When looking to purchase a new sound system for your sanctuary, there are a number of factors to consider. How to choose the correct loudspeaker type from all of the different options on the market? Knowing that each type of loudspeaker was conceived with a specific application in mind may help weed out products that are not a good fit for your project. While there are many factors to sift through, some of the primary considerations include:
- Size and shape of the sanctuary and seating area. This will be one of the primary factors determining the location and quantity of loudspeakers required to provide smooth coverage of the seating areas.
- Ancillary areas/spaces that require coverage
- Acoustically reflective surfaces and room reverberation. “Live” rooms require more control of sound dispersion to maintain clarity and speech intelligibility.
- Sightlines and aesthetics. Loudspeakers must be located to provide the necessary audio performance while minimizing visual intrusion.
- Performance goals. The style of worship and type of music the system will need to support is an important consideration.
As an overview, loudspeaker types can be grouped into a few general categories:
Column Array Speakers
Column Array Speakers are also a popular choice for house of worship sound. Best column speakers are comprised of multiple small cone-type drivers vertically-arrayed within a tall but narrow enclosure, resulting in tight (narrow) vertical dispersion and wide horizontal dispersion. Some designs supplement the cone drivers with dedicated tweeter elements. The resulting dispersion characteristics can make them a good choice for facilities with hard, reflective surfaces or larger, reverberant spaces. The physically narrow design of the speaker enclosure allows them to work well in gothic forms of architecture since they can be mounted to and blend in with building columns. The layout/placement of column loudspeakers within a space is critical to the success of the system, particularly in reverberant spaces.
A line array is a vertically-stacked group of individual full-range speaker modules, typically suspended in a J-shaped array. Note that the individual modules within a Line Array are specifically designed for this purpose and possess unique acoustical attributes that allow them to work together in this type of array. Due to their large size, line arrays are typically hung from the ceiling in the vicinity of the stage/altar. While a popular solution for high-output music applications and large format concerts, line arrays are not suitable for every space. They tend to excel in rooms that are deep and not too wide and require suitable ceiling height due to their vertical size.
The exact shape of the array and number of individual modules required is based on the specifics of the deployment. The curve of the array helps to tailor the coverage based on the throw distances, location of nearest seats, etc. In wide rooms, multiple arrays may be required to achieve satisfactory horizontal coverage. Due to the number of modules required along with the supporting number of amplifier channels, Line Arrays tend to be a more expensive solution than other approaches. However, there are certain room types that can benefit from the broadband vertical dispersion control that a properly sized line array can offer.
Any of the above loudspeaker types can be supplemented by subwoofers. Subwoofers will extend the low-frequency capability of a system. Whether or not subwoofers will be required depends upon:
- Program type: Amplified music requires more low frequency support than speech.
- Low frequency capability of the mains speakers: Certain mains loudspeakers may provide sufficient low frequency output to meet low frequency needs without supplementary subwoofers.
- Output goals: Lightly amplified music may be able to be accommodated by the mains speakers alone; highly amplified music would certainly require subwoofers.
Subwoofers are available in a wide variety of formats/sizes. Subwoofer selection should be mindful of the above criteria and consideration of the exact capabilities and type of the mains loudspeakers.