Fixing The Unfixable

When the leadership at North Hills Community Church in Taylor, SC decided that it was time to "fix" its audio and acoustic issues, the prospect looked grim. The 750-seat worship space suffered from so many acoustical issues and so many options had been tried in the past, the ministry was skeptical that an audio overhaul was possible given the room's parameters. But the team at the audiovisual design and integration firm of dB Audio and Video, based in Gainesville, GA, was determined to find a solution.

"We were hired by the church to do analysis of the problems and come back with proposed solutions," explained Mike Hedden, dB Audio and Video's president, and partner at loudspeaker manufacturer, Danley Sound Labs. "No doubt about it, the acoustic problem was significant. There was a lot of flutter and slapback echo. Compounding these acoustical issues, the existing sound system didn't have enough pattern control or fidelity to effectively place the sound at the listener's ears. It was impossible to make the pastor's voice seem like it was coming directly from him. You couldn't lift the vocal performances off of the stage or make the choir sound warm or bigger. As the following TEF and SMAART plots show, the congregation's complaints were valid. There was a variance in the room, in terms of coverage, at 2,000Hz, of 15 to 20dB. Based on where you sat in the room, the sound could be one-half or twice as loud. In short, it was a challenging mess."

Further compounding the situation, the church elders complained the sound did not make the congregation participation vibrant and warm. "While the lateral walls were supplying destructively late reflections, the ceiling and floor were actually quite absorptive," Hedden explained. "This created a nasty situation where the congregation didn't feel enveloped because the sound they needed was being absorbed, and the late arriving sound further destroyed intelligibility."

They first addressed the acoustical issues before specifying new audio equipment. "The room always determines what can or cannot be done in a given space. If you don't fix the acoustical distortion, the return on any audio system upgrades is greatly diminished," he said.

To remedy the acoustical problems the lateral and back walls were treated with absorptive material which dB manufactures, addressing the late arrivals. To fix the congregation envelopment issue, the church removed the lay-in, absorptive ceiling tiles and installed hard, reflective tiles. "That gave the congregation early reflections within the first 30ms," Hedden said. "It consequently let the congregation feel the joy of singing and participating in the church's services."

The sound system was the next issue. "Overall, the majority of the church's existing audio equipment was fine," Hedden commented. "What they needed was a loudspeaker system that would supply significantly better pattern control, as well as overall fidelity." dB installed three SH-100 full-range loudspeakers by Danley Sound Labs, providing pattern control down to around 300Hz, as well as a TH-112 subwoofer with a frequency range of 28Hz to 208Hz.

Danley Sound

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