Have you ever not had something, then had it and wished you would have had it all along? That’s my experience with a sound meter. Given that I’ll be giving away a sound meter tomorrow, you should know what you’re missing if you have never had one.
A sound meter measures the decibels in an environment. That’s the short definition. The longer definition goes something like this…sorry no song and dance number to accompany this….a sound meter takes measurements of the sound in the environment based on the meter options you select. For example, you can control the type of weighting used by the meter (usually A or C). C-weighting treats all frequencies the same as far as volume interpretation. A-weighting measures the volume just like your ears – with differences in low and high frequency interpretation taken into account.
Other options include the speed of the audio sampling for producing an average volume level. Think of it this way, the shorter the time, the more you can see the decibel spikes and drops. Typically small but they are still there. But that’s another topic.
Some meters also measure the average over a period of time chosen by the user.
On to the benefits of a sound meter;
- Record the average volume in which you mix. Record this week-to-week. If you get noise complaints (too low or too loud) then compare that day’s measurement to previous days.
- Use for improving audience response. For example, try mixing a song louder and watch the audience’s response. Reduce the volume and see. You want the maximum number of people enjoying their worship and finding the right volume range is one way to do that.
- Measure the room. Using the proper type of noise generator, you can take readings throughout your room and find the high and low spots in the room. From there, you can work on acoustic treatment, speaker direction modification, and even know where your complaints may come from. “Too loud? Where were you sitting?” Also, you can adjust your mix and test in those spots in the room for the best even coverage.
- Measure others. Measure from your sanctuary seat next time someone else is mixing. See how loud they mix. This can help you find a better mix volume for your own work or help them if they tend to mix at an improper volume.
- Learn by measure in other locations. Take it to a play, take it to a concert, take it any place where you’d like to know the volume level. You might not always be mixing in the church sanctuary and therefore the next time you are mixing a band (wedding reception, outdoor concert, etc) then you have some idea of the volume you might want to work around.
Your ears are a tremendous tool when it comes to mixing. They should usually take precedent over any tool or setting. The benefit of a sound meter is for working with fine adjustments and for taking your own bias out of the equation. For example, you think 96 dBA slow is perfect for the congregation but you get complaints or are told by staff to turn it down. Maybe 92 is the perfect number for that group of people.
There are many ways you can use a sound meter. And once you have one, you’ll ask yourself “why didn’t I get one of these a long time ago?”
Question: Where have you used a sound meter? (This question is NOT for entering the contest – see the other post for that)