Electro‑Voice EVA Line Array Helps Keep Northfield Baptist Church Contemporary

October 27, 2011

House of Worship is a diverse market, with each congregation having its own view on the role of technology in serving its mission and supporting its worship style. In Northeast Ohio, it’s often Cleveland’s NPI Audio Video Solutions that gets the call when such a church realises that its existing systems no longer serve its needs. In the case of Northfield Baptist Church in Northfield, Ohio, NPI AV Specialist Jim Madden was able to guide the church toward a lasting solution for its present and future PA requirements by designing and installing a PA built around an Electro-Voice EVA line array.

Northfield Baptist Church seats about 400 on its 75-foot long, 50-foot wide main floor, with room for another 150 or so in the 25-foot deep balcony, which is currently unused except for the sound position. The walls and sides of the sanctuary are brick, and the drywall ceiling ranges up to roughly 26 feet in height. “It’s a big space,” Madden says. “It’s a little echo-y but not bad. The brick has never been painted so it’s still fairly porous, and the walls are not completely parallel, which is good.”

“The speakers are very articulate and sound very good overall.”

When Madden went for his initial site visit, he found an existing PA based on home-built speaker boxes and three segregated horns. The system didn’t have the coverage needed for the room, Madden says, but the core issue was that the church’s services had changed since the era when the system was originally installed. “It was designed only for speech and choir singing, but the service they do these days is what Senior Pastor Mark Ashley describes as a blended service. It still has some traditional aspects, but they have a praise team and a contemporary band with drums, bass, organ, piano, a couple of guitars, and sometimes another keyboard. The five singers on the praise team lead the singing, while the pastor is in control of the teaching and preaching.”

Based on his visit, Madden defined a few priorities for the installation. “What they really need is fidelity, which means not only clarity but also warmth of sound at a reasonable volume level. A lot of sound systems sound really good when they are cranked up, but when they are turned down they get thin. They also need really wide coverage because of the shape of the room. And we wanted to be able to control each section of the room, including the balcony, because even though the congregation is not sitting up there, the sound mixing position is, so we still had to cover the front part so that the sound guys can hear.”

Madden’s solution was a single center-flown line array positioned about seven feet out from the pulpit with a top-side height of 22 feet. The array is made up of four EVA dual-element line array modules that hang down about six feet in what Madden describes as a “soft J.” The bottom three boxes cover the front, middle, and back of the main floor, and the top box covers the front of the balcony. “This line array definitely gives me sonic control throughout the room,” he says. “The two top boxes are EVA 2028S/906. They are being aimed farther back into the room so I needed the narrow 90- by 6-degree beam. The angle widens as it goes back, so I don’t want to bounce a bunch of energy off of the walls. The bottom two boxes are 2028S/1220s. It’s a much shorter throw to the front rows, but I still have to cover the width, so I went with the 120-degree horizontal pattern.”

Based on these requirements, a system design was developed with technical input from Jason Jacquemain of rep firm C.L. Pugh & Associates in Brunswick, Ohio. “Jason recommends the specific configuration and placement of the system,” Madden says. “He is a tremendous asset to us. The incredible service I get from C.L. Pugh is just one more reason that I have had such a good experience with Electro-Voice.”

Right box for the job

Madden is enthusiastic about the choice of EVA for the array. “EVA is definitely the right box for the job,” he says. “The speakers are very articulate and sound very good overall. And while they will handle a great deal of sound pressure, they also perform well at pretty much any volume level, which is extremely important in houses of worship. Also, the way this array just bolts right together makes it a snap to put up. We chose the white boxes to match the ceiling, and they almost just disappear up there. Plus the EVADA aiming software that EV has for these boxes really simplifies aiming and is very accurate.”

Madden says that the array configuration will make it easy for the church to expand the system if more seating is needed. “One of the beauties of this is that everything—floor and balcony—can be handled with a five-box array. So if they expand and they decide to open the balcony seating, all we have to do is lower the array, add another box to the top, and pull it back up. The amps are already in place to run it, and the aiming angles would then reach to the rear of the balcony. So it will not be a big expense for them to open the balcony down the road.”

In addition to the array, the low end is covered with two Electro-Voice TX1181 single-18-inch subwoofers. “The church is not doing blow-your-face-off rock, but they still wanted to feel the lows,” Madden says. “These subs are small and unobtrusive, so we have them on the floor just to the sides of the pulpit area. They sound good and they do their job well. They add just enough to the bottom end to really fill it out nicely.”

The system is powered by two Q1212 power amplifiers: one for the EVAs and one for the subwoofers. The system controller is a DC-One, which Madden says “gives me everything I need—parametric EQ, graphic EQ, crossover, speaker protection, compression—all in one box. In this installation I use it as the main control, and for EQ to tailor the system sound, and for some light compression that doesn’t even kick in unless they really rock out. It also does the crossover between the mains and the subs, and it controls the relative levels of the top pair and the bottom pair in the array. We use the DC-One Editor software rather than the front panel, and once I set everything I can lock it, which protects the system from people adjusting the front-panel controls.”

The system is rounded out with a pair of SXa powered two-way loudspeakers. “The band and the praise team typically use in-ear monitors,” Madden says, “but occasionally they have guests that just have to have a wedge, which is what we got the SXas for. But the other advantage to them is that you can take them anywhere else in the complex, and if you plug in a mic or a small mixer you have a wonderful-sounding portable PA, so they end up serving a lot more functions around the complex than just being stage monitors.”

The PA installation was just one element of an overall AV upgrade that NPI handled for Northfield Baptist Church, which also included a full video system with screens and projectors. “This was a very big move for this church.” Madden says. “They have definitely brought themselves up to date and into the future as well, and they are extremely happy with the sound of this system.”

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