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Troubleshooting Church Sound Systems

by Tim Heneveld on January 13, 2011

image of church sound system troubleshootingRecently I was working with a church that was experiencing some “issues” with their sanctuary sound system. They had just reconfigured their main worship space and everything had been fine. But now that several weeks had gone by, things were not right. They asked if I could come and help work with their sound volunteers to get everything straightened out. I’ve worked with many churches in somewhat similar circumstances so, at first glance, nothing in this scenario seemed out of the ordinary.

The volunteers were all great guys and, like the worship leader, somewhat confused as to what was going on. The system seemed like it was out of balance (the space has a low ceiling and utilizes numerous delays to maintain coverage) so I first checked out the system processor to see how things were set. With the help of several great tools and equipment, we quickly gained some significant improvement by modifying the equalization levels. But something still wasn’t right. Checking out the mixing board, I realized that one of the board outputs was not working correctly. Due to the loudspeaker configuration, some areas of the room had a much lower volume level. Notably, the speaker in front of the mix position was too soft, while the rest of the room was at full volume. Ah ha! Some re-working on the system output patching and the levels were corrected. But even after these major corrections, something was still not right.

Then someone mentioned that the wireless was having problems. I looked and sure enough the wireless systems were actually still in the illegal 700 MHz band. That must be the problem! We brought in a different wireless microphone (down around 500 MHz) but that one also had problems. Next, I brought out some more tools and scanners. That’s when I found that the space was literally being flooded with Radio Frequencies (RF). I performed scans in different ranges and found that huge swaths of the spectrum from 100 MHz up to 1000 MHz were packed with RF “hash”. This was what was causing the wireless to misbehave, but (apparently) was also causing some very bad side effects to the rest of the system electronics. Fortunately, over the next two weeks the source of the extraneous RF dropped in level and finally disappeared altogether.

So why am I telling you all of this? To point out from my own experience how important it is to have the knowledge to diagnose problems with these types of intricate systems, and to have the right tools and equipment to find the real issues. Finding any one of the major problems in this system helped, but only when we dealt with all of them (and there were a few other small ones too!) did the system sound outstanding again.

Acoustics By Design works with churches of all sizes to help solve their church sound system challenges. We design acoustical enhancements and audio-visual improvements tailor fit to the project. Since we do not sell materials or equipment, we are free to offer unbiased advice, and that’s why churches continue to trust us with their audio-video consulting needs.

Tim Heneveld

Tim Heneveld

Tim Heneveld, CTS-D, has worked in almost every aspect of the Audio-Video and lighting industry. From System Design to Project Management to Studio and Live Engineering. Tim has overseen audio, video, and lighting systems as well as operations, and provided recording studio and live sound engineering around the world for recording artists of all genres. Tim is a Certified Crestron and Extron Programmer, and is the Senior AVL Design Consultant for Acoustics By Design, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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