The sanctuary was originally designed for the more traditional worship setup of a choir accompanied by piano. To accommodate more contemporary music in worship services as well as concerts, Sunset Christian Center's biggest challenge was its acoustics and PA system. For Kevin Hartman, the church's technical director, the first order of business at the time was to travel around the country, visiting different houses of worship to examine their audio/video equipment and acoustical environments. He then hired Special Event Services' (SES) Senior Designer Wally Duguid to handle the electroacoustic upgrade, who in turn brought on the Russ Berger Design Group (RBDG) to handle the acoustics for the project.
“Sunset Christian Center was looking to capture in its sanctuary some of the worship experience of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, and we thought one of the best ways to do this would be to include those who had worked on that project,” says Duguid. “Kevin was very open-minded to visiting a lot of different facilities with various manufacturers' speakers, amplifiers and other products before we came to an agreement on what would be best for his space. When Russ gets involved, he works with everybody to find out what's best for that particular facility. In this case, he wanted to know all of the church's goals before designing a solution.”
Among the acoustical renovations to the sanctuary, RBDG's design called for modifying the original poly-cylindrical diffusers to control reflections off the rear wall. The second main area to be addressed was the stage. “There needed to be a better balance for the musicians on stage, and less booming bass,” notes Russ Berger, president of RBDG. Additional low-frequency absorption was applied to control reflections off the main upstage wall, and the speaker system was upgraded to the latest sound reinforcement technologies.
Sunset Christian Center's new speaker system, a JBL Vertec VT4887, comprises three line arrays in an LCR configuration plus JBL AC28-95 front fill speakers and a JBL VT4881 subwoofer in each, powered by Lab.gruppen amplifiers. Four JBL VT4886 delay speakers are part of each array and are being driven by a Crown IT 9000HD amplifier with built-in DSP processing. A Yamaha DME 64N is the system processor and provides crossover points, delay and shaping. When the church hosts a choir, it uses its new JBL AM5212-95s choir monitors, located over the stage.
With these coordinated efforts by SES and RBDG, Sunset Christian Center has replaced its outdated sound system with a concert setup equal to that of most professional touring rigs, without breaking the budget. “It's great to finally experience a worship service where everything sounds clear,” says Hartman. “The new PA system has acres of headroom and sounds fantastic and the room now has a great balance to it. I've experienced other rooms that had too much treatment installed; they feel sterile and lifeless, and it's hard to participate in worship. RBDG hit the balance just right; the team acoustically tuned the room, but didn't kill it.”