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First United Methodist puts audio intelligibility first

First United Methodist puts audio intelligibility first

First United Methodist puts audio intelligibility first


Constructed over 100 years ago, First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Prattville, Alabama, has spent the last 12 months refurbishing and renovating its sanctuary. The works included restored systems that will better meet the needs of its 1,000-strong assembly and provide for a wider range of service presentations and performances. Key to the upgrade is an audio system that provides clarity during live performances and intelligibility for spoken word services.

“Our church is a beautiful but very old building with plaster walls and other obstacles, making it difficult to install new technologies that the space wasn’t built for it,” commented FUMC director of music ministries, Jeremy Pyles. “We took the approach of doing several things at once. Our thriving music programme involves people of all ages and, after years of dealing with less-than-perfect sound, we took this opportunity to upgrade our sanctuary’s audio system to something we can be proud of.”

For designing and installing the new audio system, FUMC turned to AV and lighting supplier JM Anderson at Auburn AV. Previously, the church had used a variety of loudspeakers dating back to the 1970s that greatly varied in size and performance. In turn, the large speaker collection prevented the space from carrying a clean and uniform aesthetic in addition to poor quality sound performance for the congregation.

"Acoustically, the sanctuary is very reverberant,” commented Anderson. “It has stained-glass windows, hard walls, floors and sloped ceilings. Our main goal was to employ a digitally steerable sound system that could focus down on the congregation and away from the reflective surfaces. The Renkus-Heinz ICLive X system was a perfect fit for this project as it delivers excellent, controllable audio with great coverage from a small footprint."

Comprising three steerable array modules and a subwoofer, the ICLive X system's Acoustic Source Multiplier (ASM) waveguide allows the HF section to coaxially mount in front of the LF section. The coaxial driver arrangement delivers a consistent and symmetrical dispersion of both HFs and LFs along the entire length of the array for selecting any available acoustic centre. The Auburn AV team took advantage of the Loudspeaker Recommendation services offered by the Californian manufacturer. Possessing extensive experience of digitally steerable arrays, local representative Richard Hembree oversaw the initial design until it become a commissioned system.

“In addition to the need to avoid reflective surfaces such as the large balcony face and tall plaster walls, this sanctuary has three distinct audience areas,” explained Hembree. “The IC-Live X system allows the reinforced sound to focus as needed to evenly cover the congregation with a high level of intelligibility and full-range audio in the high balcony, low under balcony and wide near-field area between the platform and the balcony.”

Working with Hembree, to finalise the specifications, Anderson and the Auburn AV team installed an L-R array, each consisting of one ICLive LX, one ICLive X and one ICLive XL module. The resulting 0.25m x 2.5m (WxH) array is capable of pattern control below 200Hz. Extending the LFs when required, a pair of Renkus-Heinz dual 12-inch PNX212 subwoofers are discreetly located under the platform behind a grille cloth.

"We ended up with a high-intelligibility audio system with minimal interaction between the reinforced audio and the room,” finalised Anderson. “The room can remain live and rich for the organ and choir, yet at the same time have very high speech intelligibility. Ultimately, with the ICLive X, we can steer the sound where we want it.”

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