Study Hall

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Using Equalization To Improve Church Sound Systems

The nuances of church architecture, and any enclosed room for that matter, pose unique acoustic hurdles. Proper equalization is key.

My advice is to have the acoustic consultant work directly for the church with veto power over the architect’s designs as they affect the acoustic performance of the rooms and budget for acoustic treatment and sound system equipment.

Then you might say, “Okay, we will just get an audio equalizer and that can fix all these acoustical architectural errors.”

The truth is if you have an extremely well-designed acoustical room with high-quality speakers covering their designed areas, then the need for sound system equalization is greatly minimized.

And even though I love to sell equalizers, the less you need the better. Besides, of our list of “enemies” above, an equalizer can only help the last two, feedback and ringing.

Pastors & Music Ministers
And then there is the biggest ongoing conflict I see in churches’ sound systems today. No, it is not God versus Satan. It is the pastor versus the music minister.

At many churches I visit, these two people seem to be at cross-purposes. The pastor just wants to be heard clearly. But the music minister wants a “rock ‘n roll” sound system that would rival the Rolling Stones.

One of the problems facing sound system designers is that the equalization curve for a pure speech system is very different for a music system.

What we are starting to see in many churches is an idea that came from movie theaters and the Broadway stage.

Designers are using a left-center-right (LCR) speaker system. In a true LCR installation the center channel cluster is “equalized” for speech intelligibility, and the two left and right speakers are set up for music.

Beware that some mixing consoles are advertised as being an LCR mixer, but are not.

A true LCR mixer pans from left to center and from center to right. Some companies have relabeled their “monaural” or mono output to “center.”

Do not be fooled, this is not the same. The point is that the pastor’s voice should only come from the center, even if he is singing. In order to minimize comb filter effects, the mix to the left and right speakers need to be treated as stereo, and not a mono program panned to the left and right.

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