Does it seem that every new church sound system you read about is a “state-of-art solution” with a seemingly unlimited budget?
In reality, it's seldom that way. The folks at State College Presbyterian Church in State College, Penn., knew they only had a small budget so they worked together with the people at the Music Mart in State College to design and install what is described as, “a good, low-cost solution to a problem.”
State College Presbyterian Church is located in the town that grew up around Farmers College, now Pennsylvania State University. The congregation was formed in the late 1800's and moved several times before settling in it's current location at 132 West Beaver Avenue. The structure was completed in 1913. The interior of the church is oak with a carpeted hardwood floor and a vaulted ceiling 60 feet above the floor at its apex. The main sanctuary of the church is 100 feet long and 50 feet wide with a balcony area at the back 50 feet wide.
After complaints that the congregation couldn't hear the pastor, church leaders decided that the existing sound system - installed in the mid-1970s - was just not doing the job any longer. Because the original equipment was more than 25 years old and so many technological changes had evolved over that quarter of a century, the decision was made that it was time to update the sound system to improve coverage and intelligibility. But budget was a concern.
“The main portion of our sanctuary is a large open room with a high ceiling,” said Steve Shipman, who, along with fellow church member and engineer Kerry Trout, collaborated on the system. “Our existing system was old and some of the speakers were not even working properly. At first we thought we could patch up the old system by slowly replacing the old speakers with a few new speakers to enhance the sound in the back of the sanctuary and the balcony.
Armed with that plan, Shipman and Trout went to Tom Gallagher at the Music Mart in State College seeking recommendations. Gallagher suggested they consider the BAG END TA6000-I loudspeaker system because of its relatively small size, high quality and a cost point that fit their limited budget.
The BAG END TA6000-I is a Time-Aligned, compact, speech range high-output loudspeaker system that offers both high fidelity and high efficiency for a variety of applications. It contains a pair of low frequency, 6.5-inch cones with 1.5 voice coils, and a high-frequency bi-radial horn with a 1.8-inch titanium diagram.
Because of its light weight - just 26 pounds–and the three fly (rigging) points that are provided standard on the TA6000-I, it can be easily flown. And its comparatively small dimensions–22.5 inches high x 9 inches wide x 11 inches deep – allow it to blend into its surroundings Shipman and Trout installed five BAG END TA6000-I speaker systems - two each for balcony top and ground level and one centrally located for the floor level overhang. “But after installing just the five new BAG END speakers, the improvement in the sound was so dramatic that Kerry and I both realized we needed to refit the entire sanctuary with them,” Shipman said. Subsequently they added four more TA6000 speaker systems.
The two also added two monitors in the choir loft set on mic stands to keep them out of sight below the choir rail. They saved and reused four flush-mount speakers in the organ cabinetry from the original mid-70's installation.
To further improve the quality of the system, they moved the mix site from the balcony to the front of the sanctuary to give the engineer a better monitoring position and shorten cable runs. Mixer and signal processing are housed adjacent to the mix site in a custom hardwood combination desk/rack which also houses the wireless microphone systems, antenna distribution and tape deck. The amplifier rack was located in the rear of the sanctuary. That eliminated fan noise and lessened the length of the speaker cable runs.
“The result is an installation that is clean, simple and easy to use, giving excellent coverage and intelligibility on a modest budget,” Gallagher said.
Trout agrees. “It is actually a very simple system to use and church members have commented to me that they can hear the pastor much more clearly now, and its not too loud or too soft. The sound is very natural,” he said. “We are very satisfied with the system.”
He also said that a happy byproduct of the new system is that from a visual standpoint it is less noticeable than the old system. “We were able to tuck the speakers away so they are relatively hidden – especially compared to the old system.”
What about cost? “The entire new system cost about $13,000.” Trout said. “The biggest single item was the cost of electricians running cable. We really feel like we have gotten our money’s worth. And - more importantly - we are very satisfied with the quality of the sound we have now.”