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June 2012 Article: Speakers
By: Hugh Sarvis

Here are the big five groups of questions from church leaders when it comes to speakers for houses of worship.

1. Comparison
Does a line array work better than point source speaker systems? Not always, but it sure works well much of the timera. Depending on the line array system you choose, you can have great horizontal covege. If it is a true line array loudspeaker system -- with the vertical coverage of one individual box 10 degrees or less -- you can combine them (making a line array) and end up with very good vertical coverage, as well.

You will use a few more speakers to focus your array and get the vertical coverage you need, but your level (SPL) from front to back, as well as gain before feedback, should be better than a point source system.

Remember the "Inverse Square Law." With every doubling of distance, you will lose 6 dB. In a perfect line array, which really doesn't exist, you will lose 3 dB. In most cases, you will lose around 4 dB, so gaining around 8 to 10 dB over 60-80 ft. is a lot.

2. Coverage
Room design changes like fashion. Today, rooms are getting much wider and not as deep, and this is done to keep the audience as close as possible. Some rooms have very high ceilings, and some are ultizing a space that have much lower ceilings. Designing the proper sound system can be very challenging, and there are many things to keep in mind.

If you are hiring a systems integrator, and you should, it would be best if he could offer you a couple of options to best suit your intended application. As an example: Do you have a choir? Do you have a praise and worship team?

Remember your system needs to be able to produce and get a least 15 dB above your ambient room noise, and this measurement should also be calculated at the back of a room. If the integrator is showing you several system designs, he or she should be able to design the system in a software sound system modeling application, such as EASE. This would enable you to see what the SPL and coverage would be like.

3. Center Cluster
System design can be challenging, including issues such as where to put your speakers (avoiding video screens), ceiling height, and getting your audience closer to the "action,." There are many things to consider.

First, you always have someone speaking, and it is nice if they can be heard from every seat throughout the room. It is also nice if it sounds like the source is coming from the stage and not somewhere off in space. With performing musicians, the sound guy always prefers stereo sound. However, there is always someone speaking and that signal is always mono.

Because of these considerations, having a center cluster that can cover the room is always good place to start and is normally the least expensive option. If you can afford a LCR (left, center, right) loudspeaker setup, then you can make everyone happy, including the speaker manufacturer.

4. Cure
Do line arrays fix our acoustic problems? No. There is not a speaker anywhere that will fix an acoustic problem and, unfortunately, most churches watching a budget will put acoustic treatment at the end of their priorities list. If it were somewhere towards the top of their list, it would cost them a little more in the beginning but a lot less in the end. Starting with good room acoustics will always make any sound system sound better.

Putting speakers in the right place is also very important. Years ago, at SynAudCon system training, Don Davis showed us why: Keep your speakers a minimum of 3-5 feet from any reflective surface, this will keep the first reflection down and will cause less problems, so in the design stage of the building process, please allow the system integrator to be involved.

This is very important. Don't wait until you have already broken ground and have your building designed before you hire your system designer.

5. Cost
In conclusion, a good sound system in today's world is an important investment, so choose wisely. Pick a quality system integrator and look at their references and other projects they have installed. Make certain they can meet all of the local requirements for running cable, rigging speakers, etc., and please remember to hire them early on to help with acoustics, electrical placement, and speaker location. In the end, having a great sound system can make all the difference.

Hugh Sarvis is chief executive officer or director of engineering for WorxAudio Technologies, Inc., www.worxaudio.com.

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