Saddleback Church rides high with L-Acoustics

Lake Forest, California’s Saddleback Church, the host campus and broadcast site for the sizeable worship community led by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren, has been in its current location for nearly 25 years, but never had an audio system upgrade – until now. Seeking to improve intelligibility, the church turned to the installation division of Escondido-based Sound Image, which replaced the site’s ageing point-source system with a new L-Acoustics Kara array setup.

“There were all kinds of physical challenges,” recalls Sound Image’s Scott Coyle. “The room is basically a big square with about 200ft per side, and the back quarter of the space is bleacher-style seating. Plus, there are glass walls down each side measuring 30 feet high by 90 feet long, so we started out faced with a 2.2-second reverb time.”

“The previous PA was put in when the room was built almost 25 years ago,” notes Saddleback audio lead Aaron Ruse. “It served the church fairly well, but audio technology has leapt forward so much in that time – especially in the past decade -that we knew that in order to provide the best experience for the congregation, it was time.”

“They did several comparative listening tests, including a final one in the actual room,” continues Sound Image’s Mike Fay, who was the integrator’s point of contact on-site. “They heard five or six PAs and kept coming back to L-Acoustics,” Coyle adds.

Ruse says it was an obvious choice. “Every time we put multiple PAs head-to-head and ranked them, no PA was consistently in the top three except Kara, which was in the top two every single time.”

The space being retrofitted, known as the Worship Centre, is the biggest room on Saddleback’s flagship campus in Lake Forest and the room is consistently busy. “It’s booked pretty much five nights a week,” says Fay. “And a regular meeting every Friday that can only be held in the Worship Centre – because no other room is big enough – meant that we had to do this retrofit in two parts.”

After a week of structural prep and pulling wire, the old system came down and the Kara system went up in just three days. All parties agree that the Soundvision modelling done by L-Acoustics’ André Pichette was crucial to working within the very tight timeframe.

Saddleback’s new L-Acoustics system comprises six Kara per side with an additional 12 Kara boxes total as side-fill, all powered by a total of six AVB-ready LA4X amplified controllers offering enclosure-check capabilities. Low-end support is provided by a quartet of KS28 double-18” subs ground-stacked and powered by a single four-channel LA12X. Front-fill is further provided by eight X8 enclosures, while delay fills are a combination of a dozen ARCS Focus and Wide units.


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