The "LEDE" room or "Live End Dead End" room is a standard
for recording studio's. It is a criteria that that demands a strict shape
and materials of which a recording studio is required to be built to. When
a studio is built to this standard, it usually ensures optimum performance
for a sound mix engineer to do their work.
The live end of the room is usually the listening position. The dead end
of the room is where the speaker system is placed. The formula works on
the idea that the playback speaker system works in a reflection free zone
that also has no hard surfaces that create unwanted reflections that can
interfere with the mix.
The live end of the room is to create a diffused neutral listening environment
that represents the average home. It also represents the musician point
of view of the sound. There is more to it than this, but for now, just
A concert hall is the opposite. The music or performance end of the room
is usually live, while the listening end of the room is deader (or shorter
reverberation time and strength). The live end of the room tries to amplify
acoustical instruments with hard walls and surfaces that are strategically
positioned. The "Master Acoustician" will use different types
of wood and plaster shapes that can vibrate to the harmonics of specific
instruments and create spectacular effects. The effects are transparent
in that the Master Acoustician tries to design walls and tuned panels in
such a way that it makes a few violins sound like many and so on.
The audience sits in a diffused area that is substantially dead when it
is full of people. A prime example of this is the Boston Symphony hall.
The Reverb time on the stage is longer than in the audience. In the upper
ceiling area, there are many cavities that trap sound energy, bounces it
around a few times to reduce the energy strength and not it's length. What does reach the listener is a pleasant effect
that supports the musical performance. Few concert halls have achieved
Nevertheless, you can look at a recording studio as a reflections of a
concert hall. This opposite is what makes these two spaces have a common
approach to sound. In the studio, the speakers are placed where the musicians
get their feedback of the sound from the hall. The sound engineer sits
in the position of the musician so that they can hear sound as the musician
Up to this point, churches use these common element that concert halls
and studios use. However, churches have to go beyond such a limiting use
of acoustical space. For this reason, churches have a third element. That
is - audience participation.
Congregational singing is the biggest musical use of any church. True,
some church congregations will sing - no matter how bad the acoustics are
and some choir directors are good enough that they just ignore the room
problems. However, most church congregations sing only as good and the
This third element of the church acoustics required for the audience area
to act a little like the stage/platform area and the stage/platform area
to act a little like the audience area. Is this a compromise of the concert
Here are some elements to be included in a church that neither studios
nor concert halls are designed for. (Although some concert halls are being
used as multipurpose hall to pay the bills.)
These elements do make churches truly unique. While recording studio's
and concert halls have common elements of the acoustics of a church, their
basic design principals can not be used, even as a foundation. We should
also include live theater elements of sound - for they are different altogether.
Generally, theaters require a short reverb time with lots of reflective
surfaces to support speech. Also, live theater uses professional actors
who are trained in projecting their voices. This means a theater style
of church acoustics won't work well either.
It shows that Architects, Audio Companies and Acoustical Experts have a
lot more to consider in the design or correction of a church's acoustics.
It also means that traditional sources of information on church acoustics/architect
is either out dated or just not available at conventional institutions
of engineering, architecture or audio engineering.
When doing research for my book on church sound and acoustics, I was surprised
to find out that Architects get only 4 to 6 hour of acoustical training
in their whole time learning their craft. Churches are lumped into acoustical
education. Architects who have taken advanced acoustical training get only
10 or 15 hours of training for church work. The rest if for live theaters,
motion picture theaters, concert halls and lecture halls which falls very
short of church requirement. What is also shocking is that Architects know
very little about noise control and they seem to care less of it's importance.
Church Acoustics, which is a totally separate discipline of Architectural
Science - is not taught exclusively anywhere in the world.
Further research for my book also revealed that there is no documentation
by any main line denomination that suggests how to design a church, how
it should behave acoustical or socially within a community. This lack of
information from the denominations and 2000 years of Christianity has left
the church community with a hit and miss approach to church acoustics.
The real sad part is that churches that have good acoustics are virtually
unknown, but the churches with bad acoustics are well documented. One method
to speedup the process of establishing a criteria for good church acoustics
would be to set up a data pool. With that information, churches would then
have a formula or set of guidelines that would direct them to the design
of good acoustics that can repeated over and over again.
Not only that, such a guideline would encourage Architects to create new
church designed that would not only meet a church's needs acoustics, but
be better suited for community support. This would be a much better than
the cookie cutter approach Architects currently use in designing today's
churches. That's right, churches, who want total autonomy for thing like
- church denominations offering help or guidelines for church design -
are fearful of getting churches that come from a cookie cutter, are get
churches that look like they come from a cookie cutter. Of the 1000 plus
churches that were interviewed, only 3 churches were designed from the
ground up as an original based on the idea's of more that 3 building designs.
That means that 997 churches were built from the plans or design of an
existing church. The very thing churches fear the most, they are trapped
The other fear many churches have is cost of new church designs. First
of all, most churches are built to the minimum building code of today.
If that happened 100 years ago, those building would not be standing today.
For inspecting many 100 year old churches, foundations were 8 inches to
24 inches. Today, most churches have only a 6 inch foundation pads for
churches under 1000 seating. 100 years from now, which church will still
be standing, the 200 year old church or the
? From what I have observed,
churches that are less than 40 years old cost more to maintain than older
church, but that another story.
A new church design with heavier construction materials costs only 15 to
25% more than the low cost building. Statistics show that low cost church
buildings are 10 to 15% over budget with sound and acoustics the major
cut back to save money while higher cost buildings either meet or are below
the planned budget and they have better acoustics (not necessarily the
right acoustics) and decent sound systems. The better building has a life
of 100 year or more. The low cost building has a life of 50 years, 75 with
open heart surgery.
Lets get one thing straight. A church building has two costs. The initial
cost of the building, and then there is the hidden cost of people who don't
come to the church to because they can't hear of people who refuse to share
their talents because the church sound system or acoustics would degrade
their performance. That's right, 10 to 20% of a church's attendance is
affect by the sound of the church. In term of money that can cost a church
thousand of dollars every year. In my book, there is a chart that shows
how a poorly designed church and sound system can cost a 1200 seat church
$653,500 over 10 years in lost income. Should we include that $653,500
in lost income in the cost of a new church over 10 years?
If you look at the Parry Sound Pentecostal web site, they had their acoustical treatment including in a new 800 seat
church for less than $5,000 of a $1.2 million project. Church sound and
church acoustics don't have to be expensive, it just has to be done.
Church acoustics are unique. They are very different from concert halls
and recording studios. To get a better sounding church, a church needs
people with very special talents. It also seems that most Architects, Acoustical
Experts and audio companies don't have the expertise to offer church what
they really need. Just as you don't ask a motor cycle mechanic to repair
the navigational systems of a Boeing 747 airplane, congregations shouldn't
be hiring Architects to design their churches. Architects are very useful
in the engineering of the structure. Instead, churches should be hiring
a Church Acoustician for the design of the sanctuary and sound system.
By Joseph De Buglio
Some statements and Specs have been blanked out under the understanding
that it is part of the "intellectual Knowledge" guidelines and
were not part of the original article. Such knowledge has value and can
be purchased through investing in the book ""Why Are Church Sound Systems and Church Acoustics So Confusing?"Info on a book on Church Sound System & Church Acoustics