This work reports on acoustical field measurements made in a major survey of 41 Catholic churches in Portugal that were built in the last 14 centuries. A series of monaural and binaural acoustical measurements was taken at multiple source/receiver positions in each church using the impulse response with noise burst method. The acoustical measures were Reverberation Time (RT), Early Decay Time (EDT), Clarity (C80), Definition (D), Center Time (TS), Loudness (L), Bass Ratios based on the Reverberation Time and Loudness (BR_RT and BR_L), Rapid Speech Transmission Index (RASTI), and the binaural Coherence (COH). The scope of this research is to investigate how the acoustical performance of Catholic churches relates to their architectural features and to determine simple formulas to predict acoustical measures by the use of elementary architectural parameters.
Prediction equations were defined among the acoustical measures to estimate values at individual locations within each room as well as the mean values in each church. Best fits with R2 » 0.9 were not uncommon among many of the measures. Within and inter church differences in the data for the acoustical measures were also analyzed. The variations of RT and EDT were identified as much smaller than the variations of the other measures. The churches tested were grouped in eight architectural styles, and the effect of their evolution through time on these acoustical measures was investigated. Statistically significant differences were found regarding some architectural styles that can be traced to historical changes in Church history, especially to the Reformation period. Prediction equations were defined to estimate mean acoustical measures by the use of fifteen simple architectural parameters. The use of the Sabine and Eyring reverberation time equations was tested. The effect of coupled spaces was analyzed, and a new algorithm for the application of the Sabine equation was developed, achieving an average of 16% in the differences between the predicted and real RTs. Using binaural measurements and subjective information collected in these churches, BACH (Binaural Acoustical CoHerence), a new binaural measure, is presented. A linear correlation coefficient near 0.7 was found between BACH and the subjective quality ratings, supporting the hypothesis that it can be useful in predicting the quality of music in churches.
In conclusion, this study revealed important acoustical and architectural parameters and their relations, providing the basic information to predict several acoustical measures in churches at early stages of design or without the need of measurements in the real buildings.
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