Toward the end of last year, new leadership at Houston’s Sagemont Church in Houston introduced a contemporary worship music service to appeal to a younger congregation, necessitating a sound reinforcement system upgrade in its 2,500-seat sanctuary that includes an Solid State Logic Live L350 digital console.
The PA and console installed after the church’s 118,000-square-foot worship center and adult education center was completed in 2012 were no longer up to the task, says Evan Warren, who was appointed lead audio engineer in October 2020. “We have a new pastor, a new worship leader and a whole new direction, and we wanted to do modern contemporary rock ‘n’ roll-style worship music. But our PA and console were pushing 10 years old and falling apart. The faders on our old console were moving on their own and the old PA just wasn’t cutting it.”
Warren adds that it didn’t take him long to narrow down the mixing console choices to an SSL Live L350. “I thought, what can do the I/O count, what is flexible and, bottom line, what sounds the best? I wanted sound quality to be a high priority, because you don’t get to upgrade a desk and PA at the same time very often.”
AVL equipment supplier and integrator Hairel Enterprises, based in Conroe, TX, installed the new SSL desk and d&b audiotechnik KSL loudspeakers all on the same day. Warren can handle front-of-house, monitors and a broadcast streaming mix from the 24-fader L350, which offers 96 channels of preamps.
Also included in the new package is a Fader Tile, a self-contained, 12-fader console extension, acting as a second operator position managing monitor mixes for the band that can include up to a dozen musicians and singers. “We have a monitor station and we’re running the SSL Live SOLSA app on a PC for the monitor control. But I wanted to be able to run with one engineer if I had to, if the monitor engineer had to step away,” Warren says.
At the church where he previously worked, Warren had to rely extensively on plugins when mixing. But with L350, he says, the system’s processing sounds so good that he now finds himself using very few plugins: “I feel great about just using what’s on the desk. The front end, the conversion, the summing and the processing are just better than anything I’ve ever used. The SSL bus compressor on the desk is fantastic, and it has a high-pass filter, which is amazing. I use that on my master bus. And I think the dynamic EQ sounds better than the plug-in I was used to, so I use that as much as possible.” Compared to that plug-in, he says, “With the SSL I just hear it sooner. I can hear 1 dB of reduction.”
The new console is integrated on a Dante network. Dual Domain Routes, unique to SSL, enable the desk to interact directly with devices on the network without the need to launch Dante Controller.
As for broadcast streaming, he says, “I send my front-of-house mix to a mastering chain, blend some crowd mics in and send it out. I tweak that week to week. I have some little Genelec speakers at front-of-house to make sure that everything is translating. I also went with a Dante PCIe card and record into Reaper. I use that for virtual soundchecks, no matter what. But I’m also recording, so that in the future I can hopefully do some remixing and archiving.”
Starting this year, the first Sunday service is now for the older church members and features a more traditional band and choir. The second service is driven by contemporary worship music. “It’s an interesting challenge for me,” he says. “I have to mix two very different styles for two very different audiences, so I start from two different showfiles.” Worshippers have responded positively, he says, and congregation numbers began to rise significantly in February.