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Meyer M3D Delivers Dynamics at Cornerstone Church
From the outset, a powerful and dynamic Sunday worship experience has been a central focus of ministry at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. However, prior to the recent installation of a new sound system based on Meyer Sound M3D line arrays, worship was not always experienced to its full sonic potential throughout the 5,000-capacity worship auditorium.
"With the old system, we had phasing problems that produced hot spots and cold spots," says the church's director of audio, Don Lawrence. "We also had terrible lobing problems with low frequencies coming down into the microphones, affecting the lavaliers in particular."
Lawrence determined that simply updating the old cluster – installed when the church was built in 1987 – would not produce the desired improvement. However, any new system would have to deal with the same basic challenges: a wide semi-circular coverage area, the need to project high SPLs to the back wall without a delay ring, and the problematic (but architecturally mandatory) cluster location, directly over the pastor's usual speaking position.
"I had already determined that a line array solution would give us the coverage and mid-high control we needed," says Lawrence, "but I also needed to take care of the low-frequency lobing that was forcing me to cut frequencies to get gain before feedback. When I learned that Meyer's M3D could control low frequencies off axis, I figured that might solve the problems I'd been battling all these years."
The M3D line array's ability to manage low-frequency coverage is due to Meyer Sound's proprietary cardioid bass system for extending directional control down to the cabinet's lower frequency limit of 35 Hz, which is part of the company's BroadbandQ technology.
Design of Cornerstone Church's new M3D system was a collaborative effort on the part of Lawrence, Meyer Sound's Design Services department, and C.C. Haley of Technovations, the San Antonio-based contractor for the project. After thorough evaluation of the project requirements, including aesthetic restrictions that required placing the new system in essentially the same space as the old, the team came up with a main system design employing three arrays of four M3Ds each. Using Meyer Sound MAPP Online, Meyer Sound's Todd Meier configured the M3Ds to function as a seamless, coherent center cluster that would carry robust, full sound to the farthest seats while still effectively creating a broadband "shadow" directly underneath. Four CQ-1 wide coverage main loudspeakers were carefully aimed and level balanced to provide front fill that stopped right at the stage lip.
Since the new system would necessarily be somewhat deeper than the old horizontal clusters, Technovation's Haley first mocked up the new system in Photoshop and secured preliminary approvals. Next, he pre-constructed the scrim-covered array housing and lifted it into place for final on-site approvals. Once the thumbs-up on appearance was received, the next step was hoisting the arrays in place, which itself presented several hurdles.
Speed was vital to process, since the church could not be out of operation on either a Wednesday or a Sunday. The advantages of Meyer Sound's self-powered loudspeakers were crucial to meeting this need. "The pressures were intense but we met the challenges without a hitch," recalls Haley. "The integrated rigging and internal amplification were key to the speedy installation, and without them we would never have met the timelines.
Since we had to remove the existing façade, pull the old horns and cabinets, and modify the ceiling before we could even start the new installation, an out-of-the-box solution was essential."
After making the required changes to the existing situation, only one day was left for getting the M3D arrays installed. Each stack was assembled and tested before being lifted into place, and within the space of half a day the new system was up and running with more than enough time to set levels and EQ.
When the new system was powered up, the difference was noticed immediately.
"The M3Ds cover the room like a blanket," proclaims Don Lawrence. "Also, the system is extremely musical. We have everything here from a 150-piece traditional choir with 14-piece orchestra to swing jazz and Southern gospel. Then, on Sunday nights we turn it up with contemporary praise music. The system rocks, and I don't think I could blow it up if I tried."
Lawrence is particularly pleased by the tonal quality he now achieves through the lavalier microphone on Pastor John Hagee, a preacher widely renowned for his powerful and dynamic preaching style. "Pastor Hagee wants to have that voice quality perfect in every seat," notes Lawrence. "The presentation is everything, and that means you need the frequency range and the dynamic range. With this system, I have much better tonal quality, and more body in the voice, which gives the pastor the punch he wants – whether speaking with a whisper or a shout."
Because each M3D cabinet contains four 15-inch drivers, no dedicated subwoofers were needed for this application. "We have plenty of bottom end, with great low-frequency character," Lawrence maintains. "That system just plain rocks." Cornerstone's new system, which also included a new Yamaha PM-4000 mixing console, has been used for a number of special events at the church, including a full concert by country music superstar Randy Travis.
For Lawrence, however, the key to the system's success has been its capacity to deliver music and spoken word – with undiminished fullness and dynamics – throughout the house each and every Sunday. "I'm not a minister myself," he confesses, "but I feel like I'm a vehicle for ministry. If you don't have wheels on the car, you can't go anywhere. Here, our M3Ds are also serving as a vehicle for ministry. After all, if the people can't hear the pastor and the music, nothing happens."