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DiGiCo's S21 Finds A Faithful Following In The House-of-Worship Market

Photo: Epic Church tech Michael Embry helps make services even more “epic” on a new DiGiCo S21 (photo courtesy of Epic Church)

The DiGiCo S21 was designed to deliver a miracle: an entry-level digital console that retains all the features and innovations that DiGiCo is known for, and at a price point that makes DiGiCo’s quality, ergonomics and style accessible to a much broader range of users. That’s exactly what the house-of-worship market has been responding to as it embraces the S21 as a way to bring the benefits of a digital console into the church.

“What’s interesting is that we’ve found that the house-of-worship market is actually a very challenging one,” observes Matt Larson, national sales manager for professional audio products at Group One Ltd., DiGiCo’s exclusive US distributor. “Churches can actually push the technology harder, especially in larger churches, because they’re using the console for so many unique applications—services, special events, ceremonies—and at the same time it’s being operated by a group of users with a wide range of knowledge levels. That’s why the S21 was designed as carefully as it was—it has to perform under such a range of conditions. Everything about its operation is intended to feel very intuitive. It’s really very analog in the way you can approach it, but you’re getting the benefit of some very powerful, very mature digital processes.”

Very powerful, indeed. The S21, which operates at 96kHz, incorporates features such as 40 Flexi input channels, 16 Flexi aux/sub-group busses, a LR master bus, a 10x8 full processing matrix, four dynamic equalizers, four assignable multiband compressors, 16 assignable graphic equalizers, eight digital FX and optional Waves® integration. This combination of features and usability has made the S21 a perfect fit for HOW users.

At Epic Church in Decatur, Alabama, Worship Pastor Justin Barnett brought in an S21, purchased through Sutherland Sight & Sound of Sheffield, Alabama, which let him set the console up in the church’s 1,000-seat sanctuary before the purchase was made, to let church leaders and volunteers familiarize themselves with the desk.

“We knew we needed an upgrade,” Barnett recalls. “We needed more adaptability, flexibility, to let us use the console for front of house, for monitors, for streaming. We wanted a better-sounding console and were ready to take the next step.”

That’s what the S21 offered: an easy and seamless transition from their analog past to their digital future. Features such as multiband EQ and effects processing all being onboard and integrated into the work surface convinced the technical team there, while a combination of affordability and undeniably great sound sold church leaders on it.

“When he heard it, our lead pastor said, ‘That’s not leaving the building—we’re going to buy it!’” Barnett recalls. “Once they saw and heard the console, it pretty much sold itself.”

At Rockdale Community Church, in the Atlanta suburb of Conyers, the S21 became the inflection point for its transition from analog to digital, much as the church itself had morphed from its beginnings as a so-called “portable” church, setting up and tearing down every Sunday morning in temporary locations, until it found its first real home 15 years ago. Throughout that time, Brad Lingerfelt, the church’s audio volunteer for its entire 22-year existence, was learning his craft. He and the church were ready to make the jump to digital mixing, and the S21 was waiting for them.

The console turned out to be especially useful for a mid-sized church that was experiencing a growing number of productions and events. “I really love the S21’s snapshot and spill set features to manage the ‘production’ our the services,” says Lingerfelt, adding that the desk’s snapshot recall and multitrack virtual sound check capabilities allow him to record rehearsals and events, take the files home to create mix files on his laptop, then bring those back to the church and transfer them to the console via a USB drive. “I can get so much more done that way and it’s ready to go,” he says. “No more scrambling on Sunday morning.”

Stories like these are music to Matt Larson’s ears. “We designed the S21 with this kind of user very much in mind,” he says. “It meets their needs at a price they can afford and it lets them ramp themselves up operationally at their own pace. Listening to Justin and Brad, it confirms that we succeeded.”

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