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Author Topic: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio  (Read 2809 times)

neil.steiner

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Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« on: June 12, 2004, 04:20:49 pm »

[Yeah, I'm new to the forum.  And this is a little long winded, but it's essentially about room acoustics.]

My church is doing some work on our warehouse-style building, and after a lot of on-again/off-again, they told me that they were budgeting $20K for the "sanctuary".  (I had been talking to a really busy out-of-state consultant, but after the most recent "off-again", I had compassion on him and cut him loose from our bouts of really bad phone tag.)

Now the "sanctuary" budget includes finishing the walls and building their idea of what we need for a stage and a sound booth (which I'd happily trade for a good mixing position), so I figure that I may possibly have $10K left to spend on all the stuff that doesn't show up on their radar screens.  (I may end up with less than $10K, but it's a nice round number for the purposes of this discussion.)

We're in a 68' x 68' room, in a steel frame building, with the roof starting at 18' (if I remember correctly), and going up to 21' in the center.  The stage is in one of the corners.  (No drums yet; they know I don't think the room can handle it, and I'm a drummer, so it hurts to say that.  Yeah, I know there's the electronic option, but we haven't gotten around to that yet.)  Actually, our sound is fine in pretty much everyone's opinion, although it's still a world away from what I'd like to provide for them.

There are a few ways I can think of to burn through $10K.  One of the things I'd like to do is trade our pole-mounted speakers for a hanging cluster, and I have a ballpark quote of $3.5K installed, or $5K if I include subs.  I think our coverage would be better, and we'd free up more physical and acoustic space on the stage.  On the other hand, I feel like the best possible place I could spend the money is on anything that would help acoustically stabilize the room.  (Again, our sound is fine, but it'd be nice to buy ourselves some headroom, and to increase the good-spot/bad-spot ratio.  It'd be nice to ensure that when someone in the congregation picks up a tambourine, it doesn't cut through everything else.)  I figure that we can always add equipment later, but treating the walls or whatever else is best done up front.

The conventional wisdom is that we'd like to cut costs where possible, but perhaps I'd get more bang for the buck by plopping down $2K-$5K on an EASE analysis.  I can try to do everything myself even though I don't have the background for it, and frankly it has already been a wonderful (and exhausting) learning experience, but I'd rather spend the money wisely ("... as someone who must give account"), even though my recommendations may not appear wise to the untrained eye.  The two things that I want to avoid doing are 1) spending money on stuff that won't do us any good, and 2) spending money on great 2nd base stuff that we can't use until we're safely at 1st base.

I was recently in a sister church's brand new, almost finished building, and although their room was larger than ours (with no evidence of any acoustic planning), it was also surprisingly quieter than ours, even before they laid any carpet over the bare concrete.  I found out that their inside walls were covered with 3/4" masonite instead of drywall, and I wondered whether the masonite might be absorbing some of the sound.  I bring that up because it might be cheaper for us to do all of walls with masonite than to finish dry-walling what we didn't finish the last time.

Anyhow, if anybody has good advice or opinions, I'd love to hear them.  For better or worse, my church will trust my recommendations, but I realize how much I don't know, and I'd like to see God's house and people well cared for.

Neil
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Tom Young

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2004, 07:39:39 am »

First of all, I am always amazed when someone developes a budget for *anything* relating to sound systems or acoustics and with no professional guidance or basic research.  It's like deciding (on your own and with no clue) that one needs a new car and it should cost $2,000. or one needs a new home and "we have budgeted" $12,000.

Now that I've vented on that........

Walls made of sheetrock, Masonite or lead do not not absorb anything other than at very low frequencies.  If we are really talking about noise, then the more quiet church you visited has a better design of its HVAC systems and the components of the HVAC system may be designed (built) to emit less noise or they were treated with mechanical isolators, duct liners, etc. when installed.  

Walls *do* keep sound (noise) out but not by absorption (other than at very low frequencies). And chances are that double-thick sheetrock and/or staggered double stud walls would have been as an effective treatment (or better) than masonite is.

You display reasonably good awareness of the options.  But no one can guide you from a website/BBS exchange.  You need to hire a consultant.
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neil.steiner

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2004, 10:30:26 am »

Tom Young wrote on Wed, 16 June 2004 07:39

If we are really talking about noise, then the more quiet church you visited has a better design of its HVAC systems and the components of the HVAC system may be designed (built) to emit less noise or they were treated with mechanical isolators, duct liners, etc. when installed.


Actually, the HVAC was not yet on in the church that I visited.  I was referring to the fact that if I spoke or clapped in that room (I think 100' x 90' versus our 68' x 68'), I didn't sense as much of the sound coming back at me.  That surprised me because I would have expected a little more.

Tom Young wrote on Wed, 16 June 2004 07:39

You display reasonably good awareness of the options.  But no one can guide you from a website/BBS exchange.  You need to hire a consultant.


Indeed.  I suppose I was hoping for some feedback to help me gauge what I might expect from a consultant, and what kinds of things I should look for when hiring one.
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Dan Timon

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2004, 11:59:35 am »

Neil,

[quote title=neil.steiner wrote on Wed, 16 June 2004 10:30
Indeed.  I suppose I was hoping for some feedback to help me gauge what I might expect from a consultant, and what kinds of things I should look for when hiring one.[/quote]

There are several ways to define "consultant", and some of these definitions do harm to those who, like Tom Young, are truly well qualified independent experts in the various aspects of sound and acoustics.

By one definition, anybody who is hired to advise on matters of sound is a consultant. Examples: the guy who mixes at the local watering hole or the guy who sells Mackies at the local MI store, who do "consulting on the side".

By another definition, a person who works as a salesman, designer or engineer for an AV install firm can (improperly) call himself a consultant, because that designation implies more expertise and objectivity than the term "salesman". You can go to used car lots now, and talk with sales consultants.

(Tom, I hope I do not speak out of turn, because I am not definitly not a consultant) The skilled professionals who provide impartial advice on matters of sound and acoustics are consultants, but by a more rigorous definition. The professionals at this level of expertise are wise enough to know what they don't know, and know who to recommend for a difficult, special-case problem. These consultants will often become expert in one area, while maintaining a high level of knowledge of the other, more general aspects of audio and/or video.

But you are wise to ask what you can expect of a consultant, because the term implies skills that do not always accompany the title.

I know of one church that hired a "consultant", of the first type, who is actually a salesman at a MI store. He was much less expensive than a true consultant, and his lack of skills is evident from the kind of advice he gave them.

I think that a general AV consultant would not give you the best bang for your buck, in your unique case. Like you, I think that an acoustical consultant would be your best bet. He can, after analyzing the space, recommend strategies that will make any sound system work better in that room. Many of them can be done with "sweat equity" and minimal cost. This is a great way to leverage your limited budget using the volunteered skills of the congregation, and can have the additional benefit of bringing a larger group of people into "ownership" of the sound system. Sometimes, however the cost of solutions for acoustic problems can approach that of the "D9 Eq", where it is cheaper to start over. An acoustical consultant can also advise you of this, which might save you from buying a bunch of acoustical treatments off the Internet to solve problems that are not solve-able.

So what should you look for? Look for one who will really care about your project and give it some quality, personal time. Extra points if he/she is behind your church's mission. Look for one who will ask lots of questions of you and the key people in the church about the church's needs, to develop a clear analysis of what problems you want to solve. He/she should be willing to attend a service or two, to understand the dynamics of your church and your music.

You want a consultant who is skilled in analyzing rooms with 3 dimensional (time, energy, frequency) tools, and one who can appreciate your financial limitations, but who has high standards, and is creative in his solutions. Be cautious if he begins to talk about the wonders of a particular product or company, before he evaluates your room. Also be wary of buying what might be his latest "toy". It is easy to lose perspective, and recommend the newest and latest gizmo, when one is passionate about his work.

You need a consultant who will come back in the room and test that the improvements actually perform as intended. And finally, you need to develop a lasting relationship with the consultant, so that you can go to him for advice when your church grows to the next level. You won't have to "re-train" him about your church's culture.

Now, can you get a consultant that will do all of this for $2-5k? Maybe. But your church is in the business of miracle, isn't it?

Good luck,

Dan Timon

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kevingreen

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2004, 02:03:41 pm »

Neil,

It sounds like you still have a lot of construction to do in your sanctuary.  Are your ceilings done yet?  If not you may want to look at acoustic tile (dropped) ceilings.  I was in a hardware store and noticed that some tiles advertised as much as 45% reduction in sound.  I have also experienced this with the church I grew up in.  We remodeled our sanctuary that was built in the 50's.  It had paneling walls, with an old hard tile (probably asbestos) type ceiling.  For the remodel we put in a drop ceiling with acoustic tile.  Our ceiling height changed about a foot and a half.  The acoustic difference was almost too much.  We had people complaining that they couldn't hear the people around them singing.  I also remember the contractor telling us that if it was too much we could put in different tiles.  I would assume that you can get tiles with different Q values (don't know if that is the correct term or not) to absorb different amounts of sound.  Just a thought.
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Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2004, 07:36:51 pm »

Neil,

It’s nice to see a church that’s interested in acoustics.  Far too often they seem to think about everything but, only to realize too late that all that beautiful wood paneling and stained glass has bought them an unintelligible reverb chamber.  I saw this time and time again in churches when I used to install sound systems.

Dan has given you some excellent advice.  He’s absolutely correct that a sound company probably won’t give you the absolute best advice when it comes to acoustics.  To be sure, they aren’t ignorant of the discipline, but they don’t advise you as well as an acoustician.

The time to be concerned about acoustics is now, during construction.  As Dan noted, whatever is needed acoustically speaking can usually be implemented at little or no extra cost during the construction phase.  Trying to use and apply “band-aid” remedies after the fact is costly, unsightly, and not nearly as effective.

Good luck with your project.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Mike {AB} Butler

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2004, 04:15:42 pm »

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20

[Yeah, I'm new to the forum.  And this is a little long winded, but it's essentially about room acoustics.]

My church is doing some work on our warehouse-style building, and after a lot of on-again/off-again, they told me that they were budgeting $20K for the "sanctuary".
Now the "sanctuary" budget includes finishing the walls and building their idea of what we need for a stage and a sound booth (which I'd happily trade for a good mixing position), so I figure that I may possibly have $10K left to spend on all the stuff that doesn't show up on their radar screens.  (I may end up with less than $10K, but it's a nice round number for the purposes of this discussion.)



Even if all you plan to do is buy speakers and amps, that might not be enough. A consultant, cost of flying, and any structural modifications required, permits, engineer signoffs, fly rated Hardware.. it adds up real quick. As you no doubt already know, $10K will not buy you a lot - if you need a full system. Just be forewarned.. $10K will not be enough. Better to get what you really need than to go back and do it a second time - because you didn't fully and correctly do it the first time..

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20


We're in a 68' x 68' room, in a steel frame building, with the roof starting at 18' (if I remember correctly), and going up to 21' in the center.  The stage is in one of the corners.  



Sounds pretty normal to me.

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20


(No drums yet; they know I don't think the room can handle it, and I'm a drummer, so it hurts to say that.  Yeah, I know there's the electronic option, but we haven't gotten around to that yet.)  Actually, our sound is fine in pretty much everyone's opinion, although it's still a world away from what I'd like to provide for them.



Well, unless you want to play behind the plexiglass drum gobo - with the lightest weight sticks made (or with brushes), be prepared to shell out the $2.5K or so. Simply put, the drummer sets the overall level in a worship band. I get complaints from drummers when I walk up with a pair of combi sicks, and say, "play with these, please..  Shocked

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20


There are a few ways I can think of to burn through $10K.  



Yeah, I would think maybe a few IEM's to keep the stage levels down, more auxes would be useful, EQ's, better effects, maybe more mixer channels..  Very Happy

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20


One of the things I'd like to do is trade our pole-mounted speakers for a hanging cluster, and I have a ballpark quote of $3.5K installed, or $5K if I include subs.  I think our coverage would be better, and we'd free up more physical and acoustic space on the stage.  On the other hand, I feel like the best possible place I could spend the money is on anything that would help acoustically stabilize the room.  (Again, our sound is fine, but it'd be nice to buy ourselves some headroom, and to increase the good-spot/bad-spot ratio.  It'd be nice to ensure that when someone in the congregation picks up a tambourine, it doesn't cut through everything else.)  I figure that we can always add equipment later, but treating the walls or whatever else is best done up front.



Yup. Be a good idea to take away the tambourines from the audience, IMO - and I've done that. Confused

neil.steiner wrote on Sat, 12 June 2004 21:20


I was recently in a sister church's brand new, almost finished building, and although their room was larger than ours (with no evidence of any acoustic planning), it was also surprisingly quieter than ours, even before they laid any carpet over the bare concrete.  I found out that their inside walls were covered with 3/4" masonite instead of drywall, and I wondered whether the masonite might be absorbing some of the sound.  I bring that up because it might be cheaper for us to do all of walls with masonite than to finish dry-walling what we didn't finish the last time.
Neil


A larger room can seem "quieter" simply due to attenuation caused by the greater distance a low energy sound (like your hands clapping) has to travel before it returns to your ears.

My advice:
- Go back and get a consultant - who should tell you as the entire church - what you really need to do - and ALL that you will need to do. THAT will set the budget. I like the analogy of the poster above about "a $13K auto will suit your needs fine". DO NOT let non-professionals dictate what should be done, or what the budget will be. Man, talk about poor stewardship..
- Next, you can always rent or borrow gear to try - if option 1 isn't followed. I've installed Genie lifts, temporary scaffolding, etc., to demonstrate the result (or close facsimile thereof).
- DO NOT let anyone talk you into flying speakers without professional help! Professional riggers, civil engineers, certified welders, and even building permits - as well as fly rated hardware - should be involved. You don't even want to risk it falling!
- Make sure the rest of your system is up to par. It's not a good thing to try and drop a 350 into a VW...
Regards,
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Mike Butler (Formerly MikeAB)

Tom Young

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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2004, 10:03:34 am »

I don't think Dan has stated anything I would disagree with.

I would add that a qualified and thorough consultant should conduct extensive measurement and optimization of the sound system (once it has ben installed), followed by sound checks and, operator training and then (as Dan mentioned) attend at least one service. This is followed up by debriefing of the key users and ensuring that all is in good working order befor departure. Then, of course, open lines of communication between designer and client are mandatory for post-commissioning questions and problems.  Understand that sound systems that are very well designed are still at the mercy of the users. A good consultant will be able to talk a client through a problem and advise on what went wrong.

Acoustic treatment, unless it is variable, is not adjustable or "optimizable", so it had better be right when designed or specified.  Churches seldom can afford variable acoustics and this is not a huge requirement (for them) to begin with, as services are pretty much set and they do not go from non-reinforced events to heavily reinforced ones.  Exceptions are where there are several services on Sunday and which vary from traditional to blended to full-bore contemporary. Or, when the worship space is a gymnatorium and it is desireable to have live acoustics for athletic competitions but more controlled acoustics for services.

Aside from the obvious (checking references, going to hear/see finished projects - when possible), I strongly believe that any consultant worth his salt attends training workshops on a regular basis and participates in internet use groups or listservs.  Why ?  Aside from the fact that we must learn more about what we do all of the time (it is a very complex thing that we do and technologies are changing as we speak) this also helps to establish that the consultant is not a maverick, who has developed his own way of doing things. Design and optimization concepts which are not considered and approved (or disapproved) by one's peers are a huge risk for the client. At the same time, without interaction in the consulting and live sound communities, one cannot become aware of new ideas that are of benefit to what we do.
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Tom Young, Church Sound section moderator
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Re: Upgrading and the acoustics/equipment ratio
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2004, 10:03:34 am »


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