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Posts Tagged ‘Church Sound Systems’

Church Sound. It’s all about cause and effect.

Posted by jdbsound on May 20, 2020

Sound system design has nothing to do with the equipment you use. It is about the location of speakers used to broadcast into a room and the interaction of the room onto the speaker system design.  It doesn’t matter if you are using line arrays or point and shoot speakers if the speakers are placing in the wrong position; both types of speakers will have the same limitations.  It is all about cause and effect.  A sound engineer needs detailed knowledge, understanding, experience, and wisdom in knowing room acoustics or know enough to ask help from an acoustician to understand when to use which system.  The room will tell you where the best places are to put speakers. 

The room will tell you when to use one of the following techniques. :

  • Distributed Sound System
  • Central Cluster or single speaker system
  • Left Center Right system or cluster
  • Left Right System
  • Live Stereo Hybrid System
  • Hybrid Distributed Sound System

The geometry, reverberation, surface materials, acoustical management system, and room volume all have to be accounted for before creating a sound system design profile.  After all of this is done, you can start to determine the size of the sound system needed. 

If you think you need to do some acoustic treatment or the church has already been treated, it should not be using the spot treatment method, which means placing a few panels on a wall or two.  Whenever you add something to one wall or any part of a wall, it affects the whole room.  This also includes the placement of screens, lighting, and other items related to multimedia.  Even room renovations change how a room sounds. It is all about cause and effect. The acoustics of a church must use a planned system that treats the whole room.

A spot fix is when enough panels are added to solve one problem.  In acoustics, when there is a problem, there are always other glitches than masked other difficulties that you can’t hear and often are not shown in acoustical measurements.  Here is an example: Placing sound absorbers on the front face of a balcony will get rid of an echo.  However, the added absorption often makes the mids and bass stronger, which usually makes speech and music sound muddier.   This then requires adding bass traps, which are expensive.  While you can use aggressive equalization to make the sound system better for speech, you will need a different equalization for music.  While these efforts can somewhat help with amplified sound as long as someone remembers to switch the EQ settings, the congregational singing is degraded until bass traps are added.  Add the bass traps.  It is all about cause and effect.

However, you may have noticed at after treating the front face of the balcony and adding the bass traps, there is now a softer echo off the back wall or the reflections off the side walls are much worse depending on the shape of the room.  Reflections off the side walls are detected when clapping from the front of the center stage.  Those reflections from the sides or back interfere with speech and music intelligibility.  It is all about cause and effect.  Change the EQ of the sound system.  Helps for speech, doesn’t help for music at all.  In spite of changes to the sound system, speech is worse in the back half of the room.  Add speakers to the back half of the room.  It helps people with good hearing and doesn’t help people with hearing aids.  Add a delay to the speakers.  People with hearing aids do better, but they are still no happy because someone is sitting in their spot where they know the sound is better. 

Should you apply something to the sidewalls, then the echo off the back wall becomes much more pronounced and interfering with hearing on stage.  Switch to in-ear monitors.  It’s all about cause and effect.

Now the drums are too loud. Add panels to the stage or get a drum shield that costs more than fixing all of the acoustical problems in one step.  With the drum shield in place, the drummer plays louder because they can’t hear themselves properly.  The insides of the drum enclosures are easily overloaded, making it harder for the drummer to hear all the different drums and cymbals.  After additional dampening to the drums, the drummer playing even louder, getting elbow and wrist injuries.  Sound is still bleeding through the shield, even after adding a roof to it.  Some churches have turned the drum shield into a self-contained room with air-conditioning as a permanent fixture on the stage.  It is all about cause and effect.

For the time being, congregational singing has become a chore for most, resulting in less than 20% of the audience singing.  To get people singing again, you pay singers and musician to lead the worship, and to keep the talent to stick with the music entertainment program.  This helps for a while, and before long, you are back to less than 20% of the audience singing.  Bring in larger screens, add lighting effects, and use lighting to help create a mode to encourage people to sing.  Again, this helps for a while, but participation drops back to 20% again.  These objects change the acoustics of the room, and everyone just puts up with the sound degradation.  It’s all about cause and effect.

In the meantime, the sound system has been replaced, church attendance is up, but fewer people come to prayer meetings or Bible studies.  Turn to home groups.  At first, home groups bring in more people, but as the church continues to grow, more people are slipping through the system and are not included in the home groups or any spiritual support.  Fewer people are growing as there is no alternative for mid-week meetings at the church.   The preaching is dynamic; the entertainment is awesome, fewer people are actively involved in the church, and more people become adherents with no real motivation to join, and become members, and learn more about their faith.  The church is full of Sunday worshipers unable to defend the Gospel, but they know and singing the choruses sung by the church all the time.  It is about being part of something that is free of guilt, responsibility, and not knowing what salvation really is about.  It’s all about cause and effect.

Wait a minute, what does any of this have to do with acoustics and sound system?  The sound system is just equipment and technology.  The room is just a set of walls, floor, and ceiling.  When empty, they do nothing.  When energized with sound, there is an immediate cause and effect that impacts on every part of the worship service.  Sound affects how people react to events in a church.  Consider how people respond to movies at a theatre.  When the sound is excellent, the audience will tell you how good the picture looks.  When the sound is poor, people don’t come back.  How much more does that impact a church?  Again, it’s all about cause and effect.

Next, check the acoustical condition of your church.  Have your church properly tested for all aspects of worship, not just the performance of the sound system and hardware.  Test for congregational singing.  Test for audience participation for prayer and testimonies from the seating area of your church.  Check for the signal to noise ratio on the stage and in the audience.  Check the frequency response of the room and ignore the reverberation time of there is more than a 20dB difference in the response of the worship space.  If your worship space passed, then you don’t need any help.  Your sound system is already working perfectly.  If you have any concerns or want better performance from your sound system, fix the room.  It’s all about cause and effect.

After the sound system and worship space has been upgraded, start mid-week Bible Studies at the church.  If people come to the church mid-week, the congregation will become stronger and healthier.  Congratulation, you have just successfully upgraded the sound of your church to meet all what a congregation needs.

The story you have just read happens in many churches.  It is based on the testimonies of hundreds of churches around the world.  If this doesn’t sound like your church, have your worship space tested anyway if it hasn’t ever been properly tested. The results can be a surprise or a blessing. 

Posted in Church Acoustics, Church Sound Systems | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Improve/Fix Congregational Singing Permanently

Posted by jdbsound on March 6, 2020

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

Here are some of those titles. 

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

There are many more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) By Joseph De Buglio March 2020.

Posted in Church Acoustics, Church Sound Systems, Educational Must Read Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is your minister preaching a distorted message unintentionally?

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2020

When sharing the Gospel, so many times, someone has said that they didn’t like what the minister said during a worship service, so they left the church.  They thought the minister was preaching a false message.  Some people have told me that they walked out of a worship service upon hearing the distorted message.  I would ask them if other people left the service at the same time.  In every case, they said no.  That is when I try to retrieve the audio record of that specific service.   As it turned out, on the recording, the minister said the right things, but why was it heard in the sanctuary as something else? 

The next step was to play the recording over the sound system and sit in the same spot the person complained about what he heard.  Sure enough, the same gibberish that got the person upset was heard in that spot.  When you moved several feet over in any direction, the sound was clearer, yet in other places, different words were being twisted.  With the recording on a loop, we found dozens of other places where the minister’s words were warped into something else.  Doing this exercise did get one person to try church again, but in most cases, when something like this happens, most people will not return to a church where the Gospel is preached.

Sound quality matters.  What good is excellent speech intelligibility in one spot and a failure in another?  Sound quality can save people and their souls.  I have never met a person who was saved by a song, but I had met many people who were saved when they heard the clear and undistorted message of Jesus Christ and become followers of the Messiah because the message was clearly understood. 

I often wonder how many other people have experienced hearing something different than what the minister said in a sanctuary. For many ministers and church leaders, it would never occur to them that the sound system was the cause of some people not returning to church.  The unfortunate truth is, many churches have questionable acoustics, and when a person sits in a spot where words, syllables, or the sound volume is too low, what was said and what is heard were not the same.

Sound systems cannot fix the acoustical problems of a church.  Adding more speakers or applying the latest state of the art technology tricks are no match to Architectural failures in room design and unmanaged sound sequencing around a room.  Absorptive panels are often the first weapon used to tame a room.  Cutting down on the noise and reflections with absorption cannot fix deadspots or hotspots.  Absorptive panels cannot change the path of sound reflections that causes uneven sound distribution. Absorptive panels have been known to make the sound harder to understand in those poor locations throughout the room, not better.  What is needed is a different weapon to defeat poor sound.

To eliminate hotspots and deadspots, you need to be able to distribute sound more evenly.  Scattering the sound is the most effective way to create a unified sound field throughout the whole sanctuary.  When sound is managed in this way, not only does it eliminate deadspots and hotspots of any speech problems, but it makes congregational singing, praise and worship bands clearer, the stage sound is corrected, and for many churches, they bring back choral music because it sounds better than what a worship team could do before the room was fixed.  In most cases, scattering the sound costs less to do than absorbing sound. 

Acoustical solutions for churches that work should be common knowledge as these concepts have been around for years. Fixing a church can often be restricted by how a solution may look. It is high time that the aesthetic police take a back seat from preventing the Gospel message to be preached clearly.  If aesthetics are a big deal, alternatives are always possible.  In the end, it is all about priorities. You have to choose between hearing the Gospel or have a Church that looks good.  What will your church do?

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

Posted by jdbsound on February 5, 2020

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Father of modern acoustics

By Joseph De Buglio (c) 2020

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Does Your Church Need help with Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on August 1, 2019

Here is a collection of 445 photos of 46 churches that completed most or all of their sound system and acoustical plan.  My job is to design a solution that will solve all or almost all sound problems in one step.  For most churches, this means getting the most accomplished in one step as most churches can’t afford to keep chasing sound problems without truthful help.  The road back to great sound in the church is in the Bible, and that is what these churches did. 

All of the installations of the acoustical systems and the sound systems were completed by church members or local contractors when those churches were able to afford professional installers.  The final appearances are what those churches selected.  I work closely with all churches for alternative aesthetics regardless of any budget limitations.  When a church has to choose between aesthetics vs. performance of the 400 plus churches that have just simple painted cardboard tubes on the walls, those churches spoke with what they installed. 

These churches demonstrated that they care more about hearing the Gospel than having a sanctuary that looks good.  There is a high spiritual cost for poor acoustics and sound system designs.  Poor sound does get in the way of people hearing the Word, and for some, it can deny people from understanding the Gospel message of salvation, and that is a cost no church can afford.

For professional, no compromise help, we can provide the highest level of expert assistance that will fulfill the Great Commission as Jesus taught. Having the skills of the world helps but God’s plan for churches demands His way of doing Church Sound. Without that knowledge, the worlds way of doing church sound always comes up short in meeting the standard that God demands of us.

Click the photo above or the link below to see what other churches have done to have great sound for speech, congregational singing and total worship in general.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/collections/72157627021000982/

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The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Church Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2019

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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Seeking the Truth

Posted by jdbsound on July 18, 2019

As an expert in Church Acoustics and in the pursuit of the truth, I have also been passionate about finding ways for all churches to afford an acoustical solution that will solve just about every sound problem most churches run into. What can be more exciting than knowing that the cheapest and best acoustical solution in the world for all churches comes from the book that all Christians follow and obey – the Bible. When a church uses the Bible’s method for acoustical management, sound problems almost all go away and in most cases, a sustained higher church attendance happens after around 18 months. God is the author of Church Acoustics and it is time for churches to seek God first for answers and God will reveal His way to solve sound problems in His Houses of Worship. Whenever a church is dedicated to God, doesn’t it become His House?

Joh_14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If we take that a step further, Jesus was present in the design of Solomon’s Temple. While Millions have already been saved in the past, present and hopefully the future, how many more can be added if all Houses of Worship were built or brought up to the same acoustical standards as in Solomon’s Temple? Since most churches don’t have that quality of room acoustics, I guess we may never know!

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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.  It can often hear it.  To listen to it in a rectangle room, go between the parallels walls that are the closest together. Often it is the side 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 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 standing waves are the cause of it.  The standing waves are 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 people from hearing the clapping returning from the back of the room. Standing waves have the effect of isolating everyone from each other in the room.  This result is also why the drummer seems to sound so loud and why most drummers strike the drums harder than they have too. It is because they can’t hear their drums at a lower level.  This outcome is also why many people comment that they can’t hear themselves when singing, and it makes them feel alone in a room full of people.

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

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

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

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

The dimensions of the room

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

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

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

Too much-stored energy in the corners

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

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

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

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

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

Too much high-frequency absorption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Really Useful Charts and Helps

Posted by jdbsound on May 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by jdbsound on May 7, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Share your comments.  Was this article helpful?

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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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Can Acoustical Spreadsheets Save Your Church Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on June 20, 2016

There are dozens of acoustical spreadsheets that come with the promise of a viable acoustical fix.  Some sheets are for studios and some are for home theatres.  There are also other spreadsheets for larger rooms.  As rooms get larger, (as in Christian Churches and worship centers) those spreadsheets become less accurate.  Sure, the better spreadsheets adds more variable to compensate for the limitations, but the limitations are still there. Furthermore, with all of the spreadsheets, you have to add an additional line to include a fudge factor.  In some spreadsheets you need to add multiple fudge factor lines.

When a person tries to use an acoustical spreadsheet, they are only looking at one parameter of the rooms acoustics.  You are only looking at “time.”  The problem is, for churches, and I MEAN ALL ROOMS WHERE MORE THAN 150 PEOPLE GATHER TO WORSHIP – there are other parameters that are equally or more important than “time.” Acoustical problems always come in layers.  The minimum number of layers of acoustical sound management in a worship space is 4 layers.  As a worship space becomes larger, the more layers you have to attend to.  “Time” becomes only a fraction of the real acoustical problems you are faced with.  Obviously you can’t see them but you can measure them if you are trained to recognize when you hear them.

Romanian Church Kitchener Ontario Pano 1.jpgThe problem with spreadsheets is that they are not looking issues such as standing waves – and every church – regardless of shape has standing waves (unless the space is acoustically managed in the first place which also means this article is not for you.)  Spreadsheets are not looking at excessive noise from early and late reflections.  They are not looking at bass buildup often found in the corners of a room.  They are not looking at flutter echoes and full syllable echoes.  These are all sound effects than can’t be dialed out with equalizers, delays, algorithms and the next miracle digital gadget or software. (Yet that is how most sound system designers try to deal with room acoustics.)

Regardless of a persons acoustical training, knowledge or experience,  a spreadsheet cannot tell you when standing waves are masking flutter echoes.  A spreadsheet cannot tell you when bass build up is masking a standing wave issue.  A spreadsheet can’t tell you how much the early and later reflections are reducing music and speech intelligibility. 

All that a spreadsheet can tell you is how much “time” it takes for a sound to decay in a room either as an average number.  Some spreadsheets are much more detailed and they have been written as an attempt to calculate a room in octaves or by 1/3rd octaves.  If it was only that easy.  Measuring and calculating time is just a sliver of the acoustical signature of a space people worship in. 

church of our lady small.jpg

It takes a lot of training to learn Church acoustics.  The same applies to Studio Acoustics, Recital Halls, Concert halls and lecture halls.  All of these rooms have specific acoustical needs and they all require a unique set of skills to properly fix them.   

What makes a church so complicated is in how a church is used.  When a church is designed as a “church,” it becomes the most multipurpose space there is because of all the ways a worship space is used.  When you say you want the worship space to be more “Multi-Purpose” or more flexible in it use, you are actually limiting what a basic worship space is supposed to be able to do. 

At the end of the day, an acoustical spreadsheet is only a small snapshot into church acoustics.  It can’t help with congregational singing, it can’t help with a noisy stage for a praise and worship team or choir and it can’t help with drum issues or speech intelligibility. 

What often happens is with the spreadsheet, it will guide you to a solution that is based on absorption.  When an acoustical fix is based around absorption, you wind up “killing” the room for all music – especially contemporary music and congregational singing – and the masking effects of the other acoustical issues get worse.  Sure, the room sounds more tame than it was before, but the ability to understand speech is either no better than before or it has gotten worse.  Before you know it, everyone gets in ear monitors and all of the members of the worship team have to sign an insurance liability waver stating that they will not sue the church for any future health problems with hearing loss.  Seriously, is that the kind of acoustical fix you want? 

Front view of creekside church_edited-1.jpgThat is what you get when you turn to an acoustical solution based only on spreadsheet calculations.  To top it all off, the results are not much better when using computer simulation software programs.  Simulation programs only show you the results at one frequency at a time.  The computer generated image may be 3D but the patterns they show are only one frequency at a time – even when it is averaged out.  To see large room acoustics in a simulation, you need to be able to see the results in 4D.  Hologram can’t show you 4D images.  That ability hasn’t been invented yet.  You need to be able to see sound in 4 dimensions because all sounds are complex.  Every sound made on earth is a combination of wave lengths that are generated at the same time. Some parts of a sound are measured in feet and some in inches.  There is no way to visually see 100 Hertz, which is 11 ft long, and 4000 Hertz which is 3.5 inches long, at the same time in the same place yet in real life, that is what is happening with sound.  We all take sound for granted but the complexity of sound is extensive.

But doesn’t sound follow the rules of fluid dynamic and other laws of physics?  Of course it does, but only when you examine one frequency at a time and that frequency is never a pure tone.  It is always complex.  The only place you can measure and see a pure tone is in a machine like an oscilloscope and the moment you launch that sound into the air, it becomes complex.  Just as sound is complex, so are the acoustical fixes for churches. 

jdbsound test room.jpg

This is one way to test an acoustical solution before you recommend it to a church.  Have your own testing facility.  Whatever research is done in this room, it mathematical translates perfectly when it is scaled up into a larger space.

As a mantra, remember this:  for all Christian churches, acoustical problems come in layers and whatever fix you choose, it has to address all of the layers in one step – which is possible if you want an affordable fix.  There are many tools in the Acousticians Tool Box to fix a worship space. There are diffusers, resonators, traps and other devices that can address the needs of a church’s acoustics. There are also stand-alone electronic solutions that work in certain worship spaces. You need a lot of training to know which ones you need, what combinations you need and how to use them, and the last place you want to do your training and experimenting is on your customers. 

If you are doing Church Acoustics or trying to fix your own church, don’t do it as an experiment and you know it will be an experiment the moment someone in your committee say something like, “lets try this as see what happens.”  With those words, the acoustical solution is already doomed.  Experts like myself can tell you the results the second you decide to try something and long before you apply the materials. 

History shows that after a church spends it’s money on a thing such as acoustics, it will not be able to afford to fix any mistakes for decades.  If the results makes the room worse or no better than before, then you are subjecting the church members to more sound abuse for years to come and we don’t want that.  Spreadsheets don’t fix churches, good training and expert help does. (It’s also cheaper in the end to get expert help.)

Finally,  consider this.  The internet has become a treasure trove of knowledge.  That knowledge is often presented as expert information offering sure fire solutions.  I scan the internet often to see what is out there.  There is a lot of great information and there are a lot of myths.  When you collect all of that info, it only holds a fraction of the total knowledge about church acoustics.  If we were to put a percentage on it, the internet holds about 2% of the total knowledge there is for church acoustics.  The books hold another 8% of what there is to know about church acoustics.  Church acoustics is so complicated that often, a seasoned acoustical expert like myself will have to fix one of a kind acoustical fixes often.  Those unique fixes are often not shared because others may think that the one of a kind fix would be needed in every other church that has the same problem.  You can have 10 churches with the same acoustical problem but in every one the fix has to be modified because of the other variables that have to be included.  The rest of the knowledge about church acoustics is held by experts because the church community hasn’t taken ownership of that knowledge yet and there is no system in place for churches to share their experiences in order to avoid mistakes in the future.  What is missing is the wisdom in knowing what acoustical fixes will enhance worship verse what acoustical fixes exchanges one set of problems for another set of problems. Problems which holds back and undermines the real worship experience the church leaders want you to participate in. 

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

Joseph De Buglio

Acoustician and Expert in Church Acoustics.

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New Church Sound System Equalization Schedule

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2016

Notice to all Clients of JdB Sound Acoustics.

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

 

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I Hate Mute Switches!

Posted by jdbsound on April 19, 2015

At my church, we still have an analog Mixer.  It has 24 channels, 4 sub groups, Left/Right and Mono out.   We use the sub groups.  Vocal, Drums, Instruments and Leadership mics.  The mixer has mutes on every channel, on each of the mute groups and on the 3 master outputs.  Fortunately, we have a church were the acoustics are stable.  We can run all of the mics open without feedback for normal worship levels. Monitors are stable and so on.  It is also a good sound rig.  When I run the mixer, I turn every channel on and shut off any mute switches.  I control all of the levels with the sub groups.  I don’t want any surprises.

This Sunday it was my turn to run the mixer as we are on a weekly rotation.  Thursday night was rehearsals.  Missed the rehearsal.  Friday night the Youth used the sanctuary and someone used the mixer.  Things were changed but it only took about a minute to set everything back.

As usually, you arrive at the church early for a pre service warmup. Dialed up a great monitor mix.  Everything seem right and as typical, we rehearse and warm up with the FOH speakers off.  When the worship team stopped it was time to turn on some background music.  Turned on the CD player, saw activity on the channel, raiser the fader for the channel and the channel was assigned to the Mono Main Out.  Raise the mono out and nothing happened.  What!!!

Checked the power switch to the powered speakers.  Check to make sure the processor was on and passing a signal.  Nothing.  Called the head tech for the church, he checked everything out. He checked the mixer and he agreed with me and thought that the power switch was faulty.  He removed the power switch and bypassed it.  Still no sound!  Double checked and found that the power lights on the back of the powered speakers were indeed on.  The head tech and I stared at each other confused wondering why there was still no sound.  Then he looked at the mixer again and this time noticed that the Mute switch on the Master Mono Main out was engaged.  He hit the mute switch and the rest of the sound system came to life.

In the year of mixing at the church, the Main Left/Right and Mono outs have never been muted.  The mixer is a spilt mixer where 16 channel are on one side of the mixer, 8 channel on the other side of the mixer and the Groups and master outs are near the middle of the mixer.  For some reason we were blinded in not seeing the red mute lights in that area of the mixer as there are other red lights in the area for other things.

Later I learned that a recently hired youth leader came from a church were the sound system was so unstable that you had to mute everything all the time.  They muted anything that wasn’t needed and because they left the mixer on 24/7, they had the habit of muting the master outputs as well.  The head sound tech and I had a good laugh at the whole experience.  For me, I should have known better as this is about the 3rd time something like this has happened.  This is the first time with powered speakers, but before I had people thinking there was something wrong with the mixer.  So please, unless you have a wonky unstable system, please don’t use the master mute switches.  They are great for a studio but not for live sound.

Joseph De Buglio

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Singing at 105dBa!

Posted by jdbsound on April 10, 2015

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

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

Please tell us what you do when mixing.

Joseph De Buglio

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

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

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Church Aesthetics

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

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

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The Testing Room Part 1

Posted by jdbsound on July 13, 2014

test room 002

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

test room 001

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

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

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

 

 

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Windermere United Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Posted by jdbsound on March 18, 2013

windermere 3_edited-1

Completed their Sound System and Acoustical upgrade in Summer of 2012.

In the last year, all of the complaint about sound have been exchange for a growing church.

Click on the photo to see the full size image.
To see other images of this church please use this link – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/sets/72157632984258138/

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Pastor Guide To Acoustics

Posted by jdbsound on December 20, 2012

Here is an article I recommend reading.  It sings the same story share at this website.  Don’t know about the results but if it is similar, it would be amazing.

Pastor’s Guide to Acoustics
link: http://www.worshipfacilities.com/go.php/editorial/19635

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All Sound Systems are like magnifying glasses of the room acoustics

Posted by jdbsound on December 10, 2012

Is your sound system making the right impression?  Are the acoustics of your church allowing your sound system to make that great first, second and third impression at your church?

Once again the subject of getting more performance out of the next sound system upgrade keeps coming up. When a church is constantly seeking to get more performance out of a sound system at every upgrade and not be  enjoying the best sound possible then it’s time to fix the room instead of putting it off and investing into more equipment. This is the message your sound system is broadcasting.  Are you listening or are you waiting for the next technology breakthrough for that sliver of improvement?

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Calvary Worship Centre, Surrey, BC. Canada

Posted by jdbsound on November 9, 2012

Image

The acoustical system at Calvary Worship Centre is now about 95% complete.  The church hired me back to confirm the acoustical results and to finalize the sound system setup.  The Midas Pro2c Mixer and Danley Speaker system are a great match.

This is not the largest church to use this acoustical and sound system combination, but it is the largest church to change their acoustics in less than 30 days.  The fastest church repair was done in 7 days in Brentwood, England.  The largest Church I have worked on was 6500 seating.

A member of Living Hope Church in Surrey BC where they have been using the same acoustical system for over a year commented with saying Calvary has the same balance of sound as does Living Hope which is a modest 270 seat church.  Calvary Worship Centre can seat up to 2000.  That is remarkable considering that one place is built as a “proper” church and the other is a converted warehouse and both spaces perform the same.  (I was reminded that Living Hope Church thought they already had good acoustics but tried the Solomon system as a short term experiment.  The experiment turned it a permanent installation and the congregational singing and worship has never been more exciting.)

A Member of Calvary Worship Centre said, “The sound is far better than I dared hope for this 20,000 sq ft space given my previous church experience in a very similar venue.  Also, the total price was less than I expected it might be including your fees and the acoustic treatment.”

As one person mentioned at another church fixed with half round diffusers in Little Rock, Arkansas USA, he said, “you can tell if you have a good room by the number of people singing.  Before only about 20% of the audience was singing most of the time and for familiar hymns about 25% were singing.  Now it’s about 85% of the audience is singing all the time and you can hear the excitement and power of all those voices ring out.”  Imagine that – worship and excitement in the same sentence.

Click on the Photo to see the full size version.

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Direct Boxes…..

Posted by jdbsound on May 26, 2012

Direct Boxes

Original Article Copyright (c) 1988 Joseph De Buglio, JdB Sound, Acoustics
Updated 1997, 2012

From JdB Church Sound & Acoustics

This information has be written for the layman and should not be used as technical information. Many terms and descriptions are simplified for educational reading.

Thank you.

What are they and why do we need them?

It’s 10:00am Sunday morning. The invited Gospel group just showed up an hour late. You have 45 minutes to set up, do a sound check and rehearse the group long enough to know what kind of sound they are best known for.

One by one the performers enter with their instruments. This group is planning to use the church sound system. Rumor told them that this church had a very good system. You see one electronic organ, two electronic keyboards, one string bass with a pickup and one electric guitar with an amplifier head. Finally, you see an electronic drum kit.

At the front of the church you have 16 mic inputs. You need 5 vocal mics and 9 inputs for the instruments. That leaves you with a pulpit mic and a tape player input.

Fortunately, you were prepared. Earlier in the week you rented 1 speaker director, 5 passive direct boxes and 2 active direct boxes. The church already owned 2 passive direct boxes.

By 10:30, the sound check was finished with the soundman sitting at his mixer in the pew and 10 minutes later the group finished their rehearsal and floor monitor check. At 11:00am, service started and the group performed very well. Most people were not aware that the group set up in only 45 minutes. Is this really possible? Ever since the 16mm film projector was used in the church and connected to the sound system, churches have needed a direct box (or DI box). DI boxes are used to change the output signal from one source and change the level and impedance to match a microphone level signal input into a mixer. The most common application of a direct box is when connecting an electronic keyboard or similar electronics to a sound system. The DI box allows you to connect into a snake or existing mic lines and send the signal up to 700 or 800 feet away. By converting line level signal to a balanced signal mic level, you also avoid RF problems and crosstalk in the mic cables back to the mixer.

There are 5 quick and convenient type of boxes

________________________________________

Passive Direct Box

The most common DI box is the Passive Direct Box. This unit is often used to connect Guitars, Keyboards and other electronics that have a line level out from the instrument. Often the line level voltage is between .5 volts to 3 volts (Some DI’s units can handle an input signal of +8dB (or 10 volts)). As a passive unit, the signal is as good as the transformer that is built within it. An important feature of many good quality DI boxes is ground lifting. Since there is no universal standard for audio equipment and instruments, grounding problems often occur (Perhaps the new ISO9000 standard may help…. but let’s see what happens in the next few years.) Many DI boxes are able to isolate grounding problems between various items of equipment. Generally, by going through a DI, you loss from 3 to 6dB of signal.

** Note: Not all DI boxes sound the same. As the signal levels get higher, the DI box may add some distortion. On an electric Guitar it may be a good thing. On a Keyboard it can sound awful. Before you blame the soundman for that poor keyboard or instrument mix in the monitors, try a different DI box or even an Active box.

Active Direct Box

The second most common DI box is the Active Direct Box. These units either work from a battery or phantom power from a mixer. An active DI box can handle higher signal levels and put out a higher signal level. Furthermore, the frequency response is often better too. When you are performing in a room that has low reverberation and good performance qualities, it is better to use the active DI box. Also if you plan to use a digital signal in reinforcement or recording, use the active DI box. Generally, a DI has 0dB signal loss.

Active Direct Box with Preamp.

A new type of Direct Box may have a built in preamp that works off the Phantom power of a mixer or it might have batteries or it might have an AC/DC adapter. I haven’t had a chance to test one, but the are supposed to boost a signal level up to 10dB. Some of these units can also work as a mic preamp as well but that is only when your mixer dies and you need 1 mic to get through the show. But that would only work if you have a box that is self powered or with an AC adapter.

Speaker Director Box

The less common DI box is called the Speaker Director Box. A speaker director is used when the only signal output available is from an amplifier. Many older 16mm film projectors use a 10 watt tube amplifier for driving a 10 watt speaker. A tube amplifier should always have a nominal load of 4 ohms or higher on the output or the amplifier will burn itself out. A good speaker director will present to the amplifier a proper load and convert the signal to mic levels to either a 150 or 600 ohms. You should never take a signal from an amplifier direct into a mixer. You will either fry the channel or the power supply in your mixer.

Remember, all good direct boxes have ground lift switches and there are a few units that have an automatic grounding system. Make sure that your direct box has this feature.

Line Matching Transformer

Another common method of connecting low level electronics to a sound system is by using a line matching transformer. The transformer is usually mounted in a barrel type connector with a ¼ inch-tip sleeve connector at one end and an XLR three pin connector on the other end. The whole unit is often about 4 inches long. There are only a few manufacturers of these products and they seem to work.

Radio Shack, EV and other mic companies has two types and churches tend to buy these because they are so visible and easy to get. One converts low level line outputs to mic levels. This unit with the ¼” female to male XLR can handle a lot of power but, there is a major penalty when you drive this transformer to hard. In bench measurements, when the sign was greater than 2 volts, it introduced distortion. At 3 volts there was 10% distortion. At 5 volts there was about 20% distortion. On a guitar this may be desirable or in a noisy night club show where you won’t hear the distortion, but in a church, the distortion can be very unpleasant. As long as the sign stays below 2 volts, this transformer will do a reasonable job.

The other unit converts Mic Levels to Line Levels. The performance of these units were bench tested with a MLSSA (a computerized audio and acoustical testing system) and the performance was surprisingly very good. The limiting factor is voltage. The unit with the Female XLR to Male ¼ inch connectors can not handle a load much higher that 1 volt of power. At 1 volt the transformer saturates and it sound horrible. Any signal below 1 volt will have a frequency response from 10 hertz to 20,000 hertz ±1.5dB. The transformer is down 6dB at 3 hertz. From 50 hertz to 15,000 hertz the unit is ± .25dB. In my books, this is an excellent performance for most smaller church needs. The best function for this transformer is in trapping RF signals for mixers that do not have good quality electronically balanced inputs (Some mixers have transformer inputs which traps RF.)

Update 1997.

Recently on the news groups, there was some mis-information being shared which I feel should be corrected. A person posted the question, “Can an active DI boost the signal from -20dB to +0dB. I want to boost the signal of my acoustic guitar pickup.”

The response to this question was remarkable. What was very surprising was when I saw who was answering the questions.

First of all, lets look at the question. – The request was to know if an active DI can boost an audio signal from -20dB to +0dB. First of all, we should know what -20dB means.

In HI-FI, -10 and -20dB is the standard used to connect from stereo equipment to equipment. Part of the reason for this standard is that a lower signal has few problems with noise from RF and HUMs and at that level, it is cheaper to provide RF protections at -10dB. However, this signal is too low to manipulate for editing without adding noise that is inherent of all audio equipment and signals – even digital signals.

In Pro Audio, we use +4 as a standard. Part of the reason (among other things) for this higher output is to boost the signal high enough for a greater signal to noise ratio. Let me explain. A line level to line level signal often already has a signal to noise ratio of 60dB or more. A microphone can have a signal that is from – 80dB to +10dB. That is 90dB of dynamic range. If the low level -80dB signal is clean – that is little or no noise, by boosting it to +4dB means that when you split the signal for monitors, effects and recording outputs, when you change the signal with the channel EQ and then send the signal out of the mixer, your original signal should be (almost) noise free. (If you have a cheep mic, that can often be a problem when micing a person’s voice at a distance.) In otherworldly, the hotter the signal, the better for Pro Audio- and all church sound system come under this label.

As a side bar. – Have you even connected a CD player directly to a Pro Amplifier and found that you could turn the CD up all the way without clipping the amplifier? It’s because the maximum output of most consumer CD player are .75 Volts – which is the maximum output of a HIFI product. For Pro Audio – many pro amplifier are 1.75 volts (+4dB) or 2.83 volts (+8dB). This voltage difference and signal difference is the main reason why you can not mix HIFI and Pro Audio equipment. (Note, some lower prices Pro audio amps have switches for .75 volts for consumer use.)

Back to the Question – Many active DI boxes have switches that can cut a signal down. Most Active DI boxes have 0dB, -10dB and -20dB. Some DI boxes also have -45dB. These are pads. Pads are loads created with resistors and other components to cut the signal down when the input voltage is too high. A passive DI box will loose between 3 to 6dB of signal. For many sound sources, this is OK. Also, passive DI use transformers. All transformers have a unique sound. If your church has an NC above 42dB, the sound of the DI will not be noticeable. If the church has an NC below 42dB, then everything counts.

Active DI boxes offer 0dB signal loss and since they don’t use transformers, they add far less coloration to the original sound. In order for a Direct Box to Boost a -20dB signal to +0dB, you need internal amplifiers like a mixer has. To the best of my knowledge, there are only a few Active DI boxes that have such abilities. Generally, they should be called Active DI with Preamps. Most of the common Active DI boxes do not have this ability.

These DI boxes with pre amps and gain controls built in require 24 volts or more to boost a signal. A full boost of signal can be achieved with a 48 volt phantom power supply as supplied in many pro quality mixers. Some of these DI’s can boost a signal to +20dB, but doing this without gain noise is remote. In a club with 55dB of background noise this probably isn’t a problem – in a church with 40dB of background noise and preamp noise will be a major issue.

The solution for the guitar player is to use a guitar foot pedal pre amp that can also add Bass, mid and treble tone controls – then go into a DI box. The signal will be boosted before going into the DI box – as it should.

For other low level signal, you can use a Guitar pre amp or- you can use a unit like the Symetrix 202. It is a two channel pre amp with phantom power. It can be used as a mixer by itself or to boost a low level signal. It can handle almost any kind of input and convert it to 600 ohm balanced load. You don’t need a DI box with this unit. it has a ground switch, a pad, a gain control and phase switch. Because it has two channels, you can mix two sounds, like a mic and guitar before sending it to the main mixer, or mix 2 acoustic guitars. The option is yours.

What prompted this writing is the fact that well known audio experts are either telling people that any active DI box can boost a signal, or they are accepting this info as fact. Yes, there are some active DI boxes that have a built in line amplifier to increase the signal which makes these unit more than a pure active DI and if you read the product label, it will tell you if there is a line amp included.

In summary, a DI box should always be used as your first choice when connecting an electronic instrument to a sound system where you are using mic cables over 50 feet to the mixer. Use the in line transformers sparingly, especially if your don’t know the output voltage. And yes, with practice, in 30 minutes you can connect up to 24 mic inputs with two people and finish a sound check. Check DI 1, DI 2, DI 3……

________________________________________

DI Box FAQ

Question from those who search the web.

Can you use a DI box with a mic? Jan 2012

The short answer is – NO.

The long answer is – DI boxes are not pre amps or mic signal amplifiers. They are passive devices. Even an Active DI box is passive. All it does is give you better control of the input sign to prevent clipping of a hot signal. Di Boxes convert one type of signal to another. That said, there are a few expensive boxes that are suppose to work both as a DI box and as a preamp for line level signal. They can not be used to manage mic level signal whether balanced or unbalanced. DI boxes are 1/4 inch inputs and XLR and 1/4 inch outputs. When they say preamp/DI box, what they are saying is that they can change the bass, treble, mids and add sound effects to the hot signal and then send it to the mixer at mic level or line level for a Guitar amp.

If you are looking to boost a mic signal, you need a pre-amp and they are many phantom powered, battery powered, USB powered and DC/AC wall wart powered pre-amps.

Can you connect from a Mixer to an Amp Directly?

The Short Answer is – Yes

The Long Answer is – Amp inputs are line level. HIFI/Consumer products connect at -10dB. Pro products are setup for +4dB. The key here is to have the proper type of cable connections. It is best to run from XLR to XLR or TRS to TRS or TS to TS. If you have to go from XLR or TRS to TS, and you are having any hum issues then a DI box will help you out and correct the grounding issues.

What is the best way to connect from a computer or Laptop or Ipod/Iphone/Ipad to a mixer for music playback?

The proper way to take a headset signal output to a single mixer input is to connect with two Line Match Transformers. You need a transformer for both the Left and Right channel. Why? One of the sacred rules in audio is that you can split or “Y” an output signal to two devices but never combine or “Y” an input signal to the input of a mixer. In many churches there are Cassette players, MP3 players, CD players and other playback devices that have only one channel working. When you “Y” an output to a single connection, you are creating an improper load and that often leads to a Left or Right channel being burned out over time. There are summing boxes that you can use but they can be expensive. Better yet, if you have two free input channels or you have stereo input channel use them. If you only have 1 channel, the line match transformers will protect the mix and the playback device.

A good article to read is from Rane https://www.rane.com/note109.html

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Kingston Road United Church

Posted by jdbsound on May 25, 2012

Kingston Road United Church.

Location: Kingston Road, Toronto, Ontario Canada

Consulting Date March 2008
Completion Date by Church members – October 2008
Sound System installed by Westbury Sound – December 2008

  1. Seating capacity 500+
  2. Ceiling over 40 ft high
  3. Over 120 Cardboard Tubes custom made order and placed around the room in 8″ 12″ and 16″ half rounds.
  4. Between 120 to 800 hertz removed 18 to 22dB of excess energy.
  5. This change allowed a single speaker system to cover a whole room 134 ft long.
  6. Throw distances from speakers to back wall, 98 ft.
  7. Contractor who installed the system was surprised at how well this sound system worked and how much the room changed.
  8. Contractor suggested delayed speakers before the acoustical treatment was done.

If you wish to see additional photos of this project, visit my Flickr Photo Library.   Use this link to see them.   https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/sets/72157607243842820/

 

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Natural Acoustical Amplifiers

Posted by jdbsound on May 22, 2012

Walls are amplifiers of sound.
Outdoors – when you double the energy with amplifiers or speakers the sound levels increases 3dB.
Indoors – when you double the energy with amplifiers or speakers the sound level of certain frequencies can increase up to 9dB or cancel the sound 100%.

Example Below:

Armeanian Pentecotal Church Montreal

Before acoustical treatment, there would be 1dB loss at 10 ft and 2dB loss at 40 ft. without the sound system.

After acoustical treatment, there is 4dB loss at 10ft and 8dB loss at 40 ft. without the sound system.  Also, intelligibility changed from 79% at 40 ft to 92% after acoustical changes.  When you add the sound system the coverage with +/-3dB

This was in the middle of the acoustical transformation

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Microphones can be a health hazardous

Posted by jdbsound on May 21, 2012

If you have a chance, you should read my article about sharing tooth brushes.  I compare the sharing of microphones like sharing tooth brushes.  In the fall when it is Flue season, many performer pass on their cold to other performers by just simply sharing their microphones.  We don’t clean our microphones and the microphones are not made to be cleaned either.  Read the rest here.  Update includes suggestions for dealing Covid-19

Updated March 2020   microphones-are-hazardous-to-your-health

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