Monday, May 29, 2006

Sound Systems & Common Audio Challenges for Places of Worship

Places of worship such as churches, tabernacles, auditoriums, synagogues and even gymnasiums require specific types of sound systems for worship services. Standard or pre-packaged sound systems regularly fail to adequately meet the needs of these specialized users due to the types of sounds sources most commonly utilized during services such as the spoken voice, varying acoustic instruments, choral ensembles and even playback devices such as compact discs and pre-recorded musical arrangements.

With regard to the spoken voice, either male or female; we find that the vocal range of the spoken word during a worship service can vary widely from extremely soft, such as during the Invitation or prayer, to extremely loud and carrying, such as a point of emphasis during the minister's sermon or a blessing called out over the top of a hymn on the piano and organ. To further refine the quality of sound in a church or temple, one must also consider the distance between the sound source (in this case a spoken voice) and the piece of equipment used to translate the voice or sound to the congregation (in this case a microphone). When an individual is speaking or singing, the source and the equipment are normally in close proximity but in the case of a choir or play presentation, we may have many voices at varying distances from the microphone equipment to consider. Specific microphones are available for specific types of formats such as wired microphones, wireless microphones, small noise-cancelling mics that attach to lapels or collars and ear mounted mics that for hands-free movement and excellent clarity.

Musical instruments also present similar challenges when installing a proper professional sound system in a place of worship. Ranging from a simple acoustic guitar to a massive pipe organ or even a full orchestra; places of worship present professional sound installers with a sure challenge every time. Pre recorded music is also a very common component in worship services featuring a visiting guest singer or performers. While audience members must be able to hear and enjoy the track's sound, it is most important that the singer or group be able to be heard clearly and in unison with the chosen tracks for maximum impact.

In addition to "desired sound sources" in a place or worship (instruments, voices, etc.), there exist certain "undesired sound sources" that are detractors from your message to varying degrees. Examples of "undesired sound sources" are background noise from the air conditioning and heating systems, buzzing or humming light fixtures, street noise such as passing traffic and emergency response sirens, even fussy babies and children can become quite a problem when attempting to record a quality reproduction of the service. Did you know that even some "desired sounds" can become a problem such as the organ overpowering the choir or the fragile voices of timid children during the Christmas pageant or Passion Play? Ironically, the speakers themselves and the sounds they transmit can become a powerful challenge to plan for when installing church sound systems. Better known as "feedback", the sound system can begin picking up its own transmissions and feeding it back through via the microphones. This sometimes creates the ear-splitting squeaks and squelches that can momentarily interrupt a performance and sometimes destroy the message or moment for the congregation. Only a professional, experienced audio consultant can anticipate and avoid such problems on a basic design level and only proven installers should be trusted to install your equipment per the consultants design (contact our consultants & installers).

In addition to selecting the perfect sound equipment for your budget, your specific place of worship also plays a large role in determining how the equipment will be installed. Better known as "acoustics", size, dimensions and materials in the auditorium greatly impact the way the system will sound once installed and operational. Your auditorium's "acoustic nature" (the environment in which the new sound system will perform) may have a positive or a negative effect on the audio produced by voices, instruments, and loudspeakers even before the sound is picked up by microphones or heard by the congregation; absorbing or diminishing some sounds while reflecting or reinforcing other sounds. Strong reflections can contribute to undesired sound in the form of echo, standing waves, or excessive reverberation. A true professional knows that something as variable as the size and seating preferences of the congregation itself will have an impact on how the speakers and microphones should be placed around the auditorium!

In light of these many variables, it is imperative to choose wisely when selecting an audio professional to outfit your place of worship. caters specifically to places of worship and personally invites these groups to contact us for a consultation, free of charge and obligation; we'd like to offer our experience and expertise. Contact now to schedule a visit.