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Sound & Communications - March 2000

Let There Be Music (and Voice)
System Upgrades Bring Both to Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.

by Joyce Jorgenson

The exterior of the Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.
The exterior of the Carpenter's Home Church
in Lakeland, Florida
Carpenter's Home Church of Lakeland, Florida, is it charismatic, lively house of worship widely known for its world-class concerts and theatrical events, as well as its pew-packing Sunday services. Centrally located between Orlando and Tampa, the church has seating for 10,000 within its sanctuary's 167,000 square feet of floor space. Dr. Karl D. Strader has presided over the ever-growing congregation since 1966 as its pastor, and served as one of the driving forces that helped relocate the church to its current 100-acre site in 1985. Since that time, Carpenter's has been visited by hundreds of well-known evangelists, hosted national conferences, and welcomed many of today's popular Christian artists, including Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, the Newsboys, Carmen, Shirley Caesar, Acquire the Fire and the Bobby Jones Gospel Explosion.

Given the diverse nature and scope of its audio needs, the church came to the conclusion not long ago that the time was right to upgrade its sound reinforcement system. Spearheaded by British expatriate Stephen Brown, who came to the church at its request in 1993 to give full-time direction to all production efforts, the project began in earnest in January of this year.

Brown notes that although the existing loudspeaker system had been good musically it was lacking in intelligibility when it came to both the spoken word and vocals. "More than half of what we do here in terms of production involves speech and vocals," he says. "In building it new sound system for our main sanctuary, we wanted to address this problem, as well as bring musical reinforcement up to a truly exceptional level. The latter was especially important, because music plays a major role within the church's worship services on a number of levels."

The spacious main sanctuary of Carpenter's Home Church
The spacious main sanctuary of
Carpenter's Home Church
Dimensions and Restrictions
From the back of its 160-foot by 50-foot stage, the octagonal sanctuary measures a mammoth 305 x 300 feet. Given due consideration during the church's initial construction phase, the acoustical environment is enhanced with absorptive tile ceiling, treated walls, a carpeted floor, and padded seats and benches.

Though the ceiling height throughout the sanctuary measures 60 feet, the ceiling over the stage area stands 45 feet from the floor. Therefore, the biggest challenge, says Brown, was the positioning of the new sound system design's left, center and tight clusters in such a way that would adequately cover the environment without blocking two 20-foot Fastfold projection screens, both of which rise 20 feet above the floor at either side of the stage.

"The screens take up 40 feet of space between the floor and ceiling, leaving only five feet in which to hang the right and left arrays without interrupting the congregation's line-of-sight," Brown points out. "We had seven-and-one-half feet to work with to accommodate the center array, which was more, but not a whole lot more."

As an aid to solving this dilemma, Brown turned to Meyer Sound Lab's sales representative in Florida, Rick Coleman. Following an investigative visit to the site, Coleman helped map out the preliminary specifications for the new system. Front there, he enlisted the design expertise of technical support manager John Monitto at Meyer Sound headquarters in Berkeley, California, who worked closely with him as well as with Rich Shinier of Blackhawk Audio, a Meyer dealer in Goodlettsville, Tennessee to move the project along to its next phase of development.

Correct placement of the arrays in relationship to the sources they reinforce was imperative.
Commenting on the sanctuary's sound requirements, Monitto said "one of our main design concerns here, as in any Church sound system, revolved around gain-before-feedback. To that end, correct placement of the arrays in relationship to the sources they reinforce was imperative so that only minimal equalization was required to achieve good levels of gain-before-feedback which promoted optimum intelligibility for the spoken word."

The Arrays
With this in mind, Monitto designed a full left-center-right sound system utilizing Meyer Sound MSL-4, DS4P, CQ-1 and CQ2 self-powered loudspeakers. The left and right arrays each comprise three MSL-4 cabinets and three DS4P mid-bass loudspeakers with two CO-2s added for downfill. Alternating MSL-4s and DS4Ps are hung side-by-side, while the CQ-2s are suspended underneath. Assembled to supply high-powered, full-range musical reinforcement, the left and right arrays neatly complement the center cluster in Monitto's design, which was intended for speech and vocal reinforcement only.

Close-up of the right speaker cluster, which is optimized for music.
Close-up of the right speaker cluster,
which is optimized for music.
Monitto revealed that the MSL-4s were chosen for their tight pattern control and power. Prior to employing the devices within this application. they have proved to be highly successful in other installations, one of which was at Carnegie Hall in New York City. "The MSL-4 is designed to control energy very well," he said of the cabinet. "In difficult reverberant rooms, it's a good choice to keep sound focused on the seats and off the walls or any other reflective surface."

Each MSL-4 utilizes a 12-inch woofer and a horn-loaded high frequency driver operating from 62 Hz to 12 kHz to produce fairly high Q and 35-degree x 40-degree coverage. Conversely, the DS4P is outfitted with dual 12-inch woofers that provide additional mid-low energy. "For loud acts that tend to eat up a lot of power, the DS4P provides more system headroom," Monitto adds. "It's a good complement to the MSL-4. The CQ-2 is a full-range cabinet that works well as a stand-alone sound system in a variety of applications, and also makes an excellent downfill for any MSL-4 based array."

Monitto points out that another significant challenge presented by the Carpenter's Home Church sanctuary was to meet the sound requirements of the outer seats under the balcony, since they are located closest to the left and right arrays. "Because we designed the right and left clusters to be a music system and the center cluster for voice, this wasn't really a problem," he reports. "The center cluster is made up of six Meyer Sound CQ-1 loudspeakers flown in parallel, and covers the entire venue. The CQ-1 was chosen for this job because we needed a lot of horizontal width in order to reach every seat in the house."

At this juncture, it's worth noting that the CQ-1 is a slightly wider cabinet than the CQ-2, thanks in great part to a horn section extending out to 80 degrees horizontally and 40 degrees vertically, as compared to the CQ-2's 60-degree by 40-degree area of coverage.

Monitto explains that without the center array, the system would have required more MSL4s for the left and right arrays, since the horizontal coverage of the MSL-4 is fairly narrow. The CQ-2 also supplies a lot of headroom to the left and right clusters, and helps decrease both the cost and weight of the arrays by reducing their overall size.

Brown invited several manufacturere to partake in A/B comparisons.
Other Hardware
The church system utilizes a Meyer Sound LD-1A 8-channel analog line driver to distribute the audio to the loudspeakers. The LD-1A is a frequency-dividing network similar to a crossover, but with more filters built-in to promote phase coherency among the multiple drivers in all of the cabinets collectively. With the LD-1A in the processing chain, a certain amount of flexibility was lent to the design which allowed for the components in each of the right and left arrays to blend together better.

Bobby Simmons, the church's in-house construction engineer, worked closely with Blackhawk Audio to come up with the best possible way to hang the three clusters from the building's existing structures. "Luckily, there is ample room above the ceiling, as well as multiple catwalks and lots of steel," Simmons says. "Once we presented Blackhawk with the dimensions and specified how many points were needed to fly the arrays, they designed the grids. Their design allowed us to mount the speakers as close to the ceiling as possible, which was one of our major concerns."

Looking up at the elements of the left-center-right speaker systems.
Looking up at the elements of the
left-center-right speaker systems
All system electronics are located in an equipment room at the rear of the stage. Within the house racks, Crown PS400 amplifiers bring power to TOA 112 stage monitors, while Klark Teknik DN 360 graphic equalizers join K-T DN 700 digital delays, Lexicon LXP1 and LXP5 processors, a DBX 160 XT compressor/limiter, Eventide H969 Harmonizer and a BBE Sonic Maximizer in rounding out the list of available processing gear.

Other racked equipment includes a Tascam DA30 MKII DAT machine and MX80 mic mixer, as well as a Denon DN650F compact disc player and DN770R stereo cassette/tape deck. To facilitate house communications, a ClearCom master DLC works in conjunction with ClearCom MX820 remote stations and KB111A speaker stations.

Within the input scheme, there are 20 floor boxes onstage, each wired for six mic inputs and eight monitor outputs. An assortment of more than 100 Shure, Vega and AKG hardwired and wireless microphones arc kept on hand to facilitate any situation. The church is also equipped with a Williams infrared hearing assistance system.

Close-up of the center speaker cluster, which is optimized for voice.
Close-up of the center speaker cluster,
which is optimized for voice
To adequately manage mixing tasks, a Harrison Alive 64-channel VCA console is located on the stage and manned by full-time audio engineer Kevin Mettling. Production manager Stephen Brown says that the console was custom-built by Harrison for the church 10 years ago. It's a phenomenal piece of engineering with an incredible parametric EQ. Still as relevant today as it was a decade ago." Also onstage is a 40-channel Soundcraft monitor desk operated by another of the church's full-timers, Harvey Mabe.

From the house console, audio travels through a line driver to three Meyer Sound CP10 processors for parametric EQ, and then on to Klark Teknik DN700 digital delays before going out to the loudspeaker arrays.

Prior to making the decision to go with a Meyer sound system, Brown invited several manufacturers to partake in A/B comparisons. Each manufacturer brought in their cabinets, and all were flown from the same spot at an identical height, then fed from the same source as a reference point from which to judge the system.

Brown says, "First we asked them to play whatever music they wished through the speakers, then we listened to several of our own selections as well as a CD of pure vocals. We had our entire staff come in for the domonstration process and write down their opinions."

The screens take up 40 feet of space between the floor and ceiling, leaving only five feet in which to hang the right and left arrays.
Wrapping It Up
The week after the arrays were installed, they were placed in the custody of Blackhawk Audio's Rick Shimer, who performed the final tuning with the help of a SIM (Source Independent Measurement) System II also from Meyer Sound Labs. "We ran conduit and wire to accommodate the new system the week prior to rigging the clusters," explains Brown. "It took about another week after that before the new system was up and running. While the new system was under construction, we kept the old one in place, so for the most part, everyone's schedule went unaffected."

"Artist Michael W. Smith performed on January 21 using the new system," says Brown on a parting note. "We were very pleased with the quality of the sound then, and have been since. Through the efforts of everyone here at Carpenter's Home Church and the entire Meyer sound staff, we've achieved our goal to arrive at a system that has the capabilities to reproduce both music and voice intelligibility to the highest degree."