Your Sound System
by Ron Huisinga
church sound system plays an important
supporting role in your worship service.
Is it enhancing the worship experience
or detracting from it? Three sound tests
can help you evaluate your sound system.
every church needs some sort of sound
system. From enhancing music and worship,
to amplifying the spoken word, to cassette
recording, the simple fact is that most
churches can't get along without one.
When a churches' sound system is appropriate
and functioning properly, you never
think about it. However, an ineffective
or poorly adjusted system can seriously
detract from the worship experience.
That's unfortunate, because today's
system design technology and equipment
can almost guarantee a good system for
any size church.
people, especially young adults, have
grown up with high quality stereo systems
in their homes, cars, or trucks. They
know what good sound is. They also want
to hear that same quality in their church
sound system. Most of us can accept
the sound of speech on a poor system.
It is not natural, but as long as you
can understand the words, it's easy
to get by without improvements. However,
if a soloist sings or recorded music
is played, it becomes much harder to
accept that poor sound system. The reproduced
sound is not natural, so we become frustrated
and distracted. All too often the system
has too much distortion, and that becomes
irritating. It is hard to maintain a
spirit of worship.
let's get practical. How can you evaluate
your sound system? The following three
tests should help you determine the
quality of your system.
the amplified sound should sound natural.
That is, the sound from the speaker
system should sound the same as the
talker or singer, but only louder. Try
this experiment on your sound system.
Turn the system off and have a friend
read aloud for a while. You should be
standing about eight feet away. Listen
carefully and imprint the live, unamplified
sound in your memory.
move to the rear of the room and turn
up the sound system. With the same person
reading, does your sound system reproduce
the same voice tone and quality? Does
the sound appear to come from the reader?
Is it clear? Can you understand what
the reader is saying without straining?
If your answer is no to any of the previous
questions, then your system may be in
need of some improvement or adjustment.
use the following test for intelligibility.
Place as many listeners as you can find
in different locations in your church
nave or sanctuary. Have some sit in
areas where people complain about the
sound. Put others in the front, the
sides, or the rear.
have a person with a good clear voice
speak on the sound system. The volume
should be adjusted to a comfortable
level. Using the word list in Figure
1, do this simple test. The reader should
say, "Write the word (______) now."
One by one, insert the words from the
list into the blank. Say the word only
once. The listeners should write down
the word that they hear. After the test
is complete, have the listeners score
their word list. Spelling doesn't count,
nor do homonyms.
36. use (yews)
several listeners have 15 percent or
more wrong, you should be concerned
about the intelligibility of your sound
system. Regular attendees can probably
fill in the missing words based on the
context of the sentence. However, new
people, unfamiliar with church terminology,
may find it impossible to understand.
They may get frustrated and never come
listen to some music from a high quality
cassette tape or, better yet, a compact
disc. Is it natural? Are the high frequencies
from the strings and cymbals clear?
Can you hear the bass? Listen from different
places. Does the quality change dramatically
as you move around?
conducting these three tests, study
the results. If the sound is natural
and intelligible throughout your church,
that's great. If you do have some concerns,
consider talking to other churches in
your denomination or area. Chances are
good that someone has solved the same
problem. Also, an outside consultant
or contractor may be able to further
evaluate your system and offer suggestions.
The Internet Sound Institute can provide
more sound system information and assistance
in enhancing or improving your system.
Huisinga is the president of New Life
Communications (a sound contracting
company). He is also the editor-in-chief
of the Internet
Sound Institute Web site's content.
Ron graduated from the University of
Minnesota with an Electrical Engineering
degree and has been in the sound industry
for 20 years.