Wichita, KA (February 24, 2005)–The First United Methodist Church, completed in 1962, features a unique circular design and a number of round rooms, including the 42-foot-high sanctuary, which holds around 700 people attending two Sunday services each week. Since First UMC offers blended services with live music, the church’s audio needs include recording, tape duplication, plus radio and live television broadcasts. All that was a bit much for the 40-plus-year-old audio system, so when it came time to upgrade, the new system was based around decidedly modern technology, including two Yamaha DM2000 digital mixing consoles.
Kirk Longhofer, director of technical ministries, noted, “Architecturally and acoustically, we have the two most difficult situations. The original system split the sources by 65 feet and had a lot of low-quality components–basically what had been piecemealed together as budgets became available. The speakers were shot, and the older analog mixing consoles, which required manual repatching, were showing intermittent failures and other signs of old age. So for 40 years, everyone struggled with sub-par audio in the room.”
First UMC worked with consultant Acoustic Dimensions (Dallas, TX) to design a new system, and then Wichita-based A/V contractor McClelland Sound to replace existing consoles, patchbays, mic splitters, outboard processing gear, speakers and cabling. A total of 65 inputs from the main platform are routed to a 48-channel transformer split that feeds a Yamaha DM2000 digital mixing console at front of house, a distributed hallway system and a production room with 24-track digital recording capability and a second DM2000, dedicated to mixing audio for video. The monaural PA system includes a center cluster composed of six EAW KF730 line array cabinets driven by Crown CTS Series amplifiers and Biamp Audia system processors.
“I didn’t want anything less than a 40-input board,” said Longhofer. Even so, he had reservations about looking into digital consoles: “I wasn’t totally convinced that it was necessary or practical for a church, especially where we depend on volunteers to do most of our mixing. Once I got my hands on the DM2000, my concerns about being able to teach volunteers to use it effectively went away. I think the training process for a new person is actually easier on a digital board than it analog equivalent, with and its acres of knobs and sliders. With digital, it’s a lot easier to get focused on the mix, and then worry about EQ, compression and gain structure. Plus, having instant recall is a time saver, and onboard effects are a life saver. A lot of people participate in our services, so when switching between someone with quiet vocal delivery to somebody who is a little more energetic, being able to quickly pop in a compressor on a channel is great. All those tools at your fingertips really makes a world of difference.”
Future upgrades include new recording gear and, according to Longhofer, the possibility of digital enhancement systems for the organ to actually increase perceived reverberation time in the room. “With the line array, the articulation in the room increased dramatically,” he explained. “We managed to keep almost all the energy off the walls, so we’re able to run much higher SPL levels and not really have any problems with echo or problematic reverberance. People have sonic expectations that are much higher today than they did 40 years ago.”