Ideas for Better Sound Quality at Your Church
Sermons are carefully prepared.
Worship songs are thoughtfully selected and arranged.
The band is warmed up and ready to go.
And the tech team has everything in place for a quality service.
But there are still sound system problems… EVERY WEEK!
Maybe these problems are minor and “easy” to avoid. Be sure to check these off your list first:
- Did you put fresh batteries in the wireless mics?
- Are all of your cables in good shape?
- Is your gain/trim set properly on the mixing console for every input?
- Have you made basic EQ adjustments to your vocals and instruments to help them sound their best and fit properly in the mix?
Perhaps your problems are more severe.
- Is there persistent feedback at every service?
- Do you receive regular complaints about not understanding what the pastor is saying?
- Are certain seats in your sanctuary acoustic “no go” zones where the sound is always bad?
- Do you suffer from a lot of echo or excessive reverb from the room?
Before you blame the sound team, think about your room.
Is it just plain bad for live sound?
Yes, this is possible. But the good news is that it can probably be fixed!
Try This First:
Turn it down! You’ll be amazed what can be accomplished by turning down the overall volume just a little bit (-3dB is some cases). This can allow for better intelligibility and less acoustic energy hitting the walls, floors, and ceilings of your room and bouncing all over the place. Try it out and see what happens. You might be surprised! (Yeah, this goes for the stage monitors and live band volume levels as well.)
If your problem is feedback, then you’ll want to address a few basic details first. Make sure your mic placement is good (keep microphones close to the source, mute any unused microphone channels, and set your gain so that you have a strong signal coming into the console – without any clipping).
Have you had your system “tuned” lately? Hire a qualified audio engineer to tune up your sound system, assess the EQ, and calibrate your system for optimal performance. This can be as simple as a 2-4 hour service call depending on your system, and it’s well worth the investment. (FYI you should try to have this kind of checkup done every 5 years or so.)You’ll be amazed what can be accomplished by turning down the overall volume just a little bit. @James_Wasem Click To Tweet
Getting a little more advanced…
If you have a lot of glass in your room or a very symmetrical room with parallel walls (like a square or rectangle), then you may have some tricky room acoustics to deal with.
It is best to have a knowledgeable acoustics engineer look at your space and provide some recommendations. You might be surprised at how simple some of the solutions can be. Laying down some area rugs on stage or adding some well-placed acoustic treatment in precise locations can sometimes be an adequate solution.
But if you plan to spend any money on acoustic treatment, you should call in an expert to at least advise you on the best method of treatment and whether or not your plan will be effective. Don’t waste money on ineffective acoustic treatments placed in the wrong location!
Don’t waste money on ineffective acoustic treatments placed in the wrong location! @James_Wasem Click To Tweet
Maybe it’s Your Loudspeakers!
Guess what… The wrong loudspeaker pointed in the wrong direction can cause some serious acoustic problems.
I know that sounds simple, and a few of you just gave me a big “DUH”. But you’d be surprised how many churches suffer from the wrong speaker being in the wrong place.
Conventional loudspeakers with horns can be installed in the wrong place or aimed poorly, directing sound at walls or ceilings that cause bad echoes and reverberation.
Line-arrays can be poorly calibrated or misaligned, causing sound to be directed in the wrong areas.
And you may even have some bad components that are causing poor quality sound from your loudspeakers. If your horns or mid-range speakers are blown, you’ll have a hard time making sense of a lot of spoken word and musical content.
Or just maybe you need some new loudspeaker technology and engineering to better deal with your audio challenges. Loudspeaker quality, digital signal processing capabilities, and driver technology have changed a lot in the last 10 years. Maybe it’s time to look at some new gear.
Be a Good Steward
Room acoustics can be a tricky science and there are lots of complex variables. And new gear is expensive. You don’t want to waste money on a failed experiment.
My number one recommendation: don’t go at this alone. Get a second or third opinion if you need to.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re considering what it really takes to achieve quality sound at your church.
After all, what’s the point of having a sound system if you can’t understand the Word?
What’s the point of having a sound system if you can’t understand the Word? @James_Wasem Click To Tweet
Author / Audio Engineer
Great Church Sound | Missoula, MT
James Wasem has been fascinated by sound and electricity from an early age. His love of music and technical gear made sound engineering and systems integration a natural pursuit. James has spent the last 20 years performing and touring in bands as a drummer, mixing live sound for churches, schools and theatres, and working as an audio systems installer and designer.
Though involved in highly technical fields, James has a passion for making things simple to understand and easy to use. It was from this passion that the book Great Church Sound – a guide for the volunteer was born. James believes that technical ministry volunteers provide a critical service for their congregations and should be well equipped with quality tools to help them grow in craft, skill, and spirit.
James and his wife Kate (who also provided the illustrations for Great Church Sound) live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Missoula, Montana.