Church Acoustics

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Professional Sound 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 – the acoustical problems always come in layers.  The other truth is, the larger the room, the more layers you have to attend to.  “Time” becomes only a fraction of the real acoustical problems you are faced with.

Romanian Church Kitchener Ontario Pano 1.jpgThese spreadsheets are not looking at 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.)  They 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.)

Without proper acoustical training for churches, 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, or by octaves or by 1/3rd octaves.  That 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 only 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.  I 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 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 the same or worse.  Before you know it, everyone gets in ear monitors and all of the members of the worship team have to sign an insurance 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. 

After a church spends it’s money, it will not be able to afford to fix any mistakes for years, even 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 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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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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