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Archive for the ‘Educational Must Read Articles’ Category

Did you know that there are Secrets in the Bible still being Discovered?

Posted by jdbsound on July 17, 2020

What does God say about modern church design?

What is the best sounding church for worship?

What is the best balance for speech, music and congregational singing?

Does the quality of the acoustics and sound system at your church honor God or Man?

The battle for a person’s soul is a constant war on many levels. The people involved are ministers, preachers, scholars, experts, archeologists, historians, prayer warriors, educators, and ordinary Christian people who provide different ways of bringing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The tools we have are Bibles, books, reading materials, colleges, universities, missions, donations, churches, multimedia, sound systems, and more.

Christians are taught in the sufficiency of scriptures. Many believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and never question it. Some of the knowledge in the Bible is still teaching us today. It is only now that we are learning how relevant it is for all Christians and Jews.

Since the beginning of when Jews, and later Christians, started to build larger spaces for teaching and worship, most projects would run into common problems. These problems have been like a plague for Synagogues and Churches alike. The solutions to those issues seem elusive or beyond reach and yet the remedies to most of those issues have always been in the Bible.

For the rest of this article,   Bible secrets in the open

By Joseph De Buglio

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How to Improve/Fix Congregational Singing Permanently

Posted by jdbsound on March 6, 2020

Congregational singing is perhaps the third most important part of worship.  Prayer and preaching of the Gospel come first and second.  In many church publications and websites, there are many articles about how to improve congregational singing.  When you say improve congregational singing, what are you truly asking for?  In almost every case, they are asking how to get more people singing.  And the theory is, the more people sing, the more they will be engaged. 

Here are some of those titles. 

  • 7 Tips To Encourage Singing in Your Church – Gavin Adams
  • Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship
  • 12 Things to Avoid for Better Congregational Singing
  • Fifty Ways to Guarantee Poor Congregational Singing
  • How to improve congregational singing: 4 suggestions to …
  • A Simple Way to Improve Congregational Singing: Get Rid of the Carpet

There are many more.

The ideas recommended are extraordinary, and most of the time, they are putting the bulk of the blame on the church leaders, including the pastors and song leaders, this is so wrong.  The truth is, all of the recommendations outlined are the result, such as trying to put a square peg into a round hole.  There is a simple solution to all of this.  When you read the articles, what church leaders are doing is a direct result of compensating for poor acoustical conditions.  Choosing the right keys to sing in, choosing a better selection of songs, hiring professional singers, and performers, in the end, it only helps things slightly.  The thing is, what the audience keeps telling me is that when they are singing, they feel like they are singing alone, it creates a sense of loneliness.  People feel as if no matter how loud they were singing, their efforts have no contribution to the overall volume of the congregation.  When you can’t even hear yourself, most people just give up and don’t bother singing.  Some may just mouth the words.

Sure, there are times when we see people at a concert singing a particular song, and it sounds impressive, but the reality is, those people will not sing the whole show at that volume.  It is more about having an emotional high and nothing more.  It is doing something to capture a moment for personal gratification and bragging rights.  That is not worshiping in any sense of the word.

My take on how to get the congregation to sing is by first identifying the source of why people don’t sing in your church.  In 90% of the churches that I have helped solve their congregational singing issue, it has always been around one reason – acoustics.  Here is some background you should know.

This is a new church with diffusers built into the walls. The quality of this room is such that when this photo was taken, the congregation drowned out the Pipe Organ. The organist said he pulled all the stops and he could not hear the organ for some of the songs they sang. At one point he stopped playing. With a sound meter recorder at the pulpit, the congregation hit 105dB several times and no one complained that it was too loud.

The struggles of congregational singing started long before the sound system was invented.  It is my belief that Choirs were formed originally, because when Christians first started to worship in existing pagan temples, (after the edict of tolerance,) most likely, those temples had such poor acoustics that the congregations back then had the same problem of not hearing themselves.  Then some talented singers found that if they stood in a particular part of a room, they could hear themselves and create an awesome sound of choral singing within the pagan temple.  That talent was later included as part of the worship.  When Christians started to build churches, when the buildings were finished, they asked the better singers to go to the part of the worship space where their voices were effective in creating this big sound where a few people would sound like many.

In the end, as more and more churches were built, the choir became the focus of congregational singing, and even though the congregation was encouraged to sing, the choir was the focus, not the congregation.  This continued throughout church history in one form or another.  Sure, some large cathedrals have these amazing sound effects. (Sound effects do not support congregational singing or speech.) Still, in the end, it is the choir and the organ that dominated worship, not authentic worship singing or hearing the Gospel.

Throughout the Reformation period to today, churches have been experimenting with worship space designs to discover the Rosetta stone of church acoustics.  Churches have been trying to create a worship space without any acoustical planning.  It hasn’t happened yet that we know of and if there is a church out there that works, where is it?  Why would it be kept as a secret?    When the room helps the singing of the congregation, the congregation will sing, and they will sing as loud as they are inspired to.  The same properties that makes congregational singing work, speech will be equally as good.  Around the world if there are such churches that have the proper balance of sound, for speech and congregational singing, why has no one documented these jewels or studied them to see what makes those churches better than others.  No one has made permanent records for future churches to follow. 

It seems that when a church gets known for its musical performance quality, it usually suffers from speech, and for years people have been brainwashed into believing that you can’t have a worship space that is good for both speech and music.  That comment is true, for a musical performance space or concert hall.  This is not what a church needs. A church needs a room to support congregational singing, not musical performances. 

When I get hired to fix a church, one comment that is repeated often is, we can’t afford or don’t want a concert hall.  That is the whole point.  You don’t want a concert hall, and it would be detrimental to a church to have such a space.  Concert halls do not support congregational singing, none of them do.  Concert halls are awful for speech.  If you look at most concert halls today, when it comes to speech, they close curtains, expose absorption panels, and they rely on costly sound systems to broadcast speech events.  Concert halls are either-or spaces.  They cannot support speech and music equally.  Furthermore, they don’t support audience singing at all.  How do I know that?   When I go to most of the churches that I have fixed in the past, when the attendance is around 90%, the congregation can drown out the pipe organ, the electronic organ, and the amplified worship team.  Yes, it is possible for the congregation to drown out a sound system with professional Christian performers leading the music.  That is what good acoustics can do in a worship space.  When people try to sing like that in a concert hall, it sounds like chanting in a sporting event.  It is not very musical and singing in four part harmony is out of the question.  In a worship space, a well-motivated congregation can sing over 105dB with the sound system off when the acoustics are managed for congregational singing.  If only the sound system could perform that loud without distortion and without the congregation complaining about the loudness.

Consider this, the invention of the sound system and its introduction into churches merely ushered in over time, the ability for contemporary worship, with the goal to get more people singing.  Yes, many churches tried amplifying the choir as a means to get the congregation to sing, it didn’t work.  When it came time for speaking, the sound system failed as well to amplify speech properly without feedback – This created a dilemma.  To make the sound system perform better for speech, churches add absorptive flat panels, and that usually means killing the room, which in turn, discourages singing.  The sound system was believed to be the solution to improving worship, but the truth is, the sound system can only amplify what the room allows.  In this struggle between the sound system and church worship, no one looks at the room as being the limiting factor.  Instead, observers and people asking whomever as to what can be done, the fingers point to the technology, the pastor, the song leader, and the soundmen who get all the blame.  All of the other recommendations are meaningless until the room is fixed.

The only complaint this church has is that congregational singing is much louder up front.

As I mentioned earlier, I fix the sound in churches all over the world.  Without changing the leadership, the pastor or song leaders, and without changing how worship is conducted, with the methods I use, most congregations go from 10 to 30% of the audience singing to 65 to 90% of the audience singing when the room is fixed.  That happens because there is a way to make the room very responsive to exactly what people need to hear and feel during the singing portion of worship.  At the same time, the same system improves the quality of speech, and as a bonus, the performance of the sound system increases substantially more.  Doing church acoustics correctly, is being able to have a room that does both speech and congregational singing equally well.  It also winds up being a good room for Christian concert and drama performances.  Is it really possible to have a worship space that does everything well?  Yes.  Should you think that this is about a compromise? Think again, it is not.

The method of sound management that I have been using in churches is not of my design.  I cannot take direct credit for these successes.  I learned from an expert in Church sound.  This sound management system that is now in over 450 churches, is the same method as originated by the hand that guided the fingers of King David, who designed King Solomon’s Temple.  The acoustical system that I use is the same system that was designed by God.  As I said, I can’t take credit for the success in the churches that have this system.  Here is condensed version of how I learned about it.

Years ago, I had read or heard this verse in 1 Kings 6:29, which says that on all of the walls within and without, there were carvings of Cherubs, Palm Trees, and open flowers.  Then one day and as the pastor was reading this passage from the pulpit, it dawned on me that the palm trees seemed out of place.  They have no aesthetic value.  There is no spiritual, nor ritual reason for having palm tree carvings on the wall.  Then the acoustical knowledge I was learning at the time kicked in.  If there was no acoustical treatment within the temple, the Levite Priests would have not been able to understand each other.  That room would have been ringing well over 5 seconds.  Under those conditions, even at 24 inches, the reverberation would have made it difficult to impossible to understand speech.  It says that in the large room of the temple called the Holy Place, that the priests taught, they read the laws, they played musical instruments, they sang and prayed.  They also did rituals that would have involved speaking.  What was in the room that allowed them to do all of those activities, which are also the same actions we do in churches today?

After doing a lot of testing and experimenting, I discovered that the shape of the palm tree could be mimicked with cheap cardboard tubes. This changes the performance of any existing church into a high-quality worship space that supports both congregational singing and speech.  Before installing any churches with cardboard tubes, we tested a number of churches.  For the first church tested with cardboard tubes, we used 10 and 12 foot long tubes, leaned them against the walls of a church and left them there for three weeks.  At the end of three weeks, not only was speech so much better, but the number of people participating in congregational singing doubled.  This was a huge surprise, and it was unexpected. We repeated this test in a dozen churches, and all of them had similar results. With those outcomes, I started recommending churches to use half-round tubes around their worship spaces, and every time as a new installation was completed, the results were almost all the same. (Let’s face it, some room shapes are better than others.)  Speech improved, and congregational singing always was much better.

In most cases, at the 6th month follow up to an installation, the contact person would tell me two things.  The first was an attendance increase.  The second was that 65 to 90% of the congregations were singing every song.  In most cases, there was no change in leadership, or order of worship or how singing was conducted.  All of the deadspots in the room were gone.  Now you could sit anywhere and sing out and feel like you are part of something big.  Sometimes I also got glowing reviews of how the sound system was fixed when nothing was done to the system except for some equalization. 

Since around 1994, over 450 churches have applied this method of managing the sound in their worship spaces.  All of them have reported similar results.  The interesting thing was, most of these churches didn’t hire me to fix their congregational singing.  They hired me to improve the performance of their sound systems.  They wanted better speech intelligibility.  The half rounds tubes are the most cost-effective solution to improving the performance of any sound system.  This method fixes the sound system much better than using any absorptive panel. 

There is also a unique feature that half-round tubes have that no other acoustical system can do.  The half-round tubes, when laid out in a specific pattern, can equalize a room.  By adjusting the spacing, the sizes, and when using prime number sequences, if there is enough wall space, you can cut up to 40dB of excess sound energy from 50 to 1200 Hertz.  If your worship space has excess energy, for example, at 400 Hertz and it feeds back there all the time, you can space the diffusers to cut out that frequency range.  No other acoustical system in the world can do that.  The most powerful acoustical system in the world comes from the Bible, and it is designed by God.  Many people say that the Bible is sufficient in all things, and this is another example of that Biblical truth.

We have to stop blaming worship leaders, song leaders, and pastors for the lack of congregational singing.  Saying things like changing the key to sing in or changing the order of music is blaming the worship leaders, and because of acoustics, all of their efforts cannot get any significant results because the room will cancel their efforts.  Song leaders are always searching high and low for answers, and if you watch them carefully, they are constantly trying new things to get the congregation to engage more.  Sure, for the short term, they might get an additional number of people singing, but after a few weeks, it goes back down to where it was before.  It’s not that people don’t want to engage; it is because the room will not allow them to participate in group singing.  This is the real reason why so many churches with contemporary worship styles have sanctuaries that are as good or better that performance clubs in Las Vegas.  So many churches have turned to an entertainment style of worship.  How un-Biblical is that!

On the internet, there are plenty of videos of young people in churches with hands up in the air and swaying to the music, but if you look closely, most of them are just mouthing the words, they are not singing.  That is not worship.  When what goes on in a sanctuary looks more like a rock concert, it is not church or worship.  It is just clean, mostly unspiritual entertainment. 

If there is any blame to go around, here is an uncomfortable truth.  When I am hired to help a church, congregation members always tell me how, for years, they have been complaining to the church elders.  Since churches are so reluctant to share their experiences with sound to other congregations, most church elders feel helpless because there are no standards for church sound and acoustics for them to turn to.  When they ask consultants for help, they say, ask 10 sound guys what to do, and you get 10 different answers.  This madness has to stop.  The Bible has the solution, and it is a solution that just about any church can afford to do. 

The best way to improve congregational singing is by fixing the worship space to the same standards as outlined in the Bible.  In the end, this is the only option.  If your church already has more than 65% of the audience singing, you are most likely not having an issue of the congregation being engaged in worship.  For the rest of the churches out there, seek out what God can do for you.  You don’t need an expert or acoustical consultant or sound system engineer to have a successful transformation.  Churches can do this on their own.  All you have to do is look at the examples on my website and copy whatever layout you see.  If you need more help and can afford the cost of a consultant, hire one who understands the Biblical way to solve church sound problems and congregational singing.  There is no mystery or formula or program when solving the congregational singing issue God’s way.  Congregational singing is also a spiritual issue.  It is what binds up together as believers.  Stop solving spiritual problems using mans’ ways.  God’s way always works.  Don’t take my word for it.  Trust God.

(c) By Joseph De Buglio March 2020.

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The Father of Modern Day Acoustics, Wallace Sabine and Solomon’s Temple

Posted by jdbsound on February 5, 2020

Introduction

In the field of acoustics and sound, many have said that Wallace Clement Sabine is considered the father of modern-day architectural acoustics. His scientific work was not only the foundation for concert hall acoustics, but few are aware of how his work has impacted the church community around the world. According to several sources, he was raised in a protestant home, but as an adult belonged to no church and professed no religious faith, yet his work has impacted churches in ways even Wallace could not have imagined. Wallace’s work included figuring out a prediction model of how to apply absorption to tame a room. He also proved that the reverberation time alone is not enough in helping performance spaces with their sound needs. He laid down a foundation, showing that you need much more detailing and care to create suitable sounding spaces, not just for concert halls, but for full Christian worship too.

Shortly after his discoveries and successes, most acoustical experts, Architects, engineers, and audio experts have focused on one thing, the reverberation time of a room – ignoring much of his actual contributions to modern acoustics. When Wallace created the first equation to calculate how much absorption is needed, most people thought that this equation was something magical. It was almost as if a single number could solve all sound problems for concert halls and performance spaces. While such a numeric value is essential, it was a small part of a much larger picture. Sure, Wallace did devote a lot of his time to such studies. Unfortunately, the absorption calculation moved from being a small tool as part of a broader view of performance acoustics to becoming the only thing that mattered. This equation gained mythological-importance to the point that for many laypeople….

To read the rest of this article, download the PDF file with this link. https://www.jdbsound.com/art/father%20acoustics.pdf

Once again we see science and the Bible in almost perfect harmony. Within science, there are many tools. For acoustics, there are specific tools. With the help of the Bible, it requires a set of tools that are unique to churches. For concert halls, recording studio’s and other entertainment venues, there are a set of tools for each one. Most of those tools do not apply to churches. When the tools of an acoustical consultant don’t use the Biblical tools exclusively, you will always get the acoustical performance of what those tools were based on. If you have only concert hall or studio or entertainment tools, then the results will not meet all of the needs of the church. If you use Biblical tools, you wind up with a House of Worship as the Christian community should have, but most churches don’t have a clue of what they are missing out.

Solomon’s Temple was very detailed in how it sounded. If you believe in the Trinity as I do, because of John 1:3 you know that Jesus design the temple that Solomon built. Without the acoustical planning in Solomon’s temple, the Levites would of had to have super natural powers to hear each other within the walls of the temple. There is no record of the Levites having such powers. What did they do to the temple to make it possible for people to hear in such are large space?

Here is something to consider. If Solomon’s temple is a myth, then the details of how the temple walls were completed should not have survived over history. After all, there is no record of the interior of Herod’s Temple other than some carving on the ceiling that Herod ordered which is not in the Bible. If someone says the Scriptures are not the inspired word of God, then the details of Solomon’s temple wouldn’t matter. But what happens when you apply the details of Solomon’s temple to an existing church? If it is a myth, nothing should happen. If it fixes a church, doesn’t that prove God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? What does that mean if over 400 churches have applied such a system in faith, using the same methods from the Bible to make the acoustics of their churches as best as they can be?

The details of Solomon’s temple matters. Nothing in the Bible is about trivial nonsense. Everything in the Bible has a purposes and the details of Solomon’s Temple is a roadmap to fixing existing churches and it should be a template for new churches today now that we understand why such details were persevered for us in the scriptures today. How many more churches need to be convinced before it becomes a normal way to complete our houses of worship?

If anyone with normal hearing in a church has trouble understanding what is being said in God’s House of Worship, the Bible has the solution for that. And that solution is very affordable. Please enjoy the rest of the article.

The Father of modern acoustics

By Joseph De Buglio (c) 2020

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The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Church Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2019

Here is a fresh look at Solomon’s Temple and how it relates to Modern Churches today. Here is link to a 13 page article about church acoustics from the Bible’s point of view.
The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Sound and Acoustics?

Introduction

The quality of church worship is critical to the health of a church.  The better the excellence of worship is, the stronger the church will be.  Quality of worship is not about packing the church full of people for the sake of filling a worship space so much that it becomes necessary to keep building bigger buildings.  We worship God, not buildings or pastors or knowledge.  It is the Gospel, the Bible that leads us to God.  It is God’s words that keep us in a relationship with Him.  The strength of a church is not measured in numbers in the seats or money.  Jesus taught us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and shelter the homeless.  The Bible teaches over and over again that we are to live by example (Psalms 1:1-6), to be a light in the world (Matt 5:16), when they see that we are different (James 2:14-26), it will be that difference that will attract people to God.

The strength of a church is measured by how people support each other, and by how much a congregation supports each other as a family first, as brothers and sisters, and then the local community.  Is the church feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and sheltering the homeless?  The modern version of Jesus teaching for us in countries with a democracy and wealth should look like this.  Is the church cutting lawns, clearing driveways, cleaning people’s homes, fixing up members and non-members homes?  How often are church members spending time with the widows, the singles who have never had a partner, or the elderly?  Are these not the things included in what Jesus told us to do?  Are not these the same teachings in the Old Testament?  This is just a small sample of how Christianity should look like to the secular world.

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After reading the full article, please comment on it. We want to get this right as the church community needs this knowledge. If you have any questions, want to learn more or see a presentation about Solomon’s Temple and the Modern Church, contact me here – jdb@jdbsound.com

You church may be one of those that has great sound for all parts of the worship service. If it is, you should let everyone know as it will help to bring more people in. You should let us know so we can tell others. If you find this article helpful, please pass it on. Pass it on to your pastor, your friends and family. Give them the chance to learn what God can do for them today!

Thank you.

All modern churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics
All older churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics

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1 + 1 = 3 or When is Doubling the Power, not +3dB?

Posted by jdbsound on June 17, 2019

Here is a simple test anyone can do to determine the acoustical condition of a church.  Physics says that when the power* is doubled or when doubling the number of speakers, the sound level will increase 3dB.  This result is real when outdoors.  This outcome can be false indoors.  When it is false indoors, it is because there are acoustical problems.  Please notice that it is problems, not a problem.  When adding a second speaker failing to increase the sound 3dB, this test shows that it is never a single acoustical issue.  It is not a sound system problem.  The sound system is exposing the root problem. (If the second speaker is wired out of phase, the sound will decrease in level.)

Outdoors, sound follows the basic rules of physics.

When outdoors, if there are two loudspeaker playing with the same volume of pink noise side by side or up to 6 feet apart, and set up a test microphone or SPL meter 30 feet away. (An iPad or phone with testing software can be used if it is calibrated.) When the second speaker is turned on or off,  the sound level will change 3dB.  This result is constant in physics.  The reason this is always true is that there are no barriers around to limit the sounds from spreading out or returning from a reflection that can interfere with the direct sound.

When indoors, depending on the size of the room, often this is not true.  This failure is noticed the most with Subs and sound energy below 500 Hertz.  Doing the same test at 30 feet inside of a church, the sound level change is often 1, 1.5, or 2dB.  If the result is 3dB, there are either a lot of open windows, lots of doors that are open, the church has more than 3000 seating or the church has great acoustics. 

Indoors, sound is confronted with many other rules of physics which changes how the first rule works.

Here are the most common reasons for the sound failing to increase 3dB when doubling the power or speakers.

  • Standing waves
  • Dimensions of the room
  • Too much-stored energy in the corners
  • Too much high-frequency absorption

Standing Waves

Standing waves are excessive amounts of energy between parallel walls within a confined space. The effect of standing waves are not always apparent. Standing waves are usually excess mid and bass frequencies of energy that masks the highs. You can’t hear a standing wave but you can hear the effects of it. To identify if your church has standing waves, go between any parallels walls. Stand about 4 feet from one of the side walls. Make a loud, sharp noise like a hand clap once. If a person hears any rapid pinging sounds, this is a sign of the presence of standing waves. The sound heard is often a higher range of frequencies, and they usually called flutter echoes. Flutter echoes are a symptom of standing waves. Bass sounds, which have longer wavelengths can’t produce the same volume of sound to hear as a flutter between parallel walls. Whenever a person hears flutter echoes, excess bass energy present too. This result is also true for all other room shapes when flutter echoes or flutters from a simple hand clap occur

A second clue to standing waves is when standing at a pulpit or where a minister preaches from. With a hand clap, if the reflected sounds are coming from the side walls or behind you, the standing waves are the cause of it. The standing waves are masking the highs, creating the effect as if it is preventing a large portion of the sound from reaching the other side of the room, and what is reflected back is being canceled out by the standing waves a second time which in turn prevents you from hearing the returning clap. Standing waves have other detrimental effects too. It has the effect of isolating everyone from each other in the room. This result is also why the drums seems to sound so loud and yet, this is also why most drummers strike the drums harder than they have too. It is because they can’t tell how loud they are playing at any volume level. This outcome is also why many people sitting in the pews comment that they can’t hear themselves when singing, and it makes them feel alone in a room full of people. This is the number one cause of people being discouraged from singing.

Any church with parallel walls will have standing waves if there is nothing to manage them

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by the standing waves in the worship space.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

Standing waves can only be removed with diffusion or some form of sound scattering. 

If people try to use absorption to fix this problem, while it will remove the flutter or in some cases, shift the flutters to a lower frequency, the untreated bass energy will make the standing wave problem more pronounced.  It will increase the feeling loneliness and discourage the congregation from singing even more.

The dimensions of the room

In churches with low ceilings or seating less than 200 people, the room is too small to be free from surface related sound inference reflections.  In a larger church space with a flat ceiling less than 16 feet high, the room will have standing waves floor to ceiling which limits the ability to increase sound 3dB with just doubling the speakers.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is that the room is limiting how much the space can support.  The excess air pressure from the extra speaker is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

The only option is to diffuse all of the room if a small church.  If a low ceiling, diffusers will have to be added to the ceiling.  Acoustical tiles and drop ceilings cannot correct this issue.

Too much-stored energy in the corners

Another principal of physic is how sound is affected by boundaries.  A loudspeaker on a 10-foot pole measures 60dB.  We call that free space.  When we put the speaker on the ground, the speaker will be 6dB louder.  That is referred to as “half space.”  When we add a wall and the floor, we call that “1/4er space” and the sound increases 12dB or doubles in loudness.  When we add a second wall to the floor and create a corner, that is “1/8th space,” and the sound rises 18dB. 

Corners collect the air pressure that is created by longer wavelength sounds that accumulate on the flat surface of the wall.  With nothing to direct the sound, the sound pressure moves in all directions.  Eventually, the excess bass energy makes its way to the corners.  Depending on a lot of variables, the amount of energy that builds up is often too much.  Churches will low ceilings, large flat walls, or flat ceilings tend to have too much excess bass in the corners.  All other church shapes, except for domes have varying levels of corner issues if not managed.  Excess corn energy has a similar effect as standing waves.  When there is too much bass, it masks the highs.  This, in turn, creates hotspots and coldspots throughout the room. Hotspots and Coldspots are frequency dependent. If the sound level changes are of a narrow range of frequencies, it was most likely found them with instruments.  When a person notices them with their ears,  it means anyone with a hearing problem will miss out on some of what is being said, or what they heard and what was said was different. 

When the front of a church is in the corner, everything is either 18dB louder or 18dB quieter when compared with churches that have the front on an end wall.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by the bare walls in the worship space.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

Keeping excess sound out of the corners is best done with diffusion.  It cannot be done with absorption unless the absorbers are as thick as the wavelength of the sound waves.

Too much high-frequency absorption

Sound arrives at our ears as air pressure vibrating at a rapid rate.  The faster the air vibrates, the higher the sound pitch.  The slower the sound vibrates, the lower the pitch. The vibrations are referred to as Hertz.  Sound travel at 1130 feet per second.  At 100 Hertz, a bass sound has the wavelength of just over 11.3 feet.  At 1,000 Hertz the sound waves are 1.13 feet, and at 10,000 Hertz the sound waves are 0.11 feet or 1.3 inches.  

When there is too much absorption in the room, what is left is too much bass. The excess bass masks the highs. 

For most churches, carpeted floors and padded seating is all the absorption needed. When this much absorption is add, the congregational singing is very dull and people have to be super motivated to see more that 20% of the audience singing.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by too much absorption.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

The fix for such a problem is by removing the right amount of absorption panels and replace them with diffusers.  Then complete the room by adding more diffusion throughout the sanctuary to correct the frequency response of the room.

These four issues are never a singular issue.  They are often in combinations or can include all four.  Along with these problems, there are often reverberation issues, echoes, excess late reflections, the poor frequency response of the room, and other room problems that have little to do with this simple 3dB test, but they are usually there as well.  These problems can be heard when a person learns what to listen for.  Looking at how sound system is equalized is another clue of room problems.  The issues have the result of the high numbers of the congregation not singing. (In a church with good acoustics, they will often have more than 80% of the congregation singing every they are familiar with.)

Getting two loudspeakers and doing this test is simple and easy to do.  If the sound doesn’t increase 3dB, this means that adding more subs or more speakers into a worship space will not get the expected outcome. For example.  If the goal is to increase the bass in a worship space 3dB, and sound system has only one subwoofer, do this test, If the bass increased only 1.5dB with the second box, then it will take two more speakers just to get a 3dB increase for a total of 4 boxes. Think of the cost of adding three speaker boxes and all of the related hardware required to support that.  An alternative would be to fix the room with diffusion, the gain will be 6 to 10dB of performance without doing anything to the sound system.  It would be equal to adding 8 or 16 subwoofers depending on other acoustical or architectural considerations.  

Science is amazing when appropriately used to provide real solutions. Pseudo-Science or fake data is often used under the disguise of science and can be used to lead churches to false conclusions.  Many experts in audio and acoustics who see the same data, know these problems are present.  If they are not being addressed, it is because they lack the experience in knowing how to solves such issues.  If a person has done this test and the sound system provider or acoustical expert is not addressing these issue, they are not qualified for correcting sound problems in a church.  It’s like asking a Doctor who specializes in kidney problems to do Brain Surgery. What is needed a Brain Surgeon who knows how to fix both the acoustics and to design a proper sound system.

Get the church correctly evaluated before investing in that next sound system.  It can save those responsible a lot of disappointments down the road.  Fixing a room can cost less than replacing a sound system, or it could mean reducing the size of the suggested new sound system.

* Doubling the power required calibrated volume controls or switches to set up correctly as a viable test.

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Really Useful Charts and Helps

Posted by jdbsound on May 20, 2019

This is a chart that gives you wavelengths of sound for all frequencies, speech and music ranges

This is a Church Height chart. These are minimum heights. Building new churches with lower ceiling heights degrades speech, congregational singing, cost more to heat, cool and maintain.

This chart shows the difference between the absorption rate versus decibels. For example, something that is rated as a coefficient value 0.5 is equal to 3dB of sound absorption.

How to Equalizer a church when you can’t afford professional help or your EQ settings have been changed and you don’t have time to get professional help. https://www.jdbsound.com/art/art537.html

Let us know if these files are useful. We would like to add more of them.

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Was Solomon’s Temple for real? If it was, how would it sound?

Posted by jdbsound on May 7, 2019


Was Solomon’s Temple a fairy tale? I don’t think so. I think Solomon’s Temple was as real as touching your own skin. Why? Solomon’s Temple was designed over 3,000 years ago. When you study the sound quality of the two rooms, it describes spaces that were purpose built for specific functions. The room that reflects modern day acoustics is the Holy Place or Sanctuary as we like to call it today. How can the design of a room from 3000 years ago be so good if it was never built or a fairy tale or myth? Do you think that King David or Solomon knew anything about acoustics back then? Did God tell King David and Solomon’s how to design rooms where hearing would be easy or difficult? Could the acoustics of the Holy Room reflect todays demanding needs of sound for worship? Yes. Absolutely!

The only difference between what a traditional worship space and a contemporary worship space would be the need for is adding carpeted floors and padded seating for worship team lead services. Churches with similar dimensions and shape as Solomon’s Temple have a way better worship experience over churches that have other room shapes. That is not to say you can’t have a good worship experience in other room shapes, but if you can remember your best worship experience in other rooms with good acoustical sound management, it is way better when the room is a rectangle. This only happens when the room is twice as long as it is wide, and with a very high ceiling that is 75% of the rooms length. With those dimensions and with the same type of acoustical treatment system as used in Solomon’s temple, regardless of your worship style, the only experience better than that would be in Heaven. And yes, the carvings of Cherub, Palm Trees and open flowers was actually an acoustical system designed by God. The updated version of it work great in modern churches today.

The modified version use half round shapes like the Palm tree. An affordable way to fix any church is with cardboard tubes. Such tubes using a water based glue meets fire codes in almost any place around the world, and does as good of a job as the carvings in Solomon’s Temple. For churches that have little to no money to spare, this is the cheapest way to breath life into all of those existing churches out there regardless of their room shapes. This is the only acoustical system that improves congregational singing (even is dead rooms), and doubles the loudness of the sound systems performance without distortion and without buying more equipment. (assuming that the equipment you already have is up to the task of performing at these levels in the first place.)

Now when I say doubles loudness of the sound system, it means that if you total the components of your speaker system, amplifiers and processors, and multiply the equipment 10 times, that is doubling the loudness. Remember that doubling the equipment or doubling the power only gives you a 3dB increase, but it take 10 times the power to double the loudness without distortion which is equal to 10dB. In most churches, an acoustical fix such as this has a one time costs of about $5.00 per seat. A typical speaker system for a church cost around $30.00 per seat and up. To get the same performance through sound equipment as a room treated with Cardboard Tubes, the speaker system goes up to $300.00 per seat or ten times the cost. If you do a reality check, you would actually have to spend more because you are still fighting the room to keep the sound distortion free. Even at $500.00 per seat, you may not be able to get double the loudness without distortion. To apply this kind of acoustical system as in a church as in Solomon’s temple, it lowers the cost of a sound system while increasing it’s performance. There is no other acoustical system that can do that.

Now Solomon’s Temple was built over 3000 years ago. How did they know how to do acoustical treatment that works in churches today? How is it that something designed 3000 years ago is so sound system friendly? The reality is, God inspired it’s design. Many Christians believe that the Bible is sufficient in all things and that should including church design and acoustics. Shouldn’t we be following what the Bible says and teaches, even in worship space design? (Ecclesiastes 1:9)  The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. If there is nothing new under the sun, then why do churches keep trying to design something original or different when there is nothing better out there? Worse yet, why don’t churches know that for preaching the Gospel there is no better room than a room with the dimension ratio’s as in Solomon’s Temple? Furthermore, why are so many churches determine to solve acoustical problems with electronics when they don’t have to?

Solomon’s temple was small. It could only seat around 150 people if used as a church today. Apparently, you can scale the room up to any size and have the same performance results. Why hasn’t the church community figured this out? (Why aren’t Synagogues built this way either?) From my own experience, if you use these dimensions, such a room will sound amazing as long is the walls have the right shapes added on them. At the same time this room will awful if you don’t include the same type of acoustical system as used in Solomon’s Temple. Please notice that I use the term “System”, and not “Treatment.” When you call it a system it is about a planned acoustical space or a system that treats the whole room. When you call it a treatment, it is as if the acoustical products are used as an after-thought. Such acoustical products are used only do spot treatments and they provide minor room fixes, and cost so much more expensive.

The most important roll of a House of Worship is to preach the Gospel. No other room shape, dimensions and wall finishing’s does it better. Why would any church design the most important room with a lesser goal? The foyer, fellowship halls, classrooms, office and the shell of the building can be any shape you want but the worship space should be designed for the sole purposes of teaching the Gospel and for a full worship experience. All other room shapes and treatments, regardless of the sound system design and equipment fall short in meeting the standard found in Solomon’s temple.

If you believe as I do that the Bible is sufficient, then it should be sufficient in the design on your next church sanctuary. Oh, didn’t anyone tell you? A room built to Solomon’s dimensions costs less to build, heat and cool and maintain. Solomon’s Temple is a fine example of “Nothing new under the sun.”

For the 400 plus churches that already have such an acoustical system, what further proof do you need that Solomon’s temple was real? If you want to take it a step further, since science cannot predict how this acoustical system works, a system that you have to apply in faith, does that constitute a miracle?

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How to use Tube Radiators to Fix any Church

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2019

Do you need help with the acoustics of your church? Want a system that your church can afford? Are you willing to save your church thousands of dollars by donating some of your time to cut, paint and installed the perfect acoustical solution for your church? Acoustics – complicated to figure out, simple to implement. First of all, this is a system, not a spot treatment.  Therefore, all of the walls of a worship space require treatment. This is not an option. Most readymade products are not able to solve multiple room problems in one step.  As a result, most churches wind up getting only a spot repair treatment of which they learn later was nothing more than trading one problem for another.

To begin, you need a detailed analysis of the worship space.  Some of the critical measurements are impulse responses,  series of ETC’s and the Frequency response of the room.  These tests combined with others help to map out the room.  With these details, you will be shown how to identify the standing waves, the signal to noise ratio’s, early and late reflections, echoes, slap echoes, and flutter echoes, and what frequencies are coming out of corners.  What surfaces are diaphragmatic and where the room focal points are. Finally, you have to account for the room measurements to see if any of the dimensions are causing patterns in specific frequencies and any hotspots or deadspots.   

With this information at hand, you can then create a profile to identify what kind of treatment the room needs.  For standing waves, any diffuser can get rid of that as long there are at least 4 inches of deflection and no surface of diffusion greater than 6 square feet. If you go larger than 6 square foot diffusers, then you have to make the deflection more than 5 inches deep.  You learned that from trial and error testing.  There is no equation that I am aware of that will tell you that.

Once you have determined all of your standing waves and yes, all rooms that have no acoustical management, regardless of shape have standing waves at some frequency or range of sounds. You then look at the energy coming from any diaphragmatic surfaces (drywall, wood, windows, etc.) and corners. If the excess frequencies are above 500 hertz, in most rooms, you can just use 8 inch half rounds. If there is excess energy between 300 to 500 hertz, then you need to use 12 inch half rounds.    When there is excess energy below 300 Hertz, then you will need 16 inch half rounds.  

With this knowledge, you then need to see how much reduction is needed.  If you only need 10 to 15dB of reduction, you can just put in the half round tubes in 11-inch edge to edge spacing between tubes regardless of size.  If you need more than 15dB of reduction, then you need to use patterns.  These patterns can be a combination of sizes and variable spacing distances between the tubes. These variables cannot always be used depending on how much wall space you have.  If you have the wall space and you need more than 30dB of reduction, then you need to use a Prime Number sequence and enough wall space for a minimum of two cycles. 

These patterns were researched by myself by doing a series of trial and error testing in churches where the church allowed me to use their worship space to do experiments.  With enough tubes of various sizes, these tests were done over several days at a time, to learn what patterns are needed for the most common acoustical problems most churches have.  Essentially, I created a Data Base of frequency models to affect the best change for worship spaces of all sizes.  For new acoustical problems, JdB Sound Acoustics owns a private test room where research can be done to discover the best pattern to effect the best solution for such a worship space.

In summary, there is no shortcut to doing church acoustics correctly.  That said, many churches can’t afford to hire an expert, but they also need help.  For those churches, several basic rules always assure a huge room improvement. The length of the tubes has to be a minimum of 2/3rds the wall height.  Sidewalls need the diffusers to be 4 feet off the floor or head height of people sitting in the pews.  Tube spacing is always 11 inches between edges. End caps are needed at the bottom to comply for fire code if you are using hollow tubes.  Follow these rules, and you will always get better results than any flat absorbent panel can offer. Another rule is, always have padded seating and carpeted floor.  In most cases, that gives the room the behavior that it is 50% full when it empty.  If you don’t have carpet on the floor, then you need to add absorption panels that equal the square feet of the floor space to the walls along with the diffusers.  If your wall space is limited, you can add the diffuser on top of the absorbing panels.

Every room has the same or similar problems when it comes to church acoustics.  The solutions and tools are always the same but how they are implemented needs to be customized to accommodate the architectural features of each worship space.  I have come across a few churches that followed these rules without my help, and they were delighted with the results. Yes, there was room for additional improvement in those DIY projects, but the results they got were way better and cheaper than any other solution out there.  Imagine going to Home Depot or some other place, buy around $1,500.00 worth of cardboard tubes, paint, tools, and hardware to mount the diffusers and fix the acoustics of a 500 seat church for under $2,000.00.  A project like this can be completed in 4 working days with four volunteers.  If you make absorbing panels of sufficient quantity, you will spend twice as much if you care for the aesthetics and have a fraction of the room performance improvement compared to what half-round tube diffusers or Tube Radiators can provide. 

In the end, a 15dB reduction in the mid-range, getting rid of standing waves, and because the tubes break up energy traveling down a wall, there is no bass build up in corners, so you don’t need bass traps, the room improvement will be very dramatic.  My skill comes into play for churches with strong music programs for contemporary worship services or large choirs.  Churches that want their pipe organ to have a better balance during congregational singing or for Choral performance.  Churches that want  congregational singing to be loud enough to drown out the sound system.  Then there are churches that have a lot of windows, artwork or limited wall space, for them, there are many other ways to achieve similar results using other diffusive materials and techniques that require a more substantial investment.  In many ways, most church problems are the same, but they all have unique variables that need different ways to implement the same solution. 

Solomon’s Temple – The Bible is Sufficient

Finally, why do I use this system?  It is because of God.  God showed King David and Solomon how to make the acoustics of the temple ideal for the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place/main sanctuary.  I discovered that this does indeed work.  Since re-discovering this method of sound management, I have viewed this as a promise from God.  How many times does it say in the Bible follow these command, instructions or ways, and you will be blessed or things will be better? Since learning this method of managing sound, God has kept his promise every time.  Also, consider this. 

Science has yet to create a simulation model that can accurately predict the results.  God told Solomon what to do, and this method does work.  All of the 400 plus churches that are already using this method of sound treatment, they did it as an act of faith whether they realized it or not.  I have always been honest in sharing this with everyone.  God has kept his promise to all of those churches. For those who want proof, isn’t 400 plus churches of all shapes as sizes enough?  You don’t have to believe me, but you should believe God. Since this is proof of what God teaches in the Bible is true, what does that say about the rest of the Bible?

If you don’t trust the science, if you don’t believe me or this website, you can trust God in this.  God shows how to do church acoustics, and the answer has always been out in the open, in the Bible for everyone to read it.  The shape of the sanctuary and the acoustical treatment are all there for us to follow.  Furthermore, Jesus was also present when God told Solomon what to do.  In a way, Jesus told Solomon what to do also, as you can’t separate God and Jesus.  When God speaks, Jesus speaks. 

This method of doing church acoustics is not a secret or a mystery.  It is there for everyone to know how to have the best worship spaces that Christians need and is a joy to have.  So if someone says, “that is in the Old Testament, and it is not relevant today.” I say, Jesus said he came to fulfill the laws, the prophesies and promises that He made in the Old Testament before He became flesh.  We are supposed to follow His ways because we love Him.  Because we love God and Jesus, we follow the teachings of the Bible. For far too long, we have been using secular designs of worship spaces and acoustics at the expense of not knowing the full blessings of worship God wants you to have in your church today.  Worship space designs and acoustics should never be treated as an option or another failed experiment when it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you know the scriptures, you know that this is true.

Sure, for years people have been blessed in houses of worship in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and acoustical problems because of their faith.  Fixing the acoustics of existing churches in this method has huge benefits right away and for the future.  However, only a few of them are experiencing all of the blessings God promises us when we follow His ways, including worship space designs and acoustics.  You could also say that a House of Worship is also another tool used to do a better job at fulfilling the great commission when designed according to His way. God will never stop loving us or blessing us when we make mistakes, but he did say we reap what we sow.


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Church Ceiling Height Chart

Posted by jdbsound on December 26, 2018

There are three key parts to what happens in church worship.  There is the spoken word, there is collaborative/congregational singing, and there is performance singing.  For a worship space to support these three events where speech is first, then congregational singing and performance singing, you need a specific design and dimensions to support these functions well.  High-quality speech should not come at the expense of the music.  Music should not come at the cost of speech.  There is a balance, and part of that balance is to have enough ceiling height to support both speech and music in a contained space.

Unfortunately, churches these days are building lower and lower ceilings in their worship spaces.  A person can assume that when so many churches have experienced only poor quality acoustics, many wonder what is the point of building a taller worship space.

When a church builds a low ceiling, it limits congregational singing and it makes you more dependent on technology, but guess what!  The same things that limit congregational singing are what also limits the performance of the technology we affectionately call the sound systems.  So, instead of getting 100% out of your high quality, expensive sound system, you’re getting only 40 to 60% of the sound systems’ true performance abilities.  It is actually cheaper to build higher than the added cost of un-needed audio technology to make up the difference.   The chart below should clear the air as to the minimum height your next church should be. If you can afford to build higher, do it.  Also, a taller worship space does not mean being stuck with longer reverb times. A higher ceiling means natural room reverberation can be adjustable and is tune-able.  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 match the size of the seating capacity of the worship space. The above chart is the minimum of interior ceiling heights.  If you want to build higher, you can as the singing experience gets even better.

High ceilings allow for better sound system performance with less expensive sound equipment. (A lot of pro audio contractors, installers and equipment manufacturers don’t like hearing this.)  Higher ceiling permits better gain before feedback and it becomes easier to isolate drums and floor monitors. 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 annually.  In addition, the cooling systems last 2 to 3 times longer before needing to be replaced. In a way, building higher cost less both in cost and in operation over time.

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 harder to manage than a 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 that 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.”

Finally, there is the Biblical standard for church sound.  For a 160 seat church as detailed in the Bible, the Biblical standard is the width of the room is to be 50% of the length and the height of the room should be 75% of the length.  However, we now know that anything over 45 feet high and less than 2000 seating, the extra height is not needed.  It is the length to width ratio of 2:1 is key and a constant height of 45 feet or 13.7 meters.  For those who don’t want long rooms, because of sound systems, we can use a length of width ratio of 2:1.7 or a room that is 100 x 70, and you must always use the room lengthways or you destroy congregational singing and speech.

God gave us the laws of physics for a reason.  When we obey God, we reap the benefits.  When we ignore God’s teaching, you will have your reward here on earth.  The sanctuary of a church is a battlefield where the hearts, minds, and souls of people can be adding or subtracting people from the Kingdom of God.  The acoustics of a church plays an important part in either adding or subtracting people.  The change is slow and often not noticed, but when you visit hundreds of churches that have their worship spaces upgraded to the standards of the Bible as best as possible, there have always been an increase years later, ( unless there have been leadership or church split issues.)

If you can, to get a better picture of planning a new church, read this article on Gods Authority in Church Design.

*Note* In most countries that have 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 1200 churches from around the world. 

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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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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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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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