Situated in the Melbourne’s east, the community at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was being crowded out by a suburb fast-tracked for urban growth and relocated down the road to the available St. James Uniting Church, which has now been equipped with a new sanctuary sound system headed by Martin Audio O-Line loudspeakers.
The church offers striking mid-century early modern architecture and is a heritage-listed building. Integration firm Mozaix, highly experienced in meeting the unique challenges of house of worship projects, was contacted to lead the sonic upgrade.
The original St James space had been too acoustically “dead,” a unique problem to find in a church building. Due to its carpeted floors and construction of the vaulted ceiling, in its previous unrenovated form it didn’t suit St Paul’s style of “call and response” congregational worship.
Acoustic engineer Andrew Nicol applied acoustical treatment in the form of an array of signature reflective diffusers for the front wall and behind the band stage, as well as hard stone tile flooring, acoustic panels on the rear wall and acoustic absorption on the balcony fascia. The result is an acoustically more lively but controlled space that suits congregational involvement and accommodates high SPL reinforcement.
Nicol briefed the AV system designers, Hanson Associates, and its consultant Mark Thompson noted that given the acoustic design—and in order to enable the church to benefit from this live reverberance—a loudspeaker system well suited to meet all requirements was Martin Audio O-Line. He felt it would provide a properly engineered speech reinforcement solution, and the decision to specify 12 elements per side was based on Hanson’s acoustic modelling process.
Both Mozaix director Paul Tucker and Hanson Associates have worked on previous jobs involving O-Line arrays and all participants were confident it would be suitable for the St Paul’s fitout. Every element of O-Line is individually addressed by its own amplifier channel and processing, allowing the array to be beam steered, helping to keep energy out of the ceiling space and the pipe organ loft.
“It’s a very transparent PA — it’s not lumpy in the bottom end,” notes Tucker. “It really connects to the room nicely. Hanson Associates took care of the final tuning of the PA and it’s come up nicely. We had a consecration service featuring a fantastic viola player, and the sound of that instrument was beautiful — really stunning.”
An Allen & Heath mixing environment (over Dante) is complemented by Q-Sys signal processing. The AV booth is also the control hub of all the video and streaming capabilities (St Paul’s has been recording and broadcasting services since well before the Covid-19 pandemic).
As for operation, a church volunteer can fire up both the PA and the projectors with a couple of clicks of an iPad. The architecturally sympathetic O-Line arrays are finished in neutral light gray to better blend in with the room’s architecture.
“We’re very pleased with the results,” concludes David Pietsch, who heads the church’s strategic property group. Martin Audio is distributed in Australia by Technical Audio Group (TAG).