The College Church at Walla Walla College

The College Church

This 2,000 seat space was recently renovated under the direction of acoustic consultant Glenn White. The principal goal was to optimize acoustics for the excellent pipe organ. The hall was already somewhat reverberant, and after renovation, would be about 2.7 seconds. We were asked to design a new sound system to support speech. If it could also support music, so much the better, but that was neither a goal nor a design requirement. The real challenge here is that the room is very wide and very deep, and there are very few sound absorbing surfaces to keep the sound from bouncing around excessively. This means that the sound system must be very carefully focused on listeners, but kept off walls, ceilings, and floors. And we must be quite careful that what sound is allowed to hit those surfaces does so at an angle that doesn't cause an echo somewhere.

The EASE model, developed by Brad Nelson of Sound Solutions Northwest, clearly confirmed our initial judgment that a distributed system would be the best way to achieve this. Our experience in reverberant spaces has taught us that using loudspeakers that are able to maintain pattern control well into the bass and mid-bass range is key to achieving that. We chose to cover the main floor seating area with six JBL horns and five custom bass arrays. The horn and bass array above the center of the platform is concealed behind perf metal in an enclosed ceiling cavity.

Most of the balcony is covered by Renkus Heinz two-way loudspeakers, custom designed to our specifications to provide additional low/mid- frequency pattern control, A row of EAW coaxial loudspeakers, installed in the ceiling near the back of the balcony, provides additional presence in the last rows. Full range loudspeakers recessed in the ceiling over the platform cover the choir and, to some extent, those seated on the platform. They are treated as stage monitors, and fed from a console pre-fade auxiliary send.

We're quite pleased with how well this system works. Not only did we achieve the principal goal of good speech intelligibility in all seats, but contemporary music even sounds reasonably good through the system.

Sound Solutions Northwest, of Kenniwick, WA installed the system.