Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in San Jose, California had outgrown its land-locked building of 350 seats. They were doing everything they could to accommodate the expanding congregation: multiple services, overflow rooms, etc. But the increasingly splintered feel created by so much division in time and space of what was actually one community, coupled with a grossly undersized parking lot, spurred the church to search for a new building.

At around the same time, the church’s staff members attended a “How To Sound Workshop” audio/visual training seminar conducted by Mike Sokol of Fits and Starts Productions. They were impressed with Sokol’s aptitude and demeanor and were eager to get him involved in the design of the sound system for their new worship center, which they were just beginning to build in the facility of a former tech company. Sokol was excited about the project, but knew that it would be a disservice to the church to take on their West Coast job from his East Coast home. Although Sokol agreed to consult, he recommended Rodney Wright, a systems designer for Southern California’s JD Audio Visual, to handle most of the project locally.

With the team in place, Sokol flew out so that he and Wright could spend some time with pastor David Parks, staff members, and the congregation in their old building to help understand their vision for the new building. As often happens, the church’s anticipated budget for the AV system did not align with the AV system they hoped for. “That put us in the delicate position,” says Wright, “of wanting to make sure they would get a system that did everything they needed with reliability and longevity, without losing their trust that the extra expense was truly necessary. We were especially careful to use products with unusually good value for the money to keep the budget from ballooning without compromising the system.”

Despite the fact that the church staff was comfortable on their old analog console, Wright recommended they go with an all-digital system to deliver greater functionality without increasing the price. “Symetrix’s SymNet DSP became the heart and soul of the whole system,” says Wright. “I had never installed SymNet before, but when I researched our options, I found that SymNet was remarkably affordable given all that it could do. It was the good fit.”

Emmanuel Presbyterian wanted to use many of their existing microphones and stage equipment in the new building. Wright only augmented them with a small number of Shure ULX-series wireless and KSM-137 series wired microphones. He connected all microphones and line level sources on stage to Aviom AN-16 series mic/line inputs with integrated AD converters, which interface with a 48-channel Yamaha M7CL digital console. “Since they were moving from an analog console, the technical staff approached the M7CL with some trepidation,” recalls Wright. “But once they got it, they loved it.”

From the console, signal travels to a pair of SymNet 8x8 DSPs, which supply all of the speaker processing for the LCR and distributed systems. They went with an LCR system for two reasons. First, the sanctuary is decidedly fan-shaped, making a three-way distributed system more sensible than a single huge cluster. Second, and perhaps more interesting, the church’s active youth department wanted the ability to put on contemporary music events, with a high caliber of sound. Of course, the capabilities of such a system would make their regular services, which mix traditional and contemporary elements, that much more engaging. Also included was a delay ring to ensure that SPLs would be consistent from the front seats to the back seats.

A beefy combination of four EAW KF730P bi-amp three-way line array cabinets and two EAW SB625 subwoofers per side, along with three EAW AX366 bi-amp three-way center fill cabinets, and two EAW JF60s comprise the center cluster. A delay ring of seven EAW MK2396 full-range speakers balances out the coverage, and EAW SM20iH wedges combined with Aviom A-16II monitor mixers handle the stage. In addition, a distributed system of Tannoy 70-volt CMS501DC ceiling-mounted speakers deliver sound to the main lobby and two cry rooms in the back of the sanctuary.

To allow the SymNet system to address all of those speakers, a SymNet BreakOut12 adds a dozen outputs to the 16 that come with the two 8x8s. “The SymNet 8x8 DSPs are incredibly powerful,” says Wright. “You can do anything with these boxes. I admit that when I first saw the SymNet Designer software, it was a little overwhelming, but as soon as I started working with it I understood its simplicity. I had a few questions along the way and Symetrix was right there to help me out.” In addition to the value for money of its DSP, SymNet also offered elegant ARC-K1 volume controllers for the lobby and cry rooms. Apart from those controllers, the rest of the DSP is locked down and wonderfully invisible to the church’s technical staff.

In the end, Wright and Sokol’s system delivers everything the church had hoped for without adding undue expense to Emmanuel Presbyterian’s budget. Moreover, it’s “future-proofed.” The present will seem like the very distant past when the system is in any need of any change.