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Danley Sound Labs Loudspeakers Fix the Unfixable

The 750-seat worship space at North Hills Community Church in Taylor, S.C., suffered from so many acoustical issues the ministry was skeptical that an audio overhaul was even possible. But the dB Audio and Video integration team was determined to find a solution.

Danley Sound Labs Loudspeakers Fix the Unfixable

Apr 6, 2006 8:00 AM

Georgia-based AV design and integration firm dB Audio and Video fixed an “unfixable” situation at North Hills Community Church, bringing the room’s poor acoustics under control and adding three SH-100 full-range loudspeakers by Danley Sound Labs.

When the leadership at North Hills Community Church in Taylor, S.C., decided that it was time to “fix” the church’s audio and acoustic issues, the prospect looked grim. The 750-seat worship space suffered from so many acoustical issues, and so many options had already been tried, the ministry was skeptical that an audio overhaul was even possible given the room’s parameters. But there is a solution for everything, and the team at the audiovisual design and integration firm of dB Audio and Video, based in Gainesville, Ga., was determined to find one.

“We were hired by the church to do analysis of the problems and come back with proposed solutions. No doubt about it, the acoustic problem was significant. There was a lot of flutter and slapback echo. Compounding these acoustical issues, the existing sound system didn’t have enough pattern control or fidelity to effectively place the sound at the listener’s ears. It was impossible to make the pastor’s voice seem like it was coming directly from him,” elaborates Mike Hedden, dB Audio and Video’s president and partner at loudspeaker manufacturer Danley Sound Labs. “You couldn’t lift the vocal performances off of the stage or make the choir sound warm or bigger…. TEF and SMAART plots [of the room] show the congregation’s complaints were valid. [See graphs A and B.] There was a variance in the room, in terms of coverage, at 2,000Hz, of 15dB to 20dB. Based on where you sat in the room, the sound could be one-half or twice as loud. In short, it was a challenging mess.”

Further compounding the situation, the church elders complained the sound did not make the congregation participation vibrant and warm,” Hedden explains. “While the lateral walls were supplying destructively late reflections, the ceiling and floor were actually quite absorptive. This created a very nasty situation where the congregation didn’t feel enveloped because the sound they needed was being absorbed, and the late arriving sound further destroyed intelligibility.”

Graph A: Frequency plot of four seating locations with existing loudspeaker system. For a larger image, click here.

The first order of business was to address the acoustical issues, before specifying new audio equipment. “The room always determines what can or cannot be done in a given space. If you don’t fix the acoustical distortion, the return on any audio system upgrades is greatly diminished.”

To remedy the acoustical problems the lateral and back walls were treated with absorptive material manufactured by dB. This addressed the late arrivals. But to fix the congregation envelopment issue, the church removed the lay-in, absorptive ceiling tiles and installed hard, reflective tiles. That gave the congregation early reflections within the first 30ms and consequently let the congregation feel the joy of singing and participation in the church’s services.

The sound system was the next issue. Hedden comments, “Overall, the majority of the church’s existing audio equipment was fine. What they needed was a loudspeaker system that would supply significantly better pattern control, as well as overall fidelity.” dB Audio and Video installed three SH-100 full-range loudspeakers by Danley Sound Labs. The SH-100 is a fully horn-loaded model providing significant pattern control down to around 300Hz (CLF and EASE data is now available on this unit, as well as on the SH-50). The unit is praised for its performance in high point source applications, when a small number of speakers must cover a large area, or in distributed configurations that demand wide coverage and significant directivity.

Graph B: Frequency plot of four seating locations with new Danley loudspeaker system. For a larger image, click here.

The system also boasts a TH-112 subwoofer designed by Tom Danley. It’s a powerful, compact model that features a frequency range of 28Hz-208Hz and a maximum output of 130dB SPL peak at 38Hz and 136dB peak in the 80Hz range (calculated).

Matt Nesberg, the worship pastor of North Hills, was a bit skeptical of the TH-112, since the church’s existing subwoofer also used a single 12in. driver. However after the installation Matt commented that Mike’s recommendation was right on. In fact, Matt noted they now had low-end to burn.

Hedden argues that in many cases, churches are advised to take drastic measures, such as the construction of an entirely new facility, when sometimes all it takes is a little bit of clever engineering to solve serious sound-related problems. “The North Hills Church job turned out great. Here was a church that a number of professionals were convinced wasn’t able to be fixed unless they tore down the room and started from scratch,” he recalls. “Instead of saying, ‘Give up and forget about it until you build a new building, dB went in and got the acoustics under control and now have documented the loudspeaker system supplies +/-3dB at 125Hz-16 kHz.

“The frequency response is also radically better. We are able to reproduce from the mid-20Hz range all the way up to about 16kHz, whereas the old system was rolling off at 60, and couldn’t even get to 8kHz or 10kHz. Now, they use minimal EQ on the pastor when he speaks. The choir sounds great. And the total cost of the audio and acoustic work was under $30,000. Not bad for an “unfixable” situation.”

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