Church Acoustics and Church Sound Systems

Setting the highest standards possible in sound quality and performance for speech and music.


  • JdB Sound Acoustics

    Ph # 519-582-4443

    email: jdb@jdbsound.com


    Delhi, Ontario, Canada


    Working with Churches around the World.

  • Archives

  • April 2015
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Stone Mason Gets Passed Over

Posted by jdbsound on April 23, 2015

What does a Stone Mason and a Church Acoustics expert have in common?

http://www.jdbsound.com/art/stone%20mason%20gets%20passed%20over.pdf

Would you know if the best person to do a job was a person from your church or church community?  What if that person was one of the most skilled persons in the world for that service?  Would you know it and would you hire them?  Would you rather hire someone who is worldly, charges huge fees, who give the best sales pitch over someone who is better skilled, who charge less because they want their work to be accessible to any church, not just churches who can afford the big buck and they hype?  Is it possible for a Christian to be the best in world at something else other than being a Christian?  Hope you enjoy the true story of a Stone Mason.

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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Church Sound—Another Perspective On Lousy Audio & Related Issues

Posted by jdbsound on April 21, 2015

Found this article that is a good read.  Enjoy.

http://www.worshipfacilities.com/article/church_soundanother_perspective_on_lousy_audio_related_issues

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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I Hate Mute Switches!

Posted by jdbsound on April 19, 2015

At my church, we still have an analog Mixer.  It has 24 channels, 4 sub groups, Left/Right and Mono out.   We use the sub groups.  Vocal, Drums, Instruments and Leadership mics.  The mixer has mutes on every channel, on each of the mute groups and on the 3 master outputs.  Fortunately, we have a church were the acoustics are stable.  We can run all of the mics open without feedback for normal worship levels. Monitors are stable and so on.  It is also a good sound rig.  When I run the mixer, I turn every channel on and shut off any mute switches.  I control all of the levels with the sub groups.  I don’t want any surprises.

This Sunday it was my turn to run the mixer as we are on a weekly rotation.  Thursday night was rehearsals.  Missed the rehearsal.  Friday night the Youth used the sanctuary and someone used the mixer.  Things were changed but it only took about a minute to set everything back.

As usually, you arrive at the church early for a pre service warmup. Dialed up a great monitor mix.  Everything seem right and as typical, we rehearse and warm up with the FOH speakers off.  When the worship team stopped it was time to turn on some background music.  Turned on the CD player, saw activity on the channel, raiser the fader for the channel and the channel was assigned to the Mono Main Out.  Raise the mono out and nothing happened.  What!!!

Checked the power switch to the powered speakers.  Check to make sure the processor was on and passing a signal.  Nothing.  Called the head tech for the church, he checked everything out. He checked the mixer and he agreed with me and thought that the power switch was faulty.  He removed the power switch and bypassed it.  Still no sound!  Double checked and found that the power lights on the back of the powered speakers were indeed on.  The head tech and I stared at each other confused wondering why there was still no sound.  Then he looked at the mixer again and this time noticed that the Mute switch on the Master Mono Main out was engaged.  He hit the mute switch and the rest of the sound system came to life.

In the year of mixing at the church, the Main Left/Right and Mono outs have never been muted.  The mixer is a spilt mixer where 16 channel are on one side of the mixer, 8 channel on the other side of the mixer and the Groups and master outs are near the middle of the mixer.  For some reason we were blinded in not seeing the red mute lights in that area of the mixer as there are other red lights in the area for other things.

Later I learned that a recently hired youth leader came from a church were the sound system was so unstable that you had to mute everything all the time.  They muted anything that wasn’t needed and because they left the mixer on 24/7, they had the habit of muting the master outputs as well.  The head sound tech and I had a good laugh at the whole experience.  For me, I should have known better as this is about the 3rd time something like this has happened.  This is the first time with powered speakers, but before I had people thinking there was something wrong with the mixer.  So please, unless you have a wonky unstable system, please don’t use the master mute switches.  They are great for a studio but not for live sound.

Joseph De Buglio

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Singing at 105dBa!

Posted by jdbsound on April 10, 2015

Congregations can sing at 105dBa.  At least that is what they do in churches that I have fixed and that does happen in other churches too, that perform well.  When they do sing that loud, what do you do?  Or, what do you do when the congregation is starting to drown out the sound system?

  1. Keep pushing the sound system to keep up with them.
  2. Keep the sound system at 90dB and let the congregations voices dominate.
  3. Lower the sound system FOH levels so that the congregation can enjoy what they are doing.
  4. Push the sound system to drown out the congregation as always regardless if the sound system is distorting or not.

Please tell us what you do when mixing.

Joseph De Buglio

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Question! What would you do to fix the Acoustics of this Church?

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2015

You have a church that seats 750 people.  It is a simple rectangle room with 30 ft walls, 40 ft to the peak, 80 ft wide and 140 ft long.  The reverb is 2.2 seconds at 300 hertz and 1.3 seconds at 2000 hertz.  An Energy Time Curve test show reflections over 30dB at one second on the ETC in the 300 hertz range.  The floors are carpeted and the pews are padded seats and backs.  All of the walls and ceiling are insulated drywall on 12 inch centers.  Basically there is about 30dB of excess energy at 300 hertz.  300 Hertz has a wave length of 3.75 ft. The church has already tried 4 different sound systems over 10 years and all of them were designed and installed by companies that are supposed to be the best in the business and they all started off saying that the room needs to be fixed – but church board members vetoed anything that would change the aesthetics of the room – but it was OK to hang 2 ugly line arrays which lasted only 6 months.

The church is now asking for another sound system but this time all of the professional audio companies turned down the project and said to the church don’t call us back until you fix the room.  Now the church board has relented and they are allowing acoustical panels to be mounted on the walls. What acoustical method or system would you use to fix the problem?  What will reduce energy 30dB in this space?

For all the walls in the church, between windows, doors and bulkheads, there is only 35% of the total wall space available to mount acoustical panels on. Major issues are – Stage noise, floor monitors as loud as main speaker system in the first 10 rows.  Only 20% of the congregation is ever singing. Speech intelligibility is below 85% in full range – if you roll off the sound system at 200 hertz speech intelligibility improves to 88%.  Gain before feedback is very poor after 3 or more microphones are turned on at the same time. Subs never really sound right.  Pastor hears echoes all the time off the side walls when preaching. Drummer can never hear himself or the other worship team members – even with the headset monitors. The are currently using electronic drums but they have tried drum shields and booths without much satisfaction.

The church used to have a 40 voice choir but they never sounded very good and now with over $150,000 invested in a praise and worship team with all the latest state of the art technology and higher trained sound engineers, they sound no better than what the choir did years ago – but they are better at entertaining people!

(note: this is a fictional church but this is based on actual events that have happened recently in three southern Ontario Churches.)

Joseph De Buglio

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Are Churches growing or shrinking?

Posted by jdbsound on March 23, 2015

Being in the church sound and acoustics business for over 33 years, you get around enough to see firsthand if the church community is growing or shrinking.  After all, when all of your income comes from providing a service exclusive to the church community, you would want to know if your services will become obsolete or not.

The question stands, is the church community growing or shrinking?  The short answer is – – – – the church community is growing and church attendance is growing.  Churches for the last 100 years have been growing on average about 10 to 14% every year.  That is the good news.  Unfortunately, that 10% growth annually is not the same as 10% of the population.

It seems that sometime around the mid 1970s the population started to grow in North America (and the rest of the world for that matter,) at a fast rate than what the church was growing.  In order for the church to grow at the same rate as the rest of the world, the church would have had to grow up to 25% annually.  So while the number of Christians in relationship to the total population is declining, the church continues to keep growing.

What also makes it harder to keep track of church growth is the number of breakaway churches that leave the umbrella of the denominations where church growth is not often recorded to any national data base.  In my work, I get to see both denominational churches and independent churches.  At the end of the day, it seems that there isn’t much differences between them.

Many people who were part of denominational churches often leave to get away from the institutional, the bureaucracy, the rules, the regulations and static growth burdened by years of complacency.  The problems I am hearing from people who have been going to these larger “growing independent churches” is that after a while, they complain about the same institutional, bureaucracy, rules, regulations and push for more growth burdened by years of complacency.  The difference is that they are inside the same bureaucracy that they left years ago and often don’t realize that they are now the cause of why people are leaving the independent churches are starting unsupported breakaway churches.  Who is keeping track of those numbers?

Then there are the non-registered home churches that are out there. There are thousands of them that average about 12 people each.  Who knows how many of these groups are there but, at the end of the day, overall statistics pegs church growth at 10 to 14%.  That is good news.  Will the “church” ever be more that 10% of the population again?  Most likely not.

By Joseph De Buglio

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Church Aesthetics

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

Acoustics decides the Aesthetics of a church. If the acoustics are bad, the aesthetics looks one way. When the acoustics are good, the aesthetics looks another way. Did you know that the average person without training can virtually tell what the aesthetics looks like in a church by how it sounds? Did you also know that churches with good acoustics when first built often have better aesthetics that lasts the lifetime of the worship space?

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Church Acoustics Advertising :-)

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

Do you have an echo problem?  We have a fix for that!

Do you have a reverberation problem?  We have a fix for that too!

Are you struggling with your sound system?  We have a fix for that as well!

Having problems with your rectangle shaped church?  We have a solution for that!

Having problems with you round church?  We have a fix for that!

Having problems with you octagon church?  We know how to fix those too!

Having problems with your fan-shaped, oval-shaped or square church?  We have custom solutions just for you!

Are you not happy with your commercial warehouse, storefront or converted mall space church?  We know how to fix that!

Have you already fixed your acoustics 9 times before and your still not happy?

We can fix any church that is absent of any acoustical planning and treatment.

We can also diagnose and fix any church that has the wrong acoustical treatment to get it back on track.

We have never been to a church that we couldn’t fix but we have had churches that were not ready to make the needed changes to get what they desperately wanted.  Oh, did you know that acoustics has always been the deciding factor in the aesthetics in a house of worship whether the acoustics are good or bad.  God taught us that beginning with Solomon’s Temple. (1 kings 6:29 (NIV)On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.  (Please read my article about Solomon’s Temple http://www.jdbsound.com/art/art570.html))

Churches are not temples but they are dedicated as worship centers and houses of learning.  For worship and learning, you need tools. One of those tools is acoustics. You need a system of managing the air between the teacher and listener for the best worship and learning experience.  While a sound system is also a tool it cannot manage the air. It relies on acoustics for it to work. The better the acoustics, the more effective a sound system is.  Without the right acoustics, what are you really hearing or understanding?

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Message for Architects and New Church Buildings

Posted by jdbsound on February 19, 2015

It has been brought to my attention by a number of church members about who gets to decide the final aesthetics of worship space interiors.  Church members of some newly built churches which are less than one year old were pointing out to me that in the end, we acoustical designers get to ultimately decide the final aesthetics of a church – not the architect, no matter how much effort an Architect puts into the aesthetics of a worship space.   If this sounds familiar then check out my post in 2012 where I made a similar post.  This discussion comes up often.

It seems that when acoustics are included in the design stage of a worship space, the Architect has the last say on the rooms aesthetics – assuming the acoustical plans are not compromised later on.  When acoustics are left out of the design phase of planning a new church, it is people like me that get the final say in the room aesthetics. Whether it is while the building is being built or anytime later – even 200 years later, it is people such as myself that often make the final aesthetic changes that will last the life time of a church building. 

The good news is, is that when we are included in the design phase of a new church, often our acoustical designs blend into the architecture and it is often not seen or at least not seen as an acoustical add-on.  In fact, often our acoustical designs come off as the Architects design of the worship space and at times to the untrained person it looks like we had done nothing.   Where friction often comes up, is when after the design of the church has been completed and the church board has given the green light, that is when someone raises the issue of acoustics.  Often there are major acoustical issues as what is taught in Architectural schools is about concert hall acoustics, school auditorium acoustics and lecture room acoustics. 

Church acoustics is totally different and I don’t know of any place were “church acoustics” is taught.  This is often why bringing someone like me after a finished design is presented to a church where butting heads starts.  When there are glaring mistakes being made and we point them out, it often means major design changes which often cost money to change at this phase.  Once past the design phase, churches are rarely ready to pay for design changes that often means delaying the project which increases costs higher.  As a result acoustics is usually left until the church is finished.  But wait!  A church is not finished until the acoustics are done.

As stated before, it is people like me who get to decide the aesthetics of a church when acoustical design is left out.  This goes for new churches, storefront churches, churches moving into commercial buildings or are using commercial building designs and churches doing renovations.  If you are an architect, include us at the beginning of the design process and the aesthetics will be all about you.  Leave us out of the design process and no matter how beautiful a space you thought you designed, it will be people like me who get to decide it’s final finish and sometimes, what we do is not very flattering but when it sounds great, the less than pleasing acoustical treatment starts to look good. 

Joseph De Buglio  

PS: Don’t call us if you want someone to just rubber stamp your worship space designs.   

  

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First Acoustical Impressions

Posted by jdbsound on January 31, 2015

These are the most popular comment congregational members say after the first worship service with their new acoustics. “Love the way the new sound system works.  I can hear everything now!”  or “Did we get a new sound system?  I actually understood the music and the ministers message.” or “What did they do to the sound system?  The people are singing, the music sounds great and I can remember what the minister preached about.  Guess I’m going to have to come more often.”

The influence of the sound system in churches is so powerful that even when you do fix the room, people often judge the room by the sound system’s performance rather than how the room sings or how the room projects people’s voice or how the sound is getting off the stage rather than overloading the stage.  Acoustical changes is way more powerful than what any change a sound system can do but when a sound system falls short, it must be the technology and somewhere someone has a gadget to fix that if you can afford it.  Did you know that most acoustical fixes cost less than the speaker system most churches own?

Joseph De Buglio

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