Churches with fewer than 500 seats now have a perfect solution for their audio needs in beam steering. Now, don’t let your eyes glaze over; hear me out. This is a viable solution that is relatively simple to understand. In short, it is putting direct energy where it belongs, not where is doesn’t.This is accomplished by adjusting the vertical dispersion of the beam to specific parameters, then steering that beam up or down to achieve the desired, focused coverage. Even though SOA has actually been implementing beam steering solutions since 2007, it is only recently that this technology has become a real solution for more dynamic performance-oriented churches because of new technology in column line array design.Originally, this technology was thought to be for speech only, bringing clarity to acoustically reverberant rooms, but recently, a couple of loudspeaker manufacturers have stepped up with affordable, linear, phase-coherent products that deliver real honest SPL. Since 2014, SOA, has been designing and installing small- scale beam steering column arrays with subwoofers along with a good affordable digital console for solving quite a few problems for churches with fewer than 500 seats. Yes, this also includes fitting into some pretty tight budgets. This technology is no longer for churches with deep pocket budgets and here is why.
We have noticed that many of these churches are also multipurpose rooms that double as gymnasiums. These usually come with a host of acoustic problems, and most cannot afford acoustic treatments on top of the expense of a new system. We have found that, in most cases, we need very little acoustic treatment, and, in some cases, none at all. Some of our clients even prefer to have some acoustic gain for their congregation to sing, and do not want to lose the acoustic environment they already have.
Even though looking at the initial price of these arrays might seem out of the price range of some small venues, we have found just the opposite. We found that any other system would end up at or near the same cost and not be as effective in these tough environments. For small churches, that is a waste of money that they just cannot afford. We have had a couple of these installs take as little as one day to put in with proper preparation. All of them happened between Sundays. This not only saves money but eliminates downtime for our clients. We are talking full contemporary worship here: drums, bass, keys, etc., as well as full bandwidth dynamic music.
Three of our clients are now using beam steering in their space that still double as a gymnasium for their youth. We have a couple more that have other challenges, such as balconies that are now enclosed in glass. Not being able to control and direct the energy from the speakers would have been a nightmare in these situations.
There is another really important reason to use this technology in situations like these. “Direct on-axis” energy is something no one really thinks about and should. We use the benefits of on-axis energy for the
best possible coverage and imaging. We want the direct energy to match the acoustic energy coming from the platform. Putting speakers in the air just to put them in the air is how some companies think, and it is how they also get into trouble acoustically and why the image in these situations never works. Now, there are situations where a suspended line array is the optimal solution, but not always, particularly with smaller venues. And even then, some form of front fill support is required in order to bring the sonic image down.
Applying a little bit of science and physics with some out-of-the box thinking can give you a fresh approach to old problems. Having the ability to use a wide horizontal field with adjustable vertical beam steering allows us to keep the direct energy low and put it right whereit belongs, on the seating area(s). The direct energy emanates from the platform, rather than 20 feet above the platform therefore , the sonic image is right where it needs to be, eliminating the Hass effect, as well as the need for front-fills. We have even Implemented a dual beam steering system in a large stone and marble cathedral with great success.
DIAGRAMS: (FRONT VIEW) PLATFORM ELEVATION INDICATES PLACEMENT OF BEAM STEERING COLUMN LINE ARRAYS, AND HOW DISCREET THEY ARE, PRESERVING THE AESTHETICS OF THE SANCTUARY.
(SIDE VIEW) BEAM STEERING COLUMN LINE ARRAYS WITH DUAL BEAMS. THE 5o BEAM COVERS THE BALCONY SEATING, AND THE 10o BEAM COVERS THE MAIN FLOOR SEATING, ALL WITHOUT EXCITING THE REST OF THE ROOM.
IMAGES COURTESY OF SECOND OPINION AUDIO, LLC
Churches are not the only venues where we have demonstrated the clarity and controlled energy of these arrays. Small theaters with hard- to-reach areas, such as balconies, can also benefit from this technology. We have even demonstrated this technology
for the military in airplane hangars with up to eight seconds
of “delay”. Actually, its reverberation not delay – for an
8 second delay the hangar would need to be 2.7km (9,000 feet) long! They were skeptical at first because other companies and consultants had failed miserably. We actually met the new Federal standards for speech intelligibility in cavernous spaces where no one else had.They were amazed. We never get tired of amazing the skeptics.
This application is always on-axis and low, to keep the energy from exciting the room. I am often asked about feedback issues. So far, we have had none. Most of the pastors walk right in front of these arrays with their head worn microphones. No feedback issues with a properly implemented, phase linear beam steering column line array. We haven’t had a single issue yet. For one of our church clients we actually placed the arrays behind them and simply focused the beam over the platform; they use it without issue.
Having the ability to adjust the vertical beam from between five degrees and thirty degrees, and then being able to steer that beam up or down between five and thirty degrees creates a whole lot of possibilities and solutions for difficult rooms.
The moral of the story, and the real question is this: If you can control the energy of a performance audio system from the lowest frequency to the highest, why wouldn’t you do it? It no longer can be about the cost. The cost of not doing will be far greater.
Having the ability to adjust the vertical beam from betweenfive degreesand thirty degrees, and then being able to steer that beam
up or downbetween fiveand thirty degrees creates a whole lot of possibilities and solutionsfor difficultrooms.
Daryl Porter is the Vice President/Co- owner SOA (www. secondopinionaudiollc. com), providing performance audio, video & lighting systems to the highest standards of excellence for over 35 years.
Bob Langlois is the President and founder of Second Opinion Audio LLC. Bob has been working in the business since he mixed his first international act in 1973, and has worked for several companies such as Clair Systems,Audio Analysts as well as senior tech support for Meyer Sound Labs Inc. He has worked all 50 states, 60 countries on 4 continents.