An introduction to church sound systems
Traditionally called public address systems, a sound system designed for a church has, at its core, a primary purpose: to help the congregation hear the spoken word, sermons, readings and testimonies.
To do this the basics are quite simple; a microphone captures the spoken word and an amplifi er and speakers broadcast to the congregation. However, although the principle is simple there’s no one solution to church sound systems, with each building having unique characteristics that can pose a challenge even to the professionals.
Church buildings often have fabulous acoustics… for live sung performances with plenty of reverberation (echo). But often the spoken word especially from general members of the congregation, becomes unintelligible as the reverberation acts against speech causing the listener to hear a mixture of sounds. With sometimes large areas to cover, the natural spoken word can struggle to be heard clearly throughout the building.
A sound system, with the use of correct equipment and installed professionally, minimises and overcomes the reverberation effects and amplifies the users enabling the congregation to hear the service clearly.
Although primarily for speech, a modern church sound system should be able to cater for full range music reproduction which often includes the ability to replay pre-recorded organ music and allow devices such as CD, MP3, iPods, laptops etc to connect.
An important consideration is aesthetics. Whilst loudspeakers have to be positioned correctly to be effective, technical advances allow specialist speaker to be very unobtrusive and in some cases almost hidden. Microphones can be equally discrete, and the use of lapel or headworn radio microphones has become standard.
Although in the past some systems required an operator, modern systems using the correct equipment should be able to function without constant adjustments and even adjust automatically so that simply turning on and off is all that’s required.
Darren Butler MInstSCE, Sound Engineer
Darren’s company, Audio Electronic Design (AED) sponsor PCC News – firstname.lastname@example.org or 01953 860074
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