When you get EQ right, the end result is amazing. You no longer have problems with feedback and you can run your sound at a higher volume without irritating people’s ears.
Actually, when someone says that the sound is too loud, it is generally just one part of the frequency spectrum that is too loud, not the overall sound.
By using the following tools, you will be able to analyze sound, find bothersome frequencies, and cut them so they fit with the rest of the sound spectrum.
Step 1: Download Octave RTA for iPhone.
You will be so glad that you spent $5 on this app. It will save you hours of headache and help you reach your goal of the best sound possible.
Keep in mind, there are other software and hardware solutions for RTA sound frequency analyzers, but at $300+ the cost is significantly more. On the plus side, they are more accurate than the iPhone app, but with a little tweaking, the iPhone app will work just fine.
or search ‘Octave RTA’ in the app store.
Step 2: Check the settings.
Open up the Octave RTA app. On the bottom of the screen, use the following settings:
- Octave: 1/3
- FFT Size: 8192
- Average: Medium
- Graph: Line
- Peaks: Auto
Step 3: Determine your baseline measurement.
Before you start analyzing the sound at your church, I recommend going to another church or venue where you like the overall sound. Then, pull out your iPhone and analyze the sound. This will give you an idea of what you need work towards.
In my opinion, Church on the Move in Tulsa has the best sound of any venue I have ever been in. So, I went to one of their events, pulled out my iPhone during worship and examined what was going on. I also took a few screen shots to help me remember (see below).
The two screen shots were taken during two different songs. The main thing to notice is where the higher frequencies begin to fall of, which would explain why their sound is so warm and powerful, but still plenty of clarity.
Step 4: Using pink noise, find the room’s troublesome frequencies.
Every room has its problems, some more than others.
In our current venue, there are lots of problems. The room is long and narrow, we have concrete floors, plastic chairs and hardly any sound absorbing surfaces. We have since installed a significant amount of sound absorbing panels, which helped tremendously, but a good amount of EQ is still necessary to achieve a good sound.
I could tell you the frequencies we have to cut in our room, but it wouldn’t help you as every room is different. So you will need to run a test for your room using the following steps.
- Use something other than your iPhone to play pink noise through your sound system. Play it loud enough to fill the room with sound.
- Open the Octave iPhone app and analyze the sound from the middle of the room while pink noise is playing.
- The peaks show you what frequencies are sticking out above the rest. Tip: you can hold your thumb down to highlight specific frequencies. Now, use your EQ to cut these frequencies, reset the white dots on your iPhone by tapping 3 times on the screen, and run the sweep again.
- Continue adjusting EQ until you have successfully cut all those that are sticking out.
Keep in mind, the goal is not to get every frequency the same level. You are only looking for those that stick way out from those around it.
Also, there should be a gradual drop off after about 800Hz. Refer back to step 3 for a reference on what you are trying to achieve.
Step 5: Bring in the band and make necessary adjustments.
After the frequency sweep adjustments, you will have a great starting point. But, once you bring in the band, you may find that you have cut too much somewhere, leaving a hole in the sound.
So, pull out your iPhone and analyze the sound as the band plays and fine tune as necessary.
It took me about 3 weeks to get the sound I wanted, but it was well worth the effort. Now, we can run the vocals where they need to be without fear of feedback. And, our sound is full of energy, fills the room, but no longer hurts your ears.
One Final Tip
The biggest tip I can give you when it comes to EQ is to cut frequencies, not boost them. When you cut out frequencies you don’t want, it allows the right frequencies to shine.
There are cases where you will boost frequencies (i.e. getting more ‘thunder’ out of the floor tom), but make this should be the exception rather than the rule.
You might also be interested in: The Most Important EQ Techniques for Church Sound