VANCOUVER, Wash. – After more than 10 years with their previous audio mixing console system, and in the midst of undergoing the second phase of an audio upgrade, Crossroads Community Church opted to go with a familiar manufacturer.
Among the more beneficial advantages in making the change to the newer consoles, noted Smith, is that the church could work with a proprietary networking protocol.
“We were running Allen & Heath iLive consoles networked over Dante,” explained Remington Smith, the church’s front of house sound engineer. That system, though, he explained, “was at end of life, and it was time to evaluate looking at new consoles.”
The need to upgrade, Smith elaborated, dated back a few years, “as the vision was cast about four years ago, when the tech director and myself came on staff. We realized then we had aging systems and needed to evaluate getting new gear in place.”
The Allen & Heath S7000 Surface was among the items installed as part of an audio upgrade at Crossroads Community Church in April. (image provided by Crossroads).
The decision to break up the audio install over two phases, Smith noted, “was for good stewardship, as the Lord provided the finances to do it. It was so we could make improvements, but not in a way that would tax our congregation.”
The Crossroads congregation today numbers around 5,000, as the church that has been in existence for 43 years typically sees about 2,500 to 3,000 on a Sunday, Smith said.
Even though there was a consideration to change things up and replace the consoles with those by another manufacturer, “we came to the conclusion that to get the best bang for our buck, we couldn’t get the same amount of (inputs and outputs) that we could get with Allen & Heath, along with the networking flexibility and usability,” Smith said. So the Crossroads team decided it was best to stick with the same manufacturer for this upgrade.
The system the church designed included S Class MixRacks at all positions, noted Smith. “It offers more flexibility, and we use an S Class (S7000 Surface) for front of house (with a DM64 MixRack), which acts as a hub for our system.” Elsewhere, a C Class (C3500 Surface), is used by the church for live broadcast of worship services and for monitors, paired with a DX32 Expander and DM0 MixRack.
The Allen & Heath C3500 Surface is one of two recently installed audio mixing consoles at Crossroads, with it used for live broadcast of worship services and for monitors. (Image provided by Crossroads).
Following a series of demos, Smith said, “We found (Allen & Heath’s) dLive system sounded the most natural of the desks that we worked with and were amazed by the clarity and warmth of the desks,” with this new system amounting to the second phase of the church’s audio upgrade, spanning over nearly two years.
From the initial paperwork, to working with Allen & Heath and Narrow Road Pro on the design of the system, followed by the presentation to church leadership, the whole process took about six months to complete.
To help ease the transition to the newer system, the church set up the new gear in a practice space, “where we worked on programming and setting up the system,” noted Smith. When it was time to move into the worship space, “we ran the wiring, and it ran seamlessly on our first Sunday.” Over a period of about three months before that first service, the staff worked on programming the consoles, testing the system, and ensuring that the new configuration was fully functional, before it was deployed, Smith added.
In addition, Allen & Heath commissioned the system, with a crew of professional audio engineers coming to Crossroads “to make sure everything was operating well,” noted Smith. The church also coordinated a training day for staff and volunteers, “to get all of our operators up to speed on the new consoles, and to get them familiarized with them. We don’t want to throw them in the lake and see if they can swim.”
By handling the install of the Allen & Heath system in that manner, from the backend work and programming in the weeks and months prior to working with it in the worship space, “we didn’t have to do any major tweaks” once it went live for a service, Smith explained.
On the install, by working in partnership with integrator Narrow Road Pro, also based in Vancouver, the church was able to avoid any delays or cancellations of services. Smith added, “We were able to stay 100 percent functional throughout the entire install. No one knew there was anything different, until everything was in place.”
To Smith, the most challenging aspect of the install was in avoiding any such delays or cancellations. “When you operate in a space of this caliber, you can’t just shut down for a week, as you are constantly working around events that are going on in the room. Everything had to be broken up, whether you were pulling wire for three days, and another window for installing the racks, for instance.”
The decision to roll out the new equipment for the weekend after Easter and not the week of, Smith explained was because, “Christmas and Easter are like the Super Bowl in the church world. You don’t have a team bring on a new defensive coordinator coming into the Super Bowl. We want to make sure everything is firing on all cylinders, for those who show up on Easter weekend.”
The first phase of the audio upgrade work at Crossroads was done about a year and a half prior to the Allen & Heath system upgrade, with that install featuring new speakers, amplifiers and digital signal processing in the space, replacing a system that was nearly 20 years old.
Among the more beneficial advantages in making the change to the newer consoles, noted Smith, is that the church could work with a proprietary networking protocol, unlike their prior system, which functioned with a third-party patching system like Dante.
Since the install was completed in April, Smith voiced strong satisfaction with the overall project, adding, “I have complete confidence in the gear. It is one of the best sounding systems I have ever worked on.” For the system’s functionality, he said, “The operability and flexibility are fantastic, and the sound quality is amazing. When you are sampling at 96K, that makes a difference, and they did a great job at designing the system, as it is a very fluid system to work on.”
One of the key elements of flexibility to the new system that Smith touted was the dLive’s ability to create user profiles, “so that you can limit how much control a user can have on a console. It gives you a safe environment for new volunteers, particularly since we are primarily a volunteer-operated team.”
Upon rolling out the new Allen & Heath system last April, Smith explained that the congregation was pleasantly surprised by the difference in the sound in the space.
“They were pleased with how much more clearly things could be heard,” noted Smith. “From the worship team to the pastor, the sound for everyone is a lot warmer and a lot more natural.”