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Calvary Baptist Church Achieves Near-Field Performance with Meyer Sound
In 1866, the Midway Baptist Church became the first house of worship in Clearwater, Fla., when its founder, Reverend C.S. Reynolds, supervised the construction of a log cabin church. Known today as Calvary Baptist Church, the congregation now worships in a 2,500 seat, state-of-the-art facility on a 28-acre site.
In preparing for the construction of their new campus, Calvary Baptist's technical director, Gary Apple, was determined to ensure that the building would have an outstanding sound system. Apple did not need to look far for the right solution. "For years, I've loved the sound quality and intelligibility of Meyer Sound speakers," says Apple, "so I was pleased to learn they were very open to the idea of using a Meyer Sound system."
With that direction established, Thrasher Design Group of Kennesaw, Ga., was retained to design the system, while Technical Resource Group of Largo, Fla., performed the installation.
The physical shape of the room presented an audio design challenge. Principal consultant Bill Thrasher describes the sanctuary as "a fan-shaped room, not one of my favorite kinds of spaces to design for because the curved rear wall is difficult to deal with acoustically." Given the church's fixed budget and very high standards, Thrasher determined that the best use of the available funds for the audio system was to concentrate on designing a new main system for front-of-house, employing existing equipment from the previous location wherever possible.
To minimize reflections back to the stage, Thrasher devised a semi-distributed system consisting of three rings of ceiling-hung loudspeaker clusters. Each cluster consists of one CQ-2 narrow coverage main loudspeaker paired with a USW-1P compact subwoofer. "It's very much a near-field concept, with a lot of direct sound to every seat," notes Thrasher. There are three clusters in the first ring, four clusters in the middle ring, and six more in the outer ring. To maintain clean sightlines to the room's video screens, the clusters are hung at a nominal height of about 28 feet, and angled downward as much as 50 degrees to keep sound off the walls to the greatest extent possible. Even in Calvary Baptist's large auditorium, no seat is more than 80 feet from a speaker. Rounding out the system is Meyer Sound's RMS remote monitoring system, which provides real-time operating data from every loudspeaker in the system.
"I like to tune the room, not the speaker," Thrasher explains. "When I get good direct sound from the loudspeaker to each listener, then I can use room acoustics to control reflections. I'm a big fan of using as little EQ as possible. These CQ-2 cabinets sound great to start out with, so we just use it as a full-range box. It goes all the way down to about 50 Hz or so, and we did not high-pass filter it or change anything about it. That's the premise of our system."
The worship band at Calvary Baptist is really more of a small orchestra, replete with acoustic sources. The 10 principal vocalists are backed by a musical ensemble that includes piano, drums, cello, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a harp; plus electric guitar and bass. Behind them all is a full choir on risers. With so many acoustic sources on stage and a house system typically operated at 95 to 98 dB SPL, feedback was an obvious concern. "But with a direct system design like this, we never have feedback. Never," Apple asserts.
Apple has taken other steps to maintain sonic control on stage. All instrument amplifiers have been removed from the stage, eliminating volume wars. Aviom personal mixing stations are used instead of floor wedges for the house band, while the monitor system for the 100-voice choir consists of just three UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers.
Apple recognizes that when it comes to sound quality, the bar has been raised in contemporary worship. "People today know good sound. They have subwoofers in their cars and surround sound in their homes. And we've got great musicians at Calvary Baptist. But even with all of that going on, the words are still there. Whether it's a soft, quiet moment or it's really loud, with these Meyer Sound cabinets, you have great intelligibility. It's exactly the way I hoped it would be."