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ALBANY, OREGON – MARCH 2010: St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Albany, Oregon had an unruly collection of old-fashioned problems with its twenty year-old A/V system – problems that would sour the countenance of any unlucky sound engineer, professional or volunteer, who has ever had to contend with them. Some were essentially structural – the unforgiving reverberant space meshed poorly with improper loudspeaker placement to generate a rolling ocean of hot and cold spots. Other problems were functional. Most importantly, the church required only one or two mics for the vast majority of its services, and yet reliance on a full-blown mixing board demanded that

even the simplest of these required staffing by the music pastor or a volunteer. An affordable Symetrix Automix Matrix 780 fixed-architecture DSP, combined with an AMX touchscreen interface and a modern complement of properly positioned and tuned loudspeakers, transformed St. Mary’s A/V system from difficult to a delightful.

The church hired Portland-based contractor Delta AV. “From our initial discussions, it was apparent that 85-percent of their services required just one mic at the pulpit and one wireless mic on the pastor,” recalled Delta AV system engineers, Steve Jellerson and Kurt Bevers, who led the project. “They were having scheduling issues trying to get someone in to run that minimal sound system, and the whole situation seemed unnecessary to us.”

Bevers designed the new system around the Symetrix Automix Matrix 780. Four wireless mics, a pulpit mic, two floor jacks (intended for choir mics), and output from a video switcher, feed the 780. Located right at the pulpit for easy access for the pastor, an AMX interface provides intuitive access to mute/unmute and volume for each input. A Yamaha LS9-16 digital console mixes the worship band, which consists of drums, acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards, and six vocalists.

“We’ve found that in a lot of churches, it’s to everyone’s advantage to keep the spoken word and music mixing separate,” said Bevers. “That way, it’s impossible for the music mixer to interfere with the pastor’s reinforcement, which is, of course, paramount in the Catholic Church.” Thus, the LS9-16 feeds a separate channel of the Symetrix Automix Matrix 780, and preset control from the AMX ensures that it is “up” when necessary and muted when not.

Bevers continued, “We’ve also found that the key to a successful system depends just as much on the interface as it does on the technology itself. The biggest obstacle to success is people’s pain threshold. If they think using the system is going to be painful, they simply won’t use it. If it takes more than three or four lines to describe a procedure, the procedure is wrong. The Symetrix Automix Matrix 780 allows me to have tremendous processing power under the hood, but to present that in a wonderfully simple way to the user. Although it is technically a fixed-configuration processor, the flexibility inherent in the 780 goes a long way toward solving almost all of the mixing problems I’ve come across.”

The 780 also provides loudspeaker conditioning for a sophisticated reinforcement system. QSC RMX- and CX-series amps provide biamplification for five zones of output. EAW AX396 full-range loudspeakers and AX122 subs serve as the main system, which covers the bulk of the congregation. Two delay zones with ElectroVoice FRi-2082 loudspeakers fill in the remainder. ElectroVoice Evid 6.2s provide monitoring for the choir, and a Community ENTASYS does the same for the pulpit. Existing speakers continue to distribute audio to the hallways, the cry room, etc. The Symetrix Automix Matrix 780 also sends conditioned signal to a digital recorder and a hard-of-hearing system.

“St. Mary’s is in love with the new system,” reported Bevers. “The control issues have vanished, making everyone’s life simpler and more harmonious. The Father controls his own volume with confidence. The improvements to the coverage patterns are also remarkable. Now the Father can put a headset mic on and walk anywhere in the sanctuary. Not only is he heard, he doesn’t have to worry about feedback! It’s quite literally a revelation for them. They had never conceived of being able to attain that level of interaction and engagement.”

In addition to the new sound system, Jellerson and Bevers installed an IP-controllable camera and video system with two high-output video projectors, a 50-inch plasma screen, and a 42-inch LCD screen. Not only can the cameras capture a crisp image of the pulpit, but also the flexibility allows them to easily shift coverage to the baptismal on the back wall. With a wireless mic on the Father, the baptisms at St. Mary’s have taken on a new poignancy and immediacy.

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PHOTO CAPTION Portland-based Delta AV selected the Symetrix Automix Matrix 780, combined with an AMX touchscreen and new loudspeakers, to transform the A/V system at St. Mary’s Church in Albany, Oregon.