Whether a sound reinforcement system’s primary loudspeakers are point source clusters or line arrays, there may be a hole in coverage for the seats closest to those arrays.
Curved line arrays (J-arrays) may - or may not - allow the lowest elements to be aimed appropriately to cover these nearby seats. More traditional point source arrays can be just as tricky.
Simply throwing another box in at the bottom is not likely to provide the required coverage. Therefore, a dedicated down fill box is often the best candidate.
Several companies design and manufacture purpose-built down fill loudspeakers that fit with arrays and have rigging points to expedite their use. Many of these dedicated down fill boxes also provide asymmetrical coverage to better fit the required coverage area. These can perform very well and also present the cleanest appearance for both temporary and permanent installations.
Step By Step
Used almost exclusively for front fill in worship spaces, stair-step loudspeakers are designed to be flush mounted into the platform steps in an effort to reduce clutter and visibility. Many platform stairs present a reduced rise (6 inches, typically), which leaves very little height for such loudspeakers.
Most of the models I’ve evaluated with this small of a footprint simply do not have enough horsepower to reach the first rows at an appropriate volume level when the seating is spaced well away from the platform, which occurs frequently in larger modern worship spaces.
Down fill solutions that integrate into arrays/clusters from (left to right) Danley Sound Labs, Meyer Sound, and Tannoy.
Of equal concern is the low mounting height, which makes it very difficult to cover past the first row of seats. So do your homework and make informed decisions when you’re forced to consider this direction.
In permanent installations and visually sensitive events (corporate events, weddings, etc), it’s often a huge deal to conceal or minimize the appearance of the loudspeakers.
Fill loudspeakers can be cleverly concealed, but it’s up to us to ensure that their performance is not compromised by over-zealous designers or unrealistic clients.
Placing these loudspeakers in closets or behind fabric that is reflective or absorptive is perhaps the most frequently encountered proposed solution from those who have no awareness of the consequences.
We must employ diplomacy as well as our own experience and authority to ensure that the visibility of the loudspeakers are minimized but without compromising sound quality.