WEXFORD, Pa. – The Biblical truths it teaches may be ancient, but its look is decidedly contemporary. Orchard Hill Church, located north of Pittsburgh in Wexford, offers a striking architectural design around its beautiful 1,200-seat auditorium. And just as modern is the church’s new sound technology, L-ISA by L-Acoustics, integrated as part of a $1.3M design-build renovation of the main worship center.
L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound may be cutting-edge audio technology, but its mission is the same as the church’s: to let the message take center stage. And there is science behind that. “It’s been clearly shown that when we can connect what we see with what we hear, the technology disappears,” explains Josh Maichele, L-Acoustics Application Manager, House of Worship. Specifically, he says, our eyes want to watch a pastor on stage but our ears draw our vision towards the PA speakers reinforcing their voice.
L-ISA technology effectively disconnects the sound from the sound source, allowing audience members to focus their attention on the stage, immersing themselves in the content. “L-ISA makes the connection between sight and sound more natural, and in the process, breaks down the technical barriers to worship,” continues Maichele.
Orchard Hill Church Technical Director John Cornelius was introduced to L-ISA at the L-Acoustics facility in the Westlake Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, where worship-technology directors can experience L-ISA first-hand, diving deeper into its technology. “It’s a step-by-step process, starting with a demo of the system and then sessions during which visitors can get hands-on with the mix, using prerecorded worship tracks,” Maichele explains. “John arrived knowing nothing about L-ISA, and he left excited by its possibilities for Orchard Hill Church.”
Cornelius, who has been with the church for more than two decades, confirms. “I remember going in thinking that immersive audio was kind of a gimmick; I was definitely skeptical,” he remembers. “But after a few minutes with Josh going through the system, I was all in. It was very impressive. The thing with immersive is that it’s very hard to describe, but once you experience it, it’s amazing.”
Orchard Hill Church’s new L-ISA technology, installed with assistance from integrator Key Code Media and L-Acoustics Certified Provider (CPi) Hollowood Sound, consists of five L-Acoustics arrays spread over the stage that comprise the Scene system, with two smaller outside arrays over the stage wings that make up the Extension system. The three center-most hangs feature five A15 enclosures each—four Focus over one Wide—flanked by two outer hangs of five A10, also four Focus over one Wide. Behind the center array are two hangs of three KS28 subs each. And on the far left and right side, three A10 hangs of two Focus over one Wide serve as Extension. Between the Scene and Extension arrays on each side are three A10 Focus used as outfills, bringing the flown array count to eleven hangs. In addition, 14 5XT coaxials are flush-mounted into the face of the stage for frontfill.
The Scene and Extension systems are powered by 12 LA4X amplified controllers, while two LA12X are used to drive the KS28 subs and the outfill and ancillary speakers, such as the eight X8 used to cover the very last rows of seating. The immersive system is managed by a pair of L-ISA Processors paired with an Avid VENUE S6L mixing console, and an Auvitran audio toolbox handles the MADI, AVB, and Dante format interfaces for the audio system.
In terms of hands-on operation, Cornelius says L-ISA quickly went from intimidating to exhilarating. “Once you learn how the L-ISA Controller works and you break your mental mode around stereo, it’s easy and even intuitive,” he says. “And the results are spectacular. It’s a great format for house of worship because we can so precisely locate the sound. That’s nicely experienced during the 20 to 30 minutes of music we have at the beginning of services, but it’s especially useful for the time when the pastor is center stage—L-ISA keeps the focus totally on him, and it really increases engagement.”
In fact, audience members have noticed. Cornelius says some of the more sonically astute members of the congregation have responded positively to how L-ISA makes the music better. “One very specific comment I received from someone was that he could really hear the decay of the cymbals on the drum kit,” he marvels. But others have commented on how authentic and of-the-moment L-ISA has made the church’s sound. “And that comes from people who don’t have a background in pro audio,” he says. “L-ISA shows that immersive sound is truly a new kind of reality.”