BIG SOUND – ASW and Lee Sound Design Collaborate at FBC Jonesboro

October 15, 2013

At First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, ASW President Galen Boyce found another application for his audio engineering talent and experience. The fan shaped sanctuary presented an acoustical challenge for the higher SPL levels of contemporary worship services, threatening uneven and unintelligible coverage from even the most advanced sound system. There is no secret to successful sound system design in such a space though. High performance hinges on selecting the proper equipment and placing it very precisely so that the technology and the architecture work together. While Galen can quickly assess a space and confidently make recommendations on speaker design and location, he believed that this project required building a computer model to validate and refine the design before the first piece of equipment was even ordered.

ASW brought in Wayne Lee, P.E. of Lee Sound Design to help specify acoustical treatments and speaker locations. A three-dimensional, acoustically accurate model of the sanctuary was built in a specialized CAD application called EASE. This type of software allows the designer to import the architectural details of a room and place virtual speakers in space. Lee notes, “We get detailed performance data for each speaker from the manufacturer, and their behavior can be very accurately predicted using the software.” EASE produces a colored rendering of how the entire system behaves under those conditions, revealing problem areas such as a group of seats that hear too many reflected sounds, which could make a sermon or announcement difficult to understand. Galen: “Sound engineering and acoustics complement each other. Both roles are crucial on a project such as this one.”

At FBC Jonesboro, such engineering accuracy and interaction among the various trades was a necessity. According to ASW Project Manager / Engineer Will Morris, “We needed to coordinate very precise locations for the clusters and balcony delay-rings using the EASE modeling data so that the riggers could actually hang the equipment. It’s very costly and invasive to have to re-rig this kind of system.” Detailed coordination is a necessity on complex projects – especially where big, heavy speaker clusters are hanging overhead.

ASW also installed an Allen & Heath I-Live digital mixing system. “It allows controlling the system or parts of the system from three locations, including the radio broadcast booth, choir hallway and the front of house. We worked with Allen and Heath to map out the best solution allowing the customer to get everything they wanted out of their budget,” Will recalls. This means that the radio broadcast can be mixed differently from the house sound, and without any effect on the house sound. Effects like delay and compression, or the choir mix can be handled properly and uniquely for each.

Once the equipment was installed and powered up, the real fun began. Galen and Wayne worked together to program the Biamp Audia, Renkus-Heinz speaker arrays and the Allen & Heath I-Live, combining once again the art of good sound design and the science of acoustics. If you’re picturing a couple of guys bent over a mixer board, pushing faders, well, you’re not far off. But a large portion of such configuration is done with software. So the sound engineer of today is as likely to be hunched over a laptop, programming the equipment through various screens of virtual buttons and faders, and stringing together complex maps of symbols and schematics to create highly customized installations.

At the end of the project, the payoff for all of the coordination and teamwork is obvious. The sanctuary sounds great whether you are sitting in the congregation or in your car and listening to the radio. The FBC Jonesboro media team can reconfigure quickly from the normal Sunday morning service to a special event in the evening. Not every project requires such a complex effort, but the ASW team is ready for whatever is needed.

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