Does your church sanctuary have a low ceiling? A low ceiling
is one that's less than fifteen feet high (even a 15 foot ceiling
isn't all that high!).
Why does it even matter how high the ceiling is? A high ceiling
means wasted heating in the winter, that's for sure. A high ceiling
also means there's a lot of unusable (wasted) space, too. So why
even consider having a high ceiling in a church sanctuary? ACOUSTICS
& THE SOUND SYSTEM, that's why. First, the sound system. Take
a look at figure 1, an elevation (side) view of a typical church
sanctuary with a 35' (high) ceiling.
With a central cluster mounted at the peak, people on the edges
in the first five rows are covered by some small fill speakers,
while the rest of the congregation is covered by the main system
speaker. Based on distance and amplifier adjustments, everyone
in the pews hears the sound at about the same level (±3dB).
Figure 2 shows the plan, or overhead view of the same room/system.
This simple system uses 3 speakers and two amplifiers (one amp
bridged for the main speaker, the other operating in stereo mode
for the fill speakers). The speakers and amplifiers only, not
including the mounting, is about $3,700.00. Now take a look at
figure 3 which shows an elevation view of a typical church sanctuary
with a 12' (low) ceiling. We can see that several speakers are
required to cover the same depth room properly. Not only are several
speakers required front to back, but also side-to-side. Figure
4 shows the rows of speakers required to properly cover the width
of the room. This system (in a room with the same length and width
as the previous system, but with a lower ceiling) requires 16
speakers and 4 amplifiers. Not only that, but the system requires
a digital delay on the second and third row of speakers. The speakers,
amplifiers, and cable will run about $6,500.00. That's quite a
bit more than the system installed in the high-ceiling sanctuary,
To get good sound in a low-ceiling room, you need to spend a
lot of money on equipment and acoustics. A low ceiling sanctuary
results in poor acoustics when used for congregational singing
and acoustic music. It's often times a better idea to re-build
and raise the ceiling of the room by 5 to 10 feet instead of spending
so much money on the sound system equipment and acoustics.
Low-ceiling sanctuaries are typically built by smaller congregations
who build a new church. Because they're small, there isn't much
money to spend on things like high ceilings. For that matter,
there's usually not much money available for a proper sound system.
The church grows, someone decides they need an upgraded sound
system, and then they find out it costs too much (based on the
low ceiling problem) to have it installed. The church will then
typically turn to members who know a little about electronics
and have them put in a system based on good intentions. Visitors
who are used to their home high-fidelity sound systems come and
can't even understand the pastors message, so they don't come
back-and the church stays small. This doesn't happen in every
small church, but it happens in enough of them to be a problem.
The solution? Avoid building a church sanctuary with a low ceiling.
Talk to an acoustical expert before going to an architect.