The original Holy Trinity Anglican Parish Church in Tauranga, New Zealand, was destroyed by fire in 1999, only to rise from the ashes four years later as a striking new structure of concrete and steel. The centerpiece of the new church complex is the 900-seat, semi-circular worship auditorium, where a stunning acoustical ceiling treatment (made with rare kauri wood salvaged from the old church) conceals a nearly invisible system of Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers.
“It has a very sweet, natural sound to it,” says church music director Peter Minson of the new sound. “The comment we get from outside people coming in for concerts is that they are not even aware of amplified sound.”
The semi-circular seating arrangement made four UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers an appropriate choice for the main system. The UPA-1Ps are mounted in the gaps between the elegant overhead acoustical panels and configured in a left-right-left-right arrangement to provide stereo spread. Sound for seats under the balcony is augmented by a dozen MM-4 miniature wide-range loudspeakers, while deep bass is provided by an under-stage pair of USW-1P compact subwoofers.
Both the sound system and the room acoustics were designed by the international consulting firm of Marshall Day Acoustics, with Larry Elliot of the company’s Auckland office handling the primary system design chores. According to Elliot, the Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers were the keystone of the system design.
“The contractors could offer alternatives on other components, but not the loudspeakers,” he says. “We had gone to a lot of effort to integrate them with the architectural design. I knew the Meyer products would be ideal for this application because–and this is something I’ve never quite got a handle on–there’s something about the Meyer speakers that always seems to provide excellent speech quality in a room that is more optimized for music. I’m not sure whether it’s the time coherence or the extremes of frequency response, but the end result is excellent speech intelligibility and a full musical sound as well.”
Elliot says he specified the UPA-1P as the main cabinet because the compact size allowed discreet placement inside the narrow gaps in the acoustical ceiling treatment. Because of the relatively short throw distances and moderately live acoustics, he notes that the system easily produces levels of 95 to 100 dB (C weighted) throughout the room “with plenty of headroom above that.”
The Holy Trinity project marked the first installation of Meyer Sound loudspeakers by the system contractor, AV Solutions of Hamilton, and company president Hanspeter Frick was immediately cognizant of the advantages. “The cable runs from the equipment room at the rear of the church to the main cluster are quite long, and to minimize losses and avoid amplifiers from becoming unstable, it was much easier and cheaper to install a multi-core, line-level cable from the Media Matrix DSP outputs to the individual self-powered loudspeakers.”
Other key components of the new system include a Midas Venice console, QSC amplifiers, a Clear-Com production intercom, and Ampetronics inductive loop assisted listening system. The amplifiers drive the MM-4 loudspeakers, Meyer Sound’s only non-self-powered product, which are too small to house onboard electronics.
In its first year of operation, the church auditorium has hosted a number of outside concerts. Although orchestral and operatic programs normally are unamplified, most pop and jazz acts use the house system and find it more than adequate for their needs. As for the church’s own requirements, Holy Trinity’s Peter Minson is delighted with what he hears on a weekly basis. “We have everything here, from gently amplified acoustic sounds to howling, head-banging rock for the all-electric youth service on Saturday nights. It can handle all of those sounds without batting an eyelid.”
In an intimate setting such as Holy Trinity church, claims Minson, the best sound system is one that seems invisible to the eye and transparent to the ear. “When you’re listening in our church, you’re not aware that the sound is coming from overhead. When lips move on the stage, you get the impression that all the sound is coming from the speaker or singer directly. That’s as it should be.”