HILLSBORO, Ore. All too often, for churches seeking significant change to their worship space's audio capabilities, the work to achieve that goal can take weeks, and sometimes months. And that work many times involves having to tear down walls or other drastic measures.
"Anyone who knows how to use a mixer, would know how to use (the Arria.Live system)."
For Resound Church, located in the community of Hillsboro, about 16 miles west of Portland, the church found a much less radical solution.
Having recently purchased audio equipment from Arria.Live, the church first went live with their new gear in early September, and were able to get a good handle using it after just a couple of services.
The system purchased by Resound includes five "Direct In" input boxes, which accept either XLR or ¼-inch TRS connections, and were set up for the church's elementary room for Sundays, a room that also serves as the church's youth room for Tuesday night services.
In addition, the new system is comprised of a pair of dynamic microphones, six "Stereo In" units, two "Speaker Out" devices and five Personal Monitor units.
To get the new system set up, the church's Production Director, Ryan Williams said, "It took them less than five minutes, the longest aspect was downloading the app."
Less than five minutes.
The setup was incredibly easy, he noted. "My creative pastor, who is not super technical, and the worship pastor, set it up. They couldn't do that with our main system (which features a Midas M-32 digital audio console)."
Arria.Live's gear offers a solution for churches in need of an audio system that is comprised of 32 or fewer inputs as part of this scalable system, all while avoiding the need for things like digital snakes. Even with such a quick setup, Williams noted that Arria.Live representatives were on-site to help where they could. "They showed us how to use (the new gear) and how to download the app. They walked (members of the staff) through the interface, such as where the EQ is."
Once they became familiar with the interface, he added, "Anyone who knows how to use a mixer, would know how to use (the Arria.Live system)."
For Ed Arrington, CEO and Founder of Arria Live Media, the genesis of the idea behind such a system grew out of being, "a sound guy, having done sound for years at small events, community events over weekends, from 100 to 10,000." With the benefit of that perspective, he found a notable "difference from technology in the tech world, compared to the audio world."
After years of connecting using "complex digital snakes," Arrington got to a point where, "I just said that it should be easier, and then I had an a ha' moment." That was when he determined how to configure a microphone where it would "have individualized settings, to assign microphones to vocal performers. When they plug their microphone in, it is equalized, and the sound guy doesn't have to do it anymore. It just works."
Having previously been a mobile church, he said Resound "had been looking at some other solutions for a while," to replace equipment that had been aging from its days as a mobile church. "We were looking for something easy to use, and that can be used by many people."
Acknowledging some of the networking options currently on the market, Arrington said, "It's based on network architecture, but we took it a leap forward (past alternatives such as Dante), by putting it in the device (microphone)."
Aside from the Resound install, Arrington discussed other churches that have also quickly found the company's system to be an excellent solution.
Some churches, "have been running (the system) for more than a year," as a beta test site, noted Arrington. In addition, "one of our newest (installs), a church in Las Vegas, tried to phase our stuff in," only for a short time later having the pastor opt "to go with the Arria.Live solution by itself, and he hasn't gone back since."
Another beta site, one of the company's first more than a year ago, began where the company "took it down there with some trepidation, but after the first rehearsal, (the pastor) asked to run it on Sunday. We were nervous on that Sunday, but it ran flawlessly. And they've not turned on their mixer since then."
Such examples of churches making quick transitions with the Arria.Live gear, though, weren't surprising to Williams, based on his early experiences with the new system.
Since begin using Arria.Live gear in the elementary room for Sunday services, "I haven't been asked to fix anything, and I haven't had to have one of my higher skilled techs either to do so." With Williams working out of the main auditorium on Sundays, "to not go to the elementary room to fix something, is huge."
To get the system ready for its first service, the extent of working with it was nothing unusual, he noted, adding, "Anytime you put a new system on a new board, the signal will vary device to device. The amps need to be adjusted, the line level signal that is coming out, and adjusting the volume you want in the room." Once that was completed, he added, "It's been great, and I like the sound that's coming out of the system a pretty decent quality system."
As the Arria.Live system runs over Ethernet, Williams noted that the church purchased two PoE switches, at about $30 a piece. "They don't need routing capability, but need power over Ethernet. You could plug those into your existing network, but we wanted it segregated from everything else, so we plugged it into a wireless router."
In addition to the PoE switches, the church (which averages 300 to 500 on Sundays) also purchased a pair of microphones, "that are really each like a Shure SM58 inside of it, and you plug an Ethernet cable into the bottom of it, not an XLR."
Aside from the two PoE switches, the Resound system includes five input boxes, able to connect anything with XLR or quarter-inch connections, with two outputs, one using XLR to connect to amplifiers or to speakers.
To get the whole system up and running, Williams noted, amounted to "plugging in to the end of the unit, and then right into the box I have not noticed any latency," he said. Among the things that simplify the system, explained Arrington, is that there is "no channel routing, no channel mapping."
One of the other benefits for the Arria.Live system, is how much easier it is to transport, compared to what the church had used previously. "It can fit right in a Tupperware box, instead of a U-Haul." In addition, there are time savings to be had, since the church previously "would get there to get set up in two hours, where with this, you can get set up with getting the lights going and speakers in place in about 20 minutes."
Williams first began to learn about Arria.Live and their products, in part because the company moved their offices "across the street from us. I looked at their website, and they had some really good stuff, and we reached out to them."
Upon meeting with them and being introduced to their product line, Williams said, "We were impressed how much they love their product there's really something to be said about that - and how it is so easy to use."
Helping in the decision to go with the Arria.Live gear, Williams said, "Was them letting us demo it out, to see that it would serve our needs." With the church's many volunteers, the ability "to plug people in, and get them involved," was a strong feature for the Arria.Live pieces, in the eyes of Williams. Since first starting with the system, he noted that "I expected the interface to be manageable and easy to understand. They have not added any visual flair it's not super pretty, but it's very functional."
One aspect of the interface that did require some additional communication, Williams explained, was pertaining to the reverb and delay within the system. "It was not real intuitive to get it working, but we were able to talk with them on that."
Outside of that issue, Williams could only think of one other matter that was quickly solved with some quick thinking the on/off switch. "We were getting low-level noise on one of the boxes, so we just turned it off and on, and that disappeared. I think it was a case of the mic's gain being up too high, and that reset things."
With the satisfaction thus far in using the Arria.Live equipment in the elementary and youth room, Williams noted that "we are also looking to add it to our auditorium." That space, he said, is one that the church regularly looks to rent out. "You never know who will be using the room, so we don't want a super-complicated system," he said.
If the church opts to go in that direction, he said, it would be ideal for those looking to rent such a room, adding, "When you have the ability to hand them an iPad and say, Here is your microphone.' Then they don't have to hire an engineer (to coordinate sound in the space). When we rent out the room for conventions and conferences, and they use that system, to not get calls (requesting help) on the weekends (is a bonus)."
In the weeks since the system has begun used at Resound, Williams thus far noted having heard little from the congregation or staff about the new gear, but took it as a positive, adding that when he directly asked one of the elementary teachers, she responded with a "It's great," in part because the Arria.Live equipment had quickly resolved some of the issues that existed with the church's prior gear.