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Meyer Sound Arrays Yield Clear Praise at Jubilee Fellowship Church
Founded in 1998, Jubilee Fellowship Church (JFC) operated first in a school and later in a rented storefront, but church leaders have always set their sights on establishing a permanent home. That goal was recently realized with the opening of a brand new sanctuary in Lone Tree, a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Set on a five-acre plot, the complex features a 6,730-square-foot main sanctuary that seats up to 700. While the room's shape and asymmetrical layout pose significant challenges for sound reinforcement, the congregation enjoys what JFC's Jeff Johnson describes as "an incredible listening experience throughout the total service," delivered by a self-powered Meyer Sound line array system designed and installed by Audio Analysts of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Johnson, who chaired the church task force charged with selecting audio, video, and lighting systems, says JFC's praise and worship is "on the leading edge of today's contemporary Christian music. Generally speaking there is an acoustic guitar, bass, drums, electric lead guitar, two keyboards, and, usually, a violin. In addition to the Worship Pastors, three or four musicians provide additional vocals, as well as four back-up singers and a set of 10 to 15 ensemble singers that are miked as a group. We've also added a horn section, consisting of two trumpets and two saxes, that will be playing once a month." ("Praise and worship" is a term generally used to describe the range of music in which the entire congregation participates and sings along, as opposed to music that is performed for the congregation by musicians and/or a choir.)
Johnson says that the church's Senior Pastor, John Leach, understood from the start the importance of capturing the nuances of the praise and worship as well as the intelligibility of the spoken word. But those goals were complicated somewhat by the room's unusual design. "The sanctuary's acoustical tile ceiling," Johnson says, "is made up of four sections that increase in height progressively from the rear of the room to the stage. At the rear, these faceted ceiling sections are only 11 feet above the floor, but above the stage they are 20 feet from the floor. As such, a fundamental issue to overcome was the bunching of frequencies, especially the bass, at the rear of the room."
Sound reinforcement is also affected by the fact that the stage area is not centered. "There is one wall closer than the other from side to side," explains Audio Analyst's Robert Langlois, who handled sound system design and project management. "Another issue was the close proximity of the arrays to the microphones on stage. The pastor needed to be able to walk in front of the system without causing feedback."
As Johnson recalls, Audio Analysts was enthusiastic from early on about building the church's system around Meyer Sound loudspeakers. The specifics of system configuration and placement were determined by Langlois using Meyer Sound's MAPP Online acoustical prediction program. "I use the MAPP program whenever I am using Meyer gear," he says. "I have found that I can trust MAPP to give me accurate information every time."
Langlois says his main requirement for the system was that it be "flexible enough for the spoken word, yet have the impact required to handle the demands of a strong praise and worship team." He adds that the client also needed "a system that he could turn on and forget it is even there. The nature of Meyer's self-powered systems is such that an engineer, sound mixer, or volunteer doesn't have to have a working knowledge of power amplifiers and crossovers to run it. You just turn it on and it works. In this case, it rocks."
Langlois settled on two main arrays run in stereo, each consisting of six M1D ultra-compact curvilinear array loudspeakers. The mains are supplemented by an additional array of two M1D cabinets to provide sidefill at stage right, where there is a longer distance from the side of the stage to the side wall.
The M1D, Johnson says, is particularly well-suited for the job because of the power it delivers for its size and weight. "A cluster of six M1Ds had 30 percent less vertical footprint than other speaker clusters," he states. "This was key, because we had determined that two 9- by 12-foot retractable screens would be needed to facilitate viewing angles from any point in the sanctuary. The reduced vertical footprint of the M1D clusters allowed for optimum placement of the screens and did not interfere with line-of-sight from anywhere. Further, the M1D clusters represented a whopping 65 percent less horizontal footprint than conventional (unpowered, point-source) speaker clusters, greatly maintaining the aesthetics of the stage area."
Johnson's task force also determined that using the M1D would contribute to overall cost savings in several areas. "The M1D clusters together weighed 81 percent less than conventional speaker clusters," he says, "easing the load factors and the tensile strength of the steel I-beam needed for support. And because of the M1D's wide horizontal coverage pattern, the need for a center cluster was eliminated, which reduced costs as well. Further, the M1Ds are self-powered speakers, so there was also the cost differential of not having to add a series of amplifiers like you would need for a conventional speaker arrangement."
A USW-1P compact subwoofer hidden in the step area below each array supplies very-low frequencies. "The USW-1Ps fit perfectly right where we needed them," Langlois says, "and they are a good match for the M1Ds. It has good output for a box that is small enough to hide under a 24-inch high stage."
Regarding installation, Langlois says Audio Analysts "loves working with Meyer's self-powered systems. Using their arrays allows me to spend more time on other aspects of the project because I know that these speakers will perform just as Meyer says they will. Meyer has always passed our rigorous tests with flying colors, so it makes one less thing to worry about. And when my guys hear that they are putting in a Meyer self-powered rig, they can't wait. It is a breeze for them to install, and they know that when we turn it on it will work."
"My favorite thing about Meyer cabinets," Langlois adds, "is the phase coherence of the system. If the phase response between components is correct then it's easy to tune the system for the environment. Meyer comes out of the box correct because it's already been done at the factory."
While the congregation is no doubt more focused on worship than on technical issues such as phase coherence, the benefits of the Meyer Sound system are readily apparent to members of the church. "There has been a tremendous outpouring of appreciation for the clarity and the balance," Johnson says. "Especially noticeable is the separation of the voices, and the presence of instruments that had been absent in our previous room. The M1Ds allow a precise presentation of harmonies and vocal ranges, while the USW-1Ps highlight the bass and drums in a way that was totally absent before. In many cases, the congregation did not know what they were missing until they heard the Meyer Sound system."