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Posts Tagged ‘Passive acoustics’

How to Improve/Fix Congregational Singing Permanently

Posted by jdbsound on March 6, 2020

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

Here are some of those titles. 

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

There are many more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(c) By Joseph De Buglio March 2020.

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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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Is Solomon’s Temple a Myth?

Posted by jdbsound on February 6, 2020

A myth can’t fix a church. The Word of God Can!
Both Physically – including the acoustics of a church, and Spiritually.
Share this if you believe that it is true.

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Is Church Acoustics Easy?

Posted by jdbsound on December 23, 2019

There are two answers to this question. When you follow just the science, the correct answer is no. When you follow what the Bible teaches, the answer is yes.  Church acoustics is simple, but many will tell you otherwise. While it is easy to change how a room sounds, it is another thing to change the sanctuary to perform appropriately for a complete Christian Worship experience regardless of the denomination or congregation you belong. Christian Church worship is unique and the acoustical requirement of any church cannot be found, practiced or learned outside of any church community adequately.

Concert halls, recital halls, recording studios or any room where non-Christian people revere as great places for music or live stage performances and entertainment, these places have clouded, (Mat 7:15) the judgment of churches communities all over the world for years of what Christian worshipers need in a large room. When we turn to the Bible for the kind of worship space we are supposed to have, the answers most Christians are looking for are right there.

Science has not caught up with what is required for church acoustics. It is not able to predict the perfect acoustics a church needs. In each generation of computer modeling, it is getting much better. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for science to catch up to modeling proper worship space acoustics. The Bible has always had the solution as a tool to solve or plan church acoustics, even in the 2100 century. When such planning is applied the outcome is still what a congregation wants and needs. Here is a prime example of Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge at work. When we look past the Golden walls and floors and peel back the details of how Solomon’s Temple was designed and finished, we discover a worship space that every Christian congregation should have today.

The Bible has always had the proper teaching or formula for large room “Worship” acoustics. Did you know that without God’s design for acoustics, the Levites would not have been able to do any ceremonies or teaching in the temple? In Solomon’s Temple, there was an acoustical system given to Solomon that was applied. When employed in modern churches today, it solves almost all of the acoustical problems we can often hear and it makes the worship space better for congregational singing every time. Hundreds of churches have already been fixed or planned in this way. How many more before we can trust the Bible for modern church sound needs?

For church worship, whether in a classical or modern church structure, a commercial space, or converted space, there are many performance requirements to obtain the full worship experience which includes hearing the Gospel unfiltered by the poor acoustical performance of a sanctuary. (Poor acoustics acts like a changing filter that pollutes the Gospel. It can make similar words sound different which changes the meaning of what was said. For people familiar with the Bible, this may not be that big of an issue but for a person who has never been to church or is unfamiliar with church speak/language, when the room changes the pronunciation of a word, it can change the meaning of what they thought they heard. A church with the proper acoustics will prevent most of these mistakes regardless of what a sound system can do.) There is preaching, prayer, congregational singing, testimonies, choirs, worship teams and worship concerts. All of these parts of worship have to perform equally.

Church acoustics is not straightforward without the Bible. It is very complicated and any person designing an acoustical change should be including all aspects of worship, not just making a quick fix because of an irritation. As more churches recognize this truth, many are fixing existing past acoustical treatments that were done with good intentions and without help from the Bible. For example: Many people working in live sound don’t know that most hotspots and deadspots are acoustical problems and made worse when the wrong sound system design is installed. If your church has the right sound system design and there are still places where the sound levels and speech intelligibility is a problem, the sound system is telling you or screaming that it is a room problem -even if there is not feedback noise.

Church acoustics can be confusing, even with Biblical help. Experience has shown that there can be three churches that can have the same shape, dimensions, and age, and all three worship spaces different acoustical fixes. On the other hand, you can have three churches of different shapes, different dimensions, the same seating capacity and from three different ages and yet the acoustical solutions look almost the same to get the best performance for speech, prayer, congregational singing, choral singing and worship team performances. These differences in acoustical treatments are not easy to figure out regardless of the sound system design, equipment, and operating skills.

If the reverberation time is too long, don’t just fix the reverberation time. There are always at least two to five other problems that are being masked by the long reverberation or long time of noise. Correcting only the long reverb time, in most cases, exposes or creates bass problems that weren’t audible before, but the acoustical measurements said that such a predicament would happen. When the subs don’t sound good, you put a cage around the drums and you can’t mic the choir. When the floor monitors are too loud or as loud as the FOH speaker system and you are forced to get in-ear monitors. Then you have to get the worship team members to sign a waiver to not sue the church for premature hearing loss. Fix the room properly to meet all aspects of worship and you can avoid all of these issues.

Church acoustics is complicated and people who do Recording Studio, Concert Hall, Recital Hall, and noise control acoustics all have good intentions in wanting to help out a church. If their solutions are not based on what the Bible teaching, sure, they can change how a room sounds, but will their fixes be what a congregation needs? The choice is yours.
What is rarely taught or shared except on this website, is that a sound system is a magnifier of how a room performs. If the acoustics and shape of a worship space work, the sound system will tell you by how well it performs. If the acoustics are wrong, the sound system will be limited in what it can do. If after changing the sound system twice in the last eight to ten years, didn’t make that much of an improvement, do you really think a third sound system will be any better?

What is also not taught is that it is cheaper to bring a sanctuary up to worship space requirements that support all aspects of worship than to upgrade a typical church speaker system that can only make an incremental improvement for amplified sound. Fixing a room that meets worship space requirements often makes the current sound system perform profoundly better (unless the sound system is so poorly fabricated that it needs to be redesigned and reinstalled if the hardware is up to the task.)

Church acoustics can be easy when you follow the scriptures. Jesus never spoke of this because he already has given us the plans. Jesus said in Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The Bible also says that all things were made through Him from the beginning. Jesus could not abolish the laws He created with His Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-4.) There are many churches out there with poor sound, poor acoustics and have members who want to experience the full Christian life including the complete worship experience we all should be having. When you look past the gold and wealth surrounding Solomon’s temple, you will discover a blueprint from Jesus of how all worship spaces should sound. If that means duplicating Solomon’s Temple, that is what we should be doing. How is that so different in the fact the every church practices communion in one form or another. Every church has prayer, singing, reading of the scriptures, sermons and fellowship of its followers. Every part of a person’s life is in the Bible, whether any person can follow it 100% of the time or not. The same should apply to the houses we call churches that are dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Joseph De Buglio
A Servant of Jesus Christ.

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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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How to use Tube Radiators to Fix any Church

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solomon’s Temple – The Bible is Sufficient

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

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

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

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

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


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The Best Worship Experiences

Posted by jdbsound on March 25, 2019

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

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

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Church Sound and the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on January 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sti alcons chart conversion

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

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

Posted by jdbsound on May 2, 2018

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

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

These are all reasonable reasons to upgrade the sound system.

Good Speaker System setup_s

The church was considered the following upgrades.

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

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

What did they gain by doing this?

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

Aylmer EMC Church Pano 2017_ss

Other improvements

Congregation Singing.

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Dead Spots – Sound System or Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on April 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

corner view pano Ebeneezer Church_s

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

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

Sound Booth Before and After

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

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

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

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

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

By Joseph De Buglio
JdB Sound Acoustics

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What is the difference between scattering sound and diffusion of sound? Are Diffusers Programmable?

Posted by jdbsound on April 26, 2015

The simple answer is as follows.  Half, quart or third round devices or objects individually just scatter sound.  A single barrel diffuser or tube radiator as I often call them just create a very uneven distribution of sound.  As single units, it gives about the same amount of performance as placing a flat object of the same size and placing at a 15 to 35 degree angle on a wall.

When using barrel diffusers in various sizes and/or in spacing varying from 0 to 30 inches and apply them to all of the walls in a confined space, you are creating a diffusive field.  You’re turning the church walls into a phase coherent sound field – like churches of yester year built between the 1400’s to 1700’s.  When barrel tubes are used as a system you can program them to only manage the acoustical problems you want to get rid of and at the same time create a more desirable sound field like real reverberation that is musical and supportive to congregational singing.

Barrel tubes spaced too far apart just scatter the sound and reduces some bass but does nothing much else.  Instead, you can program the diffusers to manage standing waves, bass buildup, notch a frequency or two and equalize a room.  You can also program them to lower stage noise, manage monitor spill into the audience and improve congregational singing.  They can also be programs to make the sound system perform better.

The software to program barrel diffusers is still in development.  In the meantime, a test room, and a data base of real world testing is the best way to predict the final outcomes.  Try and program a digital EQ to cut 350 hertz 40dB.  It can be done but it sounds awful.  When you program tube radiators to cut 40dB, it sounds sweet.

Joseph De Buglio

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