How the most important part of your PA system may not actually be a part of your PA system.
Jim Kumorek · April 9, 2018
Sound System Design and Acoustics
“There are a number of approaches to sound system design that can alleviate acoustics issues in a room,” says John Monitto, director of business development at Meyer Sound in Berkley, CA. “In a traditional environment, you can go to a more distributed design, reducing the impact of bad acoustics by using more loudspeaker devices in a distributed manner such that each speaker covers a small, controlled part of the room. Another option is an old design called a pew-back system, with speakers mounted on the backs of the pews in every or every-other row. A third option is the column array mounted on the walls or other vertical surface near the front of the church. These radiate little energy outside the vertical beam of coverage, so it focuses the energy on to the congregation and off of difficult surfaces.”
“If it’s contemporary worship space,” continues Monitto, “you really need a space with good acoustics. There’s almost nothing you can do in a bad acoustic space to make that work well. You still end up over-exciting the room. You do the best you can to select components that keep the sound focused on the congregation and off the walls and ceiling.”
Mixed Use Spaces
If you are a church that conducts a variety of worship service styles, the ideal would be an environment that has variable acoustics.
“The use of curtains that can be extended and retracted can change the acoustical response of the room,” explains Rose. “Another option is motorized acoustical banners.”
The best (and most expensive) solution for supporting variable acoustics is to start with a room that’s designed to be as acoustically “dead” as possible, and to use an electronic system to create the acoustical environment you need for any given music type. One such system is Constellation by Meyer Sound.
Constellation uses many microphones and loud speakers that are distributed around the room, combined with special signal processing, to re-introduce early reflections back into the environment, and from the right locations in the room.
“Early reflections are like having an orchestra shell around you,” describes Monitto. “A shell lets the various sections of the orchestra hear each other quickly. When you have good early reflections in a concert hall, it creates a closer intimacy between the music and the listener, and it helps the congregation to hear themselves better.”
Many a church has wasted significant resources in replacing a PA system because it didn’t sound right when the problem was in fact the room itself. Hopefully this article has demonstrated the important role acoustics plays in how your room sounds.