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Second Baptist Church Hits all Four Corners with Meyer Sound
When the burgeoning congregation of Houston, Texas's Second Baptist Church began to outgrow its original 5,000-plus-seat worship center, Senior Pastor Dr. Ed Young and staff launched an ambitious fundraising campaign, which allowed them to expand to five separate locations in outlying areas of the city. The multi-million dollar expansion project also included extensive renovations to their existing facilities, including Second Baptist's West Campus, located just off the Katy Freeway on the west side of the city. As part of the redo, the West Campus will gain nearly 200,000 square feet — nearly doubling its size — and will also receive an impressive, highly specialized new sound system incorporating Meyer Sound's M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeaker.
Second Baptist's West Campus has an open, contemporary feel and includes a 4,500-seat worship center, as well as separate buildings for educational programs, weddings, funerals, and other events. The worship center's design somewhat resembles a plus sign, with the stage in the center and 360-degree seating tapering out to four quadrants. This layout presented a challenge for Atlanta-based performance engineering firm Clark ProMedia, supplier of the new system.
"It's quite unlike a typical theatre-in-the-round," explains Matt Card, Clark ProMedia's vice president of client development. "The room actually behaves more like four separate 1,100-seat rooms, with sound going out to each wing, and we had to conceive the system to function on that basis. But while each section runs independently, all four need to be synchronized. So what you end up with is four 1,100-seat rectangular rooms that intersect at a common stage. At the front of each quadrant, the seating curves to a more traditional circular arc."
"What makes it really unique is that we've worked to achieve a stereo signal no matter where you're sitting," adds George Clark, Clark ProMedia's founder and chief engineer. "This is accomplished by alternating the arrays for each quadrant, so that left and right signals are always adjacent to each other going around the space. That meant reversing left and right as you go around the circle so that you don't end up with left next to left anywhere."
Each quadrant uses an array of 10 M1D cabinets for each stereo channel, totalling 80 cabinets throughout the hall. At the corners of the quadrants, aisles form a natural division between each wing, with the flat floor area in front moving up to a more stadium-like incline toward the rear. "We used the aisles as acoustical dead zones, so to speak," Clark says. "That's where we created our overlap. I'm a firm believer in achieving a balanced image, and with this scenario, we've accomplished that throughout the hall."
It may not be the most conventional setup, but then, the West Campus of Second Baptist Church is hardly a conventional venue. "We didn't have a lot of ability to influence the space itself," Card says. "But we wanted to create a system that could deliver the best possible imaging to the entire room." The system uses a pair of LD-3 compensating line drivers to tailor the sound and drive the arrays.
"You have to consider the behavior of the church congregation," Clark says. "They're not moving around the room, so even though the imaging is reversed in some of the quadrants, everyone gets a stereo image. The program material is contemporary, but not hard rock, so it's not critical to have the drum kit spread out across the stereo field accurately, for example. Even if the hi-hat's on the left for one quadrant and on the right for another, they're still getting a true stereo image."
Eight 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers are flown to cover low end, two per quadrant. "One of the hallmarks of our church design is a big, powerful low-end presence," Card points out. "Any time there's a part of the worship service that speaks not only to the aesthetic and intellectual, but to the emotional, it's important to create a musical experience that essentially wraps around you and draws you in. We endeavor to achieve that kind of high-impact performance, and the 700-HP delivers the clear, solid low end that is an essential part of that experience."
Card says that there was originally some concern that the M1D might not be loud enough. In fact, the church was considering a different system, a visit was made to Fellowship Church's Plano campus.
The Senior Pastor at Second Baptist is the father of the pastor at Fellowship Church, a 20,000-member congregation that had recently installed an M1D array. "The performance at Fellowship is more akin to mainstream rock," says Card, "and once they heard the system in action at Fellowship, it was clear the M1D could fill the bill at Second Baptist. They immediately called us and said they wanted to back up and change plans. The M1D was a much more compelling product for what they were trying to achieve.
"The M1D is a very tightly focused box, which is why we were able to only use 10 per side," Clark concludes. "We'd originally planned on using 12, but the MAPP prediction said 10 would do the trick, and it proved to be remarkably accurate. MAPP Online Pro (acoustical prediction software) is probably one of the most stellar products Meyer Sound has ever come up with. You look at the MAPP data and see where the loudspeaker interactions will be, then walk the room and, sure enough, that's where they are."
Second Baptist Church now boasts more than 40,000 members throughout its five Houston-area campuses, with more outposts planned for the future.