Why Are Church Sound Systems & Church Acoustics So Confusing?

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Church Audio & Acoustics Glossary

This glossary is being put online to help with unfamiliar words when visiting this site. Since this is a web site devoted to church audio and acoustics, the glossary will cover common words used when talking about church audio and acoustics. This is only one step beyond typical glossary listings, since it's specific to churches. New words will be added as they come up; if you have any suggestions, please let us know!

There are a number of words that relate to churches in general, as well as video and lighting terms. You usually need to know a little of everything...

Many words don't have definitions yet, we're working on it. This is a project in motion; it will be updated as time permits. If you would like to contribute a definition for any words listed here, just let us know, thanks!


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    1. How much a circuit can amplify a signal without distorting it.
    2. The amount of signal available; the average level of a signal.
    3. A control on a device that affects how much signal is passed through it; a volume control.
    4. The level control for the microphone preamplifier of a mixer. The input level control. This control must be set correctly to avoid distortion and input overload. Used to compensate for the wide range of input levels coming from different microphones and devices.
    see trim control


    The amount of sound pressure level increase available before the system encounters acoustic feedback based on the acoustics of the room, sound system design, and equipment used.

gain control

    see gain, definition 4

gain structure


    1. A filter or circuit that switches a circuit or channel on or off (automatically).
    2. A short wooden door that keeps little people (and big people) out of the sound booth.


    A rating for cables that describes the physical size of the internal conductor(s). The higher the number, the smaller the wire. Typical microphone cables are made up of wires that are 22G (22-gauge), while typical speaker cables are larger (14G or 12G).


gender changer



    A flexible pipe. Typically used on a microphone stand to allow a microphone to be positioned just about any possible way.

graphic equalizer

    An equalizer made up of multiple attenuators set (centered) on evenly spaced (fixed) frequencies throughout the audio spectrum and affecting a fixed range of frequencies around them. The controls allow the frequency to be cut or boosted at these frequencies. There are three typical types: controls centered on 1-octave intervals, controls centered on 2/3-octave intervals, or controls centered on 1/3-octave intervals. The narrower the separation, the more control the unit gives.
    see also parametric equalizer; equalizer, notch filter, constant Q.


    1. The Earth.
    2. Electrical wiring that's connected to the Earth to provide safety from electrical shock.
    3. The shielding, 0-voltage circuit to provide noise free circuits within an audio device or cabling.

ground loop

    Two or more interconnected (via a grounded audio line) pieces of audio equipment plugged into electric circuits with different ground connections. Both units are grounded by the AC power cord as well as the shield wire that runs between them. This creates a circular path through the ground and shield lines, resulting in a ground loop. The resultant loop can produce low-frequency (60Hz) hum and high-frequency buzzing sounds. Solving such a problem isn’t an easy task.


    see submaster



No, we didn't write all of these definitions ourselves. What we did was take a word, read several definitions from books and listings on the internet, then write our own version. In some cases we used phrases word-for-word, but usually we reworded the definition to be more clear and applicable to church audio and acoustics.

Glen Ballou, Handbook for Sound Engineers–The New Audio Cyclopedia. Howard W. Sams & Co., MacMillan, Inc. 1991
Don & Carolyn Davis, Sound System Engineering. Howard W. Sams & Co., MacMillan, Inc. 1997
Glossary of Wireless Microphone Terms. Lectrosonics, http://www.lectro.com/wg/wgglos.htm 11/9/98
John Eiche, Guide to Sound Systems for Worship. Hal Leonard Publishing Corp, 1990
Tim Vear, Microphone Selection and Application for Church Sound Systems. Shure Brothers, 1996
Tim Vear, Selection and Operation of Wireless Microphone Systems. Shure Brothers, 1994
Microphone Techniques for Music, Shure Brothers, 1994
Joe De Buglio, Why Are Church Sound Systems & Church Acoustics So Confusing?, 1998
various handbooks and users manuals for specific equipment especially by Mackie, Spirit, Shure, and Rane.

EXTREME thanks to Stephen Lund of LaRue Electrical Specialties, who began writing a glossary of terms, never fully completed it, but has passed his words and definitions on to us for use in this glossary. There are many definitions he had written that were so simple to understand, we took them as-is without any editing. We finally finished it! (...almost) Thanks a million, Stephen!