Problematic Sound in Your Sanctuary?

How the most important part of your PA system may not actually be a part of your PA system.

Jim Kumorek  ·  April 9, 2018

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“You also want to consider things such as where the HVAC equipment will be located, and where the youth space is relative to the main auditorium,” says Shade. “Sound from these locations can significantly bleed over into the main auditorium. These are problems that can be completely avoided through space planning. If these aren’t caught upfront, it upsets the apple cart with regards to everything in the design and construction process that follows. If not addressed in the early design phase, it’s a tough sell to correct them afterwards.”

While many architects understand and embrace the need for an acoustician on a project, there are those that do not. “If the architect says they can deal with the acoustics by themselves,” suggests Rose, “the client should be concerned. You really need an acoustical expert on the project team.”

However, we can’t make that a blanket statement—some architects do have a grasp of the issues. “It really depends on the architect,” says Shade. “If they do the same basic thing in every design, they may have it down and a dedicated acoustician might not be needed.” At the very least, the client needs to investigate this and make sure that the right specialists are brought into the project and at the right time.

Fixing the Problems

While addressing acoustical issues at design time is ideal, not every church has that option. Many churches purchase existing buildings, and the shapes of the rooms are already literally cast in concrete. And even in a well-designed space, there are still acoustical issues that need to be addressed after construction is complete.

“An often-overlooked element is to control the energy around the loudspeakers,” says Rose. “You want to get absorption above the speakers to control that first reflection. This should be done in conjunction with making changes to the acoustics of the room via absorption panels for midrange and higher frequencies, and bass traps for lower frequencies. You also need to design the sound system to minimize the negative impact of the acoustics.”

Wall panels are usually just a few inches thick, are available in many sizes and colors, and many are used to cover most of a wall that would otherwise reflect a lot of sound. There are manufacturers that will create panels for you with pictures printed on them, to give it a more artistic look.

Bass traps are larger triangular pieces of absorptive material that fit into corners of the room. Corners are where lower-frequencies tend to build up, so these are the logical places to put such material.

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Jim Kumorek
Jim Kumorek is the owner of Spreading Flames Media, providing video/media production and writing services to the A/V/L, technology, architectural and hospitality industries. He has led audio, video and lighting teams in churches as both staff and a volunteer for over 10 years.
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By Anna on April 17, 2018

Thanks to the author for the article! Very pleased!
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By SaulBurke on April 16, 2018

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By funnyjokes on April 15, 2018

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By Teqniqal on April 11, 2018

No mention of noise masking communications (both speech and musical instruments); no mention of sound diffusion materials vs. sound absorption materials; and half truths about speakers and sound ‘spilling onto walls’ (which was off-topic since the gist of this article was about room acoustics, not sound systems).  Does anyone vet these articles for technical accuracy and/or subject focus?  If this article is intended as a guide for those trying to get a handle on their room acoustics issues, it could lead to some undesirable outcomes.