When tuning a room for sound, reverberation and speech intelligibility are two of the biggest concerns that churches face today. These are exacerbated by hard surfaces like benches and pews. Also, large windows, lofts, vaulted ceilings, and wooden or cement floors can often reflect sound causing it to bounce throughout the room.
The result of this is at best an uncomfortable listening environment, and at worst an auditorium full of people that cannot understand a single word that is coming out of the pastor or worship leader's mouth.
What can be done to improve sound quality in sanctuaries and auditoriums?
Wall and Ceiling Acoustical Panels
The most popular acoustic treatments today are still traditional wall and ceiling panels. These treatments will help eliminate stray sound reflections from stage monitors, especially where feedback is a problem. The panels work well on side walls, back walls, or even suspended from the ceiling. Larger panels such as 48" x 48" x 2" or, 48" x 96” x 2" sizes work great in sanctuaries and auditoriums.
Many panel providers offer some type of artistic acoustic panels that can display prints of conventional artwork, photos or designs. Really anything can be displayed on these types of panels from biblical images and church logos to just about anything else that churches desire to decorate their sanctuaries with Acoustical Surfaces, Perdue Acoustics and Tectum are industry leaders in the various types of panel production.
Many churches may find that the reverberation is not particularly high in their auditoriums, but speech intelligibility is more of a problem. In this case diffusion of sound, rather than absorption, is probably the way to go. Absorption tends to reduce reverberation by controlling reflected sound while diffusion, on the other hand, lowers the perceived sound level by scattering sound over a wide area. The use of diffusers is ideal to achieve a space that is not too dry for singing, or too reverberant for the spoken word of a pastor. Acoustical Surfaces offers a wide range of diffusing products including decorative fabric wrapped panels and sound absorbers. Also, Perdue Acoustics has a variety of diffusers and hybrid "diffsorbers" which are some of the highest rated products in the industry.
Perhaps your church has the challenge of operating in a portable facility. The building is yours on Sunday mornings, but after that last service everything is boxed up and put into storage because the facility is owned and used by another organization the rest of the week. This issue does not have to be a detractor from achieving superior sound. Portable acoustics that can be set up and taken down with ease are becoming more and more popular. The leading innovator is this technology is Jay Perdue. Perdue has revolutionized the industry with Acoustics in a Box. The product is just what it says it is. Portable acoustics (in a box) that can be set up and torn down with relative ease every week.
Sometimes churches simply need the advice of an expert. Even better than advice, however, is installation and training. Acoustics by Design is a consulting company that provides expert acoustical engineering services for optimizing performance in acoustically demanding spaces. The company specializes in controlling, isolating, and mitigating structure-borne, equipment-generated, and environmental noise and vibration. Acoustics by Design does everything from diagnosing acoustical problems to designing and implementing the proper solutions to those problems.