How Acoustic Sound Panels For Churches Work

June 23, 2014

The same structural characteristics that produce a lovely echo when music is performed can make ordinary speech nearly unintelligible. Music is an important part of most church services, but the congregation should also be able to clearly hear and understand spoken words without straining. Acoustic sound panels for churches clarify and focus tonal vibrations, making them easier for human ears to process.

Although there are European cathedrals famous for their fantastic echoes, a fine dividing line separates noise from distortion. Echoes occur when the vibrations that make waves bounce repeatedly back and forth from hard, reflective surfaces. Some buildings are fortunate to include acoustic considerations in the original plans, but many churches today are housed in structures originally designed for other uses.

Even without the advantages of computerized modeling, there have been many past attempts to correct this issue. In some churches, absorbent ash was added to pots made of clay, which were then placed near walls and in corners. This trial-and-error method took time, and ash was added or removed as needed. Other ideas included redirecting echoes by altering the interior pillars, or by incorporating grooved stone blocks.

Current solutions range from high-tech reverberation systems that are able to create interchangeable custom acoustic environments, to simply installing thick carpeting in specific areas. These are not ineffective, but neither solves problems of muffling or echo that are a result of the original and unalterable interior building design. For many rooms, the best solution incorporates flat, standing or attached wall panels that inhibit waves.

These structures are not used to block or eliminate words or music, but rather to absorb unwanted excess, usually within a single room. Most incorporate the same basic design method, featuring an inner filling made of absorbent material, a frame, and a covering. The filling may consist of various synthetic foams or fiberglass, or may utilize newer, more environmentally friendly substances.

Their size depends the extent of the echo and distortion. Some are as small as four square feet, while others may be nearly wall-sized, and most solutions require combinations. No matter their dimensions, they allow vibrations to pass through the exterior material rather than bouncing off, and any waves that return are re-absorbed. This principle is the same one used by music studios to emphasize accuracy, and can be easily adapted to churches.

Instead of seeming like an ugly industrial installation, these baffles easily adapt to the desired interior look of a church. Some re-create the existing patterns of stained glass in the windows, or can mimic or repeat patterns or colors in ceilings and walls. While they are visually uninteresting without decoration, a professionally designed grouping normally fits in well, and can even feel like part of the original decor.

While it is possible to precisely position or arrange them for the best absorption and diffusive characteristics using computer analysis, most are placed using the expert imaging made possible by the human ear. Once that sweet spot has been found, they are permanently attached. Rather than deadening volume or preventing certain frequencies from being heard, these structures clarify music and speech.

Read more about How Acoustic Sound Panels For Churches Improve Clarity.

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posted in Music by Ina Hunt

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