Houston-Area Church Uses Danley to Upgrade Aging Sound System

Houston, Texas

Founded in 1940, the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston, Texas (USA), today hosts 900 attendees on any given Sunday across its traditional, contemporary and family services.  While the church’s sanctuary is ideal for traditional hymns, providing amazingly long reverb times, there were notable challenges with an aging sound system. With such challenges, a new system was needed. Brightengale – formerly Houston Sound Service – was selected for the project through a recommendation from another area church.

“The prior installation leaned heavily on digital signal processing and beam steering to fill the room with intelligible sound,” said Adam Keho, system designer at Brightengale. “Acoustically, the room is fantastic for pipe organ or choral music but it’s very difficult for speech intelligibility. When the system was first installed, it was only designed to deliver speech reinforcement, not all of the music necessary for a modern church.”

“In the new installation, we had a number of requirements,” said Dawayne Gaspard, director of audio-visual services at the Church of St. John the Divine. “We wanted to improve intelligibility in a live acoustic environment without losing the look of the space and adding some additional sonic capability. Over time, we’ve brought in other equipment for certain events which we no longer wanted to do. The capability of music playback and quality sound performance were paramount as well.”

The existing sound system featured aging powered column array loudspeakers that had been in place for 15 years and repaired multiple times. These existing speakers stood at 12 feet tall and were recessed into the wall. Any replacement would need to both fit into the existing space and meet the sonic requirements of the installation. Working alongside Brightengale, church staff agreed that a steerable column array was not the ideal solution, however the Danley SBH20LF loudspeaker was ideal due to its size and capabilities.

“With the prior column array speakers being so tall, Danley could provide a more clear and intelligible sound at roughly a third of the height,” Keho said. “Given the size of the existing recesses, we discussed a variety of options from filling the gap with stone work to designing something new for the space, but none were feasible. So, we were creative and simply requested that Danley provide us with four ‘dummy’ or empty SBH20LF loudspeaker cabinets to create the look of one tall 12-foot speaker, but in fact only one speaker functions as the additional speakers weren’t necessary in the space.”

In addition to the SBH20LF speakers, Brightengale installed additional Danley SBH20 column loudspeakers as delay and balcony speakers, FLX12 loudspeakers as stage monitors and utilized Danley DNA amplifiers to power the system. The additional delay and balcony speakers are run at lower levels simply to provide coverage throughout the room. While Brightengale sound designer Adam Keho designed the system, Danley western regional sales manager Kim Comeaux demonstrated the system onsite.

“It was nice to have a Danley representative personally attend and do a demonstration,” Gaspard said. “All of our clergy and senior staff were able to attend and hear the sample. That was helpful in making the final decision.”

Keho agreed. “There aren’t many speaker manufacturers that are so willing to demo their products. Even if it’s a small project, Danley Sound Labs is willing to bring out sound equipment and let customers experience the ‘Danley’ sound. Customers don’t typically believe us when we tell them that we can fill the room with clear, intelligible sound with just a few speakers until they experience it.”

Some of the additional requirements for the Houston church project included improved customer service and product support. However, thanks to Danley Sound Labs’ network of dealers and distributors, access to service is much easier to attain.

“One of our prior issues was with support,” said Steven Newberry, director of music and worship at the Church of St. John the Divine. “If any repair was needed, we had to send parts overseas or around the world for repairs. From what we’ve seen thus far, both Danley Sound Labs and Brightengale have far superior customer service and support for Danley products.”

The congregation is very pleased with the installation. Gaspard said “the feedback has been great thus far. We’ve had some actually say ‘this is the first time I can really hear what is being said throughout the church.’”

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