Church Acoustics & Sound Systems

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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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Ten years later Kingston Rd United Church

Posted by jdbsound on May 29, 2019

Kingston Road United Church had sound issues. They tried several sound system designs with no real success. Someone suggested JdB Sound Acoustics.  When I arrived, an elderly lady came to me and said, “If you can’t fix this room, then this church will not be around much longer.” Somehow, several people on the sound committee believed that if the church sounded better, they stood a better chance at keeping the doors open.

In 2008, I was hired to fix the room. I designed for them an acoustical and sound system solution. The sound system was completely replaced. The acoustics plan was using half-round tubes on all of the walls. The results were as several people put it – Amazing. Before, you could not understand anyone talking more than 15 feet away. After, you could talk end to end of the 120 ft — long worship space. The church seats 550 people.

Today in 2019, the church is thriving. It has become a place for concerts, drama and singing events. The church is growing in a location where there is only one parking spot. Church attendance may still be low, however it is higher than in 2009 and with all of the other activities, it has been more than enough to keep the doors open. Acoustics alone didn’t keep the church from closing, but it became a tool to attract new members and other forms of income for an inner city church. Good acoustics seemed to inspire the church leadership to have confidence in knowing that if people could have a good hearing experience, the greetings they would receive from the members would be that much better.  There is also proof that good sound means a greater chance for people to return.

A few years back. Cinemacoustic Solutions Int’l, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, did an experiment with two theatre test rooms. Both rooms were identical the same visually with one room properly treated acoustically, and the other was not. Room “A” was treated properly; however, Room “B” was not treated at all.

Here is a summary of the results.

“Funny enough, while many of the students made comments about the sound, stating they thought the speakers in room “A” sounded a little better than those in “B”, nearly all of them said, “the picture in Room “A” was far better than that of Room “B”. The properly treated room allowed them to see & hear content at a caliber they may not have ever experienced before, to which they naturally attributed to better equipment, as opposed to the acoustical treatment of any sort. The properly treated space relaxed their senses allowing them to enjoy the environment and what they were doing as opposed to subconsciously concentrating on what they needed to do to better enjoy their surroundings.

The same subconscious energy applies to an orator speaking in an untreated room vs. a treated room. Even a boardroom with executives around tabling important and perhaps complex company matters, they can concentrate better when not “fighting” bad room acoustics while conversing or passionately presenting their opinions, vying for votes. They would never attribute the lack of ability to concentrate on poor acoustics because they simply wouldn’t know to do so, however it can very well be a culprit.”

Good church acoustics matters. Kingston Road United Church is a fine example of how acoustics made their worship space a place where people want to do activities with speech and music. A place where people want to be and where hearing the Gospel is better understood. At Kingston, you spend more time understanding what was being said rather than spending all of your time deciding what words were being said or just trying to hear.

If you would like to see more photos of this church, use this link. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/sets/72157607243842820/

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Acoustics and the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on May 21, 2019

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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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Saving Souls – Priceless

Posted by jdbsound on May 16, 2019

What are your church priorities? Fixing the acoustics of any church is affordable.  A person will spend over a thousand dollars to help with their hearing.  Sound equipment tools for worship are affordable and do a lot of work.  Few people fuss over how an audio system looks after it is installed.  When it works, it looks great.  The same is true with acoustics.  If it works, it looks and sounds good.  If it doesn’t work, it has to look amazing because acoustics that doesn’t fix all of your churches needs is nothing more than wall furniture. What’s on your church walls that helps preach the Gospel?

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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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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. 

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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.

Posted in Church Acoustics, Church Sound Systems, Educational Must Read Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Can Acoustical Spreadsheets Save Your Church Acoustics?

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.

Posted in Church Acoustics | Comments Off on Acoustics are Imuned to Worship Styles and Technology

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.

 

Posted in Church Acoustics | Comments Off on Completed Two New Projects

 
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