First United Methodist Church of San Diego is the largest Methodist church in southern California and occupies one of the most architecturally-splendid church campuses in the area. Over many decades, First United has struggled with sound reinforcement systems for its multiple venues that somehow always failed to live up to expectations.
Recently, Paul Svenson of Sound Casework Inc. (PS Audio Video) reversed the inertia of that sorry history, unifying all five sound systems under a common, easy-to-use, foolproof paradigm centered on the Symetrix Jupiter 8 signal processor and the Symetrix ARC-2e wall panel remote. Now volunteers can get a quick explanation of how to work on any system and transfer their knowledge transparently to any of the other systems, relying on Svenson’s intuitive design to deliver perfect audio with confidence.
“I’ve been trying to get First United’s business for twenty-seven years,” admitted Svenson, who has designed and installed A/V systems in hundreds of houses of worship in a career that spans four decades.
“But they always went one of two routes: either they cobbled a fix together with spit wads and glue or else they separately hired a system designer and a system installer. When things went sour after the installation, as they always did, the designer pointed the finger at the installer and the installer pointed the finger at the designer. Unfortunately, the church was always left holding the bag.”
When a new church staffer approached Svenson (without knowing his history with First United) and asked if he was better positioned to design or install for the next iteration, Svenson fired off a missive to the church trustees.
“I explained the problem and even invoked the name of beloved long-time senior minister Dr. Mark Trotter who, twenty-seven years ago, stood in the sanctuary next to me, shaking his head over the terrible sound system two other companies had designed and installed,” said Svenson. “Rather than repeat the same mistake, I suggested they hire my company to both design and install the system. That way, the buck stops with me. To their ever-living credit, they agreed.”
The overhaul would not be minor. First United maintains sound reinforcement systems in the Trotter Chapel (seats 125), the Trotter Lounge (seats 150 for meetings and miscellaneous events), The Cove (seats 150 for miscellaneous events), the Linder Social Hall (seats 400 in a flexible, modular space), and the sanctuary (seats 1,000).
“Church sound at First United is run exclusively by volunteers,” explained Svenson. “With disparate systems in each of the five spaces, those volunteers were understandably frustrated and events often suffered bad sound as a result.”
His new tack would be to design effectively the same system for all five spaces so that the volunteers would be comfortable and competent in every venue.
Into each space, Svenson placed a Symetrix Jupiter 8 signal processor running the Sound Reinforcement 10 app, which includes input equalization, dynamics, feedback fighters, gain-sharing auto-mixing, a full matrix mixer, output equalization, speaker managers, and output limiters. Paired with a Presonus StudioLive console in the three venues that require heavy mixing, the Jupiter 8’s eight inputs and eight outputs are more than sufficient for each venue. An intuitive Symetrix ARC-2e wall panel remote allows the volunteers to select presets for various functions and, where appropriate, individual levels.
“As in all my other recent projects, I went with the Symetrix Jupiter 8 because it is easy to use, flexible, and sonically transparent,” said Svenson. “But perhaps even more important than that is the company and the people who comprise it. They are wonderful to work with: accommodating to the harsh realities of AV integration and always ready to lend a hand in whatever way is needed. Moreover, they build solid gear. In all my years installing Symetrix equipment, I’ve only had one failure and the company had a replacement to me that very next day.”
The church officials and the volunteers at First United are in love with the new systems. It’s been a long time coming.