Struggling with the limited number of inputs offered by its FOH console, Chapel Hill Church in Washington state’s Gig Harbor recently upgraded to a 24-fader Solid State Logic Live L350 Plus that now run the PA for the church’s main 1,450-capacity sanctuary, provides the monitor feeds for musicians and singers and also feeds a broadcast stream.

‘I recently moved to this church and a couple of months into my tenure we started experiencing some problems with the previous console,’ says Connor Caldwell, who is Chapel Hill’s full-time production director. ‘I came from a church that was running an SSL Live L200 console, so I told my technical director an SSL Live would be a great fit for us. We looked at the options and ultimately landed on the L350 Plus, and it has been a game-changer.’

Chapel Hill Church CCI Solutions supplied the desk via its office in Seattle, Washington. Caldwell reports that the improvement in audio quality was apparent the instant it was installed – but this was not a surprise, as he had been through a similar upgrade with the L200 at his previous church.

‘On both occasions, once we were pumping stuff through those preamps, there was a noticeable difference in the tone and sonic quality and depth,’ he says. ‘We were able to strip off all the plug-ins on the DAW input channels because now it sounds the way we want it to sound.’

Caldwell finds that he no longer has to use onboard DSP to correct the audio in the sanctuary either, as he did with the previous console, and instead is using processing purely for creative purposes: ‘We don’t use any processing to try to get rid of things we don’t like. We’re just using the SSL onboard processing to enhance the already good stuff. Mostly, it’s a lot of the basic processing, like the SSL Bus Compressor for gluing drums together, the de-esser for spoken word and some reverbs and delays.’

Chapel Hill Church holds two services every Sunday morning, with audio passed over Dante from the console for the church’s broadcast feed, which is distributed out of a DAW.

‘The flexibility of the L350 Plus is phenomenal, especially given that we do a traditional service with a pipe organ, brass, strings, timpani, bells and choir at 9 o’clock and then a new contemporary service with a modern band at 10:30,’ says Caldwell. ‘So the flexibility of the console and the scalable I/O was a huge, huge draw for me.’

The new system includes one ML 32.32 Stagebox, with 32 remote-controlled SSL SuperAnalogue mic/line inputs and 32 line outputs on the front panel and a second ML 32.32 stagebox, with just 32 front panel input connections. Both are connected over Madi to the FOH console. Having 64 lines from stage to the L350 now means that Caldwell and his team can quickly strike and reset the stage for the later contemporary service without repatching – a process that used to take 30 minutes.

‘It could get really confusing when you’re dealing with volunteers,’ he recalls. ‘But now everything has its own input on the stage, so we don’t have to do any hot-swapping of inputs. And we’re not even flipping between show files in the SSL; we’ve done it all with the onboard automation. It will automatically set everybody’s monitors where they need to be, and set up faders, groups, layers and all that fun stuff. We just clear the stage, bring out the instruments and we’re ready to rock.

The L350 is also used to feed monitor sends to the musicians and singers at both Sunday services. For the contemporary band, which typically includes drums, bass, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars and as many as five vocalists. ‘We use the SSL Live TaCo [Tablet Control] app. We authorise all their iPads and lock into their specific auxiliaries at the start of a rehearsal and then they just mix their own ears.’

Contemporary service band members noticed the improvement in audio quality the first time they heard themselves through the new Live desk, Caldwell reports. The classic service musicians also noticed the sonic improvements with the bell choir.

‘Those have always been instruments for which it has typically been difficult to get the clarity that we want, especially over our pipe organ, which has somewhere in the range of 3,800 pipes. That thing puts out some volume, so it can be a little difficult to hear the bells over it without feedback or other mess that you don’t necessarily want to hear. But the very first weekend we installed the SSL console was a bell choir weekend, and they said they could hear themselves in the room.’

‘We got feedback from the pastors and congregants, too,’ Caldwell adds. They asked, “What did you do? The bells sound so good now?” It wasn’t so much what I did, it was the magic of the SSL.’


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