Houses of Worship: A Guide to PA Systems

Houses of Worship: A Guide to PA Systems

February 10, 2016

Be it a full production in a dedicated house of worship, or a regular Sunday sermon in the local church, fostering an ambience that allows focus and self-reflection can help in promoting the message and impinging it upon the minds of the listeners. Inadequate audio quality can greatly distract the attention of a worshipper or attendees. Especially, with the goal being listener envelopment, articulation, and clarity, having a viable PA sound system is indispensable for the house of worship. However, the operations of a PA in such gatherings pose these specific problems:

Houses of Worship: A Guide to PA Systems

  • The space employed for holding the worship may be acoustically challenging; such as long echoes, reverberation delays, and resonances off of hard surfaces and high ceilings.  Often times the aesthetic restrictions prohibit adding sound absorbing materials.
  • Shifts in the style of worship music, for instance from pipe organs using no PA to keyboards and guitars needing PA, may entail that the existing PA system is being forced to work outside of its design parameters. In some cases, paraphernalia aimed only for the reproduction of speech may have used full range PA speakers, and could be re-tweaked to produce music at moderate levels.
  • The congregation size can swing between regular services and special events, such as funerals, weddings, Christmas, and Easter.  This is usually not as much of an issue, because the PA system should be designed to handle the full size of the house of worship.
  • Certain aesthetic and architectural considerations may impose restrictions on the best location, the type and size of speakers, absorption materials and the placement of the mixing positions. This can only be resolved with creative system designers using their skills to get the right sound system designed.
  • Many spread out Microphone locations and users such as: congregation members articulating ad-hoc announcements, preachers, and readers, will introduce many voice levels or employ poor microphone techniques.  This can result in a sound system on the brink of feedback or just not heard. The leading cause of an over-resonant sound is where the microphones are tuned up high and compressors are used to control the louder speakers. Often a little proper microphone technique education to the readers or the preacher can keep this to a minimum. Also the proper microphone for the job can go along way for clarity.
  • Despite the nature of congregation, its members may harbor different preferences, tastes for mixes, and sound levels. This could pose a big challenge if there is a wide hiatus between the ages of the band members and the attendees of the congregation.  Also the hearing impaired need to be taken into account with the design of a new system.  Besides strong and clear coverage of your system, there are many products that link wireless with modern hearing aids and/or work in conjunction using head phones.  These will cost additional to the regular system, but can add greatly to impact of the services for those who can not hear as well.

Portable PA Systems for Small Congregations
Any small performances or basic presentations are incomplete without a PA system. Self-contained, all-in-one simple solutions render the ultimate setup ease and portability for virtually any environment. Typically, due to their compact design, a portable PA system is best suited for smaller venues, though it’s not difficult to find more potent ones. Many also offer the ability to connect audio players such as MP3 or CD players. Standard packages are available or you can build up the right system for your specific needs.  Don’t forget to include microphone cables, microphones, and speaker stands if needed.  The Carvin Audio S600 Battery Powered Portable Column Array System is an excellent choice for smaller venues, and the battery power gives you the added freedom to use the system outdoors.

Audio for Congregations Greater Than 250 Seats
Whether you need portable or a permanent installed system, a larger building needs better sound coverage to reach the entire congregation.  In larger systems for mainly speech reproduction, the front end gear like the mixer, power amps, and processing can be tucked away with minimal attendance.  They can work as a set once and adjust when needed system.  For larger systems reproducing bands and/or large choirs, it is best to locate the mixing console and operator they can hear what the congregation is hearing. The speakers need to be placed with in the restrictions of the architecture and many times as out of sight as possible. Here is where column array systems shine the best.  The column array has the unique advantage of being very narrow with little vertical dispersion. This is huge for aesthetics and the reduction of big echoes and reverberation in high ceiling buildings.  Carvin Audio’s TRC Column Array Systems will give you excellent coverage, articulation, and clarity in a compact package that can be scaled to the size of your house of worship.

The use of wireless microphones increases the visual disconnection from the PA system for the congregation.  Wireless microphone head sets are very small and allow the preacher to move freely and with more expression. Finally, if you have a band for your worship you are going to need a monitoring system, so they can hear each other while playing.  Monitors are also good for any members of the choir or others located up front out of the main PA system.  Without monitors they will only hear the preacher’s echo off the back wall.

Carvin Audio offers several portable solutions and larger systems for house of worship and parish/fellowship halls. Look at our S600 all in one system, the XP and RX series mixers and systems for larger portable solutions, and for larger halls and permanent installs, at our TRC column array packaged systems. Call our PA system design staff for help building a portable or install system to cover your needs.

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