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Vintage Balcony Delay from the 1950’s

Posted by jdbsound on November 25, 2017

This is a vintage passive Analog delay. Mostly likely installed in this 1800 seat church in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. When this delay was installed, there were no electronic devices invented yet to give a long enough delay that this church needed.  This delay was used to manage sound under and above a balcony for around 700 seats. It is 2 inch conduit pipe with a high frequency horn driver at one end and a quality microphone on the other. The length of the pipe is about 25% longer than the distance between the pulpit to the front face of the balcony. Whoever designed this understood very well about the HASS effect. This system was working very well into the 1990’s where it was upgraded to a digital delay and new speaker system to accommodate the transition to a contemporary worship service.

Vintage passive delay

If you look closely you can see the wire for the microphone on top and the  Green Altec high frequency compression horn at the bottom. The microphone was moved back and forth in the pipe until they got the best delay setting. Then the pipe was sealed. The frequency response of this setup was very good. It was +/- 2dB from 1800 to 6000 Hertz. If this church continued with a tradition worship service, this delay could have continued to service the church.

For most under balcony installations, you don’t need full range boxes. All you need is sound from 1200 Hertz and up as the low frequency information will go around objects and under the balcony. If you ever walk into a church and hear great sound under the balcony and don’t see any speaker boxes and grills, if you look closer, you will most likely see just tweeters mounted with or without a small baffle about 6 x 3 inches. Using this approach means that a budget limited church can afford very high end quality  sound under the balcony with better, even sound distribution. This also allows you to use a lower cost 25 volt distribution system for each delay line and you can tap off each tweeter at 1 watt as that is all you will need.

Oddly enough, today, a digital delay is often included in Digital mixers and speaker processors.  To build this passive today would cost as much or more than a 16 channel digital mixer (as of 2017).  Historically, this church could have used a reel to reel tape recorder on a loop to create the right delay. In those days this passive system may have cost around $500.00, where as a reel to reel system would have cost around $2,500.00.  And consider this, the tape would of had to be replaced often, the belts inside of the recorder would have to be replaced often and delay drift would require readjusting as belts would stretch over time.  A reel to reel loop system would have been an on going expense that most churches would want to avoid.

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “set it and forget it” (Ron Popeil is credited for using that phrase in infomercials of the 1980’s.) but this passive delay system was just that.  Once set, you could forget about it and it would last forever.  This is an excellent example of high quality sound churches can afford.  Whoever designed all of this did an excellent job.

(This is information is not yet in Wikipedia. Nov 2017)

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Where are the Carboard Tubes

Posted by jdbsound on August 28, 2017

Churches use a lot of Cardboard Tubes in acoustical room fixes because they are very effective in getting the room performance they want and need.  Cardboard Tube not only outperform all other acoustical products in churches but they are also the most affordable.  There is nothing that can do what half round tubes can do, even at 40 times the cost.

Ok then, what if you don’t like the look of cardboard tubes around your worship space.  Here is an option some churches have been willing to spend a little extra for.

image10

These look like standard 5 inch deep absorbing panels.  They are not.  These are Sono Tubes mounted in a wooden frame and covered with cloth.

image9

The cloth was an added expense and it was worth it.  The fire rated cloth is expensive and before covering the panels, you want to make sure the acoustical system is going to work and work it did.  The church is very happy with the results and they are enjoying the room.

image8

This is what the installation looked like before it was covered.  The wooden frame has no effect on the performance of the half round tubes.  The cloth only affects frequencies above 10,000 Hertz which means they have no effect on speech or music.  In this installation three sizes of tubes were used.

image7

At the bottom is a huge video wall screen.  On the wall are the Sono Tubes.  Yes, the tubes will work behind a vinyl screen.  If you notice the pattern of the diffusers on the wall. that pattern was needed to control lower mids and bass sound energy.  This pattern was pretested in our test room.

northside church video wall

Here is the finished installation of the video system.  It takes three projectors for each screen.  The centre screen is a video wall.

Photos courtesy of Frederic Lachance of Northside Church in Coquitlam BC, 2017.

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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 experienced only poor quality acoustics, many wonder what is the point of building a taller worship space.  As it turns out, existing worship space acoustics is doing fine 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.  Also, a taller worship space does not mean being stuck with longer reverb times. A higher ceiling means natural room reverberation is adjustable and tuneable.  With a taller ceiling you can change the frequency response of the whole room without needing a sound system or equalizer.

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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