Meeting the challenge
Having consecrated its church on Serangoon Road in 1939 at the advent of the Second World War, the first Assembly of God lay dormant during the subsequent Japanese occupation. Elim Church however welcomed back its worshippers after 1945 and membership grew rapidly in the 1990s. The rising numbers prompted the church committee to embark on a building programme in 2000, for which a new second floor 600-seat sanctuary was officially opened in August 2002. The prominent building is now a recognised landmark in the Boon Keng district of Singapore made all the more distinctive on account of the three 5m high stained glass windows in its frontage.
As the services at the turn of the Millennium were contemporary in nature, an unobtrusive sound reinforcement system was integrated into the sanctuary’s 6.5m high fan-shaped design. Electronics & Engineering (E&E) designed and installed a full-range FOH loudspeaker system comprising six JBL SR 4722X cabinets together with three SRX 4718X in the proscenium above the stage powered by 13 Crown amplifiers. A further eight JBL Control 29AVs were mounted in the mid-hall section in addition to 22 Control 25T and Control 26CT in the ceiling below the gallery, whilst the pastor and the musicians were catered for on stage by four JBL Eon 10 monitors. In order to tame the acoustics of the room, a three-channel dbx 481 and 1231 31-band EQ were added to the signal chain, whilst mixing was conducted on an analogue 32-channel Spirit LX7 console.
Having faithfully served the needs of Elim Church for ten years, worship leader Derek Foo realised that the church’s services over that decade had evolved unchecked. ‘The services had become more musical and the worshippers’ expectation levels had risen. In addition, there were more instruments on stage and the younger musicians were probably playing louder than before. As a result, the musicians on stage were having problems with spillage and those worshippers going to the altar on stage in order to pray could not hear themselves.’
The solution arrived in the form of a myMix personal mixer system, for which the two keyboardists, drummer, bassist and two guitarists can now select up to 16 unique channels to mix from all available network channels. Individual adjustments can be made to channel volume, tone, effect send and panning. A 16-channel IEX16-L input expander was also added to the on-stage rack for the seven myMix recorders, which are now configured in dual stereo from within any myMix on the network. ‘The band improved noticeably and with the addition of the drum shield, spillage is no longer a problem,’ furthers Mr Foo.
Pleased with the results of this exercise, Mr Foo successfully proposed the need to upgrade the analogue console to digital. ‘We required more channel inputs and our volunteers would benefit from pre-set savings. We conduct a number of varied services in the sanctuary during the week in addition to weddings and meetings. Therefore, changing the settings on an analogue board could be rather a challenge for some of our volunteers on an analogue board, so I wanted to simplify their tasks.’
Following market research, Elim Church contracted Sindo Exports to supply an Allen & Heath iLive T-80 console to meet its needs. ‘It has a small footprint at FOH with fixed format inputs and outputs and is analogue in style, so the volunteers were not overawed by it when they were first confronted with it,’ explains Mr Foo. ‘Having also provided our volunteers with training, the T-80 has become a great asset.’
The T-80 is connected to an iDR-32 MixRack on stage which combines the DSP, the majority of inputs and outputs, networking and control interfaces. The channel capacity has been extended from 32 to 48 inputs with the addition of a rack mounted xDR-16 expander which utilises the proprietary Audio and Control over Ethernet (ACE) link via a Cat-5 cable connection to the iDR-32.
The services in the sanctuary are often broadcast to other rooms in Elim Church via dedicated A/V points. Located in the upstairs control room, an eighth myMix unit takes its feed from the main L-R mix on the T-80 and then provides a discrete mix to the various rooms.
‘The noise levels were inconsistent in some of these rooms, especially when switching inputs,’ recalls Mr Foo. ‘Following consultation, we acquired a Jünger Audio Level Magic audio processor, which was then programmed and incorporated into the signal path. We were astounded by the results as the peak levels were evened out immediately without having to do anything further.’
Having successfully overseen this second stage of development, a further unplanned upgrade was urgently required. ‘The cones in five of the six main FOH speakers blew during National Day,’ reveals Mr Foo. ‘I soon discovered that the JBL supplier (Mahajak SMK) could not supply the cones we required and even if we could get the cones it would be more expensive to service these models trying to gain access to them hidden in the ceiling’s proscenium.’
Temporary cover was therefore sought and this allowed Elim Church to demonstrate a variety of loudspeakers over several weeks. When Media Architects supplied a K-Array Python loudspeaker system as temporary cover, Mr Foo realised the church had found its permanent solution. ‘Aesthetically it was very slim and unobtrusive yet it was powerful and provided wide horizontal coverage throughout the Sanctuary.’
With Christmas fast approaching, Media Architects was commissioned to install the Python system into Elim Church. The new solution is a passive L-R system comprised of three KP102 units per side. Each speaker system combines 12 3.15-inch transducers in the 1m stainless steel chassis. Each 40kg hang provides 2,160W of power and can produce a sensitivity rating of 99dB SPL. Extending the lower frequencies beyond the 100Hz capabilities of the KP102 system down to 30Hz, two 1,800W-rated KMT21P21-inch subwoofers have been positioned on the sanctuary floor to the left and right of the stage. To ensure even, smooth coverage for the seats near the front, four KP52 speakers have been positioned horizontally onto the lip of the stage. Sharing the same width and depth as the KP102 yet measuring half the length, each chassis incorporates six 3.15-inch neodymium magnet transducers.
‘It took us two days to install and commission the entire system,’ confirms Media Architects managing director Nick Tay. The KP102 arrays were pre-assembled before arriving on site and erected into position on the rear walls using a scaffold tower.
‘We held our first service with the new system on 23rd December and our worshippers were asking where the speakers were as they were so powerful yet they couldn’t clearly see them,’ reveals Mr Foo. ‘The coverage is so even that we are at the point where we hardly need to turn on the delay speakers. The Python system is not only great sounding musically, but it is also very intelligible for spoken word. We had no control before with the installed solution, but with this system we can easily service it should there be a problem. The JBL speaker system still resides out of sight in the Proscenium as it would have meant a lot of work to remove them. But the paintings and décor of the sanctuary have not been compromised by the addition of the KP102 arrays.’
During the initial installation, E&E supplied a Shure SCM 410E microphone mixer together with an ELX 1288/58 wireless system together plus SM58S handhelds, Beta 58A, SM81, Beta 56 and an MX412D/S podium gooseneck microphone. These are still in use today, but the inventory has been increased to include four further Audio-Technica AEW R4100 wireless channels whose coverage isn’t compromised with the addition of a DA-660 UHF distribution antenna.
The original A/V equipment including cameras, an AMX VPX-CP remote control system and a Panasonic WJ-MX50 40-channel video effects mixer are still in good working order. However, Mr Foo understands that the Elim Church congregation have been exposed to HD and 4K visual technology. ‘It’s only a matter of time I suppose,’ he concedes. A worship leader’s work is never done it would appear.