St Peters Church Shaldon contacted us with a request for a replacement sound system. Nothing unusual in that you may say, however there were some requirements that at first glance were at odds with each other.
Their overriding desire was that the system was simple to use and understand. That was fine we can do simple – usually in the form of a black combined mixer amplifier with a single row of knobs marked Lectern, Pulpit, Lapel microphone etc. Most people know where they are with a system like this we call it the one knob per input solution, if the lectern microphone needs to be louder you turn up the control marked ‘Lectern’ simple! However their two other main requirements made this approach impossible using a simple mixer amplifier.
The first was to have 8 microphones for the choir as they could not be heard from behind the stone rood screen. This introduces several problems, how to add 8 more inputs as mixer amplifiers usually only have around 6-8 inputs in total, also adding the choir to the mix on the main nave speakers but not have them appear on the choir speakers which would have produced a direct feedback path. Normally overcome with a second mixer and amplifier for the choir the introduction of which would make the system twice as complicated to operate and understand.
The second requirement was that for several special occasions the church was ‘turned around’ and the seating rotated 90 degrees for musical and school performances. This would involve complex loudspeaker switching to ensure that the sound approaches the listener from the same direction as the visual content, again not easy to keep simple.
Our solution was to specify and install a digital mixer, but instead of being covered in hundreds of faders and controls, this unit had buttons that could be programmed to perform simple functions specifically for the unique setup required. For example we programmed the mixer to separately mix the choir microphones internally and have a single knob for the choir level externally, and the separation of the choir from their own loudspeakers was also achieved within, removing the need for a second physical mixer.
Interestingly by using the digital mixer which includes a recording and equaliser function internally, the overall cost was nearly the same as using a traditional mixer and separate equalizer and recorder.
The loudspeaker switching was achieved with a single switch controlling our own design of switcher that performed the complex switching out of sight.
A testament to the success of this installation is that we haven’t had a single follow up call except when we asked them how they were getting on!