A local church recently moved into their new facilities. sanctuary is multi-purpose, with the permanent, and larger, sanctuary yet to be built. This multi-purpose space has a nice hardwood basketball court type flooring, a high ceiling and hard, flat, tall and parallel walls typical of multi-use space.
Like most similar spaces, the acoustics leave much room for improvement due in large part to sound bounce (reverberation). Sound from the speakers goes out nicely over the congregation, kits all of these nice hard surfaces and bounces (echos) all over the room. This echo greatly impacts the listening experience, making music less clear and vocals much harder to understand.
There are a number of solutions that will help remedy this, many of them quite expensive. I was quite intrigued by a number of posts on the internet talking about using Sonotubes(R) to diffuse sound to keep it from bouncing around. Sonotubes are not some magical acoustic treatment, they are the tubes contractors use as forms for pouring concrete pillars. Like a paper roll tube on steroids, these industrial grade cardboard tubes, when cut in half and mounted on the wall, diffuse the sound, scattering it instead of echoing it, greatly improving sound quality. Carefully cut in have and mounted to the wall, they look like architectural treatments. To see the concept, see www.jdbsound.com/work/art558.html.
While you can have an audio consultant come in and solve the problem, many churches have little money after a building program to spare, so here is the “poor man’s” solution.
Get a number of Sonotubes (new not used) and carefully cut them down the middle. Typically you will use either the 18″ or 24″ tubes. Dress the cut edges so they are straight and smooth. Working from the pictures from the web site above, place the Sonotubes against the walls directly across the room from the stage area and on the sides as needed. What you are trying to do is to break up the large flat wall areas with the diffusers. One church I read about placed the tubes on boards and leaned the boards against the walls, moving them around and experimenting to get the best sound. Once you know the location and spacing, then the church can permanently mount them to the wall, usually flush to the wall. Paint the tubes the same color as the wall and voilla, instant sound improvement and architectural treatment! It was even suggested by a friend that you could put lights in them like a large wall sconce to provide indirect lighting.
That said, the best way to solve these types of acoustical problems is to avoid them in the first place by getting an Audio/Visual engineer involved during the design process. However, if you have already built and need an inexpensive solution, this may work the trick.