Tag: Carillon

Distributed Audio Creates Unique Atmosphere for Christian Visitor Attraction

Dry Gulch USA in Oklahoma Makes Audio Part of the Visitor Experience

The effective use of outdoor audio can put a stamp on the personality of the venue. A combination of high-quality sound, creative programming, and innovative system design and technology helps to create an atmosphere that will stick with visitors long after they depart.

Dry Gulch USA is one venue that has put a great deal of thought into employing an intelligent audio strategy, helping to create a unique and memorable atmosphere. The year-round non-profit campground and retreat center is located one hour northeast of Tulsa, Oklahoma on the shores of Lake Hudson, and owned by Church on the Move of Tulsa.

Established in 1986 as a Christian summer camp for children, Dry Gulch USA is now a multi-purpose facility also offering corporate and marriage retreats as well as Christmas holiday events. The grounds span several hundred acres and include a lake, a 700-seat performance hall, a mini-amusement park, overnight quarters and a Town Square area that is a replica of an old west town.

Audio is essential to communication and entertainment across the grounds. The facility recently initiated a multi-stage project to overhaul its existing outdoor audio systems, which had fallen into severe disrepair over the years.

Two Technomad Berlin loudspeakers broadcast voice and music to the downtown "Town Square" area, which is modeled after an old west town.
Two Technomad Berlin loudspeakers broadcast voice and music to the downtown "Town Square" area, which is modeled after an old west town.

“The older audio systems were long neglected and in very poor shape,” said Audio Visual Coordinator Stephen Arruda, who was hired last year to improve AV systems across the board. “The loudspeakers were completely unprotected from the elements. It sounded as if the horns were blown, but instead they were clogged with mud. The magnets were filled with hornet nests and the paper cones were deteriorated. Everything was rendered useless.”

Arruda worked with Ford Audio-Video, a regional design-build contractor, to demonstrate a range of Technomad products to improve the audio presence. The upgrades include a multi-zone networked audio system to deliver voice and music to four distinct areas of the campground, as well as a mix of new loudspeakers from Technomad and JBL that are used both within the multi-zone system and in standalone systems elsewhere on the campground.

“The staff was forced to continually replace drivers and cabinets as the older system gradually deteriorated over the years,” said James Mitchell, Account Manager for Ford Audio-Video. “What they needed was sturdy equipment that could reliably reproduce voice and audio with good quality, yet still handle the volatile Oklahoma weather. The Lake Hudson area weather is especially varied: rain, snow, heat — everything under the sun. The older weather-treated systems failed continually because they couldn’t tolerate the rough weather seasons of northeast Oklahoma.”

“There is a philosophy here to not continue to use equipment if it needs to be constantly repaired,” added Arruda. “We’re spread very thin, and this is a very large campground. A quarter-mile between loudspeaker points is not unusual here, and it’s a waste of time to drive around the grounds constantly repairing equipment. Ford Audio-Video was a big help in demonstrating products that fit within our budget but would produce good audio and be consistently reliable.”

The "Park System" is one of three audio zones featuring Technomad loudspeakers. Here, two Berlin loudspeakers are installed on the rooftop of an arcade.
The Park System is one of three zones featuring Technomad loudspeakers, which were installed in multiple locations where outstanding audio quality and weatherproof characteristics were required. Here, two Berlins are seen installed on the rooftop of the park arcade.

Among Arruda’s chief initiatives was to design a multi-zone system capable of distributing audio over separate channels. The five well-defined zones comprise the “Park System,” and it is intended to produce a unique thematic experience for each zone — noticeable to guests as they move from one zone to the next. The Park System, powered by Furman power conditioning and sequencing products, employs a DBX ZonePro 640 for audio processing and Crown amplifiers to power the audio output.

The DBX ZonePro 640 is fundamental to creating the theme for each zone, entertaining guests with audio customized specifically to match the environment. Arruda assigns CDs, an iPod, and a Sonos wireless music system to deliver music, following a seven-day schedule. The iPod feeds into a Raxxess IRD-1 unit, essentially a docking station that protects the player and interfaces with the ZonePro 640 through a line output.

The Sonos system is more complex, featuring 13 audio players and 10 wireless bridges to extend the reach of the system to certain zones, including the main entrance. The Sonos systems’ Zone Player also provides a single line input to one player, which can be distributed to all locations that contain another Zone Player.

Arruda designed the system so that the ZonePro 640 reduces the main audio when a page or announcement is made over the system. While the audio program is different within each zone, live announcements are distributed to all five zones for the purpose of reaching the majority of visitors and staff.

“There is great significance in being able to communicate important messages to the entire park, whether it’s a simple informative announcement related to a visitor attraction or a true weather-related or other emergency situation,” said Arruda. “The fact that we can do this from a central point and have the messages take priority over the five-channel music output is very valuable. Visitors can hear the important messages across all zones, and then the assigned music for each zone returns immediately following the announcement.”

Several buildings and attractions signify the area around the Park System. This includes The Western Bunkhouse, which serves as the “Main Zone” in the audio distribution system. The “brains” of the Park System is also housed in this zone.

Two Technomad Berlin weatherproof loudspeakers reproduce high-quality audio within the Main Zone. The Berlin model is among the largest and most powerful loudspeakers built by Technomad, and were installed here to cover a very large area both within the park area and its outskirts. Music emanates from the Berlins in between announcements to entertain visitors. The Berlins are installed on the building rooftop for the best possible directivity and projection.

“The Technomad Berlins supply a rich and reliable sound throughout the park area, and are in a perfect location for visitors to hear pages and special announcements,” said Mitchell. “The design was also helpful as it allows for simple rooftop installation without awkward positioning.”

Arruda added that the Technomad design enabled him to mount the loudspeakers in unusual positions without modifications. He installed Berlins on top of two other downtown buildings — Town Hall and the Dining Hall — as standalone systems, using the same unusual mounting techniques.

The Dining Hall features two Technomad Berlin loudspeakers projection audio long distance into the downtown area, setting the atmosphere on Main Street.
The Dining Hall features two Technomad Berlin loudspeakers projection audio long distance into the downtown area, setting the atmosphere on Main Street.

“The Berlins have fly points everywhere, and that really helped in these unique rooftop installations where I had to anchor the loudspeakers from below,” he said. “There is no possible way this could have been done with other loudspeakers without drilling into the cabinet and adversely affecting sound quality.”

The second zone is comprised of multiple Technomad Vernal loudspeakers under several building eves in the park area, including bunkhouses for summer camp and retreat guests. The Vernals are the smallest model in the Technomad fleet, but retain the same traits of the Berlin: high audio quality, broad dispersion, weatherproof design and durable construction.

The music in this zone changes to match specific themes, such as during the Christmas Train event. The Silver Dollar Saloon, located in the Town Square of Dry Gulch USA, hosts a live bluegrass band during these events. The music is extended outdoors to the Vernals so visitors can hear the live performance. The usual soundtrack for the entire campground, distributed through the Sonos system, kicks in again once the performance has ended.

The Vernals also provide background music at a third zone by the main entrance, where visitors hear music as they wait in line and enter the park. During events such as the Christmas Train and the annual 4th of July picnic, patrons will hear music themes from the old west before segueing into seasonal or patriotic music. In this case, an iPod distributes separate content while the Sonos system extends the system’s reach up to 1000 feet, linking the entrance music with the rest of the grounds.

Arruda expects to install as many as 40 Vernals throughout Dry Gulch once completed, citing the broad audio coverage as essential to reaching visitors throughout the area. He deployed the Vernals in a 70-volt configuration to effectively reproduce audio across the entire zone, instead of the traditional 8-Ohm configuration. The 70-volt configuration daisy-chains multiple loudspeakers over longer distances than what is possible within 8-Ohm configurations. This will allow Arruda to more easily expand his distributed audio network over time.

Technomad Vernals are installed at multiple=
Technomad Vernals are installed at multiple locations around Dry Gulch, including the main entrance and under building eves in the downtown area. Many are arranged in a 70-volt configuration to enable long-distance signal distribution.

“I learned about the benefits of the 70-volt configuration through Andrew Stone, the front of house engineer at Church on The Move,” said Arruda. “The Vernals include multi-tap connections to chain loudspeakers together, enabling distributed audio over longer distances. We can also set different wattages for better audio control in different areas. It’s a lot easier to modify 70-volt systems and manipulate the sound in different areas, even if the loudspeakers are on the same line. It’s also less labor intensive. You don’t need to provide a home run from every single loudspeaker or pair of loudspeakers back to the signal processing rack.”


The two final zones in the Park System are targeted for completion by the spring of 2009. The fourth zone will feature nine landscaped loudspeakers from Outdoor Speaker Depot in a series of planters outside of Town Square. Each planter includes three OS650 HD True Omni Ground loudspeakers installed in 70-volt configurations. The fifth zone will distribute theme park-style music to up to 12 JBL Control 25T loudspeakers. Many of the loudspeakers are being installed under the bumper car pavilion, and others will be hung near inflatable games and other theme park-style attractions.

“The whole idea of this multi-zone system is to distribute separate styles of music to create a different atmosphere in each zone,” said Arruda. “We didn’t want music floating through the air from a single location. The point is to create an environment that stays with you the entire visit but changes as you enter a different section of Dry Gulch.”

Several standalone audio systems complete the campground-wide audio presence. The Town Hall is a 700-person capacity auditorium with two Berlin outdoor loudspeakers tied to the indoor PA system. The music inside is synchronized to the Berlins to signal the beginning of daily chapel services or other gatherings and events. The signal is produced using a 32-Channel Midas Venice console, processed through a DBX DriveRack 260 and driven by a Crown Com Tech 800 to the two Berlins.

“These Berlins are used solely for the purpose of our Summer Camp sessions,” said Arruda. “The music notifies campers and their counselors when morning or evening chapel services are beginning. The loudspeakers are then muted once everyone is inside the building so other visitors and personnel are not disturbed.”

Two Berlin loudspeakers are also installed on the roof of the Dining Hall. The long-distance audio projection allows staff to project audio down the Main Street area.

“The Dining Hall loudspeakers set the atmosphere for the entire downtown area, which includes Main Street and the Town Square,” said Arruda. “We play old western music throughout the day, like the theme from Silverado. We expect to add Vernals to this building’s lakeside outdoor eating area down the road.”

Dry Gulch USA also just completed construction of the Palace Hotel in Town Square. The hotel is an ideal companion for the Christmas Train event; children have their pictures taken with Santa Claus on the main floor, and the hotel offers rooms for overnight guests. Arruda and his team from Church on the Move installed four Vernal loudspeakers at the Palace Hotel for audio entertainment and announcements.

Although the Dining Hall and the Palace Hotel systems remain standalone for the time being, Arruda envisions eventually tying both sites into the multi-zone system. He has already tied the Sonos equipment to the Palace Hotel system, although the system is processed by a dedicated Zone Pro 640 and driven by a Crown CT 1200 amplifier. Considerations for tying in the Dining Hall system will be made once Vernals are added to the building.

“Before we established the multi-zone audio system, the Dining Hall was the only building where it was possible to hear music from a distance,” he said. “Our strategy is changing now that we have established multiple loudspeaker points with better audio in various areas. We are gradually moving away from standalone systems and toward distributed audio everywhere.”

A similar version of this story appeared in the January 2009 issue of Technologies for Worship.

St. Joseph’s New Technomad Carillon System

» Click here to see Technomad Carillon / church bell systems

Webster, Massachusetts – “A congregation does not really know how much it will miss its Carillon system until it is gone,” notes Norman L. Jacques, President of Vector Associates of Webster, Massachusetts. The Carillon system of St. Joseph’s Church was destroyed in the fall of 1996 when lightning struck one of the two steeples. The power rack was rendered completely inoperable by the massive surge of electricity. When the horns in the steeples were inspected to see if any part of the remaining components could be salvaged, it was apparent they needed to be replaced as well. Corrosion and decay, caused by years of ravaging weather, dirt, dust, heat, cold, rain, wind, and bird droppings, left the horns in “less then high-fidelity working order,” quips Mr. Jacques.

For several months the officials of the Church talked about replacing the system. But, the Pastor did not realize what kind of an impact the Carillon system had on the community and congregation until the issue was addressed to the congregation, from the pulpit. The congregation unanimously voiced their desire to replace the Carillon system as soon as possible. St. Joseph, a Catholic Church with a congregation of 1,200, is located in Webster, Massachusetts, approximately 60 miles west of Boston. St. Joseph Church was the first Polish-American Parish built in New England. First construction of St. Joseph Church began in 1887. The original St. Joseph was destroyed by fire, and was rebuilt in 1914. St. Joseph Church was recently rededicated after an extensive physical renovation, and Mr. Jacques notes, “the entire interior of the church has been refurbished to the tune of just fewer than one million dollars.” The renovation included a new marble floor, wall panels, alter, pulpit, and sanctuary. The ceiling has been completely redone with elaborate hand painted murals and the lighting system has been completely renovated with a computer controlled Colortrans Dimming system. “Since St. Joseph is the first Polish American Parish in New England, the significance of the event warranted a visit from Cardinal Sroka, the head of Economic Affairs for the Vatican.” Mr. Jacques, also a long time member of the congregation of St. Joseph, and resident of Webster, offered his services to replace the Carillon system. “The Carillon system really is a part of the community and the congregation,” states Mr. Jacques. “The congregation of St. Joseph has a median age that is much older then most. Therefore, a very large percentage of the congregation became very accustomed to hearing the Carillon system for many, many years. When the system was damaged beyond repair, it was as if the congregation had lost it’s voice. The outpouring of support to replace the system, and the unified morale to sponsor the project and get the job done quickly, was very moving.” The heart of St. Joseph’s new Carillon system is Verdin’s ‘Singing Tower’. According to Mr. Jacques, the fully programmable Singing Tower represents the state-of-the-art in digital sample technology for Carillon systems. All features, music and songs are pre-loaded and fully programmable, including six digitally recorded bell sounds, ranging from a 750 lb. bell to an awesome 4950 lb. bell. “The only way a Church is going to get more real then these sounds are to install the actual bells,” notes Mr. Jacques. Aside from the Peal & Toll function, there is a full set of Carillon and Harp sounds that are recorded as selections of music. The Singing Tower’s song library consists of 150 Hymns.

Mr. Jacques notes, “The sin of many contractors who install Carillon systems is to simply install the Verdin Singing Tower unit, a 70 volt amp and then feed the signal direct to a set of – for lack of a better term – ‘civil defense’ horns. Horns cannot reproduce the quality of the digital signal from the Singing Tower.” Mr. Jacques is quick to point out, “The lows and highs of the music, as well as all fidelity, is completely lost. The only thing that remains is just a tremendous blast of midrange. This seems to be an inherent problem with many Carillon systems, even these days, in spite of the technology that is out there. But, for many contractors who are ‘out-to-make-a-buck’, this horn system is fast, easy and profitable to install. It is the uneducated Church officials, and the congregation, who will ultimately pay a greater price by sacrificing a tremendous amount of fidelity, often times to save a very small amount of time and money.” Mr. Jacques asks, almost rhetorically, “What is the sense of installing a top-flight digital playback unit if the loudspeakers can only reproduce 400 Hz to 10 kHz? Where is the fidelity in that?” Vector’s priority was to install a high-quality sound system that would deliver awe-inspiring sound quality and stand-up to the elements. The one thing the congregation did not want was a loudspeaker system that could be susceptible to damage and decay like its predecessor. Mr. Jacques notes, “other weatherized sound systems compromise sound quality for their weatherization characteristics and ‘so-called’ durability. The steeples of St. Joseph’s are truly a hostile environment for high-powered, high-fidelity loudspeakers.” Mr. Jacques stresses, “I did not want to find myself in a position where I had to simply replace the former ‘civil defense’ horns, with new ‘civil defense’ horns.” As a member of the congregation, and the man who would ultimately have his autograph all over the installation, Mr. Jacques was determined to install the highest quality loudspeakers possible. Mr. Jacques did his research and discovered a relatively new speaker product, conveniently manufactured in Massachusetts. The claims the four year old company made about their loudspeakers was what Mr. Jacques remembered most. “These loudspeakers are designed to be extremely weather and abuse resistant, powerful, and very high-fidelity. Another interesting factor is these loudspeakers are built to military specifications.” Mr. Jacques contacted the company, Technomad LLP, of Boston, Massachusetts, and arranged for a demonstration of their products. After evaluating two Berlin 15/H model loudspeakers, Mr. Jacques determined he had found the loudspeakers for his job. Built into incredibly durable and almost indestructible, one-piece military specification, ATA III rated cabinets, a Technomad loudspeaker is designed to be impervious to water, sand, salt, temperature, mold, mildew, condensation, chemical, insect, UV radiation and other damage. “Even the bird droppings that had a terrible effect on the last set of loudspeakers,” jokes Mr. Jacques. The electronics contained therein are obviously protected by the cabinet, but in their own right, the components are also specifically designed to withstand the aforementioned elements. This assures the Technomad loudspeakers will perform reliably for many, many years. Customized bass and coaxial drivers start out as paper cones, but after Technomad’s proprietary three-step chemical process is applied, the driver material more resembles plastic then paper. Technomad’s unique chemical treatment assures the cones will not absorb, or be effected by, water or moisture. The driver material will maintain the proper balance and mass to provide accurate audio in all environments. Regardless if the climate is thick with humidity and rain, freezing cold or severely dry in blazing hot conditions, a Technomad loudspeaker will always deliver uniform and consistent sound quality. Technomad’s chemical process also extends the lifespan of the driver itself in extremely hot and dry conditions by preventing the cone material from drying out, weakening and cracking in short periods of time. Water, should it get on the drivers, simply sheds away, like water beading and running off a freshly waxed car. The Berlin loudspeaker’s WeatherTech grill breaks down and sheds away the most tenacious wind driven rain or water. Incredibly fine mesh and foam inner layers prevent insects, rain, sand and even the finest dust from entering the cabinet. Two Berlin loudspeakers were installed in St. Joseph’s left tower, facing south and east, and two Berlins were installed in the right tower, facing north and west. The Berlin loudspeakers are powered by two Peavey IA-400 amps with a Peavey SMR-6 preamp. Mr. Jacques notes, “The Berlins work very well at 200 Watts, even though they are rated at 450 Watts. I was originally concerned about having to give them more power, since they are essentially now operating at half the recommended power handling. Even in spite of the low power, I have a ton of headroom on the system.”

Mr. Jacques felt it necessary to add more flexibility to the new Carillon system based upon the high fidelity loudspeakers that were installed. A JVC 5-disc CD carousel player, along with a JVC Dual cassette deck was added to the system. The congregation is primarily Polish, and there is a substantial library of traditional Polish music on tape. Mr. Jacques notes, “A lot of traditional Polish music is not yet on CD. Therefore, the need for the JVC dual cassette deck. By facilitating the playback of this traditional music through the Carillon system, the congregation becomes more in touch with their Church, as well as their heritage.” An Atlas-Soundolier Panel Monitor Panel, model MVXA-195, reads out all cue sources. An Atlas-Soundolier ACKL-191 AC power Control Panel is located at the top of the rack and the entire system is secured in a 20U lockable Atlas-Soundolier rack. Mr. Jacques points out the CD player comes in handy for special events, such as weddings, holy days, such as Easter and Christmas, as well as somber events such as a service for a fallen police officer, fire fighter or other public servant. Vector recently tied in the house sound system into the Technomad Carillon system, thereby allowing overflow congregations to hear special events or holiday services. Mr. Jacques comments, “The rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ on bagpipes, as performed by the Royal Scotch Guards, played through St. Joseph’s new Technomad Carillon system is incredibly moving. You would think the Royal Scotch Guards were playing this piece of music live in the parking lot. The harmonics are incredibly intricate and reproduction is as faithful as I have ever heard on any outdoor sound system.” The system is programmed for Angelus and Westminster Chimes to signal 3 time daily prayer at 6 am, noon and 6 p.m., not to mention six-bell peals, 15 minutes before each mass, followed by a number of hymns. There are 2 masses each day, during the weekdays and four masses each Saturday, and Sunday. Mr. Jacques states, “The Technomad Carillon system is used very regularly. In fact, it’s on 24 hours per day.” “Right after the system was installed, in the late spring of 1997; I wanted to surprise the congregation. After the first communion, when the congregation was starting to depart, I put ‘Pachel Bels’ Canon’ on the CD player. As soon as the first notes came through the steeple loudspeakers, everyone stopped, spun around and stared at the towers, mouths agape, in awe. I did not expect the power of the system and the music would have such a dramatic effect on the congregation and community. I live three and a half miles away, and on a calm night I can hear the bells and music loud and clear. So can every other member of the congregation within that range.”