Meeting Multiple Needs: Inside The Development Of A New Audio System For Impact Church In Arizona

by | Audio, Case Studies, Production

“Every church and their media directors and sound people have a sense of what they need,” says Rick Franke. He’s the founder and president of Sacramento-based Illuminate Production Services (IPS). The challenge, he adds, “is producing something that functions well, is volunteer friendly, meets their needs from week-to-week, and is future-proof, on a budget.”

In working with well over 250 churches across America, Franke and everyone at IPS have become intimately acquainted with those challenges and how best to meet them for a wide range of worship settings since IPS set up shop in 2006. And while operators at Impact Church in Scottsdale, AZ are experienced professionals, all of those criteria came into play in the design and installation of a production package for the church’s new facility in the latter months of 2020.

The team at Impact had a detailed and clear idea of their needs in every respect, Franke continues, citing the work IPS has done with the church in this new facility in the design and installation of their audio, video, and lighting systems, and with media executive Phil Owens – a pastor and musician in his own right – specifically. “They basically tossed the ball to us and said, ‘What do we need to accomplish what we’re trying to do here?’ We helped steer them in the right direction, but I always say that if you have the right gear and the right team you’re set up for success. Impact provided the right people, and we provided the right gear and installation, and everybody is really happy with how this came out.”

A Unique Space

Founded in the 1990s as a Bible study for the Arizona Cardinals’ pro football franchise, Impact initially served a relatively small, very specific group of athletes. Under the stewardship of pastor Travis Hearn (who also serves as team pastor for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns), however, the non-denominational church’s congregation has grown exponentially. In part, owing to its high-energy services, cutting-edge production values, and accessible, widely applicable, message and growing reputation as a multi-ethnic, multigenerational, house of worship that, as their website states, is “known for diversity, authenticity, and throwing a huge God-sized party celebrating Jesus each weekend.”

Left to right: Rick Franke and Jeff Hess of IPS with Caleb Franke, who provided creative design and served as lead lighting designer, with some of the Adamson gear.

To maximize the ability to do so and accommodate ongoing growth, the church recently undertook an ambitious relocation to a large, converted retail space that required a substantial renovation, refit, and entirely new audio, video, and lighting systems to meet their needs. The installation took place over the course of the fall of 2020 and was fully commissioned by early December.

Prior to the AV installation, the space – a former grocery store – required a full structural renovation. “It’s definitely a unique worship center and the audio system is geared specifically towards the venue and their specific needs,” notes Jeff Hess, VP of sales and marketing for IPS. He adds that after assessing those needs, IPS determined that a Canadian-made Adamson Systems Engineering PA was the best fit for Impact for both their current and future requirements.

A Great Partnership Produces Great Results

The partnership between Impact and IPS was also an excellent fit given the latter’s specialization in house of worship projects, the wide-ranging experience they have in providing services for purely secular spaces and applications that inform their work in cutting-edge current worship spaces, as well as Rick Franke’s long-time friendship with Pastor Hearn. “I was Travis’ youth pastor in the early 1990s and he’s been a good friend ever since,” Franke explains. That said, he adds: “Just because we’re friends, Illuminate wasn’t a “shoo-in” (for the project). Obviously, Travis has a financial responsibility to do his due diligence.”

Still, the emphasis the company places on service and their overall approach to design and installation – one summed up neatly by IPS as “small enough to care and big enough to serve” – matched Impact’s needs and the scope of the project extremely well.

“We were with them early on for the conceptual design,” Franke notes, adding that the audio portion of the project involved outfitting the main sanctuary as well as a separate production room used for capturing, editing, and streaming services and performances.” IPS also took responsibility for the tuning of the system. they sub-contracted audio designer Kyle Anderson of Oregon-based Rain Pro Media, who, Franke explains, they often work with.

Dialing Up The Mains

Among other elements, the new audio system is comprised of an Adamson IS Series PA driven by Lab Gruppen power amplifiers and Behringer Wing 48-channel/28-bus mixing consoles for control. Specifically, line arrays comprised of six Adamson IS10 modules are flown per side, with eight IS119 subwoofers placed in spaces below the front of the stage and augmented by two S10p loudspeakers for out fills and five Point 8 cabinets for front fill.”

A perspective of the sanctuary as final construction neared completion.

The two S10p are flown on a yoke and pointed downwards for a space that’s just outside of the coverage area of the mains,” Hess says, adding that the seating area is “a little bit unique” owing to some structural columns in the space. Two Lab Gruppen Lab D 120 4L amplifiers and their onboard Lake processing power the main arrays, with a Lab D200 4L amps for the subs and a pair of D40 4Ls for the out and front fills.

Coming Up with the Plan

There were a number of considerations that drove the choice of the various audio system elements. The church’s energetic worship style, as well as a large music program that features a full praise band (as well as frequent performances by well-known Christian artists including multiple Grammy Award winner Israel Houghton) were part of the picture. Additionally, the overall aesthetics and the inherent quirks of the space itself needed to be considered.

“Because it’s a retro-fitted grocery store that’s roughly 80 feet wide and 100 or 110 feet deep,” Franke explains, “rigging the system to provide the necessary coverage was a substantial challenge. So, we needed a box that…could handle being flown 43 feet apart. Even still, we had to pick up a little on the outside with the Point 8 loudspeakers. We would have liked to hang the mains closer (together), but we really didn’t want to do a front/center hang because we were already dealing with trim heights for lighting and some other sightline issues.”

“You can see from photos, too, that they have a very clean stage and environment generally – a very modern worship setting,” Hess puts in. He adds that maintaining that was an integral part of the mandate the church gave IPS.

One of the systems Adamson IS10 arrays and S10p loudspeakers for out fill.

Completing The Picture

Additionally, IPS provided a dozen channels of Shure ULX-D wireless microphones and PSM 900 personal monitors. “We used RF Venue for distribution and RF management of the wireless systems, which is great stuff. Then we have three Behringer Wing consoles for front of house, monitors, and broadcast,” Franke says, adding that the consoles were provided by the church and purchased by Impact during the transition to the new space. “They’re probably (going to be) a DiGiCo venue within a year or so, but they had to get into it.”

Providing all the necessary connectivity was straightforward. “With the Wing consoles, it was pretty easy,” he explains. “Monitor world is on stage and broadcast world is in a room behind front of house and we did sort of a star pattern connection between all of them which worked really well. Obviously, broadcast has become vital for churches during the pandemic; more than ever before. We’re seeing that across the board for every church we do.”

Lab Gruppen power amplifiers (left) and Shure wireless systems at home in their racks.

The monitoring approach also includes a mix of pre-existing in-ear monitors and Midas DP 48 personal mixers handled via a Midas Hub4 monitor system hub. Other elements include a Shure mic pack for vocals, various Radial direct boxes, Furman power sequencing and multiple Elite Core floor pockets. The latter is a provider IPS has come to depend on regularly, Franke says. “And I think everybody’s going to be hearing a lot more about them in the industry. They’re a shop out of Arkansas and their cables, labeling – everything – is custom – all really well done, and it seems like it’s all made in America. I’ve bought a lot of their products for our rental rig and haven’t had a single problem.”

Limiting potential problems in any install is critical – all the more so given Impact’s growing profile as a leading worship center in general, and for professional athletes specifically. “It’s a pretty diverse church, so when you’re thinking of sound and you need to make sure that you have a system that’s going to be able to deliver the message, clearly and intelligibly, to people of different ages and from different cultures,” says Hess.

Different Scenarios

With that in mind, Franke and Hess also speak highly of the Adamson loudspeakers as well as the company in general. “I love the coverage Adamson [loudspeakers] provide, and I love the fact that you can run them really loud and it doesn’t hurt, which you can’t say about a lot of systems,” Franke says. That, and the need for concert-level production across the board, made the PA a good choice for Impact’s signature brand of modern, high-energy, R&B and gospel musical style. “I knew that they wanted to run it loud but didn’t want to abuse people and that’s what led me to Adamson in the first place.”

Hess concurs: “When we think of Adamson, we think of it as a workhorse because it fits in so many different scenarios. We’ve been an Adamson house since 2017, so we’re biased, but, from my own audio background, knowing the boxes have such great coverage for their size, there was value in that, as well as in how wide the S10’s pattern is and how far they throw. And the way they’re installed, it’s not obvious the boxes are even there because they’re neatly tucked away.”

One of the Adamson Point 8 compact loudspeakers at the edge of the platform providing front fill coverage. (Photo Credit: Alexis Sports)

Final Thoughts

That was key, he adds: “As important as technology is to any worship setting it should never be the focus. It’s about the message, not the gear. Technology is just a vehicle for the message and that’s a school of thought that IPS embraces heavily – if you’re constantly thinking about the PA system then it’s not doing its job. I think the transparency of the Adamson S10, the fact they’re a lightweight and smaller-sized box that isn’t causing sightline issues and are still able to deliver to the entire congregation, cleanly and crisply, definitely fit the application and space itself.”

In the end, the reviews IPS has received from the church and congregation since Impact’s grand opening in December 2020 have been overwhelmingly positive, Hess concludes. “When I hear people saying they felt moved (during services) that tells me that they’re talking about the message, not the technology, which means things are going good.”

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