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Feature: Sounds of a new sanctuary

Feature: Sounds of a new sanctuary

Feature: Sounds of a new sanctuary

Gimhae Jeil Church has moved to a new home. James Cooke explores the audio setup

Gimhae Jeil Church opened the doors to its original sanctuary in 1927, serving a budding Christian following in the city of Gimhae in South Korea’s Gyeongsangnam-do province. Fast-forward more than 90 years, and the church has started hosting its services between the walls of a brand-new sanctuary.

While speaker systems were likely not a consideration in the early 20th century, real thought was given to modern sound reinforcement when it came to Gimhae Jeil’s new building. In fact, the church turned to Korean pro audio manufacturer and distributor Sovico for ideas.

‘At the start of this project, numerous international brands were proposed to Gimhae Jeil Church,’ recalls Minhwa Shin, sales manager at Sovico. ‘We made a strategy to ensure that we would be chosen by the church due to a combination of the quality of our brands and reasonable costs. In keeping with our philosophy, that the quality of the sound system is not driven by the brand or specification, but by the system’s integration, tuning and maintenance, Gimhae Jeil Church agreed to our proposal and selected Sovico for the project.’

The project brief called for a multipurpose sound system capable of reinforcing the preachers’ prayers, as well as the vocals and instruments of the praise band, during services. In addition, the church hosts a variety of events that the solution would also be used for.

‘Not only was a sound distribution system requested in the main chapel, but several smaller chapel rooms throughout the church also required a sound system,’ says Shin. ‘The system configuration needed to be stable with the ability to quickly respond to problems and to be operated by non-technical volunteers.’

The Sovico team turned to its own brands for the installation, delving into the SAC catalogue. As a result, hanging above each end of the stage in the main, 2,000-seat chapel are left and right arrays of 10 PLA-8 dual 8-inch speakers with three PLA-118S subwoofers flown behind each array.

DNL-8 8-inch point source speakers have been installed as delays to ensure even coverage throughout the main sanctuary. Meanwhile, six DNL-208M wedge speakers serve as monitors for speakers and the choir on the podium and the stage, respectively.

The two smaller chapels are equipped with DNL-12 12-inch point source speakers as their main PA setups.

SAC's S Series lineup of amplifiers was drawn upon to power the speaker systems. Eleven S24.0 6-channel amplifiers power the main PLA-8 and PLA-118S setup, while 10 of the S8.4 8-channel models handle the point source speakers across the facility.

‘The most important part of tuning a speaker system is to ensure consistent sound is delivered across the space you wish to cover,’ says Shin. ‘But this is not as easy as it sounds, because many churches feature a high ceiling at the front and a lower ceiling at the back. This means that the listening environment changes for audience members according to where they sit, from the front to the back.

‘Architectural elements balance direct and reflected sound differently,’ Shin continues. ‘Therefore, while speaker systems increase the amount of direct sound that enters a space, areas of the room that lack direct sound should be equipped with another speaker to secure the required amount of coverage. While direct sound can be controlled by an electro-acoustic system, reflected sound cannot. The spatial characteristics of Gimhae Jeil Church are the same as described above, influencing Sovico’s design.’

While point source speakers have been directed towards particular seating areas that lacked direct coverage, Shin explains the advantages of the line array system in reinforcing the majority of the main chapel: ‘In a church especially, where the placement of speakers is very important so as not to interfere with the room’s aesthetics, the main advantage of a line array system is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be installed in a specific place for optimum acoustics. Line array speakers can also reduce the installation area and increase the coverage range and sound pressure levels.’

Shin also notes that the speakers’ ability to be flown from the ceiling provides a location that is out of the way and that the placement of the subwoofers behind the speakers ensures they are visually unobtrusive.

‘When we completed our plan for the main speaker setup, we adjusted the angles and heights between the cabinets. The most important part of the line array setup is the splay angle between the speakers and this has been maintained at a consistent angle to obtain a uniform coverage response over the entire frequency range. Most of the church has a high ceiling that produces a lot of resonance. Therefore, the main line arrays were aimed as low as possible.’

Although a plan was in place, changes would need to be made due to alterations to the room’s architecture. ‘During the construction, the interior was partially changed from its original design,’ Shin recalls. ‘Since the sound system was influenced by the shape of room, we had a lot of meetings to fix it. The ceiling heights were much lower than in the initial design and there were unexpected structures in the locations planned for the speakers, so the main speaker installation had to be changed. When we received the changed architectural drawings, we tried to work out the optimal speaker positions and angles through simulation software. As a result, we were able to build the stable sound system now reinforcing the chapel.’

An SAC DS-48 digital signal processor was also installed at Gimhae Jeil Church for loudspeaker control. ‘The sound setup in the new sanctuary was processed for both speech and music,’ says Shin. ‘The energy of the subwoofers and their flat frequency response are optimised as much as possible, while the main speakers offer an even SPL from the front to the back of the church, and the delay speakers only reinforce the high frequencies at the top of the seating area. Additional delay loudspeakers had to be installed for areas on the left and right sides.’

Gimhae Jeil Church’s new sanctuary has now been hosting services for several months following a special dedication ceremony and every member of the congregation can hear clearly. ‘Members of the church that have visited the new sanctuary have provided a positive evaluation of the sound system,’ confirms Shin. ‘However, we would like to emphasise once again that a good sound system is not simply determined by the brand or specification of the speaker, but by the tuning, maintenance and operation of the system after the installation. With that in mind, we will continue to provide support and maintenance to Gimhae Jeil Church.’

This article was first published in the March-April 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at

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