- by Jamie Rio
in Sound Sanctuary
If you are on the AV team or involved with audio in your church, you should certainly know the location of the main speakers in your sanctuary. Are they stacked on the side of the platform (stage), mounted on the wall or suspended from some point in the ceiling? If your speakers are stacked on or below the platform, you will only have to find a location that works sonically for your church space. You can move and direct the speakers until they have the best sound and coverage for your particular room.
That said, should your speakers be mounted on a wall (or walls) of your sanctuary, you will have to decide on the location before you put up your mounting brackets. That’s pretty much the same story if you decide to fly your front of house speakers. I am sure you have heard the term “fly.” It sounds a lot better than “hang” your speakers. But in reality, you are hanging your speakers from bolts that connect to specific locations on the speaker enclosures.
» Call in the Pros
These attachment locations are known as “fly points,” and if your speakers don’t have them, please do not attempt to fly them. Also, if you plan on flying an array of speakers, you will need professional help — this is not a job for the amateur or weekend DIY guy. Arrays need rigging and locations in your church that are structurally capable to support the weight of the system.
There are a lot of things to consider, and this requires someone who can do the structural calculations for your particular worship space and your system. Not to mention the liability involved with flying an array. I can design an array for a house of worship, but I have another company come in to install the rigging. Obviously, I don’t know your particular church, but I’d like to offer some common sense guidelines to flying your speakers.
First I repeat, don’t fly your speaker boxes if they are not designed for it. I once worked on the audio system in a small church in Monrovia, CA. When I first checked out the sanctuary, the speakers had been flown over the left and right sides of the platform. The ceiling of the church was a little low, and the speakers hung about three feet over the head of the bass player on one side of the stage and the guitar player on the other side. Normally this set-up could work well, but the speakers were not designed to be flown.
The previous installer had simply driven threaded eye hooks into the cabinets (bad idea) and hung them over the players with light-weight chain (really bad idea). Can you imagine if one of those speakers let go during a service and crushed a player? At the very least there would be an injury and at the worst a death. Sure, the player would get a direct pass to heaven, but I doubt the congregation would return the following week and the resulting lawsuit would probably close down the house of worship.
The first thing I did (after church service) was to take down the speakers and mount them on the left and right walls of the sanctuary. The speaker boxes had pole mounts, so it was fairly easy to put up some wall brackets with small built-in poles. I used a pair of On Stage SS7914B mounts. They are great for small to medium (up to 80-pound) boxes. The brackets themselves were securely fastened to wall studs using long lag screws, which brings up an important point. No matter how sturdy and safety-rated your hardware may be, you must ensure that the mount is attached to a structural element, and NOT simply attached to sheetrock using molly fasteners or toggle bolts.
» Location is Everything
Hang the speakers just in front of the platform. It might seem like common sense, but I’ve seen speakers flown just behind the front of the stage and ultimately just behind the preacher’s and singers’ microphones. That is just inviting feedback into your mix. Once you’ve picked the perfect location for your fly-able speakers, you’ll need the proper hardware for the job. The correct fly bolts are drop-forged, shoulder eye bolts that thread into the fly points on your speakers and are not the typical bent eye bolts sold in hardware stores, which should not be used.
Most speaker manufacturers offer bolt sets that match their speakers. From here you can mount the speakers in the appropriate spot using wire cable or chain. Either must be load-rated for safety and, again, not the type sold at your local hardware store. Alternately, you can purchase a small single speaker rigging system, which will make aiming and steering your speakers much easier. Allen Products, ATM Fly-Ware and Polar Focus all make high-quality, single-speaker rigging systems.
If you plan on aiming the speakers yourself, get a good laser that you can tape to the top of your speaker box in order to see where you are pointing it. There are a variety of tablet or iPad programs that you can download to test the frequency response in the different areas of your sanctuary but for me, I like to use my ears. I know it’s a bit old-school, but as the entire congregation uses their ears to hear the service, then I can use mine to set up the speakers. Generally speaking, I like to aim them at the center rows of a sanctuary. At my church — and many others — the older members sit in the first few rows. Directing the sound a little over their heads rather than directly at their faces just seems a bit more respectful.
That pretty much does is it for this overview. Remember, if you fly or wall-mount your speakers, use the right hardware. And don’t hesitate to call in a pro —someone’s life may depend on it.
Some Rigging Tips
• Never hang speakers by their handles.
• Use only load-rated, appropriate hardware.
• Ensure that any structural element is capable of bearing the load.
• Consult with a professional regarding any flying system.
• For a general overview of speaker rigging, check out JBL’s Basic Principles for Suspending Speaker Systems, found online at www.jblpro.com/pub/technote/tn_v1n14.pdf