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Tips for Proper Sanctuary Sound

Here are some helpful starting hints to get your sound system components properly placed within your church sanctuary.

Speaker placement is essential for good sound. Speakers positioned behind the microphones or facing into microphones will cause feedback. When possible, angle the speakers to project onto the congregation, not the rear wall, which means the sound will project directly to the people. This will help to keep the sound from bouncing around and causing an echo effect.

A way to control feedback is to place speakers to simulate the sound coming from a single source. Since the human ear senses left/right and center orientation, it is more desirable to have a center cluster of speakers placed in front of the platform area. Set the speaker so that the high frequency horn is above the congregation's head when they are standing. High frequencies don't travel through objects well. In order to effectively hear high frequencies, you must have a clear shot from the horn to the ears. The more sources of sound, the greater chance there is for echo. Extra speakers can be used whenever necessary, such as in dead spots or under balconies. This can be determined only after positioning of main speaker systems.

Feedback is frequency based; if you reduce the problem frequencies, you can control feedback. With a graphic equalizer, you can identify the problem frequencies and control them until feedback is gone. A 31-band equalizer is ideal. This will allow you to pull down narrower frequency groups without pulling down too many non-problem frequencies.

When purchasing a microphone, have a specific goal in mind. Proper function and placement are keys to good sound reproduction. Be sure the source of the sound is projected directly into the microphone. A microphone will pick up sound that is coming into its pickup pattern. The closer the microphone is to the sound, the better it picks up.

1. Choir Microphones
Place choir microphones close enough to pick up the whole choir well. This is usually a few feet in front of the first row and one to four feet above their heads. Make sure there are no speakers projecting into these microphones. Since choir microphones pick up in large areas, they are most susceptible to feedback. Choirs usually require at least two microphones.

2. Wireless Microphones
When choosing a wireless microphone, especially to deliver a message, this is not the place to cut the budget. There is a lot of interference out there. Go with a diversity system and UHF, if your budget allows.

A diversity system is less likely to encounter interference. There are two frequency ranges a wireless microphone system uses: UHF and VHF. One is not discernibly better than the other when it comes to sound quality. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. UHF systems are known for fewer interference problems. There is not nearly the activity in UHF as VHF, and the drawback to VHF frequencies is that there is more activity on this band. For optimal use, keep the receiver away from RF emitting equipment. It is best to keep the wireless microphone receiver a few feet away from the amplifier.

3. Handheld Cardioid Microphones
Put the microphone as close to lips as comfortable. It must remain close for good, consistent sound. The vocalist should face the monitor and keep the microphone from facing the monitor speaker

4. Lapel Microphones
Lapel microphones are a necessary tool when setting up sanctuary sound systems. These microphones are difficult to work with if the sound you are amplifying is projected above the microphone. These are unidirectional or omnidirectional. Be careful not to walk beyond the main speakers. Also, unidirectional microphones are less likely to feedback.

Sound Station
Where should you put the control station? This is the place where the mixer and components are kept. In a perfect world, it would be two-thirds back and just off center. To properly make adjustments to sound, you will need to hear what the congregation hears. Should you need to compromise, move it to the back of the sanctuary. Just try to avoid moving it out of the sanctuary. If you do end up in the booth, you will need to walk into the sanctuary during the service to make sure the sound is what you think it is.

This article is courtesy of Long's Electronics, www.longselectronics.com.

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