Every Sunday for the past two years, members of The Bridge Church Atlanta held their services in a local high school’s theatre, while raising funds for a permanent church home. In January 2007, The Bridge leased a large warehouse space in Lawrenceville, Georgia (outside Atlanta) and began the daunting task of converting a former corporate office into a modern church facility, consistent with their contemporary vision of worship.
One of the most significant challenges in this new space was designing the audio system for the worship center. Scott Clark, front-of-house engineer for The Bridge and an audio professional, designed a true left-center-right (LCR) sound system composed of Danley Sound Lab loudspeakers for the new auditorium. The low-frequency pattern control of the Danley SH-50s and SH-100s allowed him to focus energy away from the walls and prevent what would have been a cacophony of flutters and resonance that would have destroyed the intelligibility and impact of the system.
The 850-seat space is 117 feet wide and 90 feet long with a 27-foot ceiling. The inside walls are all finished with sheet rock or concrete, and the stage is concrete with a wood finish. In terms of raw acoustics, it could not have been a worse scenario. Clark began working at The Bridge on Sundays in 2005 and has been instrumental in developing the energetic, trend-setting worship sound that has become the church’s trademark. “We’re a very progressive church,” Clark says proudly. “For instance, we play music from U2 and Switchfoot, and we always strive for perfection, technically-speaking. Since I knew I’d be mixing on the new system, I wanted to make sure we would be able to produce a quality of sound unlike anything ever heard, especially in a church setting.”
Thus, the decision to go with a true LCR configuration was partly aesthetic and partly practical. “Because the room is so wide, we’d have big problems with localization if we went with a stereo system,” Clark explains, bypassing entirely the possibility of mono. “And LCR is much more versatile for mixing. You can place your dry vocals, kick, and snare in the center and send effects to the sides. It makes for amazing imaging and an enveloping sound.”
The center cluster is composed of three Danley SH-50 full-range loudspeakers with a single SH-100 for down-fill. The two side clusters are placed very nearly in a corner of the room, and each contains two Danley SH-50s with a single SH-100 for down-fill. The SH-50 has a 50ºx 50º beam width, with the SH-100 featuring a 110º conical pattern and Danley’s patent-pending Synergy Horn technology. Pattern control is unbelievably tight all the way down to 200Hz. Maximum SPLs are huge with noticeably little distortion. Phase coherence is faithful to the input signal, which dramatically improves fidelity and makes Danley Synergy Horn loudspeakers array practically seamlessly. Clark comments, “Seriously, for anyone listening to music, as opposed to specialized test noise, the Danleys array seamlessly with zero comb filtering and zero cross patterning.”
Even though the Danleys kept energy off the sidewalls, there was no way to keep it from the ceiling and the back wall. Therefore, Clark covered the back wall and two thirds of the ceiling with two-inch acoustical fill. Notes Mike Hedden, president of Danley Sound Labs, “With the popularity of converted warehouses being used as worship centers, sound designers should be aware that matching the fidelity, bandwidth, and imaging delivered at The Bridge is virtually impossible with line array technology as they lack the combination of horizontal and vertical pattern control as well as the time accuracy of Danley products. If line arrays had been chosen for The Bridge, substantially more acoustic treatment would have been required, the center channel would’ve blocked the video and stage, and since self interference is a key component that makes line arrays ‘work,’ they are awful in the time domain.”
For the low-end, Clark used four Danley TH-115 subwoofers, each of which alone rumbles down to 36Hz but together drop noticeably lower. Instead of boundary loading them to the floor or stage, which often necessitates overpowering the first few rows to ensure even coverage to the rest of the rows, Clark flew all four units in the center of the room. Akin to the Synergy Horn technology of their full-range loudspeakers, Danley designs their subwoofers with patent-pending Tapped Horn technology that results in high output and a smooth frequency response from a surprisingly small box. “I’ve measured 128dB at 40Hz in the mix position,” Clark reports, “and I haven’t even touched the clip light on the amps yet!”
He used Crest CA 12s for the full-range loudspeakers and Crest CA 18s for the subwoofers. Each speaker received a dedicated amp channel. A 48-channel Yamaha M7CL digital console commands the system, and a Biamp Audio DSP provides the minimal processing required to properly distribute and tune.
After the first few Sundays in the new building, and even before Clark installed the acoustical treatment, he received high praise for installing a system that exceeded everyone’s expectations and entered a realm of fidelity and crystal-clear imaging that few had ever heard. Not content to rest, Clark is already thinking toward the future: “Eventually, we’ll have a dedicated 5.1 system that I’ll mix live. It will be difficult, and I’ll have to program the console for each song, but it will sound absolutely stunning.”