Great Hills Baptist Church

by George Petersen
in Installations
The new VUE system provides clear, side coverage.
The new VUE system provides clear, side coverage.

An (Audio) Transformational Experience

Great Hills Baptist Church has long been a cornerstone of Austin’s faith community. Located in a town long known for its deep involvement in music, this vibrant and growing congregation definitely needed a high-fidelity sound system to suit the needs of parishioners in the church, which seats approximately 2,700.

“Our music is somewhere in the middle of traditional and contemporary. We have a band, but it’s backed by a choir and orchestra,” says media pastor/music minister Corey Hatch. “It’s more contemporary, but with some traditional elements.” So besides the usual requirements of vocal intelligibility for the message from the pulpit, the new system needed to address some difficult coverage issues in the large, wide 180-degree fan shaped sanctuary, but also provide clarity for the multiple vocal and instrument sources — with power and grace.

Integrator Paragon 360 of Springfield, MO was brought in to design and implement a new P.A. system, which would work in conjunction with two Soundcraft Vi6 digital consoles that were added a few years back, serving as the front of house mixer in the sanctuary and broadcast console in an adjacent production suite.

An award-winning design leader in the professional AVL industry with an extensive client base, Paragon 360 is dedicated to building highly effective and engaging environments for churches, businesses, schools, museums, live events and others with requirements involving professional audio, video, lighting, rigging, scenic and staging in a design/build format.

Detail of the sound system, which features four hangs of VUE line arrays with flown subs.

‡‡         The System

As the first step in a multi-phase electro-acoustic renovation, Paragon 360 selected VUE Audiotechnik’s al-Class hybrid line array system to replace an aging JBL VerTec rig. “Installing the new sound system was part of an overall facilities upgrade here,” Hatch explains. “We also do a weekly tape-delayed local television program. Paragon 360 put in a new HD camera system with five operable cameras at the same time, and we completely re-did the broadcast control room. Everything was completed in time for us to host the state Baptist convention.”

VUE’s unique Continual Source Topology (CST) enables the assembly of seamless hybrid arrays of different-sized elements, making the al-Class rig the perfect solution to address coverage issues and provide improved clarity throughout the venue.

To deliver consistent 180-degree coverage across the half-circle-shaped sanctuary, Paragon 360’s lead audio designer Mark Coble specified four discrete arrays incorporating six al-8 elements with four subcompact al-4s for near-field coverage. VUE’s proprietary CST technology virtually eliminates the transition between the al-8 and al-4 elements resulting in exceptional near-field coverage with consistent fidelity, optimal line length, and minimal weight.

V6 and V4 VUEDrive Systems Engines provide system punch and DSP control.

‡‡         Flown Cardioid Subwoofers

Capping each array are three al-8SB flyable 18-inch subwoofers in a cardioid directional configuration. In addition to coverage uniformity, Paragon 360 also set out to ensure that the cardioid sub array eliminated the previous system’s issues with stage and rear-wall low-frequency interference. “The versatility of the VUE system allowed us to very easily go the cardioid route and solve this long-standing issue, while keeping the newly installed orchestra section clear of excess low-frequency energy,” explained Paragon 360 associate audio designer and installer Rich Nelms.

Each of the four clusters has three flown subs, with the center sub in each rotated 180-degrees to create the cardioid pattern. VUE presets — from the VUEDrive Systems Engine DSP-driven amplifiers — handle the phase and frequency settings for the cardioid configuration, making setup and tuning quick and easy.

“I hadn’t employed a system with flown subs in a cardioid configuration in a wide, open room like this,” says VUE’s Greg Kirkland. “Directly below the cluster, there was no cancellation — it sounded the way subs normally do when placed overhead. However, when you walk about 15 feet upstage, which is where their orchestra and choir stand, we had -12 to -15 dB of rejection of bass energy. Typically, on the console you’d see a lot of high-pass filters used above 200 cycles; now they were pleased to be able to open the choir and orchestra mics due to the lack of unwanted bass energy.”

The audio system also included a monitor package with six VUE hm-112 h-class single 12-inch high output monitors and V4-i VUEDrive Systems Engines. “The choir and orchestra use a wedge system, and we have a few monitors downstage to support the pulpit area, but all the static band members have Roland M48 personal mixers to control their individual monitor mixes,” Hatch adds.

‡‡         Impressive Impressions

So far, reaction to the audio upgrade has been positive. “When we first fired up the system, everyone was blown away by the seamless coverage — both vertically and horizontally,” says Nelms. “From the last row to the first, the sound level varied by only 1.5 dB. Even the best-tuned and designed systems you expect to find shifts in frequency response as you pass horizontally between the seams in each array’s coverage. The VUE system was perfectly seamless horizontally throughout the entire sanctuary and required very little tuning to achieve optimum performance.”

VUE’s Kirkland felt the project was a success on every level. “From the front to the very back pew, we were able to achieve excellent intelligibility, clarity and hi-fi audio. This is one installation where everything came out exactly like we wanted. We didn’t have to fight with any compromises and the room sounds incredible.”

In fact, after the very first worship service with the VUE system, several church members noticed the marked improvement in sound quality and made note to Church leaders. “This was one of those projects where the system performance was almost too good to be true,” added Nelms. “Thanks to VUE’s CST technology, the system exceeds all client expectations and has added a new level of experience and meaning to each service.”

This was affirmed by Hatch. “The VUE sound system is 1,000 times better. One of the issues in the previous system was coverage and power. We are very happy with the quality level, power and coverage of the VUE system. Vocal clarity is so much more prominent, it’s warmer sounding and the overall balance in the room is like night and day.”

Great Hills Baptist Church has been a cornerstone of Austin’s faith community for decades

Great Hills Baptist Church

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Capacity: approximately 2,700
  • Key Components: VUE al-8 al-4 line arrays, VUE al-8SB subwoofers, Soundcraft Vi6 digital consoles
  • Integrator: Paragon 360
  • Designers: Rich Nelms, Mark Coble