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Church Ceiling Height Chart

Posted by jdbsound on May 26, 2017

Churches these days are building lower and lower building.  I guess when so many churches have poor quality acoustics, many wonder what is the point of building a tall worship space.  As it turns out, worship space acoustics is doing fine and well and a lot of churches are are getting their acoustics fixed, sounding better today than they ever did before.  When a church builds a low ceiling, it limits congregational singing and it makes you more dependant on technology, but guess what!  The same things that limits congregational singing is what also limits the performance of all sound systems.  So, instead of getting 100% out of your high quality over priced expensive sound system, your getting only 40 to 60% of the sound systems true performance abilities.  It is actually cheaper to build higher than the added cost of audio technology to make up the difference.   The chart below should clear the air as to the minimum height your next church should be.

Minimum Church Ceiling height Chart.JPG

Church height is important for a worship space.  One of the biggest parts of worship is singing.  Congregational singing to be specific.  When singing as a group, several elements are required for a good and healthy worship experience.  There is chorusing, harmony, sound volume or loudness of the singing and being able to hear yourself as well as the people around you.  When all of these elements are in balance, the worship experience is like no other.  The majority of people get a lot of satisfaction from the singing experience during worshiping in rooms that have ceiling heights that matches the size of the seating capacity of the worship space. The above chart are minimum heights.  If you want to build higher, you can as the singing experience gets even better but the improvement is more subtle.
High ceilings allow better and less expensive sound systems to be used.  Higher ceiling permit better gain before feedback and it becomes easier to isolate drums and floor monitor. The performance of the sound system is much better too when that is coupled with a good quality acoustical management system.
There are economic advantages too.  The higher the ceiling, the cheaper it is to heat and cool when using a vertical displacement HVAC type system which is specifically designed for large gathering spaces for people.  Such systems cost less to install, they use smaller HVAC components and cost about 30 to 40% less to operate.  In addition, the cooling systems last 2 to 3 times longer before needing to be replaced.
Another thing to consider. If building new, don’t build a flat ceiling that is parallel to the floor. (and it doesn’t count of you put in a sloping floor.)  Many churches that are moving into commercial buildings are learning the hard way that flat ceilings limit the quality of live musical performances and congregational singing.  Sure, there are acoustical panels that can slightly improve the room for amplified sound, but the cost doesn’t justify the returns.  There is little that can help congregational singing even if you have the height. Vertical standing waves are hard to manage than horizontal standing wave. If you know what you are doing, horizontal standing waves can be controlled to create an outstanding room.  It is part of the formula for the almost perfect worship space.  Funny though, most concert musicians that perform in a church that I have fixed, they often make comments like, “I wish our concert hall sounded and performed as well.”  That is almost like saying, “concert halls make for lousy worship space but worship spaces can perform better than a concert hall.”
*Note* In any country that has freedom of religion laws, the worship space portion of a church building has no roof heights limits regardless of local city building height restrictions. 

**Note** The data is based on 2800 churches from North America, Europe, Philippines and Central America. 

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Here we go again. Another lecture about Acoustical Systems.

Posted by jdbsound on April 27, 2017

Like a broken record, I have repeated many times that acoustical problems come in layers.  If you are not happy with the way your church sounds and you think it is an acoustical problem, it is never just a single problem.  Whenever you try to fix that one single problem you think you have, in every case that has crossed my desk, there were 2 to 5 other problems that became apparent and the new problems that are now unmasked by the first problem are often just as bad at limiting what can be done in worship.

For most churches, fixing that first problem with ready-made panels from well-intentioned product manufacturers often costs a lot of money.  It often take a lot of time to raise that money.  Often the cost of such fixes are so high that getting people to put more money into acoustics again is very difficult to do and the willingness to make another fix is gone, or they have lost any trust in “acoustical experts” or confidence that the problem can be fixed.  That said, there seems to always be enough willingness to spending more money on sound equipment and that is what most churches do.  Imagine working on churches that after their first acoustical fix, they replace the loudspeaker system 3 times in 15 years.  Many churches are doing this. You here this expression all the time but replacing a perfectly good sound system and expecting a different outcome doesn’t work.

Churches shouldn’t keep changing their sound system design to try to compensate for the room acoustics.  It doesn’t work and it never will.  Yeah, you know, physics keeps getting in the way but the way churches keep buying sound systems, you would think someone found a magic bullet.  God gave us Physics for a reason.  We need a fixed set of conditions for good hearing and music no matter what. When you obey the physics and understand the fixed set of conditions, great things start to happen.  So, when a church has a proper acoustical management system in either a new or existing church, the speaker system should last 20 to 25 years or until you can’t get replacement parts.  And then you just replace the equipment – not needed to redesign anything. (Ok, if you want to add subs, knock yourself out.) (The rest of the sound system should only be upgraded as your worship style and needs change or to replace failed equipment.)

Fixing the acoustics of any large room used for hearing speech, music, audience singing, live performances, video, movies and for recording is never about fixing just one problem.  An acoustical fix should always be a system.  I prefer the term “Sound Management System.”  Managing sound is about being all-inclusive, and all of the acoustical issues need to be identified before creating a plan to fix the room.  Reverberation time (RT60) and echoes are often the main reasons for most acoustical fixes.  However, these two issues often mask the other problems and taking acoustical measurements doesn’t reveal the other complications.  A person has to be trained to know what to look for.  Then they can take measurements or create a simulation to create a fix.

sono tubes and tectum

This photo an example where a church installed Tectum™ on the walls.  While the Tectum worked great to dampen the overall sound, it made the room very poor for worship.  After installing the Sono Tubes™ on top of the Tectum, the room became a good room for all aspects of worship.

The other common problems that are masked are standing waves, bass buildup, improper frequency response of the room, flutter echoes (which are often exposed when reducing RT60,) excessive early reflections and more.  The question is, can all of these issues be identified at the same time and can all of them be addressed or fixed in one step?  The simple answer is yes.

With proper training and with lots of experience/apprenticing, it is possible to have a total solution in one step. However, often in existing spaces and even in new spaces, what you see may not be what you think.  Often, when you look at blueprints of the worship, the plans may call for an insulated 2 x 8 wall on 12 inch center with half-inch drywall.  Instead the wall is 2 x 6 on 24 inch centers with 2 layers of 5/8th drywall.  When you have a wall that is over 800 sq ft, those construction differences can have a huge impact on how the will room sound.  What you see and what you are hearing can be very far apart. Churches as a rule and most large room gathering spaces don’t have what is often referred to as “as built drawings.”  This would be a set of drawings that includes all construction variations and changes as the space is being built.  When you have a 30 ft wall in front of you, there is no way of knowing 100% how that wall was completed above 7 to 10 ft.  It is a 2 x 8 wall or is it 2 x 6?  Is it insulated all the way up or just the first 10 feet? Therefore, because of all of these unknown variables, it is impossible to predict with 100% certainty of how a room will sound after you apply an acoustical treatment.

One good approach to large room acoustics is to first gain control of the room.  Next add some dampening if needed and finally, sweetening the room if additional control is needed for certain critical listening requirements.  With a 3 step approach, you can get the best possible performance of your space every time.

The first step, getting control of the room, is literally about managing all of the sound issues and anticipating any new problems before they happen if not addressed now.  This often means creating an acoustical solution that turns into a system.  Usually that means treating all of the walls in a large space.  All of the walls need to be managed or included in the sound management plan.  This is not an option.

In one church project, 106 panels needed to be installed. At the end of the day, 2 panels could not be installed on the back wall because the sound booth was in the way.  The plan was to install them the next day.  That evening, the church was needed for a music program.  The two panels that were not installed added up to 60 sq ft. for an 800 seat church with a 35 ft ceiling.  While the rest of the room was sounding great, the sound was awful on stage.  Those two missing panels made the stage/altar area un-useable. To make things worse, it soured the performance of a very good sound system too.  The gain before feedback was such that you had to step off the stage to use any microphones.  As a result, the program was moved to the church gym which was only slightly better.  The next day after those two panels were installed, it was like magic and all of the problems from the night before were all gone and the gain before feedback was such that they could have 10 open mics and still pickup voices from 20 inches away.  Before any acoustical treatment they could only have 4 mics open with everyone needing to be within 3 inches for the same praise and worship team.

Who would have ever thought that a couple of 30 sq ft panels in a space with around 12,000 sq feet of wall space can render a space useless.  That is how powerful an “acoustical system” is.  Every part of the acoustical fix is a critical item.  Just like a battery in a car.  If there is no battery, you can’t start your car and like a car that is made up of many parts, so is an acoustical system.

The other two steps are just tweaks.  When a complete acoustical management design is planned, it should also include tunable adjustments that are hidden in most cases.  These adjustment are always something that the church can do on their own to dampen and/or sweeten the room for those critical listeners or for those with growing talent that need that extra help to get them to the next level of their skills.

Acoustical solutions that only addresses a customer’s main complaints is like buying car tires and an engine.  You’re not going to go anywhere without a frame, body, seats, doors, steering wheel, and so on.  When we buy a car, everything is included.  It is a self-contained system.  When a church doesn’t have a sound management system, it is an incomplete worship space.  Any acoustical fix for a church should be all-inclusive.  Fixing only the RT60 or and echo problem of a church is like adding doors to a car that only has an engine and tires.  What are you going to mount the doors to?  You acoustical fix should include everything in the one step if you want to have great sound.

Joseph De Buglio©

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Tube Radiators not just for Sanctuaries

Posted by jdbsound on September 9, 2016

Tube Radiators work great in any room where discerning listening is required.  Whether listening for pleasure or when recording music and laying down tracks, Tube Radiators creates an ideal space for all of those activities.  india-recording-studio

Here is one such studio.  This room is both a post editing suite and recording room.  The pattern of the diffusers uses 8 and 12 inch half rounds.   Instead of using cardboard tubes, these are made of plywood.  With the room dimensions, this pattern turned out best for creating a high end, high quality performance space that allows for quicker production times.  Way to go Caleb Daniel!  You did an excellent job.

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Professional Sound Magazine Article

Posted by jdbsound on August 6, 2016

Here is the full Professional Sound Magazine Article about the Romanian Pentecostal Church in Kitchener, Ontario Canada.  Please leave any comments or questions below.

Should you have a chance, when your in the area, visit this church.  The people there will give you a tour. Better yet, go to a worship service.  it is different, but worth the experience.

Joseph De Buglio

 

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Can Acoustical Spreadsheets Save Your Church Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on June 20, 2016

There are dozens of acoustical spreadsheets that come with the promise of a viable acoustical fix.  Some sheets are for studios and some are for home theatres.  There are also other spreadsheets for larger rooms.  As rooms get larger, (as in Christian Churches and worship centers) those spreadsheets become less accurate.  Sure, the better spreadsheets adds more variable to compensate for the limitations, but the limitations are still there. Furthermore, with all of the spreadsheets, you have to add an additional line to include a fudge factor.  In some spreadsheets you need to add multiple fudge factor lines.

When a person tries to use an acoustical spreadsheet, they are only looking at one parameter of the rooms acoustics.  You are only looking at “time.”  The problem is, for churches, and I MEAN ALL ROOMS WHERE MORE THAN 150 PEOPLE GATHER TO WORSHIP – there are other parameters that are equally or more important than “time.” Acoustical problems always come in layers.  The minimum number of layers of acoustical sound management in a worship space is 4 layers.  As a worship space becomes larger, the more layers you have to attend to.  “Time” becomes only a fraction of the real acoustical problems you are faced with.  Obviously you can’t see them but you can measure them if you are trained to recognize when you hear them.

Romanian Church Kitchener Ontario Pano 1.jpgThe problem with spreadsheets is that they are not looking issues such as standing waves – and every church – regardless of shape has standing waves (unless the space is acoustically managed in the first place which also means this article is not for you.)  Spreadsheets are not looking at excessive noise from early and late reflections.  They are not looking at bass buildup often found in the corners of a room.  They are not looking at flutter echoes and full syllable echoes.  These are all sound effects than can’t be dialed out with equalizers, delays, algorithms and the next miracle digital gadget or software. (Yet that is how most sound system designers try to deal with room acoustics.)

Regardless of a persons acoustical training, knowledge or experience,  a spreadsheet cannot tell you when standing waves are masking flutter echoes.  A spreadsheet cannot tell you when bass build up is masking a standing wave issue.  A spreadsheet can’t tell you how much the early and later reflections are reducing music and speech intelligibility. 

All that a spreadsheet can tell you is how much “time” it takes for a sound to decay in a room either as an average number.  Some spreadsheets are much more detailed and they have been written as an attempt to calculate a room in octaves or by 1/3rd octaves.  If it was only that easy.  Measuring and calculating time is just a sliver of the acoustical signature of a space people worship in. 

church of our lady small.jpg

It takes a lot of training to learn Church acoustics.  The same applies to Studio Acoustics, Recital Halls, Concert halls and lecture halls.  All of these rooms have specific acoustical needs and they all require a unique set of skills to properly fix them.   

What makes a church so complicated is in how a church is used.  When a church is designed as a “church,” it becomes the most multipurpose space there is because of all the ways a worship space is used.  When you say you want the worship space to be more “Multi-Purpose” or more flexible in it use, you are actually limiting what a basic worship space is supposed to be able to do. 

At the end of the day, an acoustical spreadsheet is only a small snapshot into church acoustics.  It can’t help with congregational singing, it can’t help with a noisy stage for a praise and worship team or choir and it can’t help with drum issues or speech intelligibility. 

What often happens is with the spreadsheet, it will guide you to a solution that is based on absorption.  When an acoustical fix is based around absorption, you wind up “killing” the room for all music – especially contemporary music and congregational singing – and the masking effects of the other acoustical issues get worse.  Sure, the room sounds more tame than it was before, but the ability to understand speech is either no better than before or it has gotten worse.  Before you know it, everyone gets in ear monitors and all of the members of the worship team have to sign an insurance liability waver stating that they will not sue the church for any future health problems with hearing loss.  Seriously, is that the kind of acoustical fix you want? 

Front view of creekside church_edited-1.jpgThat is what you get when you turn to an acoustical solution based only on spreadsheet calculations.  To top it all off, the results are not much better when using computer simulation software programs.  Simulation programs only show you the results at one frequency at a time.  The computer generated image may be 3D but the patterns they show are only one frequency at a time – even when it is averaged out.  To see large room acoustics in a simulation, you need to be able to see the results in 4D.  Hologram can’t show you 4D images.  That ability hasn’t been invented yet.  You need to be able to see sound in 4 dimensions because all sounds are complex.  Every sound made on earth is a combination of wave lengths that are generated at the same time. Some parts of a sound are measured in feet and some in inches.  There is no way to visually see 100 Hertz, which is 11 ft long, and 4000 Hertz which is 3.5 inches long, at the same time in the same place yet in real life, that is what is happening with sound.  We all take sound for granted but the complexity of sound is extensive.

But doesn’t sound follow the rules of fluid dynamic and other laws of physics?  Of course it does, but only when you examine one frequency at a time and that frequency is never a pure tone.  It is always complex.  The only place you can measure and see a pure tone is in a machine like an oscilloscope and the moment you launch that sound into the air, it becomes complex.  Just as sound is complex, so are the acoustical fixes for churches. 

jdbsound test room.jpg
This is one way to test an acoustical solution before you recommend it to a church.  Have your own testing facility.  Whatever research is done in this room, it mathematical translates perfectly when it is scaled up into a larger space.

As a mantra, remember this:  for all Christian churches, acoustical problems come in layers and whatever fix you choose, it has to address all of the layers in one step – which is possible if you want an affordable fix.  There are many tools in the Acousticians Tool Box to fix a worship space. There are diffusers, resonators, traps and other devices that can address the needs of a church’s acoustics. There are also stand-alone electronic solutions that work in certain worship spaces. You need a lot of training to know which ones you need, what combinations you need and how to use them, and the last place you want to do your training and experimenting is on your customers. 

If you are doing Church Acoustics or trying to fix your own church, don’t do it as an experiment and you know it will be an experiment the moment someone in your committee say something like, “lets try this as see what happens.”  With those words, the acoustical solution is already doomed.  Experts like myself can tell you the results the second you decide to try something and long before you apply the materials. 

History shows that after a church spends it’s money on a thing such as acoustics, it will not be able to afford to fix any mistakes for decades.  If the results makes the room worse or no better than before, then you are subjecting the church members to more sound abuse for years to come and we don’t want that.  Spreadsheets don’t fix churches, good training and expert help does. (It’s also cheaper in the end to get expert help.)

Finally,  consider this.  The internet has become a treasure trove of knowledge.  That knowledge is often presented as expert information offering sure fire solutions.  I scan the internet often to see what is out there.  There is a lot of great information.  When you collect all of that info, it only holds a fraction of the total knowledge about church acoustics.  If we were to put a percentage on it, the internet holds about 2% of the total knowledge there is for church acoustics.  The books hold another 8% of what there is to know about church acoustics.  The other 90% of the knowledge about church acoustics is held by experts because the church community hasn’t taken ownership of that knowledge yet.  All church can have great acoustics and sound if they were to set-up for themselves “Church Sound Standards” that represents their style of worship.  Once a standard is set, every church will have a great Sanctuary for Worship everyone can enjoy and appreciate. 

Joseph De Buglio
Acoustician and Expert in Church Acoustics.

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Acoustics are Imuned to Worship Styles and Technology

Posted by jdbsound on May 29, 2016

For churches that have a contemporary worship program or provide worship-tainment, they have the exact same technical limitations with their sound systems as traditional worship services struggle with.  Both styles of worship are restricted equally because of room acoustics.  The worship team can’t hear themselves for the same reasons the choir can’t hear themselves.  The drummer always plays too loud for the same reason the organist plays too loud.  The congregational singing is no better in the traditional worship service as in the contemporary worship service except that in the contemporary worship service the sound system is better able to drown out congregational singing. Ouch!!

In the contemporary worship service where the room doesn’t support good acoustics, the congregational singing seems like it is not included or factored into creating a meaningful worship sound or experience. The church service looks and feels like it is ploughing through worship like a precision soldierly march.  Whether you are participating or not, the service marches on.

In a church with good acoustics the experience is much different.  You understand the words and the meanings of the songs sung.  That sense of worship and fellowship is experienced much the same way regardless of the worship style and denomination/non-denominational church you are part of. 

When the acoustical are bad, yes, some people will get something out of it.  After all, it is a house of God, but for the majority of people they often stand in frustrated silence knowing that whether they sing or not, their efforts will not add to the overall sound in the slightest.  Worship is about sharing, giving and receiving. 

When the acoustics are good, we share our voices, giving it to the room like a ray of sunshine and then we hope and get some of it back along with bits and pieces of everyone else’s sound.  We hear all of the parts of the music, the harmonies, all of the instruments, all of the words. We get moved by their meanings and we cast our walls away to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

When the acoustics are bad, we stand alone.  We hear the amplified sound filling the room but we can’t hear anything else.  The walls around us seem taller and we feel smaller.  Worship is supposed to be an inclusive experience.  The quality of the acoustics of a worship space matter no matter what style of worship you are involved in.

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Completed Two New Projects

Posted by jdbsound on May 18, 2016

Two more church in 2016 have upgraded the acoustics to their worship spaces.

The first one is the Romanian Pentecostal Church of God.

Romanian Church poster 1

The second one is the K-W Christian Fellowship Church.

KW Christian Fellowship Church-1 s

Both churches are in Kitchener.  The supplier of the half round tubes for both projects was CS Acoustics from New Hamburg, Ontario Canada.  As for John Jukes.  He supplies a tube without any spirals plus he can cut them, supply mounting hardware and endcaps to meet fire code requirements.

 

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New Church Sound System Equalization Schedule

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2016

Notice to all Clients of JdB Sound Acoustics.

If you are in a new church building or you have done major renovations in your church, you will have to re-equalize the sound system many times in the first few years.  Here is the Schedule you should follow.

  1. First year – After the 1st month, 3rd month, 6th month, 9th month and 12th month
  2. Second year – After the 4th month, 8th month and 12th month.
  3. Third year – same as year 2
  4. Fourth year – after the 6th and 12 month.
  5. Fifth year – same as year 4
  6. Sixth to tenth year, every 8 month.
  7. After that, once a year.

It take up to ten years for most building to fully cure or longer depending on how much concrete and wood is used.  For that reason, the humidity of the church becomes lower and lower as the church ages which also changes the sound of the worship space.

Also, depending on the climate area you are in, you should be re-equalizing your church sound system for each season.  more so the further you are from the equator.  If you have a digital processor or mixer, you can have presets for the room changes.

Joseph De Buglio

 

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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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