The Tempe (Arizona) campus of Sun Valley Community Church recently installed a Martin Audio MLA Compact loudspeaker system as the key component in a significant upgrade of its technical capabilities.
The church merged with Bethany Church a couple of years ago, with Sun Valley inheriting a large campus and an auditorium with technical capabilities that were deficient by modern standards. “The audio system was old and primarily designed for natural speech, orchestra and choir reinforcement in an acoustic setting,” explains Sun Valley technical director Eric Johnson. “That, plus the building is a complex geometrical design, basically a five-sided pentagon with a seven-sided auditorium that’s about 160 degrees wide, has a raked floor, many complex angles, and no parallel surfaces. Needless to say, this presented a real challenge when it came to choosing a new loudspeaker system.
“Changing times, culture and styles made us realize that it no longer served our purposes for electric rock ‘n’ roll style music,” he continues. “We decided on a major renovation that involved changing the seating from traditional pews to modern theatre style seats and going from a totally carpeted floor to carpeting only in the aisles. We also reduced the size of the stage, pulling back the downstage edge by about twelve feet in addition to upgrading the lighting and audio system.
There was a concern as to whether or not a system could be implemented that would adequately reinforce rock ‘n’ roll without overwhelming the live sounding room. Acoustically treating the room was considered, which would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, as was completely tearing down the ceiling and remodeling the room from the inside, which wasn’t feasible either.
Johnson was aware of Martin Audio MLA, having first heard it several years ago during a demo at Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix. “I had an idea of what the technology was about,” he notes, “but I was really impressed with what I heard. The possibility of MLA, and the MLA Compact system specifically, led us to realize that the technology would allow us to precisely control the audio output and put the energy onto the seats while keeping it off the ceilings and walls. So that’s the direction we decided to pursue.”
The installed system for the 1,300-seat auditorium consists of nine MLA Compact enclosures per side in left-right hangs with seven Martin Audio DSX subs in bunkers arranged in arc formation along the downstage edge. Two WT3 speakers for extreme left and right out fill and six DD6 speakers for front fill complete loudspeaker set.
Martin Audio MA3.0 and MA2.8Q amplifiers and a Merlin Processor manages the out fills and front fills, as well as communications between the loudspeakers. The rest of the system currently includes a Soundcraft MH2 40-channel console at front of house, Sennheiser Evolution Series wireless systems, and DPA microphones.
Johnson adds that the installation team, which included Ed Crippen from Clark, the system integration company, Jon Hunsacker and Kevin Hull from SVCC and Sean Stinson’s ream of riggers from Clearwing, had to bring in a considerable amount of additional power to accommodate the new lights and audio system since the building was already over capacity for electrical service.
The system debuted on Palm Sunday and according to Johnson, “it was an overwhelming success. Ed Crippen was there for the whole weekend, which included rehearsals and the first service. He was taking measurements for the service and one of the things we discovered during the sermon was that real-time intelligibility readings were off the charts. He had never seen intelligibility readings that high. The first time our pastor Chad Moore, who uses hearing aids, stepped on the stage and spoke through the microphone he said, ‘I can finally hear myself.’
“There was a band playing that averaged between 95 dB and 104 dB with subs which was clear and not too loud. With the MLA Compact, the musicians can now focus on the nuances and subtleties of their music that can finally be heard without overwhelming the space. I even had to adjust the drummer’s toms because we could hear them rattling against the support post.”