Posted in education on February 28, 2017 10:46 am EST

Superb Multiuse Sound: An Oxymoron?

Good sound system specification can help create synergies for multi-use spaces.

DIRECTIONALITY & COVERAGE: Parkway Electric staff recommended an L-Acoustics system for Community Reformed in Zeeland, Mich. "It's important to keep the sound on the seats and not on the walls, which is where the problems with speech intelligibility come from," notes Gary Zandstra, the company's house-of-worship specialist. Images courtesy of Parkway Electric.











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TAGS: acoustics, avl design, loudspeakers, sound systems, specification, zoned audio systems,


By Dan Daley

In his 2013 book “Pastors Move Over: Make Room for the Rest of Us,” former pastor and author Glenn Newman suggested that the modern megachurch is run more like a top-down corporation. Blogger Tim Schraeder put it more bluntly, saying, “The church is a business—get over it and start acting like one.”

Houses of worship are looking at their physical plants and scrutinizing them as a CEO might a manufacturing facility, looking for ways to utilize it most effectively and efficiently. That’s why we’ve been seeing church buildings and spaces being used for more applications than ever before, with sanctuaries used also as community meeting centers and concert halls, gymnasiums and youth centers doubling as worship halls. And the audio systems chosen for these multiuse applications can go a long way in determining how successful they are.

“It’s a combination of efficiency and economics,” says Val Dempsey, CEO of AV Atlanta-based systems integrator CEI. “Churches increasingly need to be able to get more use out of the buildings they have already, without having to build new ones.”

Choices Abound

The choice of a sound system design should be dictated first and foremost by the architectural and acoustical requirements of the space it’s intended to fill, and by the mission that it’s intended to fulfill. However, in the context of multiple-use applications, those two mandates can fall into conflict. A sound system that’s designed to emphasize speech intelligibility may not serve the needs of music, which needs full-range frequency response. By the same token, a sanctuary that fits the needs of traditional choir-and-organ music will be challenged by both louder contemporary worship music and by the needs of a community meeting, where the same reverberant ambiance that makes a traditional hymn sound great will make mincemeat out of both drums and speech.

There are solutions, and they can take the form of types of sound systems and acoustical remedies. Gary Zandstra, HOW specialist at AV integrator Parkway Electric in Holland, Mich., points out how he recommended an L-Acoustics system for his own church, Community Reformed, in nearby Zeeland. The sanctuary there not only hosts its weekly services but also is used for community events and recently saw the installation of a zip line from the balcony to the stage. Zandstra says the key to making sound work under all of those circumstances in the 1,100-seat space was to use speakers that were highly directional, in this case L-Acoustics’ Wide and Focus enclosures.

“It’s important to keep the sound on the seats and not on the walls, which is where the problems with speech intelligibility come from,” Zandstra explains. “Good directionality and adequate coverage of the seating area are the two most critical points.”  continued >>