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Historic UK Church Brings its AV Productions into the 21st Century with Facility-Wide Dante Network

Production flexibility, audio distribution, and ease of use were top goals for a new sound system at Guildford Baptist Church

Thirty miles southwest of London lies the town of Guildford in Surrey, England. It’s a vibrant and growing community known for its excellent shopping centers, burgeoning theater district, and as home to Guildford castle, built in the 11th century. The equally vibrant and growing Guildford Baptist Church is in the heart of town. Established in 1824, the church has expanded its facility many times as its congregation grew. It recently took another big step forward by completing a £7 million renovation of its Millmead Centre, including a brand new, facility-wide AV system based on a Dante network.

Graham Bennewith, Installation Director at DM Music Ltd, was the engineer and manager for this project. DM Music Ltd focuses almost exclusively on providing technology solutions for churches and protected historical buildings. Opened in 1972, the Millmead Centre at Guildford Baptist Church has a 650-seat auditorium, multiple meeting rooms, classrooms, offices, a recreation hall, a lounge area, and coffee bars. March 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Millmead Centre’s opening and the end of these renovation and upgrade projects.

“From planning and design to fundraising and installation, this project has been more than ten years in the making. The vision was to redesign the facility and bring it into the 21st century, making it more useful for the congregation and the community,” said Bennewith. “As part of the renovation, church leadership wanted a complete audio network solution to control, configure, and manage the main auditorium’s sound system, as well as easily share that room’s audio with auxiliary meeting rooms throughout the facility.”

Bennewith explained that the auditorium’s previous sound system was more than 20 years old and was not designed for full-range music production. The church had other large rooms with audio systems, but they were stand-alone, analog-based, and not integrated with the main system. If the church wanted to share audio from the main auditorium to the other large rooms, they would run bundles of cables down the corridors and through doorways from space to space. The church also has more than a dozen other meeting rooms and smaller spaces where they wanted to share content.

“The main auditorium needed a sound system capable of producing and running live music performances, and also have audio easily controlled and shared throughout the church,” said Bennewith. “So, the biggest thing was being able to have the flexibility to get audio from any point in the church to any other point in the building with minimal disruption and minimal user interaction. For us, that means a Dante audio network.”

The Dante platform is a complete AV-over-IP solution that allows audio, video, and control data to be transported over standard 1Gb Ethernet networks. Supported in more than 3,500 Dante-enabled products from more than 500 manufacturers, Dante replaces point-to-point analog and digital connections with software-based routing, effortlessly sending AV channels anywhere on the network with perfect digital fidelity.

“The interoperability that Dante brings to installations is key. The church had an existing Behringer X32 digital mixer, so we added a Dante card to link to their brand-new dLive console, which is also Dante-enabled. Dante’s cross-brand flexibility means that any product can be used from any manufacturer,” said Bennewith. “The church also has guest groups and performers come in with their own Dante-enabled equipment, and we can bring them into our systems and share signals and DSP systems very easily and efficiently.”

Installed Dante products at Guildford Baptist now include an Allen & Heath dLive digital mixer, an SQ5 digital mixer, and a DT168 stage box/preamp system, along with Yamaha MRX-7D and MTX-5D matrix signal processors, a Behringer X32 digital mixer, and a set of Ampetronic loop amplifiers for the hearing impaired. Dante Virtual Sound cards and Dante Via software have been installed on production PCs providing multi-channel routing of computer-based audio.

The team uses Dante AVIO adaptors to connect non-Dante equipment to the network. These affordable, easy-to-use adaptors allow users to connect audio gear or computers to a Dante network. Available in a range of USB, XLR, AES3, and Bluetooth configurations, Dante AVIO input/output adapters connect audio devices to any Dante network with no software installation needed.

“Users want an AV system that works simply and reliably,” said Bennewith. “With easy-to-use touchscreen panels in every room, users can walk in, touch a button, and through the power of Dante, audio is instantly routed to that room.”

“DM Music’s support during and after the installation has been excellent,” commented Duncan Stonehouse, Operations Manager at Guildford Baptist Church. “The quality of the audio system and user interface allows users to operate the system themselves. Plus, the system has the flexibility to deal with all requirements of a large-scale performance in the auditorium, which is fabulous.” 

“The church loves the system and their new AV capabilities. They even held a service with three events happening simultaneously in three locations. Since the spaces were interconnected via the Dante network, participants could speak back and forth in real-time between the rooms,” added Bennewith. “Anytime a customer requires tying multiple spaces together, we recommend a Dante network. It gives us a ton of audio flexibility and allows us to be creative in designing a fun, easy-to-use, future-proof space that will meet the customer’s needs for many years to come.”

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