LODI, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 2010: The 1,100-seat sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Lodi, California (FBCL) is a breathtaking modern architecture that seems to translate its physical structure to the spiritual plain.
Seven years ago, it received a sound system renovation centered on the then-new technology of SymNet's open architecture DSP solution, the modestly named 8x8 DSP. The SymNet system served it well then and has continued to operate flawlessly day in and day out in the years since.
Now, as new senior sound engineer Bruce Gaetke takes the helm and seeks to add and modify the system for the church's changing needs,
the existing 8x8 DSP adapts with horsepower and flexibility to bend the system to his will.
For 22 years, Gaetke has operated Zion Recording/Trans Point Media, an audio and video production service complete with a well-appointed studio. In addition to his mastery of the delicate art of recording, he possesses a healthy fanaticism for delivering audiophile-quality sound reinforcement, a penchant that served him well for twelve years as both technical director and praise and worship leader at a nearby church. Gaetke came to FBCL three years ago to help with its annual Christmas pageant and has since become happily immersed at the church.
"I started making some changes to First Baptist's audio system a year-and-a-half ago," he said. "In the last few months, I've really had some time to commit myself to the project, and one of the first things I wanted to do was to get a look under the hood." Unfortunately, the installation company had password-protected the SymNet 8x8 DSP... and could no longer put a hand to that password!
Gaetke contacted SymNet. "The technician I spoke with, Mark Ullrich, had me into the system in just ten minutes," Gaetke recalled. "He was able to download the configuration file over the communication line and walk me through the DSP modules. We upgraded the SymNet 8x8 DSP from system 3.0 to 8.0. Mark went way beyond my expectations. It was the best tech support experience I have ever had. Mark even offered me free real-time, one-on-one, online training."
FBCL's microphone complement had partially turned over in the years since the system was originally installed, and several of the inputs on the SymNet 8x8 DSP were no longer processing appropriately. Gaetke fixed this immediately and was impressed with how intuitive the design software was. "The drag and drop functionality is very friendly," he said. "And for anyone who has worked with pro audio gear, the modules and parameters are self-explanatory. For anything that was less than perfectly clear, the well-written help menus lighted the path." Gaetke's next project will be to use a new spectrum analyzer and a test microphone to retune the system.
But software tweaks were not the only items on Gaetke's to-do list. He had been fighting what seemed to be sonic phantoms in one of the room's main cabinets. He and a junior tech dismantled the cabinet to unmask the villain. Sure enough, one of the woofers on the double-18 had been wired out of phase, and righting the wrong brought punch back to the system that had previously been unobtainable.
The original design included not just a SymNet 8x8 DSP, but also a SymNet BreakOut 12, the outputs of which were not fully exploited. Gaetke plans to make use of that flexibility as well. "Our praise and worship singers use four wireless mics, and the choir needs to hear them to ensure that everyone stays in tune," he explained. "With the current monitor locations, we have to crank that signal up and it invariably leaks into the choir mics. The system was fundamentally well-designed, and they afforded us the flexibility to make adjustments for situations like this. The solution, in this case, is to add side fill monitors, which, given the acoustics, will allow us to reduce the overall output volume without compromising the choir's monitoring. The SymNet system not only has the outputs to accommodate those monitors, but the DSP horsepower to condition them properly."
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PHOTO CAPTION Bruce Gaetke, senior sound director at First Baptist Church, Lodi, California, upgraded the church's seven year-old SymNet DSP from 3.0 to 8.0 without a glitch - a testament to SymNet's product integrity.