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The Best Worship Experiences

Posted by jdbsound on March 25, 2019

What would you prefer? A church were you can have the best worship experience or a church that looks amazing?

The organist of this church pulled every stop, pushed the peddles all the way down and the he had trouble hearing the organ just 20 feet away. At the back of the church at the sound booth, the organ was barely audible. I used a SPL meter, put it about 3 feet over my head at the back of the church and the congregational singing peaked at 105dB several time during a familiar hymn. There was no one behind us. There have been other times at other church where I designed or upgraded their acoustics were the congregation is singing acapella and they were peaking at 106dB. The good news is, singing like that doesn’t hurt your hearing.

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Acoustics are like an Onion

Posted by jdbsound on March 2, 2019

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Churches are Tools

Posted by jdbsound on February 18, 2019

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Church Sound and the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on January 28, 2019

The goal of any worship space and the church sound system is not about loudness, gain before feedback, intelligibility, special sound effects for the organ or choir, having the most talented performers in the worship team, how many wireless mics, number of channels the mixer has or the name brand of equipment you have. The goal of a church worship space and the sound system is to be a safe place where the Gospel can be presented clearly and with little to no blemishes. Where every person within the worship space can hear and understand the Gospel as clearly as when having a conversation with someone only 4 feet away and sharing the Gospel. Anything less than that goal means that the spoken word can be corrupted in the journey between the minister’s mouth and ears of all those who are listening. The Gospel needs to be broadcasted and understood as clearly as reading God’s written words.

If your church has hot spots, dead spots, good sound in these seats and poor sound in those seats, then the Gospel is not being presented equally to everyone. If your sound system has technical problems during worship often, then it is a distraction, and it can make the difference of understanding something important.

The chart below shows tangible results when your worship and sound system are tested. There should be three tests.

The first is with a test speaker. It is a point source speaker that is small enough to mimic a person’s voice.

The next test is feeding a signal directly into the sound system and test those results. This test is just about the playback quality of your sound system.

The third test is to use the test speaker 30 inches from an open microphone such as a pulpit or any microphone on a stand and test the combined results of the worship space’s acoustics direct interaction of the sound system and open mics. You can also do a second version of this test and place the test speaker 4 inches from a microphone where the microphone is 45 degrees off axis.

If all three tests are not in the Yellow section, the results will let you know if it is your sound system, the acoustics or all of the above.  This is also a better indication predicting if upgrading your sound system will improve the results you are looking for. This is also a strong indicator that your worship space needs some kind of an acoustical management system

sti alcons chart conversion

You can get your church tested. It doesn’t cost much, and the results can save a life or many lives, depending on your point of view. As an independent consulting company, we offer church testing and results with no obligation to use our services in the future.

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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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The Bible and Church Sound

Posted by jdbsound on December 8, 2018

The Bible – Written by man but inspired by God.

The Bible is the most important book given to humankind. For all of those who have read the entire Bible, in the end, you are given a choice. That choice determines your eternity whether you believe in it or not. Then there is this warning in the final chapter of Revelations.

Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: (KJV)

Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (KJV)

Most people hear about God before they read about God. For many people, besides hear about God from family, friends and other people, most people hear a message about God for the first time in a church or TV, Radio or on a Digital Device. When in a church, and eventually almost everyone goes to one in their lifetime, the Acoustics and Sound System combined can determine if a person can understand what is being said or not.

When a church has good Acoustics and Sound System, everything that everyone hears is the almost the same as the sounds that were created. When a church has good reverberation, that sound effect does not change the quality or accuracy of what is heard. When a church has poor acoustics and/or a poorly designed or adjusted sound system, what is heard and understood is often changed from what was said or sung. That change of what was said could be enough – and it often is – that it changes the meaning of what was said.

The broadcasting of sound in a large room carries a huge responsibility. When the words spoken by the minister is one thing and what is heard by the time it arrives into someone ears meters away becomes something else, that is like adding or taking away the message of the Bible. The changed words can have a huge impact on a person life. Who is responsible for controlling how a worship space performs?

Here is an example. Try saying these two sentences in your church. Have your minister say these two lines without pauses as they would do at any time of worship.
How to recognize speech.
How to wreck a nice beach.
If the listeners can’t tell these two sentences apart or they sound the same your worship space has a serious problem.

(Should You decide to do a real aural speech test, you can follow the link below and print out this speech test and try it at your church.
https://www.jdbsound.com/art/art519.html
You will need about 25 people sitting in different places in the worship space. Have each person circle one word from each row on the list of what the minister said from their list. Then compare. If everyone gets 45 to 50 of the words correct, then your worship space passes. If there are more than 5 people who have less than 45 words correct, then your church has a problem. The listeners should be all people who can have normal conversations at 5 feet away in an office, library or living room with carpet. Ages should be 35 and up.)

Ultimately, that responsibility of how well your worship space performs lays with the church board, church leaders and the minister, who should be demanding the best. The acoustics of a church is a tool to preach the Gospel. The sound system can only work as well as the acoustics of a room allows it. You can only tune, redesign, and use the best state of the Art technology in a sound system and get only so far, and then there is no choice but to fix the room.

Most Sound Equipment manufacturers do not care if people in a church cannot understand the message because the room changed the words. They just want to sell equipment and make a profit. Instead, equipment manufacturers keep making claims and promises as is if their products, their algorithms, and their digital technology is going to push the limits of physics. When you read some of the claims and advertising, if you know the science, often their claims seem to ignore physics. Physics comes from God.

Do we know everything about physics? Probably not but what we do know about Physics and Sound has not changed in the history of man. Many churches are so caught up with getting the latest and greatest technology that they put off fixing their acoustics – which is cheaper to fix – waiting for the next round of technology to miraculously break the laws of physics and make physics bow down to them. Church leaders should not be forcing people to put up with the bad sound that changes the meaning of Gods message.

Short of giving everyone a Bluetooth headset when you enter a church, the acoustics of your church is critical in whether or not a person is hearing the message word for word as a minister speaks every syllable. Hearing the Gospel is the most important thing that happens in a church. Singing and praising God together is the strongest thing that a church does to build a community. When that is followed up with fellowship, having meals together and helping people in your community, your neighbour and local town you are in, that is the full package of what a House of Worship does for the people.

The first clue that your acoustics are questionable is if you are struggling with your sound system. A sound system cannot change the acoustics of a room; it is a reflection or mirror of the performance of your worship space. I have fixed the acoustics of many churches around the world and the most interesting comments people make when they continue to use their sound system – whether properly designed or not is people can now understand what their minister is saying. More than once people who have upgraded their Sanctuary acoustics have said, “It’s too bad our minister is leaving. Now that I can understand everything that is being said, I wish the minister can stay and preach the sermons all over again. Now I understand why our church has not been growing.”

Church acoustics is not complicated, nor is it expensive to change. The Bible tells us how to get Church Acoustics right and affordable. Sadly, there are many “experts” who make church acoustics seem complicated and expensive. As long as people are spreading around such myths and those who hear these myths keep on believing them, many churches are convinced that good acoustics is beyond their financial abilities. As a result, many churches are left not living up to their obligation in creating a worship space where no words are altered and the message is so clear that people are able to make that critical decision of where they will be spending their eternity.

Finally, for those churches that have poor acoustics and the leading members who have the position and authority to make the changes to make the church building to be included in fulfilling the Great Commission, the book of Revelation is clear. For those who refuse to take the courage to make a House of God a vessel that can fulfill the Great Commission, God promises them “plagues of the Bible” or “God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” As a person who has heard many ministers, one thing that is often said is that God does keep his promises. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, it should. Eternity and having a relationship with God is important. No one should be denied the opportunity to choose and your sanctuary should never get in the way of that.

Most existing churches can fix their own acoustics. There are dozens of examples on my website of churches that have made the change from a bad room to a great room. If your church looks like one of those, you can copy them and get similar results. If your church is not comfortable with DIY, give me a call. For most churches, that is all that is needed, just a phone call and those are free. If you need further help, I can recommend someone else to help you or myself.

By Joseph De Buglio
Church Acoustics by JdB Sound Acoustics

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Watch out for the Aesthetics Police!

Posted by jdbsound on November 28, 2018

acoustics predicable

Here is a simple truth. Acoustics is all about the math and a combination of a variety of principles of physics – at least that is how I do acoustical design. Then there is the aesthetics. Here is a second truth.

If a room sounds great for worship, speaking, music and children’s programs, people don’t pay to much to the aesthetics.  It becomes easier for them to pay attention to the message and join in on the congregational singing. However, if what is on the walls doesn’t significantly  improve congregational singing and all of the other aspects of worship, then what you have is wall furniture and it has to look great considering how expensive that it is. The installation shown above was done by church members. Originally there was a different design based on the same concept. Once the church members understood my plan, they suggested this. With a few adjustments, this is what worked. This did cost more than half round tubes but it is way less expensive than the alternatives. Believe it or not, it also meets fire code.

Joseph De Buglio

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The Rabbit Hole

Posted by jdbsound on September 11, 2018

red-pill-blue-pill-Recovered

How good is your worship experience? Sound Systems play a large part of the picture. The sound system is used 100% of the time in most churches. That includes streaming, hearing impaired systems and recording of the worship program. However, a sound system broadcasting live sound to the audience can only perform as well as the room allows it. Sure, getting the latest and best State of the Art Technology in sound does sometimes gain you a slightly better level of performance but how good can a sound system be?

If we do a checklist of all the things a sound system is supposed to do, most churches that don’t have any acoustical treatment only get about 50 to 60% out of their sound system’s performance regardless of the quality of the equipment and the design of the speaker system. When a church does get the right acoustical system or if the acoustical system is built in, those churches get over 85% performance out of their sound systems, even when using just entry-level professional live sound equipment. Churches that have the right room shape that is within the Golden Ratio, they usually get a performance level over 90% out of their equipment with the right acoustical management system.

An example of system performance would be in how much gain before feedback there is. In one church, they had so much gain before feedback after their church had an acoustical change, that during a children’s play, one child was helping another child who was struggling with their lines. The nearest microphone was over 9 feet away. The sound operator was able to raise the gain to where you could hear both children. This in itself was no big deal but it was huge for the parents listening to the play. They loved what they heard. When the parents could hear the one-child coaching the other with their lines, it was a great example of how people need to encourage each other and work together. Both children were complimented for their performances. The parents felt included in all of the things happening on stage.

In most churches, experiences like this never happen. Instead, most parents complain that they couldn’t hear their child or the other kids, or get upset with the sound guys for not having enough microphones for them, or get upset with the Sunday School teacher for not teaching the kids how to use microphones. The performance of a sound system can make the difference between having a blessing and hearing the message or being so distracted that person leaves upset and any message given is totally missed.

In another example, a church had floor monitors that were so loud that the main speaker system couldn’t be used without blasting everyone in the audience. The monitors are almost as loud at the back of the church as well as up front. The worship team switched from floor monitors to in-ear monitors. At first, it seemed to work. However, if you were sitting in the front 5 rows of seating, the sound coverage was poor in about 70% of the seating. Before, the floor monitor spill helped to fill in the coverage of the shortcoming of the main speaker system design. After getting the in-ear monitors, the church went through 3 speaker systems and 3 different speaker system layout designs. The coverage issues never were resolved, even with loudspeakers recessed in the front of the stage on delays and the whole ten yards. The shape of the church didn’t help either.

Eventually, the church had to fix their acoustics because those front 5 rows of seating were always 80% occupied and that is where the Pastor’s wife always sat. With sound coverage issues resolved, the acoustical fix also resolved a boat load of problems including monitor spill. The acoustical fix made it possible for the worship team to go back to using floor monitors months later. The church was only a 500 seat space and over a 6 year period, they spent over $200,000 on just speakers, processors, amplifiers and mixers. the acoustical fix was only $4,000. Had the church addressed the acoustics first, they would have had an extra $150,000 invested into other programs or missions or helping church growth and health. Many churches are going through this process today.

A lot of churches just keep taking the “Blue pill.” Churches with money keep turning to esoteric audio hardware and hope that physics will take a back seat to the latest technology and software to help them. For churches that don’t have the funds, they just put up with bad sound and for some, declining or very high turnovers in attendance.

For those churches that take the “Red pill,” they spend way less on sound equipment and have systems sounding and performing in ways other churches can only dream about. These same churches have more enthusiastic congregational singing, better sound teams and almost zero complaints about the sound, even when the sound system is keeping up with a congregation singing over 95dB! Some Worship team members find that their talents improve. Ministers find that more people are paying attention and are asking questions or commenting on the weekly sermons through the week.

The choice is yours. Taking the “Blue pill” means one kind of outcome down the rabbit hole where magic is not real and taking the “Red pill” gives a different result. The thing is, there is no downside to taking the “Red pill” but there is for taking the “Blue pill.”

By Joseph De Buglio

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Poster of the Day

Posted by jdbsound on August 2, 2018

laws of physics poster_s

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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What will give you the biggest bang for the buck in upgrading the Sound of your church?

Posted by jdbsound on May 2, 2018

This 300 seat church already had a reasonable high-quality sound system.  It was properly designed for the room and professionally installed. The acoustics were not that bad.  At least it was thought that the acoustics were not such a problem.  The outstanding issues they were trying to solve or improve were:

  1. Gain before feedback,
  2. Elimination of the few deadspots that were not solved from the previous sound system when the current new JBL speakers were installed
  3. Reduce sound spill from floor monitors,
  4. Better control of the drums (when using acoustic drums) and
  5. They wanted 3dB more bass from the Sub-woofer.

These are all reasonable reasons to upgrade the sound system.

Good Speaker System setup_s

The church was considered the following upgrades.

  1. Replacing the professionally designed and installed 12-year-old JBL sound system.
  2. They considered going for IEM (in-ear monitor) system for up to 8 people. (This would have included a new digital mixer)
  3. The church considered making an air-conditioned drum booth or get an electronic drum kit.
  4. They also wanted to add a second twin 15-inch sub-woofer.
  5. Estimated total cost, almost $26,000.00 installed.

This is what the church actually did. They changed the acoustics of the room.  They installed an acoustical Tube Radiator system.

What did they gain by doing this?

  1. The sonic quality of the existing JBL speaker system was greatly improved. The improvement was noticeable better regardless of how much equalization was added or when the EQ was bypassed. (Definite proof that the acoustics of the room changed the performance of the speaker system from the day they were installed.)
  2. All of the remaining deadspots were now gone. (This was never a speaker system problem as the right speaker system design was already installed.)
  3. The performance of the speaker system was such that picking up a person’s voice went from 12 inches to 35 inches with a Shure SM58 mic before feedback would show up. (Again, acoustics limits the performance of all sound system. Sure there are some very expensive gadgets that can improve gain before feedback, but such gadget can cost more than the material cost of the acoustical fix.)
  4. The floor monitors are now well behaved. No matter how loud the floor monitors get, you definitely need to and to add the front of house to hear clear sound. As it turns out, the overall stage mix dropped around 10dB without the performers even noticing as they were now able to hear the stage mix from the monitors so well at a lower volume. You could say that the monitor spill issue is eliminated.
  5. This eliminated the need for IEM’s.
  6. Since the drummer can hear himself now, he gradually started playing quieter after a few weeks. The need for a drum cage disappeared.
  7. The Single Sub-Woofer was now able to play 9dB louder without distortion. It would have taken 3 more sub-woofers to get the same loudness without distortion. That was equal to spending around $15,000.00. (Standing waves and bass buildup in the corners added air pressure onto the surface of the cones of the subs drivers. This added air pressure creates distortion. When the subs distort, the sound quality and maximum sound levels of what the sub is supposed to be able to do, can drop up to 15dB in many rooms.)

Aylmer EMC Church Pano 2017_ss

Other improvements

Congregation Singing.

  1. The participation of people singing went up from 30% to 75%. (When people can hear themselves and the other people around them, it encourages people to sing more.)  s a resulting, the congregation is singing 8 to 15dB louder. (The more people singing, the louder they will become.)
  2. No more distortion from the speaker system with playing louder which means the perception of loudness is greatly reduced. (Standing waves and bass buildup in the corners added air pressure onto the surface of the cones of the bass driver of full range speakers. This added air pressure creates distortion. When the bass drivers distort, the sound quality and maximum sound levels of what the full range speaker is supposed to be able to do, can drop up to 15dB in many rooms.)
  3. After two years, the congregation is starting to add harmonies to their singing. (That is what happens when people can hear each other.)
  4. Now when people stand up to give testimonies or prayer requests, people can hear them whenever they forget to use hand-held wireless audience microphone.
  5. The front of house stage mix is so much better. Now you can hear all of the performers without having to blast the sound system. (A well-diffused room can make the signal to noise ratio improve from 3dB to 25dB. As the signal to noise improves, the easier it is to settle into a high quality.)
  6. The worship space is now concert quality for any high SPL event, recitals, choirs or orchestral events.

The total cost of the acoustical system including painting the whole sanctuary. $1,400.00
Since this as a DIY project, the money saved went towards a better headset mic for the pastor and the new digital mixer. Total upgrade, $5,000.00. If the church contract out the installation of the Sono Tubes, add $5,200.00. That is still 60% of the cost of upgrading a perfectly good sound system if everything is contracted out or an 83% difference.

Conclusion

One can honestly say that fixing the acoustics had a far better return on investment versus just upgrading the speaker system alone. Upgrading the speaker system can never make the room sound better, improve congregational singing and it would have not been possible to delete the deadspots without adding more speakers on delays around the room. This transformation is typical of the new worship experience when a church gets the acoustics they are supposed to have. In the battle between acoustics vs sound systems, acoustics always wins. It’s Physics. Try moving a wall with air? You can’t. Change the wall and hear what happens!

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Dead Spots – Sound System or Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on April 9, 2018

An unwelcomed guest in any church is Mr. Deadspots. Unfortunately, deadspots in churches are more common than you think. There are two main types of deadspots. Some are frequency related/comb filtering interference and others are dips in sound levels greater that 6dB created by the room.

It is common to see frequency related deadspots in Left/Right sound system regardless if they are Line Arrays or point and shoot speakers. These deadspots are created by interference patterns in a mono speech system as a persons voice is always mono.  These deadspots are where you shift from one foot to another and notice a sound change. In these cases it becomes a problem when on one foot you hear the highs but not the lows. When you shift your position onto the other foot, you hear the lows and the highs disappear. People with hearing aids or early stages of hearing lose notice this the most. People with good hearing notice the change too but learn quickly to put up with it. Some young people think of it as a passive noise filter. If the music is too bright, stand to one side of your seating position. If the music is too boomy, shift to the other side of your seating position. Really! Isn’t that like buying a headset and controlling the sound changes with what angle you tilt your head. It might sound like a great idea until you find yourself with a lot of neck pain. No thank you.

Sound level dips are usually acoustically related. These are created with standing waves, bass building up, hollow walls, room corners, and parallel surfaces that include walls, ceilings and floors and concaved surfaces. In all of these cases, often mid and bass energy build up and the highs are absorbed with carpets, padded pews and people. By the nature of churches and how they are used, carpeted floors and padded seating often represents how the church sounds when it is 50% full. That means that if your attendance is often over 50%, the effects of padded seating and carpeted floors has little to no impact. If church attendance is often over 70% a carpeted floor makes the room more intimate during times of prayer and solemn reverence. In the end, carpets and padded seating is a good thing.

However, because of people in the room, once that room attendance is above 50% the people absorb enough highs that extra mids and bass energy is left behind as is being amplified between parallel surfaces. This excess energy automatically masks the highs. When the highs are masked, speech and music intelligibility drops. The kicker is, if you go around the room with a sound level meter, often the sound levels don’t drop much, even when you stand in a spot where the highs (when you measure just the highs) drop off over 6dB. That is because the excess bass energy is so strong that it fools the sound meter as the meter is reading an average sound level. When you take sound level readings by frequency, then you notice the high number of deadspots in the room. Get a tone generator in a cell phone or computer app and play a constant tone at 55dB at 500 Hertz, 1000 Hertz and 3000 Hertz and then start walking around. At 500 Hertz you shouldn’t notice much of change until you get close to walls. At 1000 Hertz you will notice more changes. At 3000 Hertz, if you are hearing a lot of changes, imagine what 25% of your church audience is experiencing.

Here is a church that had both acoustical and sound system created deadspots, with a central cluster. By nature of a central cluster, in a good room, it gives the best coverage and performance for speech. There is no better way to design a church sound system unless your ceiling is less than 14 ft. high. Choice of speakers, coverage patterns and speaker placement impacts sound too but these are mainly tone qualities and gain before feedback related. It may have up to a 2 or 3% impact on overall intelligibility as well.

corner view pano Ebeneezer Church_s

In this church example, it already has a fairly good quality speaker system in the ideal location for the room. It is designed as a central cluster and by nature, in this setup, it should perform well. However, it didn’t matter if you used the main speaker system or used portable speakers on stands, with any sound amplified you could find deadspots all over the room. On top of that, if you raised your voice in the room, once you were more than 18 feet from someone, understand what was being said was difficult to impossible depending on dictions of the person talking and how good is one’s hearing. When the proper acoustical fix was applied, all of those problems went away and the church didn’t need to upgrade the speaker system.

The church decided to leave the sound system alone as the gain before feedback improved and all of the deadspots disappeared. Since this is a traditional church that has no intentions to do anything contemporary, the acoustical fix was designed to not change the overall reverb time. Before and after reverb time remained about the same. 1.7 seconds.  It was the frequency response of the room that saw a major change. As the graphs shows below, where the mixer for the worship space was located, it was also one of many spots where weird measurements were recorded before. We found dozens of spots where the room measurements went squirrely. This is typical of the results of measuring a Left/Right speaker system, not a cluster system. These weird results were a result of room acoustics and not the sound system.  We used our own test speaker for all room testing.

Sound Booth Before and After

After checking our test equipment for errors, it was then realized that by just moving the mic over a few inches, you would get a very different result. In some places, the sound was perfectly fine but move over a few inches and it was not. Our ears are about 8 inches apart. In one row of seating, the largest distance we could move the test mic between a good spot and bad spot was 14 inches. Pew seating is 18 inches.  Every seating position had both good and bad sound. What we were measuring was sound masking in the mids and lows.  The energy was so strong that it masked the highs.  Not only that but the highs were most likely also being canceled from nearby wall reflection between 1800 to 5000 Hertz.  It gave the impression that there was something wrong with the sound system.

In this church, people marked their seating positions by placing personal pillows in spots where the sound was better. Sure enough, testing these spots showed better sound before the acoustical treatment was applied. After the acoustical system was installed, the sound was the same no matter where you sat including the sound booth.

Deadspots in churches are more often a result of worship space design and not a result of sound system design (unless you have the wrong speaker system design for your room). When a church replaces a well-designed sound within 10 years, and have little to no overall improvement after an upgrade, that should be a BIG RED FLAG that you most likely have a serious acoustical problem and no amount of money spent on the sound system can make those problems go away. Besides, these days, acoustical fixes cost less than sound system fixes. As a caveat, our experience has been this. Churches that have fixed their acoustics and then wanted on to expand their music programs, they were able to upscale their sound system with a much higher budget as they upgraded, it actually lead to better performance rather than an exchange of one set of problems for another.

Bottom line is, get your church properly tested. Have someone who knows how to properly diagnose the data, and then design your church a proper acoustical management system. Install the acoustical system and watch the congregation respond and grow. Don’t be surprised if other churches want to use your church for musical and recording events. Your property value may go up too.

Note – The acoustical system is made up of 8 and 12 inch half round plaster covered foam diffusers on 3 walls.  The side walls use a gradient pattern to maximize room performance. On the back wall there are 24 units of 7 ft. x 2 ft. x 18 inch plaster covered foam diffusers that are hollow which allows for additional passive room equalizing in the near future. Project completed by church members.

By Joseph De Buglio
JdB Sound Acoustics

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Acoustics for only $0.20 per square foot

Posted by jdbsound on February 24, 2018


What is four inches thick, eight inches wide and comes in length up to 32 ft that can absorb sound down to 80 Hertz and preserves sound energy above 2000 Hertz?

What is six inches thick, twelve inches wide and comes in lengths up to 32 ft that can absorb sound down to 50 Hertz and preserves sound energy above 2500 Hertz?

What is eight inches thick, sixteen inches wide and comes in lengths up to 32 ft that can absorb sound down to 20 Hertz and preserves sound energy above 3000 Hertz?

Tube Radiators. It’s all about the shape and not what they are made of. Nothing controls sound at this rate that is also affordable for everyone to use. They make churches to sound great, home theatres sound amazing, cut production time in a recording studio up to 50%, and manage noise in the work place at less than $0.20 per sq ft. Who knew?

Sono Tube Diffuser profile_s

 

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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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Before and After results of a Real Multipurpose Hall

Posted by jdbsound on December 4, 2017

This is a before and after test results of a multipurpose room.  The room is a converter steel factory.  The purpose of the room is for multi use including banquets, acoustical and amplified musical performances, teaching and general meetings.  While the room has a fixed sound system, the  room performs equally well regardless of the orientation of the seating or event layout.

sandbox B-A results

From the graph, it shows the before and after.  Before the room had an average of 2.1 seconds of reverberation.  That said, at around 400 Hertz, the reverb time was 2.85 seconds. This made the room unacceptable for all uses.  It was hard to have a simple conversation with someone only 5 feet away.

The acoustical treatment in this case require 3 different acoustical system.  Tube Radiators were used for controlling sound from 200 to 2000 Hertz.  The tube radiators have only a profile depth of 4 and 6 inches and the idea that something so small can control sound down to 200 Hertz is amazing.  The tube radiators only covers 12% of the total wall space of the room.  

The second system was outround diffuser panels.  They covered another 10% of the available wall space.  These panels were used to manage sound from 100 to 500 Hertz.  By combining these two system with the limited wall space, we were able to cut the reverb time at 400 and 800 Hertz 1.8 seconds.  That is a massive amount considering that 400 Hertz is a wave length of about 33 inches long and 800 Hz is about 17 inches.

The third acoustical was a fiber absorber.  The fiber absorber covered 40% of the ceiling and 10% of the side walls.  The fiber panels covered the outrounds on the side walls.  It is rare to need absorption in such projects but when you have a concrete floor with no carpet, you have to replace the carpet with something similar.  Here is the thing about carpet.  Carpet, which is always within 4 to 7 feet of our ears works very efficiently.  The shallow angle of most sounds we hear in a large room event gives a 1/2 inch of carpet the acoustical performance of 2 inches of a typical wall panel absorber.  Since one of the requirements of this room is to include music that can reach 100dB, it was planned to have a reverb time of 1 second, +/- .2 tenths of a second.  That goal was met and the range it was met is typical of our acoustical fixes.  If you look at the before and after, the room now meets that goal from 150Hz to 4,000Hz.  Before, using the same criteria, the room had a average reverb time of 1.8 second with a +/- of 1.1 second variance.

percent alcons 4 sandbox

The critical question is, how does the room sound for speech, talking and for music.  For speech, the change was from 14% Alcon’s (rated as poor) to 4% Alcon’s.  At 4%, it means that you can talk to someone from end to end of the 55 ft long room with a slightly raise voice.  When you add a properly equalized sound system, you can better the speech intelligibility to 3.5%.  For talking across a table during banquet or social events is easy in this space.  You can talk to someone 15 ft away while the person next to you is talking to someone across the table without having to raise your voice to compete with other conversations.

As for music, so far, for the high energy high SPL events the room has been well received by musician and audience members.  That has meant fewer events with drum shields, fewer events with IEM (in ear monitors) and very little floor monitor spill that degrades the sound for the audience.

At the other end there have been a few recital type performances where the even was all acoustical.  One person who was a graduate of a royal conservatory of music remarked that the room was similar to recital rooms at a well known royal conservatory school in Toronto, Canada.  One violinist said that while she would have liked a longer reverb time, the quality of the sound of her expensive instrument was amazing.  The last time she heard her violin sound so great was at a high end recording studio that was  acoustical treated.  She was also stunned that it didn’t matter where in the room she performed, the violin sounded great.

There is one down side to the new room.  Since there is no carpet, when the room is empty, you do notice the reflection off the floor. This does make the room a little challenging for those who do rehearsals when the room empty and before any table and chairs are set up.  Once tables and chairs are setup, the room behaves well.

In the real world, there are a lot of rooms that are used as multi purposed spaces but perform poorly.  Most facility owners don’t worry about acoustics because they may have the only place in town that can accommodate such events.  That said, if they were to get 10 to 20% more bookings per year, they would recover the cost of investing in an acoustical fix in less than a year.  Furthermore, it would allow the facility owner to charge a hire fee if the place gets too busy.  There is no down side to having an acoustically friendly community center, convention hall, rental hall or banquet facility.

 

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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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New Church Sound System Equalization Schedule

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2016

Notice to all Clients of JdB Sound Acoustics.

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

  1. First-year – After the 1st month, 3rd month, 6th month, 9th month and 12th month
  2. The second-year – After the 4th month, 8th month and 12th month.
  3. Third-year – same as year 2
  4. The fourth-year – after the 6th and 12 months.
  5. Fifth-year – same as year 4
  6. Sixth to the seventh year, every 1 each.
  7. After that, do touchup to do loudspeaker decay drifts. (as speakers get older, the surrounds and cone can become stiffer and less compliant and that changes the frequency response of the speaker.  Equalization often compensates for mechanical aging.)

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

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

If your church is somewhat airtight and the HVAC system is properly designed to maintain temperature, even during worship services, the tuning cycle after 6 years can be relaxed for Displacement HVAC systems.

Joseph De Buglio

 

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How to Know if your Church has Good Acoustics – Part 1

Posted by jdbsound on February 3, 2016

Here is the first test you can do to know if you have good acoustics.  Have two people over 40 years of age standing 40 feet apart in the sanctuary.  Have one person on stage and the other anywhere in the audience.  With the room empty, the sound system off, with the lights on and whatever mechanical system that are on during worship, have the two people start a conversation.  The person in the audience area has to be understood by the person on stage equally as well as the person on stage to be understood by the person in the seating area.  This is important as all churches are used to hear and communicate from both ends of the worship space.

If the two people can converse for 5 minutes understanding each other, chances are your church is in good shape.  If hearing and understanding at 40 feet is not good, then move in closer until you do.  When speech becomes clear, that is the free field distance of the room.

If you can converse at 40 feet well, try moving further apart.  Keep moving apart until it become hard to understand or your up against the walls of the church.  If your able to increase the distance for understanding speech, then as you get further apart, the better the room most likely is.  This is step one.

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Church Ceilings

Posted by jdbsound on January 8, 2016

Tip of the day.

If your planning a new church or plan on buying or leasing a commercial building, there is no instance where a floor and ceiling that are parallel that sounds good.  Sure, there are a lot of churches and worship spaces that have parallel floors and ceiling but when compared to cathedral, vaulted or angled ceilings, there is a huge difference.

When the ceiling and floor are parallel, it is harder to manage the stage sound, congregational singing suffers and room coverage suffers too.  It is harder to get good bass sounds as the frequency is limited by the height of the room.  So if you have a 20 ft ceiling, sounds below 50 Hertz will distort as you increase the volume to “feel the sound.”

To change the room, changing the ceiling is cheaper and better than changing the floor as the angle of the floor is limited to how long people have to stand on a sloped floor.  The more time you spend worshiping on your feet, the less a sloped floor makes sense.

When you change the ceiling, you can also make the acoustical treatment tunable at no extra cost.  Tuning means you are equalizing the room passively.  This form of control remains more stable when humidity and temperature changes.  Congregational singing increases humidity within the first five minutes and temperature within the first eight minutes of worship.  If you find your mixes are falling apart after the second or third song of singing, it is because the room changed, not because of your mixing skills.

Tip of the Day

Joseph De Buglio

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True of False about new Christians

Posted by jdbsound on December 4, 2015

True of False.

Most new Christian first heard about Christianity through a sound system when visiting a church or from TV or some other multi-media.

Please write your comments below.

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Introduction Updated – About

Posted by jdbsound on December 3, 2015

Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a church and not understanding or struggling to hear what is being said.  With all the science and knowledge there is, there is no excuse for any church, new or old to not have good sound.  Sadly, only five percent of the total church community has sound quality that is suited for worship.  Sure, there are some churches that have one aspect of church sound that passes but very few churches can do speech, music and congregational singing well.

Church Acoustics is one of the most difficult professions to work in. While it is complicated and the variable are infinite, it is made much easier with consistently good results when following the biblical method of controlling any room.  There are only a few people in the world that follow this method but once you experience the quality of the acoustics of one of these churches that are managed in this way, everything else sounds disappointing.

The Church Sound System is one of the easiest systems to design, install and use when you have good acoustics.  When you have poor acoustics, the sound system always fights back and lets you know where the problems are.  Until the room is tamed, no amount of sound equipment or expert knowledge can overcome the physical barriers of the room.  In an age when headsets, ear buds, HDTV, computers and home entertainment systems are of such high quality, first time visitor and members of most churches want the same quality sound at church.  When the acoustics of a church follows the Bible’s example of quality sound (which is a method detailed over 3000 years ago), it allows the modern sound system to perform as good as any contemporary form of media there is and satisfy the most discriminate of listeners while delivering the best level of speech possible.

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Connecting Cell Phones or consumer playback devices to a Sound System

Posted by jdbsound on November 8, 2015

Well, it finally happened to me.  After warning other people for years to use a Direct Box when connecting to a sound system, what did I do, connected an IPad to a mixer with an adaptor from 1/8th stereo to 2 channels of Balanced outs.  Then boom, the IPad headphone output was fried.  How?  The mixer had global Phantom power on all of the channels and because I went into the balanced inputs rather than line level 1/4 inch inputs, the voltage of the phantom power fried the IPad.

When I brought my IPad in for repairs, fortunately it was just the headset circuit that was damaged.  The owner of the repair store said that he had seen this problem before with other IPads, computers, portable CD players and cell phones.  With one person, their IPad was so damaged that the IPad had to have the main board repaired too.  Ouch.

Fortunately, there are a few direct boxes you can use that are purpose made for connecting from consumer to pro audio equipment.  What you want is a direct box that will give you 1/8th stereo and RCA two channel input to two channel stereo outputs via XLR’s.  Some model have a switch for stereo or mono outputs.  Pad switches and ground lifts are a must as well.

On this project we were firing up the speaker system for the first time. I needed stereo output and we used an older mixer that was in storage.  We hooked up to two channel and we were outputting to stereo (even though this will be a mono system.)  OK, I wanted to impress the people who were in the room at the time.  The demo and initial speaker setup was a great success but I happened to remove the connections from the mixer while the mixer was still on.  Not sure if the unplugging or the circuit that was heated up so much that when it cooled, it came apart that signed the connection failure but the next time I turned on my IPad to hear something, it would not work.

Either way, whether you are using a PC, Laptop, Cell phone, IPad, IPod or any consumer product that has 1/8 or RCA outputs, get a proper Direct box.  They range in price from $69 to $160.  That is cheap insurance considering that fixing my IPad cost about $100.00 and 7 days to get the parts to repair it.

For sound quality and extra insurance, get DI boxes that have transformers on the input or output side.

Joseph De Buglio

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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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