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Church Sound Systems: How To Prepare for the Holidays

Church attendance reaches its annual peaks during holiday periods. Thus, it’s crucial for houses of worship to prepare for the uptick in advance, and that includes adapting church sound systems. During the holidays especially, the microphone and loudspeaker systems need to be operating at optimal performance to ensure the words of the sermon and songs of the choir come through clearly and appealingly — in person and online.

Here’s how to prepare your system for the increased demand that comes with holiday celebrations.

Assess Coverage Needs

As crowd size marks the main difference between routine and holiday services, the first item to be checked is the existing system’s coverage — in other words, its ability to deliver sound to every seat consistently and evenly. Considering all seats are likely to be filled and additional ones perhaps set up, ensuring clear sound to those farthest away or in peripheral seating becomes a top priority.

It’s important to note that increasing the volume is not the only solution, and may actually degrade the experience and be uncomfortable for some people. A better solution is to install directional loudspeakers like Bose Professional ShowMatch array loudspeakers, which allow custom, even asymmetrical, coverage to be set.

If you’re finding your system is regularly falling short during any period or event with increased attendance, you may want to look to a permanent sound solution, such as the Bose Professional Panaray MSA12X — a digital beam-steering line array column loudspeaker that provides 160-degree horizontal coverage. This will give the flexibility you need regardless of the size of the service or time of the year.

Install Seasonal Sound Support

For any new areas you need to incorporate into your existing seating arrangement, additional sound support may be required. This should be compatible with the existing system, and ideally, add flexibility along with coverage.

AMM multipurpose loudspeakers can be deployed and easily make use of existing open amplifier channels to provide a cost effective addition to a system, providing additional coverage as needed. They can be deployed as mains, monitors, fills, or delays in portable setups or permanent installations. You can also easily mix and match them with Bose Professional AM array modules and AMU utility loudspeakers to create different types of systems.

Also keep in mind that if you do not have any existing amplifier channels or power available, additional speakers will require more amplification and equalization, which the PowerSpace and PowerMatch amplifiers can easily provide.

Choir members singing into microphones in a church.

Prepare your house of worship’s sound system for the increased demand that comes with the holidays.

Calculate Signal Delays

Loudspeakers intended to cover the more distant rows of seating will further need to be time-aligned, or delayed, so that audio coming from the supplemental loudspeakers arrives at the additional seating in sync with the audio from the main loudspeakers. The amount of delay, measured in milliseconds, needs to be accurately calculated and entered as a value into the system processor.

For instance, a loudspeaker covering a seat 275 feet from the main PA would need to be delayed 244 milliseconds to allow for the sound to be heard at the correct time for those located in the additional seating. Several milliseconds may not sound like much, but the resulting sonic artifacts can vary from a slap-back delay to phasing and other effects that can greatly decrease intelligibility.

An excellent solution for this is the Bose Professional Control Space ESP-880A engineered-sound processor, which is designed to specifically help with delays in a wide variety of settings. The ControlSpace Designer software inside includes a wide range of signal processing modules to address time alignment and fine-tune further.

Support the Low End

The types of loudspeakers are also a consideration. If the production is going to utilize a range of music genres — be it more traditional choral and orchestral or contemporary pop, country, and hip hop — you’ll likely you’ll need subwoofers to better support the lower end of the performance.

Subwoofers can be considerably more forgiving when it comes to their deployment in a system because lower frequencies tend to be more omnidirectional and thus easier to propagate. However, there are still placement considerations. Subwoofers like the ShowMatch SMS118 can be either ground stacked — usually under the front of the stage — or suspended or mounted with the main line array. Space and room shape are the main determining factors.

Employ the Outside

Many special holiday productions at houses of worship are held outdoors, requiring a sound system designed for more open, natural spaces. In addition to having fewer surfaces to reflect off and far more space to cover, an outdoor-friendly sound system needs to reach the audience wherever it is — seated, standing, and moving. Most likely, the volume also needs to avoid spilling out into neighboring residential areas and incurring possible noise complaints.

Depending upon the scale of the production, that could range from a Bose portable PA system to a line array like Bose Professional ArenaMatch loudspeakers, perhaps accompanied by point-source loudspeakers — like the Bose Professional AMM multipurpose loudspeakers — to fill in any remaining audio dead zones and reinforce the projection of the primary system. This would also add the necessary flexibility to mitigate the impacts of temperature, humidity, and wind on audio. 

Calibrate for Streaming

While worshipers are feeling ever more comfortable returning to in-person services, many still prefer the remote services that have become integral over the past two years. This means IT staff will need to calibrate audio for streaming platforms, especially in conjunction with the video feed.

Creating seamless audio for both in-person and streaming requires a mixing board or signal processor like the ControlSpace ESP-880A engineered sound processor, which can address streaming issues by incorporating room acoustics, shifting mono signals to stereo, maintaining consistent volume levels, and accounting for any drag in audio and video signals that can create a poor experience online. 

Clean House 

Perhaps the simplest way to prepare your audio system for the increase in holiday activities is to keep it off the beaten path as much as possible. This means moving all cables and equipment away from feet or wheels that could easily trip over or tangle them. Mounting them above the crowd can help do this, as can protective covers over cables or brackets to adhere them to designated wall and floor paths. While doing this, give all components a thorough cleaning and check for frayed or damaged cables, as they could fail the moment you need them most.

Bring the Holidays to Life

Holidays are more than just a special time of the year for houses of worship; they represent the very source of the faiths that celebrates them. That means churches want to bring that spirit to life with as much vividness and energy as possible. Audio plays a key role in this, making it essential to bring the best equipment, software, and techniques to church sound systems. Ensuring this will not only improve the quality of the holiday services, but it will also lower the amount of stress that comes with managing technology during this busy time.