Finding the right acoustic panels for a place of worship is a common problem. Clarity of sound is paramount here, and these buildings are always in desperate need of it, but the look and feel of the space is just as important.

High ceilings, open layouts, and many large, exposed windows and walls are commonplace in sanctuaries and fellowship halls. These features mimic the beautiful old churches that we know and love, but those buildings were made before AV equipment was available. Bare surfaces and ample open spaces in sanctuaries once helped amplify and carry sermons and music. But when used with today’s digital audio technology or applied to fellowship halls, these architectural elements create a lengthy reverberation time. Reverberation time, or RT 60, is the amount of time it takes for sound waves to stop reflecting around a room and fade completely. The longer it takes for each sound to end, the harder it is to understand subsequent sounds as they build up, making it uncomfortably loud.

What Are the Right Acoustic Panels for My Sanctuary?

To reduce reverberation time, sound absorbing materials are the answer.  This includes acoustic foam, fabric wrapped acoustic panels, curtains, and anything soft or porous that will not reflect sound waves.

Fabric wrapped acoustic panels typically make the most sense for worship facilities because they look finished, are unobtrusive, and can be installed onto a wall or suspended horizontally or vertically from a ceiling, addressing problem areas.

When acoustic panels are suspended parallel to the ceiling, they are called acoustic ceiling clouds; when they are suspended perpendicular, they are called acoustic ceiling baffles.

These options do not have to impede the traditional design of a worship space. Sticking with a light color scheme, similar or contrasting to the walls and ceilings adds texture and a bit of interest without cluttering the existing layout. However, you are not condemned to this one aesthetic option. Acoustical treatment has become more designer-friendly in recent years.

Acoustic panels are now commonly custom-made in different shapes and sizes, with countless colors and textures of fabric. They can have cutouts, be printed with graphics or photos, and be arranged in any way a designer can dream of. So, while it is usually a first instinct to blend sound absorbing panels into the background when retrofitting, designers have the freedom to create an acoustical treatment that stands out for the right reasons and improves the original design—instead of just preserving it.

Gretna United Methodist Church sanctuary using custom designed AlphaSorb® wall panels to reduce the echo while looking completely unique.

Gretna United Methodist Church sanctuary using custom designed AlphaSorb® wall panels to reduce the echo while looking completely unique.

Why Are Acoustic Panels Important?

By installing acoustic panels in you place of worship, you provide the audience with greater intelligibility for the spoken word and allow for better control over the choral and musical presentations to the congregation. Echo and reverberation will cause mixed sound signals unless your church is acoustically treated. Ignoring the importance of sound quality can lessen attendance and the sustained growth of your congregation. Members will either choose to compete with the noise and speak louder, which will further increase decibel levels, or they will simply stop coming to the service. This is particularly important for people who may already struggle with hearing issues.

Examples of Acoustic Panels in Places of Worship

Here are two examples where Acoustical Solutions provided acoustic panels to places of worship that show or describe the amazing results after acoustical treatment.

Old Donation Church

This church had a fellowship hall which had rarely been used since its construction due to a noise issue. The vaulted ceiling created a reverberation of longer than four seconds. This made it impossible for children or the elderly to use the room comfortably. Acoustic Ceiling Clouds were made and installed according to a designer’s specifications, and the reverberation was reduced to 1.9 seconds. This is the perfect balance of reverb where groups can use the room for activities, but music will still sound “live.”

Acoustically, this was the goal, and it didn’t take away from the architectural detail,” says Senior Warden Harold VanderWilt.

Roslyn Retreat Center Bishop’s Chapel

The Bishop’s Chapel at the Roslyn Retreat Center was a place of worship constructed in 2009. It emulates a feeling of calm and a connection to nature. The cathedral ceiling, large windows, and exposed naturally finished wooden planks help accomplish the desired look. However, this design filled the room with echo. Here is where worship space acoustic treatment comes into play. We fitted acoustic panels into the wood paneling on the walls. We also installed black acoustical ceiling tiles behind the wood paneling in the ceiling. This blended into the beautifully designed chapel and to bring down the echo.

Tips and Reminders for Finding the Right Acoustic Panels for Your Place of Worship

Finding acoustic panels that solve your sound issues but also blend into or compliment the beauty of your place of worship can be a challenge, but this can be done in steps to meet your budget, starting with a treatment that achieves the most results for your dollar. 

You would want to start with placing acoustic panels on the rear wall/ front balcony area (moving back to front) for general room sound control. You would then move to the stage area to control sound from musicians. If wall space is unavailable, try suspending acoustic panels from the ceiling as clouds. Do not get caught in the trap where you do not do anything just because you cannot do it all at once. Whether the room is a sanctuary, fellowship hall, or gymnasium, Acoustical Solutions has just the right acoustic panels to meet your soundproofing and aesthetic needs within your budget.

Tuckahoe Presbyterian Church - Ceiling cloud layout to account for can lights and chandeliers.

Tuckahoe Presbyterian Church – Ceiling cloud layout to account for can lights and chandeliers.

To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at