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Meyer Sound System Rewards Faith at Phoenix Church
Faith comes by hearing," says Tommy Robertson, sound department manager at the Phoenix First Assembly of God. Intended to explain the importance of spoken word in sound reinforcement for worship, his comment applies just as well to the recent installation of a complete Meyer Sound system in First Assembly's 6,000-seat sanctuary. Designed using Meyer's MAPP Online acoustical prediction program, and featuring Meyer's new MILO high-power curvilinear array, the system was chosen after an on-site shootout with other major manufacturers. Having heard the system in service, Robertson has become a confirmed Meyer Sound convert.
A wide and lively room with two balconies, the sanctuary is used for contemporary services with large choirs as well as for large dramas performed by and for the congregation. But the most important element is spoken word. Unfortunately, Robertson says, "the spoken word has never been heard clearly since the church was built in 1984. We just went through an extensive remodel to try and clear things up, but it was still apparent that we needed to upgrade our sound system."
To help decide on a new system, Robertson invited the major sound manufacturers to come show their best. "Meyer MILOs won the shootout," he says. The system that caught his ear was based on the concert rig for the Norah Jones tour, complete with the tour's front-of-house systems engineer, Steve Bush of Audio Analysts Inc. in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "We knew that after hearing it Tommy would want it," says Robert Langlois, who was Audio Analysts' project engineer/manager for the installation. Also involved in configuring the system was Audio Analysts' Will Lewis.
"MAPP was crucial in making the demo successful," Lewis recalls, "and also for establishing the design and for making adjustments in the final installation. There were some reflection issues along the top of the second balcony and the front edge of the first balcony. These problems were minimized by using MAPP to set angles of the main MILO clusters so they did not hit the problem surfaces."
Robertson agrees that the availability of a tool like MAPP Online made a big contribution. "I was skeptical at first," he says, "but the results were phenomenal. The MILO's were hung one time and installed at the perfect angle, making a believer out of me." He adds that the MILO print-outs were very helpful in showing the church's Deacon Board what the system was capable of.
Lewis describes the selection of specific Meyer Sound loudspeaker components as being driven by two main factors. "We needed the system to cover every seat consistently," he says. "And it had to handle everything, from intelligibility for spoken word to power for hard-driving rock 'n' roll."
The front-of-house system was designed with several main coverage areas plus a portable subwoofer system of four 650-P high powered subwoofers to be deployed when needed. The left and right main arrays, mounted on either side of the proscenium, are each made up of twelve MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers. "The MILOs are great!" Robertson says. "They're incredible speakers: super-clean to listen to, with a wide, seamless pattern. I love the MILOs."
A full-range center array mounted above the proscenium includes four high-powered M3D-Sub cardioid directional subwoofers that augment the left and right main systems, as well as five M2D compact curvilinear array loudspeakers chosen for their combination of tight vertical pattern control and long-throw capabilities. "We set the five front downfills to cover the altar area," Robertson explains, "with the M3D-Subs on top. The M3D-Subs are incredible."
Lewis says that vertical coverage was tailored by varying the number and splay of the M2Ds in the center array, while horizontal coverage was maintained at a constant 90 degrees throughout. "The M3D-Subs in the center," he adds, "deliver sub-bass to the seats while steering bass energy away from areas behind the array. And by combining the MILO arrays with the M3Ds, we got seamless extension of low frequency bandwidth and headroom."
Left and right side fill, meanwhile, is provided by four of Meyer Sound's new UPJ-1P compact VariO loudspeakers. "The UPJs are perfect for the left/right seating areas that are behind the MILO coverage," Lewis says. "The seam between the MILOs and the UPJs is invisible."
Another set of arrays, each made up of five M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array loudspeakers, is mounted above the left and right projection screens, enabling the choir to hear program material routed from the main system. "The M1D arrays cover the choir perfectly," Lewis says, "and are completely out of view of the audience." An additional 16 M1Ds are employed as a fill system to enhance intelligibility and local presence in under-balcony areas that are covered primarily by the mains.
Each of the system's array and fill subsystems is conceived of as its own "coverage zone" to be equalized and/or delayed individually. To minimize mess and down-time in the church, the subsystems were pre-assembled and tested off-site at the Phoenix warehouse of Genesis Audio Systems, which provided Audio Analysts with local support for the installation.
It ultimately took just three days to install the entire system into the church. "You could never do that with a system that isn't self-powered," Lewis says. He also gives credit to Meyer Sound's proprietary QuickFly rigging, which allowed the loudspeakers to be preconfigured at precise angles that take full advantage of their directional characteristics.
Once installed, the different zones were integrated with the church's Meyer Sound SIM analyzer. "The system sounded great right away," Lewis says. "And as the staff continues to work with it, it's just going to get better and better." During operation, the sound staff keeps on top of status and performance data for all components with Meyer Sound's RMS remote monitoring system.
Robertson says that the combination of Audio Analysts and Meyer Sound added up to "a superb installation. Audio Analysts was great to work with, and I received numerous compliments from people after our first service with our new Meyer Sound system. Everybody could hear every spoken word."
Robertson's enthusiasm is shared by Gary Allison, First Assembly's business manager, who's already experiencing first-hand the benefits of improved sound. "I can now hear all the words," Allison says. "So I don't need to constantly bug my wife with 'Huh? What did he say?'"