Church Acoustics & Sound Systems

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Posts Tagged ‘Sound System’

Half Round Tubes -Performance vs Aesthetics

Posted by jdbsound on June 9, 2020

Diffusers are amazing tools when used properly in a church. They solve a variety of problems in one step. Nothing performs better.

One question that is often asked, can you turn the diffusers sideways?  This is a great question, and the answer is based on our anatomy.  As humans, our ears are on the side of our heads.  This means we get our sound information for direction and clarity of speech on the horizontal plane or side to side. The time difference between our ears give us directional info to identify where a sound is coming from, and for speech, it helps us to focus on someone talking to us.

For diffusers to work correctly and to solve multiple problems in one step, their orientation is critical.  When applied vertically, the diffusers can solve between 10 – 29 acoustical issues in one step. No other acoustical system can do this.undefined

The problems solved or reduced are:

  1. standing waves
  2. deadspots
  3. hotspots
  4. eliminate echoes
  5. eliminate flutter echoes
  6. bass build-up,
  7. speech intelligibility,
  8. increases the signal to noise ratio up to 25dB throughout the room
  9. eliminate or less floor monitor spill,
  10. less sound system distortion
  11. less bass distortion
  12. helps to equalize the bass and mid frequencies
  13. gain before feedback,
  14. even distribution of sound,
  15. elimination of delayed speakers in most cases,
  16. better stereo imaging for stereo sounds (when the right equipment is used)
  17. higher attention span,
  18. makes the room easier for the musicians to perform
  19. improved sound for people with hearing aids
  20. better congregational singing
  21. easier for the sound-person to get an excellent mix
  22. it can reduce or eliminate the need for drum shields or both
  23. makes the room less fatiguing for the minister to preach
  24. fewer to no complaints if the sound system is louder
  25. improves the sonic quality of the sound system
  26. can add up to an octave of clear bass from the sound system
  27. better bass from musical instruments both acoustic and amplified
  28. it helps to make the room more relaxing to hear speech and music.
  29. lowers the sound levels from HVAC systems

If your church has a pipe organ, you will want to know this. One of the most interesting characteristics we have learned with using this method is that for some churches that want to maintain a longer reverberation time, plus have all of the benefits of better speech quality, the half-round tubes can increase speech intelligibility without changing the reverberation time. No other acoustical system can do that. For churches that have a pipe or electronic organ and want better speech quality, this method allows a church to balance the need for music and speech.


When diffusers are installed horizontally, the list of benefits is much shorter.

  1. standing waves,
  2. bass build-up,
  3. Helps to equalize the bass and mid frequencies
  4. It can add up to an octave of clear bass from the sound system and musical instruments.
  5. Can only reduce echoes, not eliminate them

There is more to these differences.  Because we have ears on the sides of our heads, the rate of control is exponential when the diffusers are mounted vertically.  One of the principals of how these diffusers work is by phase cancellation, which is the same technique as in noise-canceling headsets.  The more random the sounds are scattered, the more the overall energy is canceled from the physics principle of phase cancellation.  As a result, when mounted vertically, the diffusers can get up to 40dB of energy reductions or absorption by air friction.  When you mount the diffusers horizontally, you will only get about 10dB of the overall reduction.

The reason horizontally mounted tubes are less effective is because you are creating large reflective surfaces on the horizontal plane that reflects enough energy back into the room, which it is adding noise back to the listener that in turn, reduces the signal to noise ratio. This cancels almost all of the benefits of using half round diffusers horizontally.

Here is a simple experiment you can do yourself. Find a round container that is at least 7 to 8 inches round.  You can every use a large cooking pot, planter, or roll up some cardboard.  Now say a bunch of words into the side of the container vertically.  After talking for about 15 seconds, turn the container sideways, and talk for another 15 seconds.



What just happened? Like most people, they notice that when the container was horizontal or sideways, there is a distinct reflection. When you turn the container vertically, the reflection goes away.

This simple experiment demonstrates how powerful the half-round shape is.  In the vertical position, when the half rounds are placed on a wall in groups, you can adjust the spacing between the tubes to determine how much reflection you want, plus shape and equalize the sound at the same time.  This is a compelling way to manage church sound once you understand how effective and simple this system works.

Just as a reminder, for all churches, you have to have a balance between absorption and reflection. The half-round tubes are not always a one and done solution. It has to be part of an integrated system. Typically, for most churches, if you have carpeted floors and padded seating, that is often all the absorption needed. If your church doesn’t have carpet and padded seating, then you will have to add enough absorption to the walls to match what would be on the floor. That is a narrow window to get it just right.

For churches that play their music loud, some people wait in the foyer until the sermon starts or they wear hearing protection during the music portion of the worship service. With the half round system, it allows the sound system to perform 10 to 20dB louder with fewer people needing hearing protection. People turn to hearing protection when there is too much distortion in the sound. A distorted sound is irritating and painful to many. People turn to hearing protection, even when the sound levels are well below 85dBa. When a room is diffused properly with half rounds, it reduces or eliminates bass and mid-range distortion. With distortion out of the way, the sound at 85dBa becomes pleasant and easy to listen to. That pleasantness remains constant over 100dBc. Consider this – in a church with this kind of acoustical system with the right room shape and height, it is common for un-amplified congregational singing to be around 100dBc. When that happens almost no one complains. Why? Because there is no distortion. Half-round diffusers prevent distortion. This transforms any worship space into a music-friendly space at any sound level.

Church acoustics and amplified sound play a significant roll in the health of a church. When sound is good, it helps to grow the congregation. When sound is bad, it gets in the way of providing a clear message, that leads to less attendance which means fewer people tithing. In the end, there is nothing more important than preaching the Gospel in the best clarity possible.

To ultimately answer the question of Aesthetics vs performance, the smart answer is this. When an acoustical system works, people don’t mind how it looks.  If anything, they grow to like it.  When other acoustical systems are used, they often fall short on the expected and promised performance.  As a result, those systems become more like wall furniture and in some cases, artwork.  This drives up the cost of those systems.  Here is the truth most experts and salespeople will never share or admit.  To get the equivalent performance of the half-round tubes as a Do It Yourself project compared to ready-made products, the cost difference is 35 to 1.  A church that fixes their acoustics with cardboard tubes as a DIY including paint and hardware for a 400 seat church may spend $2,000.00 installed.  A ready-made system of equal performance will cost a minimum of 75,000.00 installed.  That is equal to fixing 35 churches of the same size.  Even if the same church buys custom made half-round diffusers, they may spend $20,000.  When compared to other acoustical system costs, that is enough money to fix 3 churches.

There is something to be said about how people react to anything put on the walls.  When people see cloth-covered panels, there is an expectation of good sound.  When that doesn’t happen, people often resign to the notion that the problem is too complicated and too expensive to be properly fixed or that the problem is impossible to fix.  Most people just put up with the problem and accept it as normal and don’t bother with complaining.  That is a lie created by bad information and myths that keep churches from getting the sound they deserve.  Sound excellence is a necessity, not an option.

When an acoustical system works, people don’t mind how it looks.  When it doesn’t work as promised, it has to look amazing.  Do you want a church that looks good and has fewer people attending or a church that is full all the time regardless of how it looks?

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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. 

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What happens when Technology, Science and Knowledge catches up with the Bible.

Posted by jdbsound on April 24, 2020

The Bible has a lot to say about how a modern church should be designed.  Solomon’s Temple was not just a house for God to dwell in, it was also meant to be a tool to help preach and spread the Gospel in the present.

After reading this article, please pass it on and make comments below.

***  Article: Gods Authority in Church Design ***

This article is the most comprehensive study of King Solomon’s Temple I have ever written.  If you believe John 1:3, then you know who really designed Solomon’s Temple.  King David only penned the details of the new temple.  King David told his son Solomon that it was the hand of God that guided his hand.  What was so important for God to design the temple rather than letting a man design in with whatever came into his thought?

This article gives a stronger case for what the “Inspired Word of God” means.

Winning people to Christ is not a game or something given to chance.  We need all the tools possible to have an impact on this world.  Jesus is Lord, and if your church is dedicated to God, Jesus is Lord over your church building too.

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Stop Sharing your Toothbrush/Microphone

Posted by jdbsound on March 17, 2020

Back in 2006, I wrote this original article about how sharing microphones can pass on colds, flues and other illnesses. In 2009, the manufacturer, Point Source Audio asked to update the article to promote good microphone etiquette after the SARS in 2008. Now with Covid-19, this is another opportunity to educate people about how to better protect themselves from communicable infections.  Since Jan 12, 2020, thousands of people have read or downloaded the article.  I thought it was time to dust off the original post from 2006.

Here is a link to the original article. Personal Microphones as toothbrushes 2006
The footnotes are interesting. Here is an example. I can’t authenticate this clip, but it is a great story.

There was a story about Elvis when recording – all morning they did take after take, none sounded right. During lunch, someone pulled the windscreen off his special mic, rinsed it in the sink – to find a bunch of black junk coming out of it. Did that a few times, put it on a low-heat hair dryer, put it back on the mic. After lunch, Elvis “hit it” with just one take.
From Blake Engel, All Church Sound

*** UPDATE ***

I’ve mentioned on other posts about using plastic food wrap or balloons over microphone capsules and windscreens.  This idea only works great if the plastic is removed between the uses of a microphone.   Passing microphones around is not a good idea either.  If you can get a second mic, the better.


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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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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?


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.

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 –

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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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.


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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Romanian Church gets Excellent Acoustics and Reviewed by Professional Sound Magazine Article

Posted by jdbsound on August 6, 2016

Churches don’t often get Reviews for their Acoustics and Sound System.  Kevin Young did such a review of one of my projects.  The installation company was CS Acoustics from New Hamburg, Ontario.  Here is the full Professional Sound Magazine Article about the Romanian Pentecostal Church in Kitchener, Ontario Canada.  Please leave any comments or questions below.

Should you have a chance, when your in the area, visit this church.  The people there will give you a tour. Better yet, go to a worship service.  it is different, but worth the experience.  Kevin Young is a Toronto based musician and freelance writer.

Joseph De Buglio

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Can Acoustical Spreadsheets Save Your Church Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on June 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

church of our lady small.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

jdbsound test room.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

Acoustician and Expert in Church Acoustics.

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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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Connecting Cell Phones or consumer playback devices to a Sound System

Posted by jdbsound on November 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

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Acoustics extends the life of Church Restorations

Posted by jdbsound on December 16, 2014

Apparently it is true.  At a recent church meeting where a 160 year old Roman Catholic Church is being restored, the acoustical treatment that I designed will also help to preserve the walls behind it.  The acoustical panel will carry current and future artwork while the walls behind the acoustical system will be sealed.  With no paint going onto the walls, the existing brick and concrete will no longer be degraded by the chemicals in the paint.  This could be the first time where acoustics, Church Iconic Art and preservation are combined together.  According to the restoration company, this approach could double or even triple the cycle between major restorations. The church has already been partially treated for sound acoustics and the improvements have convinced church leaders that the rest of the room should be treated as well.  For this church, no absorption is being added.  Only diffusion is being added to create a phase coherent worship space.  The restoration company thinks that adding acoustical treatment system an affordable way to extend the cost of the restoration and it will give better results for hearing and the sound system performance.

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Free Hearing Test with an Apple App

Posted by jdbsound on February 21, 2013

Get your hearing tested for free.  If you have an iPad, iPod or iPhone, you can test your hearing with a free App.  It is good enough to confirm whether if you have a hearing problem and whether you should be getting professional help.

The software is from Unitron and they make hearing aids. So while some people think that this is just a sales marketing tool, and it very well may be, but it matches a hearing test of mine done in a proper lab hours apart. That is good enough to decide who should be behind a mixer and making adjustments during worship.

What I have also done is use this test for people who persistently ask me to turn things up – even when they have sat in different places. When everything is working properly and I know the sound system is passing the STI speech intelligibility test, I will ask the person to take the test.  Be gentle and kind when asking people to take the test.  When people discover that they need help, setting them off in getting their hearing back often gives them back their life too.  The App is called “U-Hear”

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Quote of the Day

Posted by jdbsound on January 10, 2013

If experiencing poor sound in church could be measured as pain and people are not complaining about it, it could be because they don’t consider taking 10 extra strength pain killers per worship service as overdosing.

by Joseph De Buglio Jan 2013

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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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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……



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

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Excess Noise At the Pulpit or Altar or preaching area

Posted by jdbsound on May 22, 2012

When standing at the pulpit at your church and the sound system is off, do you speaker louder or quieter?
When you turn the sound system on, do you speak just as loud or quieter?
If you answer quieter to either of these two questions, you most likely have a major acoustical problem.  Why?

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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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