The Basics Behind Sound System Engineering

There is a lot of science behind acoustics and many different ways to analyze and treat a room to decrease decay and increase the intelligibility of your audio signals.

The Basics Behind Sound System Engineering
There are three major components to any worship service: Live music (worship), spoken word, and playback (tracks, videos, etc.). Your worship style has a dramatic effect on the type and design of audio system your facility needs and is the driving force behind the design.
The Basics Behind Sound System Engineering
There are three major components to any worship service: Live music (worship), spoken word, and playback (tracks, videos, etc.). Your worship style has a dramatic effect on the type and design of audio system your facility needs and is the driving force behind the design.

Sound System Engineering News

The Beginner’s Guide to Sound System Engineering
Sound System Engineering: It’s Not Guesswork
The Basics Behind Sound System Engineering

Technology Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, September-October 2017
The September-October 2017 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers a glance at a Granger Community Church, and their recent install of a Lawo audio mixing console system.
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In researching for this piece, I wanted to first focus on the science behind the audio path, acoustical analysis and electronic manipulation and amplification of the signals in both live and recording environments.

In addition, I sought to take a closer look at a Sound System Engineer, the person who is operating the equipment, placing microphones and operating recording decks and editors.

When choosing a speaker system, consider worship/service style, size of your room, and what volume level you require.

Let’s first look at the practice of Audio Engineering, particularly the design and implementation of installing an Audio Reinforcement System into a worship space. An audio reinforcement system in its simplest form, makes sounds more audible for your audience. This is achieved by increasing the volume, distributing the audio and/or manipulating its frequencies and transients in the space.

The audio signal begins by flowing from the source (a person or instrument) into a microphone, where it is converted into electricity. The electrical signal is then manipulated and blended with other signals (in your audio desk), and sent to an amplifier, where the voltage and current are increased to drive the speaker system. The speaker system then will convert the electronic signals back into acoustical energy.

Before starting any project, though, you should define your needs. Some initial questions to answer are:
1. What is my worship style?
2. What is the size of my room/audience?
3. How loud do I want it to be?
4. Are there any special considerations?
(things that happen a few times a year that may require special attention/equipment)

Microphones, Tracks and other Audio Sources

Let’s start with inputs. Inputs come in many shapes and sizes, as they are not just microphones (although mics typically make up the majority of your sources). They can be playback sources such as music tracks, audio from videos, reverb and/or effects processors. Or they also can be sources from other sound systems.

The number of microphones that you typically use, needs to be communicated to your integrator. Do you mic every instrument? Does the instrumentation change often? Do you change your set or stage layout often? How do you see the use of the space on a typical weekend? These questions can go a long way to determine the specifications of the system. Not only will it help to identify what you will need your audio desk to do, it will determine the location of microphone jacks on or around your stage and whether you need a patchbay or another form of routing inputs to the audio desk.


More About Jeff Snyder
A/V Professional services with 25 years experience in sound, lighting, rigging, power distribution, stage management, set/scenic design, convention services, facility management, video production and commercial broadcast engineering and production. Works as an audio contractor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind.
Get in Touch: jeff@eventswithmojo.com    More by Jeff Snyder

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, September-October 2017
The September-October 2017 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers a glance at a Granger Community Church, and their recent install of a Lawo audio mixing console system.


Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Acoustics · Audio · Audio Reinforcement System · Integrator · Microphones · Sound System Engineering · All Topics

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Comments

By Teqniqal on April 13, 2017

The author writes: “...seek out a professional system integrator.”  This seems disingenuous, at best.  The room acoustics should be addressed by an an independent acoustician.  Few ‘integrators’ have qualified personnel on staff to address this properly.  Far too often I see little or no effort put into fixing the actual acoustic and noise problems in a room, but instead all the funds are funneled towards some elaborate sound system that only exasperate an unruly room.

For new construction, this is imperative.  You generally only get ONE chance to get the noise control done correctly - retrofits to noise issues are usually prohibitively expensive, and a sound contractor has little interest in seeing this gets done correctly as there is no profit in the man-hours and equipment involved.

Acoustical issues are similar, except maybe there is some hope of fixing severe problems after the damage is done.  Sadly, it costs twice as much as designing the acoustical solutions into the room correctly to begin with, and the aesthetic results typically are pretty uninspiring - you really don’t have to scab-on a bunch of acoustical panels to an otherwise nice looking room if you design the correct treatments into the space from the get-go.

As to the design of the sound system, this, too, should be tasked to an independent design consultant.  The decisions as to the most appropriate products for a project shouldn’t be made by a party that has a financial interest in which vendors have the best deal to offer the integrator that day.  A good consultant will temper their design with the needs of the other building considerations (in particular the architectural aesthetics) so the system is defined in coordination with the rest of the projects requirements.  Qualified contractors can then be solicited for pricing proposals on a basis that can be compared on an apples-to-apples basis.  This will also afford the owner an independent review of product substitution requests, the shop drawings, and typically includes job site reviews to check and see that the systems are being installed correctly and in a professional manner.  Don’t leave the fox watching the hen-house.

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