Church Acoustics and Sound Systems

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How to Know if your Church has Good Acoustics – Part 1

Posted by jdbsound on February 3, 2016

Here is the first test you can do to know if you have good acoustics.  Have two people over 40 years of age standing 40 feet apart in the sanctuary.  Have one person on stage and the other anywhere in the audience.  With the room empty, the sound system off, with the lights on and whatever mechanical system that are on during worship, have the two people start a conversation.  The person in the audience area has to be understood by the person on stage equally as well as the person on stage to be understood by the person in the seating area.  This is important as all churches are used to hear and communicate from both ends of the worship space.

If the two people can converse for 5 minutes understanding each other, chances are your church is in good shape.  If hearing and understanding at 40 feet is not good, then move in closer until you do.  When speech becomes clear, that is the free field distance of the room.

If you can converse at 40 feet well, try moving further apart.  Keep moving apart until it become hard to understand or your up against the walls of the church.  If your able to increase the distance for understanding speech, then as you get further apart, the better the room most likely is.  This is step one.

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Church Ceilings

Posted by jdbsound on January 8, 2016

Tip of the day.

If your planning a new church or plan on buying or leasing a commercial building, there is no instance where a floor and ceiling that are parallel that sounds good.  Sure, there are a lot of churches and worship spaces that have parallel floors and ceiling but when compared to cathedral, vaulted or angled ceilings, there is a huge difference.

When the ceiling and floor are parallel, it is harder to manage the stage sound, congregational singing suffers and room coverage suffers too.  It is harder to get good bass sounds as the frequency is limited by the height of the room.  So if you have a 20 ft ceiling, sounds below 50 Hertz will distort as you increase the volume to “feel the sound.”

To change the room, changing the ceiling is cheaper and better than changing the floor as the angle of the floor is limited to how long people have to stand on a sloped floor.  The more time you spend worshiping on your feet, the less a sloped floor makes sense.

When you change the ceiling, you can also make the acoustical treatment tunable at no extra cost.  Tuning means you are equalizing the room passively.  This form of control remains more stable when humidity and temperature changes.  Congregational singing increases humidity within the first five minutes and temperature within the first eight minutes of worship.  If you find your mixes are falling apart after the second or third song of singing, it is because the room changed, not because of your mixing skills.

Tip of the Day

Joseph De Buglio

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True of False about new Christians

Posted by jdbsound on December 4, 2015

True of False.

Most new Christian first heard about Christianity through a sound system when visiting a church or from TV or some other multi-media.

Please write your comments below.

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Introduction Updated – About

Posted by jdbsound on December 3, 2015

Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a church and not understanding or struggling to hear what is being said.  With all the science and knowledge there is, there is no excuse for any church, new or old to not have good sound.  Sadly, only five percent of the total church community has sound quality that is suited for worship.  Sure, there are some churches that have one aspect of church sound that passes but very few churches can do speech, music and congregational singing well.

Church Acoustics is one of the most difficult professions to work in. While it is complicated and the variable are infinite, it is made much easier with consistently good results when following the biblical method of controlling any room.  There are only a few people in the world that follow this method but once you experience the quality of the acoustics of one of these churches that are managed in this way, everything else sounds disappointing.

The Church Sound System is one of the easiest systems to design, install and use when you have good acoustics.  When you have poor acoustics, the sound system always fights back and lets you know where the problems are.  Until the room is tamed, no amount of sound equipment or expert knowledge can overcome the physical barriers of the room.  In an age when headsets, ear buds, HDTV, computers and home entertainment systems are of such high quality, first time visitor and members of most churches want the same quality sound at church.  When the acoustics of a church follows the Bible’s example of quality sound (which is a method detailed over 3000 years ago), it allows the modern sound system to perform as good as any contemporary form of media there is and satisfy the most discriminate of listeners while delivering the best level of speech possible.

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Connecting Cell Phones or consumer playback devices to a Sound System

Posted by jdbsound on November 8, 2015

Well, it finally happened to me.  After warning other people for years to use a Direct Box when connecting to a sound system, what did I do, connected an IPad to a mixer with an adaptor from 1/8th stereo to 2 channels of Balanced outs.  Then boom, the IPad headphone output was fried.  How?  The mixer had global Phantom power on all of the channels and because I went into the balanced inputs rather than line level 1/4 inch inputs, the voltage of the phantom power fried the IPad.

When I brought my IPad in for repairs, fortunately it was just the headset circuit that was damaged.  The owner of the repair store said that he had seen this problem before with other IPads, computers, portable CD players and cell phones.  With one person, their IPad was so damaged that the IPad had to have the main board repaired too.  Ouch.

Fortunately, there are a few direct boxes you can use that are purpose made for connecting from consumer to pro audio equipment.  What you want is a direct box that will give you 1/8th stereo and RCA two channel input to two channel stereo outputs via XLR’s.  Some model have a switch for stereo or mono outputs.  Pad switches and ground lifts are a must as well.

On this project we were firing up the speaker system for the first time. I needed stereo output and we used an older mixer that was in storage.  We hooked up to two channel and we were outputting to stereo (even though this will be a mono system.)  OK, I wanted to impress the people who were in the room at the time.  The demo and initial speaker setup was a great success but I happened to remove the connections from the mixer while the mixer was still on.  Not sure if the unplugging or the circuit that was heated up so much that when it cooled, it came apart that signed the connection failure but the next time I turned on my IPad to hear something, it would not work.

Either way, whether you are using a PC, Laptop, Cell phone, IPad, IPod or any consumer product that has 1/8 or RCA outputs, get a proper Direct box.  They range in price from $69 to $160.  That is cheap insurance considering that fixing my IPad cost about $100.00 and 7 days to get the parts to repair it.

For sound quality and extra insurance, get DI boxes that have transformers on the input or output side.

Joseph De Buglio

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This has nothing to do about sound but Churches in Europe are growing!

Posted by jdbsound on September 10, 2015

This is both good news and a rant about democracy.

It has been brought to my attention that there is a silver lining from the fallout of the refugee crisis in Europe.  Churches in Europe are experiencing growth from the Muslim community.  Many Muslims are converting to Christianity at a much faster rate than people becoming radicalized to fight for ISIS or converting to Islam.  Does that mean ISIS and other radical groups are driving their own fellow Muslims to Christianity? Who knew!  Is it possible that this war can be won in part with the love and compassion of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  In the Old Testament when God’s people took to battle, God’s people always won when they were obedient to God.  I wonder what would happen if ISIS drove the Christian converts to fight back for their homes.

For the most part, Christians and Muslims co-exist very well and they have been doing so for centuries.  If enough Christian converts and real Muslims were to organize themselves would other nations such as the USA, European Union, the UN and other rich Arab countries back them up with weapons to take back their lands, change the leadership in Syria and Libya and create a government that is fair and respects it’s people and from the ashes see these great countries rise up and be part of the world community.

Who am I kidding?  None of the world leaders have the guts to lead such an endeavor.  Once upon a time, democracy meant fighting for your rights and freedoms and the freedom of others who asked for your help.  Today it seems that democracy has been chopped off at the knees with ratings, job security and being politically correct while individual human rights take a back seat.  While it is tragic to see a child’s body washed up on shore for the world to see, it should be the gutless world leaders who are standing by and shamelessly watching day after day after day the radicalized cult leaders who are destroying nations be given all the blame of letting such catastrophic events take place.

Democracy has been watered down by fringe groups and the court system that has weaseled it’s way into making laws that the people, as a nation never voted for. Since when does the court system have more power than the government?  As long as the government allows itself to be hogtied by the courts, fringe groups, the self interest groups, the lobbyists, the rich, and the powerful individuals who know how to use their wealth to manipulate our leaders, the democracy as we know it will continue to be spineless to stand up to bullies who are taking advantage of the crippled super power nations who could subdue them in a matter of days.  Are there any leaders out there who care more about the people than their jobs?  Will it be the Christians and true Muslims who will take back their lands?  And if they were to do it on their own, would they become bitter and just as cruel as ISIS are, or will we back them up and see a miracle happen?

by Joseph De Buglio

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Church Acoustics is like Musical Instruments

Posted by jdbsound on June 11, 2015

Church Acoustics is like Musical Instruments.  Every room shape has a unique sound.

  • Violins are Rectangle rooms,
  • Trumpets are square rooms,
  • Clarinets are fan shaped room with 5 sides,
  • Tubas are oval and round rooms,
  • Trombones are octagon shaped rooms,
  • Oboes are like hexagon shaped rooms,
  • Alto Sax is like a pentagon shaped rooms,
  • French horns are 7 sided rooms.

All of these room shapes can sound amazing when they are not broken or absent of the right acoustical management systems.  Everyone wants their church to sound like a violin but the one thing no one can do is make a Clarinet or Trumpet sound like a Violin.  What you can do is create the best sounding and best performing musical instrument. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones and a piano are all great instruments when they are not broken or incomplete.

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A Rant about Church Bible Studies and Mid-Week Meetings!l

Posted by jdbsound on May 14, 2015

I know I’ve had my head buried in the sand successfully getting people to come to church on Sundays.  Better acoustics and better sound does indeed equal more people coming to Sunday worship but what ever happened to the mid-week meetings where people can study the bible and have open discussions? Where do people go if they want something more than just Spiritual Milk and Pablum as what is mostly taught on Sunday mornings?  What do you do if you want to add some spiritual meat into your diet?

In recent years I have started looking at church bulletins, their web sites and have spoken to many church pastors.  Since I travel so much, it has been hard for me to get out to my own church but I do get to speak to other fellow Christians all the time.  Couldn’t help noticing that the most common thing missing from many churches is the mid-week meetings for adults.  Cell groups were popular for a while but they seem to be disappearing as well.

When the question about mid-week meeting was put to some pastors they gave some of the strangest answers ever.  In their replies they say things like, “You’re supposed to feed yourself” or “you can’t control those in the midweek meetings as it seems they all have secret agenda’s.”  or “I don’t have time to lead it.” or “people are too burned out for mid-week meeting with all of their other non-church activities” and so on.

Then I started asking ordinary church members if they would go to a mid-week bible study.  Most said yes and some liked the idea of a later evening study time between 8pm and 10pm rather than programs starting at 6:30 or 7pm.  Late enough for one of the parents to slip out after putting the kids to sleep and not so late to get up early the next morning.  Where it would be a social time as well as a study time, where a light snack and something to drink would be included.  Where it could be in a person’s home or in a room other than the worship space unless the worship space is the only room large enough to gather in.

Has social media, which I don’t use much, replace the need for human interaction?  Am I being old fashioned about how churches were growing 30, 40 years ago?  Is it just me or has the church given up on the basics in how to draw people back to church?  Do you quit bible studies just because only one or two people show up?  Are we so caught up with technology that if we don’t get rewards every 8 seconds, it’s not worth doing?  Has our attention span as Christians been reduce to something less than the attention space of a Gold Fish?

A while ago, there was a weekly bible study started by a minister’s Son.  It was for both men and women and it was not initially organized by the church.  The well planned and prepared bible studies were very successful. The church then sanctioned the study and it went on for years. Suddenly it was cancelled.  The reason wasn’t really clear but there were suggestions like, half the people were from other churches, they were growing inwards and not outwards.  A few people said that the program was self-sustaining but it was not generating any income for the operations of the church.  Seriously! The church was more concerned about profit!

After the first few years the bible study grew to a few hundred people.  Then the bible study stopped growing but it stayed strong for a number of years.  No one was certain if the growth peaked because the room they were meeting in was not large enough for more people, or because there wasn’t any more room for parking or because no one was sharing what they learned.  There was about a 15 to 25% annual turnover of people.  That makes for a very successful program considering some churches have an annual turnover of 50 to 60% for Sunday morning services which suggests there is a lot of spiritual milk being served and little to no spiritual meat being offered any other time through the week to keep people there. This bible study had both milk and meat delivered in the right order as described in the bible.

As it so often happens, this very successful program gets cancelled and another program with good intentions tries to replace it.  The new program fails and now, three years later the church is desperately trying to reboot the Bible study because since it was stopped, overall church attendance and tithing during the Sunday worship services dropped 50%.  Who knew that a bible study program not supported by the church was in fact helping the church indirectly in a huge way.  This church seats over 1000 people.  Just because you can’t see or understand how a successful mid-week bible program works or a weak midweek bible program works, doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on Sunday worship or church growth.

There has been other events that suggests a strong desire of people interaction.  Should a Monthly men’s prayer breakfast replace weekly bible studies?  What happens to people after getting through an Alpha Meeting program?  Some churches are good at promoting 12 step programs but what is the follow-up to that?  Where do Christians go if they want something more than just milk?  Seriously!  Feed Yourself!  Nowhere does it say that in the Bible but there are many times where God says he will send a shepherd to feed his flock.  Where are the teachers to guide us through the milk to meat or even strong meat?

So if the church is not providing places for people to get something more than just milk, where do people go to seek spiritual meat?  Promise Keepers, Full Gospel Businessmen’s association, Women’s Coffee Break, Woman Alive are just a few of the many great organizations. I get the impression that the attendees are mostly people who want more than just getting milk at church on Sundays.  I think a lot of the people who go to these groups are people who are looking for some meat.  The thing is, can you receive meat in large groups?  The Bible says no.

Heb 5:11 – 14 and 1Co 3:1 -3

Meat is for those becoming mature people.  Mature people become teachers.  Teachers start teaching with milk and later teach the meat until those who grow become mature people.  Maturity is not about age, it is about knowledge, experience and being well grounded in the Word.   Jesus by example gave us the Sermon on the Mount which was mostly milk and later he preached meat to his disciples.  Preachers spread the milk and teachers give the meat.  So where does that happen?  Not by just attending Sunday services.  It is by being involved with follow-up teaching.  People are asking for more teaching but many churches have stopped.  Meanwhile I have discovered that some churches have never stopped and those are the churches that quietly move forward.

It is high time that the midweek bible study gets restored and restored soon if we want to see churches be sustained or even grow in North America.  If the church you’re attending is growing and there is no mid-week meetings, how long will that last when there is a change in leadership?  As an observer of many churches, congregations can survive with teachers and thrive without a pastor.  I’ve seen churches build a brand new facility without a pastor leading the way but a church will fall apart if there are no teachers and where there is no meat being passed on for those to become mature in Christ.

By Joseph De Buglio

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What is the difference between scattering sound and diffusion of sound? Are Diffusers Programmable?

Posted by jdbsound on April 26, 2015

The simple answer is as follows.  Half, quart or third round devices or objects individually just scatter sound.  A single barrel diffuser or tube radiator as I often call them just create a very uneven distribution of sound.  As single units, it gives about the same amount of performance as placing a flat object of the same size and placing at a 15 to 35 degree angle on a wall.

When using barrel diffusers in various sizes and/or in spacing varying from 0 to 30 inches and apply them to all of the walls in a confined space, you are creating a diffusive field.  You’re turning the church walls into a phase coherent sound field – like churches of yester year built between the 1400’s to 1700’s.  When barrel tubes are used as a system you can program them to only manage the acoustical problems you want to get rid of and at the same time create a more desirable sound field like real reverberation that is musical and supportive to congregational singing.

Barrel tubes spaced too far apart just scatter the sound and reduces some bass but does nothing much else.  Instead, you can program the diffusers to manage standing waves, bass buildup, notch a frequency or two and equalize a room.  You can also program them to lower stage noise, manage monitor spill into the audience and improve congregational singing.  They can also be programs to make the sound system perform better.

The software to program barrel diffusers is still in development.  In the meantime, a test room, and a data base of real world testing is the best way to predict the final outcomes.  Try and program a digital EQ to cut 350 hertz 40dB.  It can be done but it sounds awful.  When you program tube radiators to cut 40dB, it sounds sweet.

Joseph De Buglio

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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 the 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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