontal coverage of the array—which makes blending in fills and delays sound very smooth—and was a big deal given the geometric challenges of the room. But the desired outcome of the new system always went beyond just covering the space. “Our goal for anyone coming here to worship at Saddleback is for them to be able to close their eyes and focus on the message and the music that supports it with no distractions and with total clarity in every seat. The new L-Acoustics Kara system that Sound Image installed has given us the tools to be able to consistently achieve that goal.”