A Church Sound System and Acoustics Quiz

Written by Joseph De Buglio

Here is what has been recommended to this church.

Picture 1
This is a panoramic view of the church. The ceiling is only 18 feet high. The width is 51 feet and length 62 feet.
The church seat 300 people.
Style of Worship - Traditional - moving to a blended worship.
The center of the front wall and the back wall are parallel. The two side walls are parallel.
Behind the choir - it is recommended vertical 10 inch PVC pipe, cut in half and placed on 16 inch centers from floor to ceiling. Curved side out(convex side out). Paint and dress as needed. They will look like pillars.
The same can be done on the side walls with 3 half round tubes between the windows - window and door on both sides.
Use more of the same tubes on the side and behind the soundman. This will give him a better approximation of the whole room without moving the sound booth. Yes, it would be better to move the booth, but, this is a workable compromise. To move the booth forward would either meaning cutting the concrete floor or having a wire pole from the ceiling to the floor.
Only 1 ceiling fan is needed in the room. It should be near the back and left on during the week and turned off during worship.

Picture 2
This is a view that over twenty seats in the sanctuary have. The lights and fans are blocking the speaker or as some would say it, "sitting in the shadow of the sound."
The stage floor is not carpeted. This is good. They built too high on the risers.
It should be 2 rows of seating for each step up. Otherwise the wood floor has little value. Fortunately, the risers are portable.
Since the picture was taken, they did try the choir loft with only 1 riser. The choir director is much happier.
They were wanting to hang mics. I suggested they try an experiment. The put a mic on a stand at 7 feet and a mic on a stand at 4 feet. The lower mic position worked much better at about 8 feet from the front of the choir on the platform and 3 feet off the floor. Placing the mic there took advantage of the wood floor.
The lights and the ceiling fans are too low. While this is a poor way to light up a sanctuary, the speaker system was put up after the lights were installed. Since these lights are on chain, they can be easily raised or change. They are recommended to be changed.
The Organ is on the right and the speakers are built in. It is recommended to get external speakers. Placement could be a discussion at another time. The piano is behind the pulpit in the center. The two tables on the right are for a church bell group.

Picture 3
This is a view of the back wall. In the left corner is where the soundman sits.
The Glass wall does present an echo problem. The frames are large enough that the glass can be angled within the frames. The bottom row shall be tilted forward at the top and push all the way back at the bottom. This also helps with the acoustics of the fellowship hall behind the glass. The center stain glass window can remain as it is.
The pew seats are padded. The floor is carpeted. Adding padded backs will not change much more. If you really needed more dampening, the cost of padding the back could be better spent with treating more important surfaces like the narrow space above the windows with a thick fiber material.

Picture 4
This is a profile picture of the the speaker system, the pulpit and the seating.
Above the windows are the ducts for heating and air.
The speaker system is not in the sweetspot of the room. It has to move a 18 inches forward.
The pew arrangement had been changed. They added another pew in the middle. The pulpit will no longer be on the riser and the stairs will be changed to a flat front face for 8 feet - 4 feet on either side of the pulit.
The speaker could have been tilted down more as the horn is on top.
The speaker will be changed from the JBL to 1 EAW speaker MK5164 and 2 Tannoy CPA 5 speaker. Since the seating is divided into 3 sections, the speakers will have the least amount of comb filtering in this setup in the seating areas. However, if the room had a center isles, this could have been a simpler 2 speaker system with 2 EAW MK2194 speakers

Picture 5
This is now knit picking, but important.
As a safety issue and being legal, anything that weighs more that 15 pound or higher that 18 feet has to have more the one method securing it in a suspended manner. If the product is not attached as real property :i.e. suspended in an all steel bracket, the suspended object must have a backup. Therefore, in this example, there should have been a chain backup to the cable. If the speaker was suspended with chain, it would be backed up with cable. - not in those exact words, but that is what the laws says in Canada and the USA. In all systems that I do, the speaker is supported by the sides with - if the speaker is not built for suspended - a threaded rod that goes through the speaker. An all steel "U" bracket is used. The steel is 1 1/2 box tubing and flat bar 3/16 wall or thicker. Overhead the bracket is bolted to a truss or a support plate in the attic. Doing this provides the best transfer of bass energy into the room with the least amount of speakers. By shaking the roof, it transfers just enough energy into the seats of the pews giving the sensation of raw bass energy without excessive loudness. This is part of the reason we have been able to install smaller cluster in some churches and why most of our clients don't ask for subs. Others may not agree with this technique, but it does work well in churches under 2000 seating.
In general practice, in most systems where the stage is deep enough, the best place for a choir monitor is behind the cluster. In this case, A Tannoy CPA5 would do the job. A larger speaker would create a bass problem and bass smearing.

Picture 6
It is one thing to just hang a speaker, it is another thing to know how to get every ounce of performance from it. Judging from the handles positions and the JBL logo plate, it would be safe to assume the horn of the speaker is on top. It should have been on the bottom of the speaker. There are two reason for this. The first of clearance of lights and other objects. The second is using the 1/2 space principle for getting more bass out of the speaker that is there. Just as you place the woofer on the floor when you are using speakers in portable setup, do the same with the roof. When suspended speakers, think of the ceiling as a floor and when you can, take advantage of the roof. Regardless, it is often best to put the horns under the woofer in a church install.
Oh and only more thing, it is a good thing the speaker wasn't painted. Otherwise, the church would not have been able to return the speaker to get their permanent speaker system which is custom painted before it is installed. I have never installed an undress speaker system.

Comments. As I mentioned before, this system has to be done all over again. The platform is big enough that it should have be wired for 16 mics and not the 4 mic lines they have now. Remember, the sound system should be designed for the room, not just for how it is used. Just as you don't put a 4 cylinder engine into a stretched Cadillac Limousine that will only carry two people in it. You put the proper sized engineer that the car required to have to perform safely. Likewise, the stage should have been better wired and prepared. 4 new speaker line will have to be added. The contractor used 16 gauge wire and the speaker run is long enough that it should have been 14 gauge. Since going to 3 speakers for the cluster and one for a choir monitor, all of the speaker lines are being replaced and the 16 gauge wire will be reused for a 70 volt system. Another two more speaker lines will be installed for floor monitors. These are things that all church sound systems should plan for, even if you don't use them right away. On the other hand, if you already know that you have an active music program, then you can add more speaker and mic lines as needed. I was just outlining the minimum needed.

This is by no means a perfect system. Some mentioned delayed speakers and other options. Depending on the style of service, those items are just that, options, to be used based on the worship and budget. The outline given meets the minimum of the HIS System Standard. Yes, one could choose better speakers, better mixer, better acoustical treatment and so on. But in reality, we are all restricted by budgets and needs. I would hope that by using a standard such as the HIS System, churches can be better serviced by professional and for themselves when planning church sound. In the case of this church, it is only 3 months old and they already are looking at their 2nd sound system. If they knew of the HIS System standard, I don't think they would be in this position today.

Thank you everyone for your comments and ideas.

I Hope you have enjoy this exercise. If you want me to do more critiques like this, pleas email me direct. If you have photos and a place to store them on a web site, please let us know and we well help you. If not me, others can help..

We hope you will visit us often as this site grows. This web site is for you - people wanting guidance and real help with their church sound problems. All recommendation presented here have been tested in churches. We will be posting general audio and acoustical information that is "common knowledge" but hard to find - especially for people in small towns and communities.

Thank you. Joe The Soundman.

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Last updated, Wednesday, May 12, 1999

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