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Mississippi Church Gets "The Word" Out with Meyer Sound M'elodie
With a population of fewer than 7,000 and an area of less than six-and-a-half square miles, Columbia, Miss., is every bit the picturesque southern town. An hour or so north of the Gulf Coast, it's a laid back, pastoral hamlet where everyone waves and few people lock their doors.
For a town this size in the Deep South to support several churches is nothing unusual, but with a congregation of over 1,500, it's fair to say Columbia's Woodlawn United Pentecostal Church is a popular destination. The seven-year-old church recently conducted a large-scale revamp of its audio and video systems, making them one of the first churches in the area to install Meyer Sound's new M'elodie ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeaker.
"The church's original design was heavily focused on aesthetics, to the detriment of sound quality," recalls Chris Campbell, project manager for audio and video provider Shivelbine Design Group. "There was no acoustic treatment to speak of, just a handful of small sound absorption panels along the back of the balcony railing. And there were three underpowered speaker clusters, each hidden in a soffit. Intelligibility was nearly non-existent."
Campbell, along with Shivelbine's systems designer, John Sharp, and systems manager, Kevin McManus, created a design that features a 16:9 aspect, three-camera video system with a powerful audio component based around two arrays of nine M'elodie cabinets each. A pair of UPA-2P compact narrow coverage loudspeakers hangs next to the line arrays for sidefill. "It's a pretty wide room, nearly 80 feet across, and the UPA cabinets add a little extra coverage in the corners at the front," Campbell explains.
Four 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers are groundstacked at each corner of the stage platform. "We couldn't hang them due to weight limitations, and recessing them into the platform wasn't really an option with the tight construction schedule," says Campbell. "But they're actually really happy with the on-stage placement."
The room's design, while not particularly unusual, nonetheless presented a few challenges. "While most of the seating is on the main floor, there's a small balcony that holds a few rows of seating, as well as the FOH mixing desk: a 40-channel Allen & Heath ML5000 with 24-channel sidecar," Campbell details. "It's not particularly deep, though, and the M'elodie array turned out to be efficient enough to cover the upper and lower levels without any additional reinforcement."
Using Meyer Sound's Galileo loudspeaker management system to drive the system, each of the M'elodie arrays is divided into three zones. The top three cabinets cover the balcony area, the middle three handle the back rows, and the bottom three focus on the front seating. The arrays are splayed slightly outward, providing even coverage throughout the venue. "When an SPL measurement was done, we found less than one-and-a-half dB of variation at every seat in the house," Campbell reports. "The coverage M'elodie provides is truly phenomenal."
Campbell is also quick to point out the advantages of M'elodie's self-powered design. "If we'd gone with traditional passive cabinets, we'd have had so many more cable runs, not to mention the need for a massive rack of amps they really didn't have space for."
M'elodie's versatility enables it to cover the breadth of the church's needs, according to Campbell. "United Pentecostal is a pretty modern group, and music is very important to their worship," he says. "The sound system has to be able to handle anything from a whisper to full-blown rock levels. It also needs to provide a high degree of intelligibility for the spoken word. Most sound systems tend to favor one at the expense of the other. The Meyer gear is the one product line I've found that can do both exceptionally well."
Indeed, Campbell reports reactions from the church's audio crew are overwhelmingly positive. "The sound is clear, it's in your face, but they've got headroom to spare," he observes. "One of the best compliments I heard was when one of the guys told me he knew it must be pretty loud, but it didn't hurt anymore."
Campbell concludes, "The church had come to us with a clear message: they wanted it done right. They're so pleased with the results that now they're asking us to put in Meyer Sound stage monitors."