When tasked with choosing a new sound system for its premises, the Heath Methodist Church in Runcorn, Chesire, UK, took a democratic approach to the decision by giving its congregation the deciding vote over which out of two JBL sound system they preferred. Oswestry-based Richard King Systems was tasked with installation of a new sound system at the church after the church recieved complaints about poor intelligibility of the previous set up. The team faced acoustical challenges from the way the modern 42-year-old church is constructed with a heavily sloping ceiling — measuring 2.5m from floor to ceiling at the rear and 10m at the front. “The acoustics are awful — it’s an extremely live room and the delay times were long,” stated Richard Hughes, project manager for Richard King Systems. Richard King’s own ISCE trained engineers met with a member of the project team from UK distributor for JBL, Sound Technology. The JBL CBT70J Constant Beamwidth line array columns met the criteria, and at the same time would not intrude on the church’s aesthetics. The CBT70J model features sixteen 1in HF drivers and four 5in LF drivers delivering even projection of full-range audio across a wide and deep audience area. Mounted on the CBT brackets, the arrays are fixed to special tubes that protrude through the church’s timber ceiling. In addition, two tiny JBL Control 52 satellite speakers have been concealed in the choir stalls — a solution much favoured by church integrators. The CBT70J’s are driven by a Crown XLS 1500 amplifier while one channel of an XLS 1000 drives the tiny satellites and the other a pre-existing system in the vestry, which also acts as an overspill. At the same time Richard King Systems installed three AKG GN 50 ESP gooseneck mics fitted with CK31 cardioid heads — one in the pulpit area and two on floor stands in the communal area. These were chosen for their flexibility. They also installed an AKG WMS45 Perception UHF wireless Presenter Set. For mic mixing the company specified a Soundcraft EPM8 8-channel mixer (a popular platform which they have used many times). Explaining the decision, Richard Hughes said, “The church opted for that themselves; they run an EFX12 in the hall and are very happy with Soundcraft.” EQ presets are contained in a dbx ZonePro 641 — configured for the left and right hangs, with the third zone assigned to the Control 52’s and zone 4 to the audio loop which was already installed. “This enabled us to make all the tonal adjustments and we can set thresholds, giving the customer level control,” continued Hughes. The system received the popular vote from the congregation — who were asked to compare the sound quality with a temporary system (comprising a CBT50LA line arrays, with a pair of JBL Control 23’s acting as delays). These were A/B switched via a dbx remote ZonePro ZC1. “We ran this over two Sunday services as we had no idea what perception the congregation would have, and we invited a show of hands,” declared Hughes.
The decision went in favour of the striking J-shaped CBT70-J. Richard Hughes said he was delighted with the difference the new installation has made, and so is the client. As one member of the committee said, “I can now hear every word the clergy are saying, and any reservations I may have had about the physical intrusion of the speakers have just melted away.”