Tennessee Church Completes Multi-Phase Audio Upgrade

After the L-Acoustics Kiva I line arrays were installed, the new system eliminated major coverage issues throughout the worship space.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. With some of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church's audio equipment in its worship space having been in use for more than two decades, the church completed a second install phase prior to Easter. Fourteen months ago, the first phase of work to update its audio system was finalized.

The church upgraded from a 23-year-old system, to L-Acoustics line arrays just before Easter.

For a church that averages about 3,000 between two services each Sunday, the first step to improving its system was changing out a more-than-decade-old Yamaha DM2000 console for an Allen & Heath dLive S5000 and DM32, along with two DX32 expanders.

"We'd outgrown our mixer, as it had a lot of limitations," noted Stephen Ballast, Cedar Springs' technical arts coordinator, explaining that in the eight-and-a-half years on staff, this install was the church's first major upgrade.

Among the improvements achieved with the change, was that the church now had access to 128 input channels, and by utilizing the dLive’s tie lines feature and a Dante network, was able to send all 128 channels to a split for their live streaming mix.

The benefit of including a pair of DX32 expanders, was that each unit adds remote, modular inputs to a dLive system, up to 32.

"Our stage is poured concrete," noted Ballast. "With the DX32, I could put the two boxes on stage." In particular, with the church once a month working with a full orchestra, where "I like to mic everything," added Ballast, the additional inputs have proved to be incredibly beneficial.

The next step for the church was to change out its main speaker system, completed last month, prior to Easter.

In part, the decision to not combine the two install phases into one, was to spread out the cost over a little more than a year, explained Ballast. Initially, the church had planned on purchasing L-Acoustics Kiva II line array units. When there was some question regarding that model's availability along with cost differential between the Kiva II and Kiva I, though, the church opted to purchase 26 L-Acoustics Kiva I units at the end of last year.

Previous to hanging the Kiva I line array system, the church was using a series of JBL 2-way speakers, about 23 years old.

"From when I first arrived, I knew the system had a lot of limitations, as coverage was an issue," said Ballast. "It sounded different in various places in the room. The big goal was to get even coverage everywhere."

Having heard the Kiva I speakers during a demo last summer, Ballast discussed the possible upgrade with M&L Sound, a full-service audio-video company, also based in Knoxville. The church had worked with the integrator previously, as it installed the Allen & Heath console the previous year.

The church then went ahead to have M&L Sound handle the Kiva I install last month. Initially, "we had the plan to have the (new speakers) up the week before Easter," noted Ballast. "They install a lot of d&b and L-Acoustics, and they thought that Kiva was the right solution (for our worship space)."

Unfortunately, in that week prior to finishing the Kiva I installation, that proved to be the toughest part of the project for the church, as cable had been pulled, and some work had been finished, just "not the hanging of the speakers."

A new rigging company was brought in to complete the hanging of the ultra-compact modular line source speakers, doing so in a span of three days.

In the interim, the church continued to use its old speaker system for an additional week, the week prior to Easter. By the Thursday before Easter, "we had sound coming through the new speakers," after which the old speakers were taken down, Ballast said. "In the end, we got there."

In the short time since the second install was completed, he said the combined audio upgrades have achieved the church's goals.

"I am getting used to the system, but walking around the room, it sounds the same everywhere," Ballast said. In addition, he noted that a member of the L-Acoustics installation staff worked on tuning the speakers to the room during the install, adding it was "pretty incredible." Regarding the upgrade to the dLive, he said, "The channel count was a big thing for me, the input count and output. In that price range, it's hard to find something that can do 128 channels."

While Ballast couldn't pin down whether the Allen & Heath mixer or the L-Acoustics line arrays were more responsible for the significant improvement in sound reproduction in their worship space, he said, "I know the two together makes the system great."

That improvement, he said, was also acknowledged by the church's congregation and staff.

"In just that one week, one person commented how they could hear every word the pastor spoke, and another said it sounded more balanced. In addition, our worship pastor had the same kind of response, saying that it sounded much fuller, walking around the room and noting how it sounded the same everywhere."

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