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“I sell intelligibility,” says Dave Armstrong of Sound Planning, a  Ft Lauderdale, FL sound design and installation contractor serving  primarily churches and synagogues. “In most churches, even those with  contemporary services, the majority of content is the human voice. So  first and foremost I want people to be able to understand everything  that’s being said or sung. But I also love music and want it to sound  great. Electro-Voice speakers offer my customers the best of both  worlds.”

Armstrong says his focus on intelligibility is a natural outgrowth of  his public speaking experience as an ordained minister. His preference  for Electro-Voice is born of experience as well. He’s been using  Electro-Voice loudspeakers since the early days of Sound Planning in the  1970s, when his company was based in Michigan. “We used Electro-Voice  for the first church system we ever did,” he says, “and we’ve been using  it pretty consistently ever since.”

“I’m a big believer in demos,” Armstrong continues, “and I do a lot of  A/B comparisons. What really shows up with EV is that the clarity of the  high frequencies shines compared to the competition. Most manufacturers  today can build a box that puts out a lot of bass, but where I really  hear the difference with EV is that you get crystal-clear high end,  which to me is critical for speech intelligibility.”

Armstrong recently put his preferences to the test in installations for  three Miami-area Salvation Army churches. Each room had its own unique  acoustical challenges, and Armstrong handled each with a distinct  approach, all of which were based on Electro-Voice loudspeakers.

In the 300-seat Flagler Street Church near downtown Miami, for example,  a very high ceiling with lots of glass at each end of the sanctuary  results in a highly reverberant space. “I could tell right away that the  room was going to be a challenge for speech intelligibility,” Armstrong  says. “So I went with the EVH-1152D/64, because the horn-loaded woofer  in those EVH boxes always cleans up rooms. I’ve had a number of  customers who thought they were going to require acoustical treatments  but ended up getting the intelligibility they needed with just EVHs.

The advantage of the EVH line in reverberant spaces, Armstrong  explains, is that their pattern control extends all the way down into  the low midrange, which makes the dispersion of lower vocal registers  more closely matched to that of the high end. “It gives you more  control,” he says, “to avoid bouncing energy off reverberant surfaces.”

Armstrong also maximized intelligibility by prioritizing coherence over  stereo. “A single speaker gave us the highest speech clarity,” he  explains. “It let me get the speaker out in the middle, away from the  walls, and avoided exciting the huge ceiling above. By hanging the  speaker out in free air, you’re not creating any resonances in the  structure, so the room just sounds cleaner.” To round out the low end  when the full band is playing, Armstrong used a pair of Eliminator  single 18-inch subwoofers.

At South Miami’s 200-seat Sunset Drive Church, the challenge was a  ceiling that was very low rather than high. “The ceilings were only  about 12 feet,” Armstrong says, “so with a single speaker or even two  speakers it would have been really loud in the front and not loud enough  in back. Instead, we ceiling-mounted four EV ZX1 composite, 8-inch  two-way cabinets. The ZX1 can be oriented horizontally for low-ceiling  rooms, and there’s nothing that size on the market that even comes close  in terms of sound. They handle a terrific amount of power, and they  have an amazing amount of low end for their size.”

The Sunset Drive system also included a TX1181 sub. “That’s a really  solid-sounding sub with good low frequency extension,” Armstrong says.  “We just put them on the floor and get good results.” To serve the mixed  congregation, some of whom are Creole-speaking Haitians, Armstrong also  put in a Telex SoundMate system with 40 wireless receivers for  simultaneous translation.

The last of the three churches was the Hialeah Church in a northwest  Miami suburb. Between the other two sanctuaries in both size and ceiling  height, the room is noticeably less reverberant due to carpeting and  acoustical ceiling tile. “With the higher ceiling we were able to use a  pair of ZX5 15-inch two-way speakers mounted on the side walls,”  Armstrong says. “The ZX5 is clearly more powerful, and I prefer to use  fewer speakers when possible. The pastor is pretty knowledgeable about  sound, and he loved it as soon as he heard it.”

The systems at all three churches also included ZXA1 powered floor  monitors and Electro-Voice RE-2 wireless microphones. “My favorite is  the RE-2 with the RE410 condenser head on the handheld,” Armstrong says.  “I think it’s the best-sounding handheld cordless on the market, bar  none. I’m a real fan of that head. We also bought lavaliers and headset  microphones.”

As for the monitors, Armstrong explains that he likes powered monitors  in churches because performers can make their own volume adjustments  without having to get the attention of the sound system operator in the  middle of a service. “Another advantage of the ZXA1,” he adds, “is that  you can plug in a mic, so it makes a great self-contained portable PA  that you can use for outdoor events.”

With all three jobs on the Salvation Army contract now complete,  Armstrong says, the music director who works with the three churches  reports that the churches’ captains — the equivalent of pastors — are  all very pleased. Not surprisingly, Armstrong’s faith in Electro-Voice  is undiminished. “When I go out on a sales call these days,” he says,  “I’ll typically bring a ZX1 and a ZX5. And in just about any church I go  into, when I compare the EV boxes with what they are listening to, the  customers notice the clarity right away. That’s a big part of what has  kept me loyal to the EV brand.”

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