MIDLAND, TEXAS – JUNE 2009: Founded way back in 1892, First Baptist Church (FBC) of Midland, Texas is one of the oldest and largest churches in the Lone Star State. From humble beginnings, the congregation moved to its present campus in 1954, which contains dozens of program rooms, classrooms, and meeting halls, all architecturally focused around an impressive 1,200-seat worship center. FBC’s worship style has diversified with the times, and over the last two decades its Sunday program has split into four separate services – one traditional, two thoroughly modern, and the other bridging the gap. However, FBC’s sound system failed to keep up and languished for a decade, delivering a floppy, inarticulate performance for even the traditional service. Recently, Taipale Media Systems, Inc. of Allen, Texas, stepped in to design a Danley-centered system of uncompromising fidelity and power, and Summit Integrated Systems, Lafayette, Colorado, completed its installations just days before FBC’s big Easter production.
FBC’s four services maintain a common spirit of community, but they do so through decidedly different mediums. The early morning service is a very traditional Baptist worship style, with a worship leader, a choir, an organ, and piano accompaniment. The mid-morning service moves towards contemporary with drums, bass, piano, electronic keys, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, brass, six praise-team vocalists, and a worship leader. They label their third service and their evening service “modern,” drawing on yet a third group of musicians to play worship songs with a more progressive edge. The old loudspeaker system was noticeably bad with the traditional service and fell completely flat with all the rest.
Curt Taipale, president of Taipale Media Systems, Inc., first met Jim Cawthon, media minister at the church, through a mutual friend in 2001. “My first trip there was to re-voice their aging loudspeaker system,” he said. “The design of the original sound system was likely appropriate for its time and the style of worship music back then, but it wasn’t holding up well to the new demands and showed remarkable signs of old-age. During a consulting trip there in 2002, I discovered that ten successive sweeps of the high-frequency drivers delivered ten drastically different response curves!” However, other technical priorities, namely creating video and broadcast capabilities, diverted any serious funds that might have gone towards a new sound system until a groundswell of support moved the church to act in 2009.
Taipale started from scratch, using a modern approach to system design that relied on technologies that had not been dreamed of when the old system was being installed. The new loudspeaker system starts with left, center, and right clusters composed of two or three Danley SH-50 full-range loudspeakers each. Four Danley TH-115s comprise a flown subwoofer array in a directional, Taipale-designed, dipole configuration. Two cross-matrixed delay rings, with six Danley SH-50s total, cover seating towards the back of the sanctuary and the balcony. Renkus-Heinz TRX81/9s serve as down-fills below each of the LCR clusters, four TRX81/9s serve as the under-balcony loudspeakers, and three Bag End TA6000s supplement as front-fills. Soundweb supplies DSP to the six Lab.Gruppen C68:4 amps powering the main loudspeakers, with additional amplification from QSC.
Chris Rayburn served as lead technician for Summit Integrated and had an opportunity to tune the old system. “Going from the dark ages to the new Danley speakers made an incredible difference,” he avowed. “Their remarkably tight pattern control directs energy to the pews and nowhere else, so the sound is tight, focused, and intelligible.” Rayburn and his crew overcame numerous obstacles to bring the remarkable change to life. First, the room contains 48-foot peaks, and the door was too small to fit a scissors lift. So the crew had to erect scaffolding on a sloped floor to get the job done. Worse, they had to remove everything mid-installation to make way for an unscheduled wedding. “To everyone’s amazement, Summit met all the hardships with grace and a positive attitude,” remarked Taipale. “It was a level of professionalism under duress that few companies could match.”
He continued, “Interestingly, I can look back at my TEF analyzer data files and see that Jim invited me over to FBC to re-voice the old loudspeaker system at least every other year since our first meeting in 2001, typically a month before Easter Sunday. So I guess it is fitting that this installation was commissioned during the week leading up to Easter, and that its first use was during Easter Sunday services!”
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PHOTO CAPTION EXTERIOR IMAGE: Taipale Media Systems, Inc. of Allen, Texas, designed the Danley-centered audio system for First Baptist Church (FBC) Midland, Texas, with Summit Integrated Systems of Lafayette, Colorado handling the installation. INTERIOR IMAGE: Midland Baptist Church (FBC) in Midland, Texas boasts LCR clusters composed of two or three Danley SH-50s, with four Danley TH-115s subs in a flown array and six SH-50s for the delay rings.