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Archive for the ‘Church Acoustics’ Category

All discussion, Articles, Educational info and comments are added here.

The two edge sword of Church Acoustics

Posted by jdbsound on February 13, 2018

The Rectangle is the best sounding room with the right acoustical management system. The Rectangle is the worst sounding room without an acoustical management system.

An Acoustical Management system is being able to anticipate all of the ways a worship space is used and then design a custom acoustical system that can be installed to manage all or most of the worship acoustical events in one step.

By Joseph De Buglio

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Don’t Share Microphones!!!

Posted by jdbsound on January 30, 2018

Hi Everyone,

With cold and flu season hitting everyone so hard, just thought to remind those who sing or preach in church to not share microphones. Microphones are a great way to pass on the cold, flu and other contagious illnesses. You voice is a musical instrument and you need to do everything to keep it in good working order. For this reason, you should own your own microphone. By not sharing you mic, you can avoid getting sick or at least get sick less often. Here is an article I wrote in 2009 that is still relevant today. https://www.jdbsound.com/microphone_health.pdf

Joseph De Buglio

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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. Most likely installed in this 1800 seat church in the late 1940s or early 1950s. 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 a 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 1990s 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 their traditional worship service, this delay could have continued to serve 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 a 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, whereas a reel to reel system would have cost around $2,500.00. And consider this, the tape would have 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 ongoing 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 1980s.) 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 center screen is a video wall.

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

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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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Romanian Church gets Excellent Acoustics and Reviewed by Professional Sound Magazine Article

Posted by jdbsound on August 6, 2016

Churches don’t often get Reviews for their Acoustics and Sound System.  Kevin Young did such a review of one of my projects.  The installation company was CS Acoustics from New Hamburg, Ontario.  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.  Kevin Young is a Toronto based musician and freelance writer.

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 and there are a lot of myths.  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.  Church acoustics is so complicated that often, a seasoned acoustical expert like myself will have to fix one of a kind acoustical fixes often.  Those unique fixes are often not shared because others may think that the one of a kind fix would be needed in every other church that has the same problem.  You can have 10 churches with the same acoustical problem but in every one the fix has to be modified because of the other variables that have to be included.  The rest of the knowledge about church acoustics is held by experts because the church community hasn’t taken ownership of that knowledge yet and there is no system in place for churches to share their experiences in order to avoid mistakes in the future.  What is missing is the wisdom in knowing what acoustical fixes will enhance worship verse what acoustical fixes exchanges one set of problems for another set of problems. Problems which holds back and undermines the real worship experience the church leaders want you to participate in. 

All church can have great acoustics and sound.  If each church denomination or independent church were to set-up their own “Church Sound Standards” for the performance of their sound systems and worships space acoustics, churches will become the kind of places where people want to go.  Once a standard is set, every church will have a 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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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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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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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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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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Singing at 105dBa!

Posted by jdbsound on April 10, 2015

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

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

Please tell us what you do when mixing.

Joseph De Buglio

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

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

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Are Churches growing or shrinking?

Posted by jdbsound on March 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joseph De Buglio

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Church Aesthetics

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

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

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Church Acoustics Advertising :-)

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Message for Architects and New Church Buildings

Posted by jdbsound on February 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio  

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

  

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First Acoustical Impressions

Posted by jdbsound on January 31, 2015

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

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New Article on Sound Loudness in church

Posted by jdbsound on January 20, 2015

Just another article on the ever increasing sound levels in church.  Is it good or bad for the church community?  When a congregation can singing at 105dB, are they damaging their hearing even though they are singing acapella?  Click here and find out! 

Article written by Joseph De Buglio

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Acoustics extends the life of Church Restorations

Posted by jdbsound on December 16, 2014

Apparently it is true.  At a recent church meeting where a 160 year old Roman Catholic Church is being restored, the acoustical treatment that I designed will also help to preserve the walls behind it.  The acoustical panel will carry current and future artwork while the walls behind the acoustical system will be sealed.  With no paint going onto the walls, the existing brick and concrete will no longer be degraded by the chemicals in the paint.  This could be the first time where acoustics, Church Iconic Art and preservation are combined together.  According to the restoration company, this approach could double or even triple the cycle between major restorations. The church has already been partially treated for sound acoustics and the improvements have convinced church leaders that the rest of the room should be treated as well.  For this church, no absorption is being added.  Only diffusion is being added to create a phase coherent worship space.  The restoration company thinks that adding acoustical treatment system an affordable way to extend the cost of the restoration and it will give better results for hearing and the sound system performance.

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Phase Coherent Diffusion – Tube Radiators

Posted by jdbsound on November 9, 2014

Here is a You Tube Video by Acoustic Geometry that explain another aspect of our system of sound management in churches. John Calder is very good at explaining things in front of a camera.  Sure, what he explains is about studio and home theatre but the same benefits apply to churches in a big way. Acoustic Geometry has no association to JdB Sound Acoustics. Joseph De Buglio

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Maranatha Church, Hamilton, Ontario Canada

Posted by jdbsound on October 24, 2014

There are over 400 churches that have very good to great acoustics.  There are another handful of churches that have great acoustics that were not planned as high quality worship space.  Sometimes it just happens.  Churches with good to great acoustics makes up less than 5% of the church community.  Why?  Just recently, Maranatha Church in Hamilton, Ontario has joined the ranks of one of the best sounding traditional style church in and around Hamilton.  Look them up and have a visit.  You will not be disappointed.

The congregation can down out the organ.  When does that happen?

maranatha 02The congregation can drown out the organ. When does that happen?

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Speech! Speech!

Posted by jdbsound on October 9, 2014

How to recognize speech?

or

How to wreck a nice beach?

—————————————

How does your church sound system perform?

When you’re listening to your church sound system what are you hearing?

If you are listening to your minister and you can’t tell the difference between these two phrases, don’t be too quick to blame the sound system.  The acoustics in your worship space could be limiting the performance of your sound system.  Chances are, if this is happening, congregational singing and praise and worship could be affected too.

Did you know that 90% of churches with poor acoustics can be fixed? So how much does it cost to fix the acoustics of a church?  A typical turn-key installed church sound system runs from $55 to $140.00 per seat or higher. High performing acoustical fixes in existing building run from $12.00 to $35.00 per seat and for new churches before they are built the acoustics can be a low as $23.00 per seat.  A fraction of the cost of a church sound system.

Well, you will need a sound system anyway so why do acoustics?  If you include the acoustics, you can have the acoustics and sound system combined for the same $55.00 to $140.00 per seat and have even better sounding sound system with less sound equipment or even with budget equipment.   That’s right!  A lot of current mid to high-end church sound systems are over designed because most of the designers of them think that more equipment will somehow side step physics and correct the room acoustics.  Well, that will never happen.  Oh!

Did you know that when many of these touring companies go from venue to venue, not all of what you see is turned on?  In many cases the same rig that needed everything turned on in one 10,000 seat venue only had 1/3rd of the same sound system turned on in another 10,000 seat venue.  For most outdoor systems, everything is used but for indoor venues the room decides what gets turned on and what is kept off but for convenience, the whole rig is set up every time.  What you see is not always what you hear.  Many times only a third of the twin line arrays are turned on. Every professional sound engineer  who mixes live sound for a living who knows and gets great sound consistently will tell you that less is better.

So what does this mean for churches?  When the acoustics are great and it meet all of the needs for worship including congregational singing, you can have great sound with up to a third less sound equipment.  That then give you two other options.  You can add more to the multi media budget or have higher quality equipment to get that extra sonic quality you wanted for the pastor or the praise team.

By getting your church acoustics managed properly, the church win in many ways.  First off, churches that have better acoustics and matching sound systems have an average higher attendance of 10 to 25%. With higher attendance you have a larger financial base for missions and other church programs.  Churches with better acoustics also have a much more stable memberships and have better successes at planting new churches.  Church staffing is easier to support and when building maintenance is required, the funds are easier to raise.  Along with that and something that is rarely mentioned, a church with higher attendance should also mean church pastors being better supported.

Finally something that I have repeated often, church acoustics usually pays for itself in 12 to 24 month.  What other item can a church invest in that pays for itself?  What investment is there that pays out a 100% return in two years or less?

by Joseph De Buglio

PS:  The opening lines are from an audio magazine news article in the 1980’s.  Couldn’t find the author.  However, the origins of the phrases many have dated back to Bell Lab around 1928.

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Methods of Church Acoustics

Posted by jdbsound on September 17, 2014

The following is an overly generalized statement but bear with me.

If I had followed the secular methods of doing larger room acoustics for churches over the last 25 years, I would be still looking for my third acoustical project.  Instead I ditched the methods taught at school and followed the scriptures method of doing church acoustics. Now over 450 churches have very good to great to excellent acoustics.  The science is all there, it’s just used in a different manner and it gives churches what they really want.  It gives a church a space they often hear about but never thought possible in their acoustical nightmare.

Doing church acoustics the biblical way always get the results a church wants regardless of the style worship you practice.  Hey, I used to do churches using secular methods and while it changed the room, often it limited or stifled the worship.  Church acoustics should enhance the worship and bring people together.

What should be louder?  A 37 rank pipe organ or 450 people singing?  How exciting is it when the congregation can out sing a pipe organ without effort!

What should be louder? A 40,000 watt sound system in a 600 seat church or the 500 people singing?  The people should be louder. Such acoustical marvels are already in churches that use the biblical method of church acoustics.

Whether your have a store front worships space, a warehouse worship space or a purpose built church for a worship space, they all can have excellent acoustics right from the first day you worship in it.  Hey, I didn’t make the rules or the laws of physics, God did, and following God is what we are to do as Christians.

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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Test Room Results

Posted by jdbsound on September 4, 2014

The test room has been a great success.   We are getting meaningful results down to 100 hertz which is the limitation of the test speaker.  Hope to get a subwoofer for lower frequency testing.  In the meantime,  had a worship space with a problem at 230 hertz.  Found a pattern that will add an extra 30dB dip at 230 hertz on top of a general 20dB dip from 100 to 600 hertz.

jdbsound test room

At another church, there was a peak of 25dB between 800 to 1200 hertz.  Hope to have a pattern to solve this problem soon.  It shouldn’t take more than a week to figure out such a pattern.  I will keep you posted.

 

 

Joseph De Buglio

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The Testing Room Part 1

Posted by jdbsound on July 13, 2014

test room 002

The test room is well underway in becoming reality. Here is a photo of the crew transforming one of the rooms in my new home into a test lab.

test room 001

This room will allow us to measure and test an unlimited number of configurations of equalizing and matching the acoustical fixed for churches.  Since computer simulations don’t work with this technique of acoustical sound management for churches this is the next best thing.  In earlier testing in other room years ago, the tests done translated very will into larger spaces.  In the past, this testing was only to find the most common acoustical problems churches have.  Since then, churches have been demanding even better room control and this test room will allow us to customize the acoustics of any worship space.

It is our hope that the ability for room testing will be ready in the next two weeks.

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

 

 

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