The location of the main and monitor loudspeakers in a church will have a decided impact on the success of the presentation.
A single source of sound is best for the spoken word, whenever possible. In a perfect world, it’s best practice to place a church’s main loudspeakers in a central cluster above the front edge of the chancel riser.
When we put sound on people, it is largely absorbed and only minimal reflections continue elsewhere in the room. When the pattern coverage is poorly designed, putting acoustic energy on highly reflective surfaces such as walls, floors and ceilings, the reflected sound can pass the listener’s ears several times, creating a lack of enunciation and speech intelligibility.
A properly designed central cluster allows the sound to reach the listener only once, thereby creating the most concise possible listening situation.
But many churches have physical limitations such as low ceilings or tall crosses that require an alternate consideration.
Alternative for Central Cluster
When forced to consider an alternate placement, the choice is usually left side and right side. It’s important to remember that sound will arrive at two different time intervals to people seated along the sides, so we must attempt to select loudspeakers with a narrower coverage pattern.
The goal is to put sound on people at the left with the left speaker and on people at the right with the right speaker, with as little acoustic energy crossing over the middle as possible.
How High Should Speakers be Hung?
Generally speaking, loudspeakers should be flown as high as possible (do not exceed 18-22 feet) in order to increase their distance from the front pew.
If the room has extremely low ceilings, we can arrive at a condition where people seated at the front are complaining that it is too loud, while the people at the rear are commenting that the sound needs to be turned up. In such an instance, turn the system down to a comfortable level and hang a second and even third set of loudspeakers perhaps every 25-30 feet as we grow in distance from the chancel.
Because sound traveling through the air takes time, the second set of loudspeakers will need to use a time delay so that the sound traveling from the chancel coincides perfectly with the sound emanating from the second set of loudspeakers.