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Specifier Outfits Southern Satellite Campus With Kara Rig

A 3,000-seat worship space at multisite Free Chapel's fourth campus in Spartanburg, S.C., gets a tour-quality loudspeaker system to accommodate a range of worship styles and to deliver superior flexibility, SPL and coverage.

By Church Designer Staff   •  March 21, 2016 12:19 pm EDT

Tags: avl design, integration, multisite, retrofit, satellite, sound system, sustainability, upgrade,

Gainesville, Ga.-based Free Chapel recently opened its fourth campus in Spartanburg, S.C., a 3,000-seat worship space purchased from another church and completely overhauled for the first time in more than 20 years. For the AVL retrofit portion of the project, Free Chapel called upon Mankin Media Systems (MMS) of Franklin, Tenn., to specify and install an L-Acoustics Kara system for the main sanctuary.

Although Pastor Jentezen Franklin preaches live in Gainesville—with his message broadcast to satellite campuses in Spartanburg, Atlanta (Suwanee) and California’s Orange County, plus the church’s international television ministry, Kingdom Connection—every site has its own live worship team that performs the full gamut from high-energy contemporary to urban gospel to classic hymns.

Gear specifics

Using Soundvision, MMS’ design solution took the form of left and right arrays each comprised of nine Kara enclosures backed by sub arrays of three SB18. Four SB28 on the ground, positioned under the stage, augment the LF, while eight coaxial 8XT mounted just under the lip provide front fill. A combined total of four LA8 and three LA4X amplified controllers power and process the system, while a new Digico SD9 console at FOH with Optocore connection to D-Racks on stage provides the mix.

“In the initial design phase, there were two potential challenges where L-Acoustics absolutely hit it out of the park,” recalls Tim Corder with Mankin Media Systems. “First, weight and power requirements were critical because the original facility was not designed with the production capabilities in mind that Free Chapel required to execute their weekend service environment in the space. We needed to maximize performance while minimizing the structural loads on the roof, as well as the current draw. Other manufacturers’ options that we considered were both heavier and power-hungry in comparison.

“Second, we knew this was going to be a ‘phase one’ renovation and, as the church continues to grow, there will be further expansion of the seating layout, as well as additional spaces and systems added to the campus. As such, we needed a flexible system design that would also allow them to grow into the space over the coming years. L-Acoustics provided a complete solution that included sonically matching main arrays, front fills and subwoofers, as well as future out fills. The system fit the room like a glove.”

“We brought L-Acoustics as a choice to the church because we knew that ultimately the performance-to-value equation was most important to them,” he continues. “Free Chapel was looking for the absolute best bang for the buck, while also embracing a system that is rider friendly for outside artists who both participate in services or through events during the week.”

The new Kara and SB18 arrays operate in full range to produce a sound that is highly musical, impactful and extremely even and consistent throughout the room. The SB28 enclosures on the ground provide effect as desired for specific instruments or program material. The result is a system that remains sonically consistent at both high and low volumes, and one that is reportedly very easy to mix on.

Results & feedback

Warren Whitten, audio director for Free Chapel, mixed the opening weekend at the new campus. “I was amazed by how tight the PA felt in such a big room,” he says. “I was able to achieve depth in my mix without having to run the PA excessively loud, and it never felt like it was getting away from me. I felt very connected to my mix changes.”

According to Corder, the new system “has it all—crystal clear, natural high frequency transmissions that are never harsh; warm, defined mid frequencies that are so important to get right in the best House of Worship mixes; and tight, powerful lows that are both heard and felt throughout the space. The tonal response of the new system as well as the coverage in the room are both spectacular.

“I was getting texts throughout the first few weekends of services from others on the design team, including the architect and project manager, as well as church staff that said they couldn't believe how great the sound was.”

MMS is now executing another L-Acoustics system that will go into the Free Chapel Orange County campus in Irvine, Calif., this summer. “The rooms are very different,” notes Whitten, “but we feel that L-Acoustics will be a constant that will help us continue elevating audio in our worship experience.”

“Mankin Media has had tremendous success with L-Acoustics loudspeaker systems,” Corder sums. “The product represents a tremendous value, which is extremely important to our House of Worship clients where, regardless of the project size, there are always more dreams than there are resources. We have found L-Acoustics systems to deploy precisely as expected, and our clients—including Free Chapel—are always extremely satisfied with the results.”

Find more information on Free Chapel Spartanburg here:

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