If we all aged at the same rate, life would be a bit more bearable. But just as people tend to wear out at differing ages, so do components of A/V systems. And just when we’re faced with a sag here or a blown-out kneecap there, systems owners who don’t have the luxury of being able to slap down a Gold Card and say, “Here, let’s get a whole new one!” have to figure out which fronts to fight the battle of entropy on one at a time.
That’s what many churches face as their A/V systems decay at varying rates. One of those is the Trinity Assembly of God, a vibrant and diverse 1,800-seat house of worship located just north of Baltimore. Founded in 1979, the church’s current sanctuary was completed in 1992, which is also when its first A/V systems were installed.
Since then, various aspects of the systems have been replaced, such as the two video projectors that feed a pair of screens that flank either side of the stage; these are now Sanyo PLC-XU116T standard-definition units. The sound system’s amplifiers have been replaced on an as-needed basis, and over the last five years fading Crown power amps have been completely refreshed with QSC PLX2 amplifiers.
However, two of the most critical elements of the sound system had still dated back to the original installation. One of them - the trusty but faltering TAC Scorpion FOH console - was recently replaced; the PA system speaker components. The four Community RS 880 speakers set up in a cluster, two Community RS220 speakers and four Community VBS415 subs remain in place, though new possibilities are being weighed. The process of tinkering with the systems over time and integrating new elements with existing ones is a lesson in how to keep a it running at a time when budgets are still tenuous.
Mike Smith, Trinity’s technical director for the last six years, who works within the church’s Worship & Fine Arts department, says the process comes down to identifying the weakest links, and among them prioritizing those that have the most impact on the worship service.
“In addition to looking at the technical condition of certain parts of the systems, we also look at what people value most about them,” Smith explains. “When it comes to lighting, people are happy when the church lights are just on; it’s less important to them if they’re changing colors. But the spoken word and sung words are cornerstones of the worship experience. If they’re lacking in intelligibility, that’s a problem that affects everyone.”
Smith says that while the PA speakers are 20 years old, they still have some life left in them; however, small but crucial operating portions of the audio console, such as a failing or noisy insert connector, were creating interruptions and distractions in the sound (a scratchy and loud rattle at a key moment in a sermon, for instance) with a negative overall effect on the communal experience. The 40-input Scorpion was also overloaded and demanded more inputs as the church’s worship services added more music sources and its events, like its annual Christmas pageant.
“The speakers at least worked consistently, so the console was where we had to focus,” he concluded.
At the recommendation of Greg Slape of Special Event Services, the integrator the church has worked with for several years, Trinity chose a DiGiCo SD10 console for its FOH work. The console is situated in the sound booth at the rear of the main floor of the church, along with one 40-input stage rack with inputs to accommodate 12 channels of wireless receivers and six channels of playback devices. The SD10 is outputting to QSC Powerlite amplifiers, which run the house sound as well as EV and Community monitor wedges for the choir. Another 56-input rack was placed in an amplifier room just behind stage right and connects to their existing 32 stage inputs and to one breakout snake running to choir loft.