Virginia’s Southard Audio recently overcame the challenges of lockdown when it deployed its brand new Martin Audio WPS system for the first time, helping the congregants of Harrisonburg’s Divine Unity Church to move outdoors for a special, socially-distanced service.
The event marked the first time that the company was able to use its WPS system, which recently joined the large format WPL system that Southard Audio has been using for a year.
Founded by Mike Southard in 1980, Southard Audio is known as a leading events specialist in Virginia and beyond. “We do large events throughout the Eastern US and a little bit into the Midwest,” explains Managing Partner Jason Misterka. The company has also long benefited from a working relationship with Soundworks of Richmond VA – the two became the first WPL owners in the world when they each purchased 24 WPL cabinets, 12 SXH218 hybrid subs and 12 iKON iK42 amps.
Taking WPL out on the road for year was enough to convince Misterka that it was time to add more Martin Audio to the Southard inventory. “After using WPL for a year we wanted to phase out some of our older boxes and standardise everything around one system that all of our techs know how to use. So when the WPS came out we jumped.”
But as soon as the WPS system arrived, COVID-19 brought events to a halt. The first opportunity to deploy the new system came months later, when Divine Unity Church decided to make the most of its outdoor space.
“This was literally a church service in a parking lot and we were happy to have the gig!” Misterka recalled. “It was organised very quickly and there was no infrastructure in the parking lot, there was no stage and to make things harder it was on a hill.”
Adding further complications were the unique challenges of providing live sound in the time of a pandemic. “Due to COVID-19, we didn’t feel comfortable having a front of house position in the audience,” explains Misterka. The audience was actually made up of three areas: first there were seats that were socially distanced, then behind them were cars where people could get out but remain in their spot, then finally there was a large screen for people who remained in their cars and listened to a broadcast.
“Even with the social distancing, we didn’t want to set up out front. We felt very confident in making that decision because we knew the Martin Audio Display software and we trusted both it and the hardware.”
Instead of a traditional FOH, the team set up an OB-style mix position in one of the company’s trucks. “We drove the mix from that location using a reference mic, studio monitors, IEMs and headphones. We also monitored the mix from a car over the FM broadcast and regularly checked the audience area to make sure that we were on target.
“Of course, we spent a significant amount of time listening and ensuring that we had the correct coverage prior to the audience’s arrival, but the point is that with WPS we were able to achieve very consistent coverage in a way that would not have been possible with a lot of other speakers in extremely difficult circumstances. It was our first time out with WPS but we believed in it and it worked perfectly.”
The main system for the event comprised eight WPS per side with a single SXH218 subwoofer per side for low end. In addition, two CDD-LIVE12 were used as front fills and two CDD-LIVE15 for out fills. A rack of three iK42 amplifiers powered the system.
Misterka concluded: “I have a feeling that WPS is going to be our workhorse for at least 70% of the gigs we do. It was also extremely easy to rig and I love it for that! Especially considering that this event was on a hill, with any of our other systems it would have been fifty times harder.”