FITCHBURG, Mass. – While some churches can move ahead with wholesale changes to their audio system in one step, for many small- to medium-sized churches, a more sensible approach – especially when accounting for budgetary realities - is to make such changes over a few phases.
With the church’s most recent upgrades, Crossroads has shifted to “professional gear, instead of getting by with consumer gear, all while getting better performance.”
Such was the case for Crossroads Community Church, which in November 2017 took the first major step to improve their audio system by adding an EAW Radius line array system, with the help of Worcester-based Revelation Productions. That first phase of upgrades included eight EAW RSX208L array speakers, and two RSX218 dual 18-inch self-powered subwoofers, along with a pair of RSX86 for front fills on the outside.
This August, the church took the next step in audio improvements, finishing its most recent phase. This project was again coordinated by Revelation and featured the installation of a Yamaha QL5 digital mixing console, with its 32+2 fader configuration, along with a Shure ULXD4Q digital wireless microphone system, and a Yamaha Rio3224-I/O rack.
In addition, upon upgrading its audio mixing console to the QL5, the church moved forward with integrating a Dante networking system by “converting runs from analog to digital, which helped streamline the connectivity between all the components,” noted Justin Palojarvi, the associate worship & arts director at Crossroads.
With the church’s most recent upgrades, Crossroads has shifted to “professional gear, instead of getting by with consumer gear, all while getting better performance,” Palojarvi added.
For the church that has about 600 attending on Sunday mornings, Anthony D’Elia, executive producer for Revelation explained, “They are very passionate about their worship and music side of things, so that’s why they were looking for higher quality.”
With the two audio improvement phases now complete, D’Elia added that the replaced equipment “was pretty outdated, including the church using some plastic speakers, paired with an older console that was no longer supported firmware-wise.” D’Elia noted that earlier install was the first time that Crossroads worked with the integrator, deciding to work with them after meeting at “WFX in 2017, which helped to make up our mind,” said Adrian Gates, the church’s operations director.
During the church’s most recent audio upgrade phase, completed three months ago, the work by Revelation to add the mixer and associated gear took about five days, said Palojarvi. As further explained by D’Elia, “Once (Crossroads) decided on the equipment, it was about a week to get the equipment in, and about a week to install. On Thursday of that week, we stayed with them and coached them through their worship practice. Our audio engineer then stayed with them for the Saturday and Sunday services, and we also provided training for them on the (Yamaha audio mixing) console.”
Between the install and training, the work at Crossroads was done with no delays or cancellations to any services. “There were not really any challenges (with the install),” D’Elia added.
To help with some of the early aspects of the most recent install, Palojarvi noted that the church took time to replace the cabling prior to Revelation arriving on-site. “For a couple of days, we had our own people pulling cables, installing the wires properly in the ceiling. Once we did the hard runs, they put the equipment in place, and then it was essentially plug-and-play for them.”
In determining what would be the best fit equipment-wise for the space, Crossroads opted to collect recommendations from professionals over A/B testing, “as we have personal experience with one manufacturer in terms of speakers and audio consoles,” explained Palojarvi.
In the weeks that have followed the initial rollout of the new, fully integrated audio system at the church, Palojarvi commented that the result has been “a lot better drum sound, as the drums are popping now. The sound in general is a lot fuller.” By adding the QL5, he added, “We are able to adjust parameters that we may have not been able to do with the other console.” D’Elia elaborated, “They had a lot of pain points (with the previous console), with the age of it. (With the QL5), it gives them the ability to have more outputs. Lastly, it took the EAW (speakers) to another level.”
The overall audio improvement, courtesy of the QL5, has been impressive, explained Palojarvi, in that “it’s a really professional sound. For a volunteer-based ministry, you can get that sound you are looking for fairly easily, by letting the console do the work.”
Looking at how the church, which has been in existence for about 15 years, sought this most recent install to be of benefit, Palojarvi said, “The primary goal was to get a great sound. And to be able to stick a volunteer behind (the console), and still achieve the same level of sound.” D’Elia agreed, adding, “It was to definitely have better sound quality, to improve the sound of their worship, and to replace outdated sound equipment, which was a necessity.” In addition, he noted significant benefits for the church by it making the switch from analog to digital, along with integrating a Dante network to their system.
In preparation of that first service with the latest installed gear on Sunday, August 4, Palojarvi admitted, “There’s a learning curve, learning how to use professional gear, with it taking just a few days to learn. It took a few sessions to operate the more in-depth parameters of the (QL5) mixer … it was just a couple of additional training sessions that we requested. After that, we knew we could fly on our own.”
When asked which piece of equipment has been the most significant in terms of impact to their space, D’Elia thought for a moment, before stating, “It would have to be the QL5, the audio console. The console is the foundation of everything, everything in an audio system.”
Since the new equipment has been in place, Palojarvi said he’s heard from members of the congregation, “multiple comments, particularly about how powerful the worship is,” adding that he hadn’t heard any complaints.
For D’Elia, while he couldn’t recall having heard any feedback from members of the Crossroads congregation, he commented how he’d heard from church staff being “ecstatic about the sound quality, and they have not had any issues with the sound (following the most recent install),” with Revelation only returning to the church over that span to replace a lighting board.