This Is God's Thundering Subwoofer

My brother worships two things: God and subwoofers.

We were raised to be quiet, well-mannered Lutherans. But for Erik, there was nothing quiet about the gospel. In church, he sang as loud as he could. He didn't care what anyone else thought – he was reaching out to the Lord and it was our problem if it made our ears ring.

One Sunday, the rumbling bass and baritone voices in the choir sang, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", and Erik felt God's presence. That rattle and boom was God's voice literally vibrating his heart. We were still young but it decided everything: He would do the Lord's work and it would be loud.

He enrolled in seminary as soon as he could, spent some time in the Holy Land and discovered that a low-end 25-watt sub could not adequately convey the genius of either John Paul Jones bass work on Led Zeppelin IV or the sermons of that other John Paul. Both required an upgrade to a 125-watt Miller & Kreisel MK II sub.

God understood.

My brother must not have mentioned his acoustic theory of divinity when he was ordained because the Bishop assigned him to an elderly congregation in rural Washington State. The greeting committee could hear Pastor Erik coming from miles away – the sound of a booming bass floated across the raspberry fields and through the apple orchards. Things didn't quiet down after he parked his car in the church's gravel parking lot. Erik rejects silences with a roaringly good-natured laugh and a voice that would feel at home in the Super Dome. The senior citizens responded by permanently notching down their hearing aids.

Pastor Erik didn't mind - he just spoke louder and pointed out some immediate problems with the pretty, white-steepled church. First, the 20-year-old sound system was not up to the task of conveying God's word.

"This is the Word of God we're talking about," he said. "It needs dignity and a high power 12-inch subwoofer with a neodymium magnet and a vented enclosure."

The Church Elders blinked. Pastor Erik was not like their other ministers.

This young whippersnapper wanted to take this flock in a new direction. It didn't matter if they needed walkers, dialysis or a hip replacement to get there– they were going to hear and feel God's word.

He met any resistance with an out-pouring of Lutheran wisdom. Why spend thousands of dollars upgrading the sound system for a congregation of only 80 people? Because in 1541, Martin Luther himself said, "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." Pastor Erik watched his congregants closely and asked if they were willing to run the world's greatest treasure through a dusty old sound board that muddled the low range? Would Martin Luther want that?

The Elders decided to approve a budget of $US9000 and Pastor Erik set to work.

His first move: bring in Jim Hall, an acoustician who has spent 42 years installing commercial audio systems in the Northwest. Hall and the Pastor huddled near the altar and laid out a battle plan. Hall wanted to deploy a four-speaker TOA HX-5 variable dispersion system above the altar to ensure speech clarity. It's what he typically recommended for small churches.

"But it won't rock, will it?" the Pastor asked.

Hall was a little surprised – most churches were content with the HX-5 system. But this minister was sharp. He knew the HX-5 couldn't deliver the low end. The Pastor was asking Hall to push himself, to dig deep and that could mean only one thing: the FB-120B.

The 120B is a crunk-ready 600-watt sub guaranteed to strip the paint off the steeple of any church silly enough to order it. It's exactly what Pastor Erik was looking for.

The system took eight hours to install. They added a 16 channel Mackie 1604 VLZ3 mixing board, an EAW CAZ 1400 dual-amp for the HX-5 and an additional CAZ 800 amp interlaced with an Ashly cross-over for the sub. The final touch: two 1-inch tweeters over the choir.

"It's got to be the best system for a church its size in the Northwest ," Jim Hall says.

To test it, Pastor Erik grabbed the nearest CD he could find: a copy of Veggie Tales left behind by a preschooler. He pressed play and the voice of Larry the Cucumber boomed across rural Washington as if Abraham himself had just come down from the mountain to tell the world that he had a new hat and it was made of lettuce.

Pastor Erik heard the music and it was good. It didn't matter what the Cucumber was babbling about. The tune sent its shock waves through his bones and brushed across his soul like a divine wind.

Now and truly, God was in da house.

Joshua Davis is a Contributing Editor for Wired Magazine who wrote about deep sea cowboys and the world's largest diamond heist. (Both of which are being adapted for film.) He's also the lightest man to ever compete in the US Sumo Open.

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