What do LEDE Rooms and Concert Halls Have in Common.

What do these two rooms have that are in common and different from Churches.

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 follow along.

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 this perfection.

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 hears it.

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 room is.

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 hall? No!

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.

What does all of this mean?

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 into.

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

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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


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