Room Measurement is Crucial for the Best Worship Mix

Photo by: Isabelle Smith

Chris Gille is a Senior Solutions Engineer and the Ambassador of HouseRight. He’s spent decades in the audio industry designing and measuring AVL solutions for stadiums, arenas, and churches all over the US. We sat down with him to understand best practices for getting a clearer, more accurate, cleaner and controlled worship mix. It all starts with measuring the room and understanding how to mitigate those hidden problems

Why does having a correctly tuned room matter? And more importantly, what can happen when you do not have a correctly tuned room?

Technically speaking, a room can only be ‘tuned’ with acoustic treatment, features, and architecture. Comprehensive insight into a room’s acoustic signature is paramount, and then we consider all the sonic origins-to-perceptions (the sound system and audience relationships), and all of their interactions with the room.

An incorrectly ‘tuned room’ (allowing the term to include the room+system relationship) is the root of confusing finger-pointing, eq-on-top-of-eq, tuning vs. system design blame game that nobody wants. Acoustics issues are NOT the Sound Reinforcement Systems designers’ job to ‘fix’, with destructive (elimination/avoidance) EQ — which is what most think of as ‘tuning the room’. As an instrumental master on my professional path, I must reference the excellent timing of Pat Brown’s recent 2-part article: “Frequency Response Matching – Should it be part of the system tuning process?” Where he provides deeper context into these relationships.

When it comes to Sound Reinforcement Systems that contribute to direct reflections (particularly to early specular 30-60ms and late echoes beyond 60ms) and to the reverberant field, the more controlled and focused the Sound Reinforcement System can be, the less energy fuels reflections and reverberation, and the more accurate, clear, clean and controlled the mix can be. A little reinforcement ‘spill’ into a well-tuned room can be desirable spatially, and energize an attractive base reverb. It all should matter in the design.

Are there any specific issues that can arise in houses of worship when a room has not been properly measured?

In trying to zoom out, I would have to choose issues that can be from multiple sources and masked by multiple contributing factors — where they require measurement (with intuition, insight, experience and technique) to discern, analyze and conclude what the actual issues even are. Certainly not limited to houses of worship, except where an identifying characteristic may be that acoustics support congregational participation, house-to-house energy, or audience engagement. (There has been some unfortunate popularity to make room acoustics uncomfortably and un-sing-ably dry as the ‘solution’ to improve the mix). 

An example of a common specific issue of a symptom of an unmeasured room (and the room’s response to the sound system energizing it’s surfaces) are comb-filtered frequency responses at various seating locations of overlapping speaker coverages — additionally complicated by room reflections, then further complicated by compound room reflections.

On a complicated impulse response trace, it’s a thrill to identify what the source of a buried spike is, and to realize what it’s doing to the sound. A sign of an expert calibrator is the insight of what can’t be electronically tuned, and to not just ‘tune the room’ with destructive removal of energizing these offenders, but identifying them, wrestling and compromising, and having the bigger conversations in protection of the overall sound quality.

What benefits do you get from using the Earthworks M23? In your view, what makes it the best measurement mic for your needs? And how does it help to combat the issues discussed above?

Earthworks M23 = confidence and consistency. And of course, to impress everyone!

But seriously, the M23 is my ‘confidence’ mic — like a confidence monitor in master control where the routed signal going to broadcast is verified. It’s like the Meyer Sound HD-1 speakers that were first created as microphone calibration verification reference devices.

With accuracy and reliability comes confidence and consistency. Using the M23 as a tool leads to fewer variables in the field. Thank you Earthworks for making combatting complicated issues easier and results more effective.

Photo by: Isabelle Smith

Gille was born in Alaska, where he learned music, electronics, FCC licensed operator WL7BHM, played in several bands, and discovered theater and production (and endured 20 long winters while enjoying shoveling snow during snowfalls in shorts). He then moved to the Midwest for 17 years, where he worked production at theme parks, at a music store, and owned an AVL integration company, until stepping foot into world-class Grace Church St. Louis, the curtain literally opened on unprecedented audio quality, and on the next chapter of his life: to help churches with creative and professional technical excellence.

While fulfilling a number of staff roles including scenic design and lighting programming, he continued to prioritize industry involvement with beta testing for several manufacturers, attending SynAudCon, and teaching and speaking engagements. Opportunities followed, including helping hundreds of churches around the world, being on staff at Willow Creek Community and Eastside Christian for 20 years, and multiple world-class building projects.

Decades of unique projects threaded throughout his career including deep involvement with automated motion control (including piloting hundreds of aerialists flights), and custom SPL volume measurement systems at world-class facilities such as the Superdome and the Hollywood Bowl. All while pursuing another lifelong dream, to work at Meyer Sound, which came true as a culmination of passions where many truths and facts of the pursuit of accurate uncolored and undistorted sound reproduction were affirmed for Gille.

After 1 year at Meyer he knew he needed to take it all back out into the broader field and work with a like-minded team, with humble authority, and from a truly unbiased position. It was then a natural transition for Gille to join the team at HouseRight (an AVL integration company), where relationships and projects had already been many years deep, and from where he can’t stop helping churches, while also staying on the forefront with other unique and notable projects (such as tuning the Walt Disney Concert Hall for the LA Philharmonic) still today.

Photo by: Isabelle Smith

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