The contemporary worship service space has provided new challenges to the design community; from the architect’s original design, all the way to the sound mixer’s ability to present a clear and meaningful sound to the congregation. Today’s sanctuaries have higher attendance volume and a larger variety of services from the traditional to the contemporary. The spoken word is still very important, the choir still wants to project a full sound, and there is often more updated musical content being performed by live instruments (acoustic and electric drum kits, electric guitars, keyboards, etc.). Yet we still want an intimate environment, for the service and pleasing sound quality to accentuate the experience. To achieve this, you need to have a certain level of acoustical control or “soundproofing” in the Sanctuary, with a good sound reinforcement system that meets your needs. You can’t have a good sound system without good room acoustics.
Key Factors to Look At When Soundproofing a Church Sanctuary:
- What is the design look you are trying to achieve in the sanctuary?
- What is the proper reverberation time that is required in the room for good sound?
- What is the budget you have or need for the job?
Some basics for sound control and soundproofing in a Church Sanctuary are achieved from using the following:
- Having a facility that has low noise levels from the mechanical systems, using NC curves in the original design. Noisy duct work can be treated with a number of materials including Pipe and Duct Lag, Pipe and Duct Wrap, SoundVAC Duct Liner, and Plenum Return Silencers.
- You need a Sanctuary that has a Reverb Time (RT 60) around 1.25 to 1.5 seconds to reduce excessive reverberation, achieve good speech intelligibility for the spoken word, and clear, full sound for the wide variety and types of music performances in the room. Rooms with high ceilings and lots of hard surfaces tend to have higher reverb times. Adding absorptive panels like AlphaSorb Wall Panels or WhisperWave Clouds into the space can help lower the overall reverb time.
- A sound mixing position in the rear center that is elevated and open to the sanctuary for good control of the sound reinforcement system.
- The stage area needs to be able to project sound from the choir yet have sound control for the musical instruments and music and sound reinforcement equipment such as amplifiers, monitor speakers and microphones. If the praise and worship band is using an acoustic drum kit, a drum shield or drum enclosure should be employed in order to limit the amount of sound being projected from the kit to the audience. A similar sound panel setup can be used to quiet onstage guitar, bass, and keyboard amplifiers, as well as horns and other wind instruments.
- Side walls that are splayed from front to back to prevent standing waves and flutter echo from upper side walls (or acoustic treatment especially on upper side walls in rectangular shaped spaces.)
- A rear wall, ceiling and balcony front that is acoustically treated and does not cause slap back echo and excessive reflective sound energy. A back wall section left untreated also reduces speech intelligibility and clarity of music, for the members in the rear section of the sanctuary. AlphaSorb Wall Panels are the most common treatment option for this section of the room.
These goals are best implemented in the original design, but can be achieved after the facility is finished. It can be done in steps to meet your budget starting with treatment that achieves the most results per dollar. Typically, you start with the rear wall/ front balcony area (moving back to front) for general room sound control, and the stage area to control sound, from musicians. Don’t get caught in the trap where you don’t do anything, because you can’t do it all at once. The first square foot of acoustical treatment is the most effective. Whether the room is a sanctuary, a fellowship hall, a church gymnasium or the minister’s office that requires privacy, there are sound control materials designed to meet your needs.