Located on the eastern edge of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Woodbury is a verdant community literally ringed by parks and golf courses. It’s also home to Woodbury Lutheran Church, which has sprouted from its first 315-seat sanctuary dedicated in 1968 to three area campuses over the past half century.
Obviously, much has changed facility-wise since then, including, most recently, Woodbury Lutheran’s adoption of a pair of KLANG:fabrik immersive in-ear monitor mixing systems for the church’s Valley Creek campus, which also serves as the home base for the congregation’s live broadcast operation.
Moving to an immersive IEM system for monitoring was no small change as the campus’ existing wedge-based monitoring system had been in place and in use for more than a quarter of a century. Add to that the fact that the install took place only a week and a half before one of Woodbury’s biggest productions of the year, Easter weekend, leaving little time to train and acclimate musicians and technical staff.
Technical arts director Kendall Johnson, who has headed the production ministry at Valley Creek since 2016, acknowledges the timing challenge. “We installed KLANG on April 10th, during the busiest time of year for our church,” he recalls. “We had a huge Good Friday production about 10 days after the install date and needed to get our volunteers trained on and comfortable with the new system.”
With a degree in sound design for interactive media and having interned at Hans Zimmer’s studio, Remote Control Productions, Johnson has little fear of tech, but the same can’t necessarily be said for Woodbury’s musicians, many of who have been using the church’s existing wedge system since 1992.
Thankfully, he says, the transition was painless: “This was a huge improvement for our church. The KLANG system proved to not only be easy for our volunteers to use, but received excellent praise from them. People could not believe how well they could hear. They went from thinking that the immersive audio idea was a gimmick to being fully onboard within just a few songs.”
The KLANG system has been racking up praise among both players and engineers in the touring audio world for a few years now. For churches like Woodbury, the combination of precise placement of sound sources within an immersive soundstage and the fact that individual musicians can customize their own mix via a mobile device of their choice has made the system a hit in the house of worship world as well.
“Moving from wedges to an in-ear-monitor system is all about setting up our teams to lead worship with confidence,” notes multi-site worship director Joel Wetzstein, who also notes that they took their time with the decision, including auditioning systems from a number of providers over a two-month demo process. The KLANG system differentiated itself pretty much immediately, he says.
“Funny story: during sound check for Easter Sunday, I was seriously startled by the KLANG system,” Wetzstein laughs. “I was sitting at the piano and hadn’t finished placing every instrument in my immersive sound field when the percussion player hit one of his drums. I whipped my head to the left to see who was there because even though I knew the percussionist was on the other side of the stage, it sounded like he was standing right there. I couldn’t believe how good and accurate the placement sounded. Truth be told, that happened more than once.”
As the go-to guy for everything tech, Johnson routinely has to deal with three major services in a four-day period, all of which have completely unique channel assignments. “KLANG, from a tech perspective, has been absolutely stellar to work with,” he enthuses. “Each week, we have multiple worship teams using the system—different musicians, different names, different setups. KLANG has made it incredibly easy to save and load all of these setups with the click of a button. During Easter, we had four different services in one week and KLANG easily met our needs with little effort on the tech side to make all of the changes for each service work.”
The 2U rack device accepts up to 56 input channels via a variety of digital formats—including MADI, Dante and Lightpipe—giving the flexibility to easily route audio in and out the device. XLR audio outs can be used to distribute the audio out of the console as well as any of the digital formats. If there is a need for additional mixes, multiple KLANG units can be daisy-chained. KLANG’s immersive in-ear mixing system can be controlled via KLANG:app, which is compatible with iOS, Android Mac and Windows devices. For owners of DiGiCo’s SD series, there’s also a native implementation of the control surface on the desk.
Karl Grant, one of Woodbury Lutheran’s worship leaders, was another immediate convert. “KLANG has revolutionized how we’re able to rehearse and lead worship,” he says. “Each member of the band can hear exactly what they need to hear—and no more than that. They get to choose! We save time in rehearsals by not having to call back monitor mix adjustments, and, as a worship leader, I have much more confidence in my own monitoring of what the ensemble sound is. KLANG is also helping us all realize where we need to tighten up as musicians.”
If there is a common thread in house of worship audio, it’s the volunteer nature of their staffs, and, for tech leaders like Johnson, that presents an extra layer of challenges. Anything added has to be easily understood by staff that may not have a ton of audio training. “From a training perspective, I couldn’t believe how fast people picked it up,” he marvels. “In using other systems, people seemed to run into more questions, but with the KLANG:app, after a brief introduction, our musicians and tech volunteers were able to jump right in and start mixing. Our volunteers range in age from high schoolers to retirees, so seeing the wide range of folks being able to use KLANG and enjoy it has been a definite ‘win’ in my book from a tech perspective.”
Wetzstein, who directs the overall worship experience across all of Woodbury Lutheran’s three campuses, was initially nonplussed. “I may have been one who thought the idea sounded like a gimmick,” he admits, “but once I heard it and got more info, I was converted in less than one sentence, ‘The way we were designed to hear.’ KLANG’s immersive audio processing platform unravels the competition’s flat stereo world and makes in-ear-monitors come to life.”