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Landmark Oakland Church Gets Renkus-Heinz VARIA

Careful design and new loudspeaker technology overcome a challenging acoustical environment

By PSW Staff February 18, 2014

One of the new Renkus-Heinz VARIA arrays in place at New Birth Church; below is a view of the sanctuary and an array from the front platform

Housed in a mid-19th century Catholic Cathedral, the 500-sanctuary of New Birth Church in Oakland presented an acoustically challenging environment when Concord, CA-based Premier Media Integration (PMI) was recently brought in to design and install a new audio system, along with acoustical treatment.

Graham Cooper, president of PMI, contacted Rocky Giannetta, principal of Layer 8, to assess the room’s acoustics and assist with systems design. With Giannetta’s acoustical measurements documenting a reverb time of 3.8 seconds, Layer 8 created an EASE model and designed acoustical treatment and loudspeaker system that PMI would install.

While the acoustical treatment reduced reverb to around 1.6 seconds, the environment was still challenging enough to demand an audio system that could keep reflections to a minimum. 

“The church has beautiful stained glass throughout the structure,” adds Cooper. “Our job was to find places to put the panels that would be aesthetically and architecturally acceptable. Padded chairs, carpet, and, of course, people, also help.”

With reverb down to an almost reasonable level, Giannetta specified new VARIA line arrays from Renkus-Heinz. “We knew that despite our best efforts, the room was not going to be acoustically ideal, and we needed to maximize control of the energy,” he explains. “Typical line arrays would only provide the right directivity in one plane. The client wanted a line array system that would provide the output and headroom for the sound they create, and VARIA fit the bill perfectly.” 

The system is comprised of six VARIA VAX101 cabinets per side, with three 7-degree boxes on top and three 15-degree boxes underneath. “With the VARIA’s variable pattern control, we were able to configure coverage from 60 degrees on top to 120 degrees on the bottom,” says Giannetta. Two VAX115S subwoofers per side, along with four DRS18-2 subs on the floor, provide low end reinforcement. The system is powered by Lab.gruppen amplification.

“We’ve been using Renkus-Heinz products on a number of projects, and the clients have always been happy with the results,” says Cooper. “The VARIA system does a great job of focusing the sound on the congregation and keeping it off the walls and reflective surfaces, and the speakers integrate nicely with the room’s architecture. Bishop Smith was emphatic about maintaining the building’s aesthetics, and the VARIA system looks great.”

Giannetta agrees, “The VARIA system was an ideal choice for this project.”





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