Room acoustics in a former church sanctuary?

Hey all,
My wife and I have stumbled on an extremely cheap property that used to be a church which we might buy. We are both artists/musicians, so a Goth space like that seems like a fun challenge to turn into a home. I was wondering if a church sanctuary could be used for BOTH producing music in, and for my hi fi. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money on room treatments, but it could be a work in progress over many years, in which case some long term investments wouldn't be out of the question. I do feel that a separate listening room takes the fun out of listening to music for me personally, though I respect others for using one (and I am aware of the acoustical advantages of them). The sanctuary is roughly 30 by 40 feet and has a fairly low, barreled ceiling with a rear upper loft. I was thinking of putting my very modest Vandersteen 3a's off from that rear wall below the loft which would project forward into the rest of the space. The rear upper loft would be used for a music room (instruments and the like). Maybe this is an impossibility, maybe the echoes could never be reigned in... I am curious what you folks think.
Check out Chad's church in Salina, Kansas, home of Blue
Heaven Studios:

This guy did something similar

Church Dwelling

Best of luck

A fool's errand. Cost to operate and renovate far outweigh a 'cheap' price. First look into the cost to heat and air condition the space, both as a recording, home, and performance space. Old means obsolete. So unless you and the wife like to spend most of their time being handyperson's, take a pass. That way you will have more time to make and enjoy music.
Balderdash! Living in an old church can obviously be great and clearly you understand that as you mentioned it's a "challenge." I think people are weirdly concerned with room ambience (I'm a long time musician/live sound tech) and unless you plan to sit 40 feet away from your "modest" 3As you should be in for loads of fun, and recording there might have some natural reverb most studios would kill for. Gigantic period correct fake wall tapestries...great Halloween parties...atheist gatherings...human (or maybe goat) sacrifices! FUN!
Just check out both Cowboy Junkies "Trinity Sessions" sound / ambience. They purposefully went and then revisited a church to record these records and they're stunning!

A link to some images of the space and build would be very helpful prior to responding.
I'd get a feel for the room acoustics somehow beforehand if that is a major decision point for you. IT will not likely sound like a typical home listening room, but rather have its own unique charms that can be leveraged to unique effect if done right. For example, in a large lively space, a small flea powered tube amp might be all that's called for. Sometimes, a lively room calls for a "less is more" type approach, which opens up all kinds of possibilities that might not be practical or cost effective otherwise. A lot will depend. I'd have to believe the Vandys could be made to work if needed. Just do not expect a large likely acoustically distinctive room like that to be something it isn't....
32 years ago my wife and I purchased our first home, a 200 year old converted Welsh chapel. Arguably the best looking home we have ever owned; complete with 2' thick stone walls, beautiful slate roof and many exposed beams. The acoustics in the main living room were very good. The only real problem we had were with the walls and windows, massive great heat sinks that was very difficult/expensive to heat (no need for AC in the UK!). Be careful about it being cheap, upgrading old properties to modern standards can be very expensive in the end; been there done that.
If you're in the US you can pay for the entire thing by starting a only need to hold services once a week (or never), get an interesting hat for events (religions benefit from cool hats), make up whatever you need (religions are great for mythological improv) to comfort the patrons, and everything becomes property and income tax free.
Hey Wolf,

In light of the current IRS revelations it could take 3 plus years to get a tax exempt status if it is not the right "denomination". And, just for your informataion, as a regular church attendee (every Sunday) my wife and I don't wear any "cool hats" or do any mythological improv!
I converted an old bank. Not cheap, of course. But I have something unique. Personally, I think that this is worth a lot.
I think that religion called Flying Spaghetti Monster might work. As Wolf said, hold a service once a week or once in awhile you pay no taxes.
Wow, some pretty interesting suggestions (especially the hat idea). Funny, I bought those Vandy's from Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds outfit, also in Salina! I did see a while ago that he was doing some direct-to-vinyl recording in a church, I didn't realize he owned the church. Certainly I would imagine some cool possibilities with live music/recording.... I just wasn't sure about music reproduction. I assumed the desired acoustic requirements for live sound and for music playback would be totally different. Seeing Jeff Keary's (Souncheck, here on AudiogoN) crib lifted my spirits. I even had envisioned a similar Feng Shui! Obviously some real money went into that crib, but I now can imagine much more possibility with the idea, even on a smaller budget. As far as ending up with a money pit, I am glad to accept the warnings. We will scrutinize all the costs first, but I gotta say.... 125k for 3000 sq ft on a half acre in Vermont sounds pretty good to me so far. Finally, the whole reason we'd undertake the crazy idea is because we LIKE to execute projects, and wouldn't mind at all working our fingers to the bone on them. I wouldn't want a home if it didn't allow for creativity. I really didn't expect any positive responses after I wrote the first post. So, thanks a million, you folks have brightened my day.

And we get to hear live music EVERY week in what is usually a pretty good acoustic space. Not to mention the other benefits!

Dick's the link:
Bbro...the "cool hats" suggestion is for the clergy mostly and I recognize that many religions may be hatless and therefore less fun...but I was talking about starting a new religion anyway (and "Regular Church" could be a GREAT name for this). 3 years for exemption? Piece of cake. All religions are mythology based by the way, otherwise where would the fun be? Amazing ritualistic ceremony (including a celebration of infant "naughty bits" skin removal), imaginary friends in the sky, deity images showing up in tree bark and waffles, post death virgins, the power of's just all wonderful, and certainly there's room to cook up some more stuff.

That looks like an ultra cool place, the possibilities are endless, and at the price they are asking theres a lot left over for remodeling, especially if your handy and can do most of it your self.

Theres always the golden rule of construction, it always takes longer and it always cost more, but what the heck, if not for challenges and projects life would be boring.

Best of luck if you go with it and keep us posted on your progress.


Wolf, LMAO :-)
That place looks awesome. My wife & I just got back from Europe and of course did the church tour thing. We were extremely fortunate to hear four pipe organs playing while we were there. And the worlds largest in Passau Germany was off the chart cool. The accoustics and sound was amazing. I couldn't get enough of it. You may be on to something. Good luck with your Vermont home. -John
At that price? Buy it! Buy it now!
I drive by a small church everyday and look at it thinking how cool it would be if it went up for sale. My wife would never go for it, but I can dream.
I agree with Timrhu. There was a small church that went up for sale in the small town I live in a few years ago. I drove past it everyday for quite awhile hoping and wishing that I could buy it. I even looked at it with a realtor.

I couldn't swing the money to buy it ($385K), but it would have made for one hella (sorry) nice listening environment and home.

I wished I lived where you do. We'd be in a bidding war for that church.

I've been to Blue Heaven Studios (Chad's church) several times. It is indeed a really cool place. If you guys ever get a chance to go to the "Blues Masters at the Crossroads" please go. It's an excellent time.
Alas! Someone else has made a bid before we've even seen the inside (we're scheduled tomorrow to see it), AND they've got a pre-approval for a mortgage (we both have parents and siblings with equity/resources, but have very little money of our own, certainly no pre-approval). We might have managed with the owner financing option, and an additional loan for renovations, but I'm not sure we are in a position to make an offer yet. I think we will begin this stage of what might end up to be a lengthy chess game by "castling" (that is, not doing much of anything but getting ready for the fight). Who knows, the first bidder may bag out, the owner may not accept their offer, a number of things might happen. I don't know if this thread is relevant to the "speakers' designation anymore, but trust me... a big part of my questions you've all so enthusiastically answered is related to music and listening to music. Thanks for your time.

You may have missed your calling. Lots of folks are looking for an angle in the tax game, so Id imagine that there's gotta be a consulting gig out there for a creative fellow like you. As for me, I'm off to research cool hats on the web.....
I did have a friend (a former champion surfer) in the 60s who started his own religion in Hawaii...his was based on the Hare Krishna stuff that was going around, and he had to work out a deal with the "regular" Hare Krishna group to not chant in Waikiki at the same place. He was rumored to have female followers bathe him in the morning...that's the way you do it! He eventually merged with the regular Krishna group, and later became some sort of spiritual speaker or something...I'd see his cassettes in the health food stores.
You and the wife are musicians. You have the chance at a great start up structure for a recording studio, an additional ‘music room’ that could be sectioned off for musical instrument lessons (a possible side business to help pay the bills till the studio begins booking time) and a unique and comfortable environment available at an extremely affordable price.

I would pay attention to the balance of the properties in the neighborhood. Should the future of the property’s surroundings appear to be safe for years to come, in my opinion you have a wonderful opportunity to improve your musical careers.

If the studio plans never come to fruition you still own one heck of a practice facility and I am sure there would be a musical or theater organization or two out there who would love to rent the facility.

Could I inquire as to what instruments both of you play?
For sound reproduction in a large, richly reverberant space, you want speakers whose off-axis response is very good, because it is the off-axis resposne that will dominate the perceived tonal balance. There be more than one way to skin that cat, but here's how to listen for it when you go out speaker shopping: Turn the volume up a bit louder than normal and walk outside the room, listening through the open doorway with no line-of-sight to the speakers. From out there, all you can hear is the reverberant sound, which is dominated by the off-axis response. If it still sounds like live music from out there, that's a very good sign. Of course, 'tis a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign, so don't be too obvious about it, but pay attention in case one comes along just the same.

One other characteristic you might lean towards would be a relatively narrow radiation pattern. There is sort of a tradeoff relationship between richness and clarity, with most (overdamped) home listeing rooms erring on the side of clarity. Your sanctuary will err on the side of richness, and you can balance things out a bit with speakers whose narrow pattern seeks to emphasize the direct over reverberant sound, which is a step in the direction of clarity.

Finally, big spaces are harder to fill with bass, but that bass tends to be smoother and more natural-sounding than in a smaller room. So imo you want manly-man speakers rather than petite mini-monitors, and will be rewarded for it. Manly-man speakers cover a multitude of sins. I'm pretty sure it says that somewhere.

Good luck on getting the space!

All kinds of brilliant responses here, but I think it is all but lost. We did check out the space and the acoustics were superlative. The space itself was not a "home" yet, but was in amazingly good condition. A few renovations, I would never have wanted to move!
When we arrived to check out the space, the realtor said that the offer (by another party other than us) had been accepted by the seller, and continuing to show it was merely in case of some last minute catastrophe. I think it's gone... someone must have been waiting for the price to drop, because they got it within five days of that happening. Incidentally, the place had started at 225k, but had dropped to 165k most recently.
Another problem was the prospect of asking my folks to cosign. They don't hate me or anything, it's just that they are staunchly religious. I suppose they are the kind of people that can't find the humor in, say, the pope's hat. Peace, I'll be back when I have some better news on a new thread. Thanks again.

The pipe organ at Passau is very cool. I visited several years back and won't soon forget the sound of that monster. While there, I picked up an SACD sampler of music from various performances there that's a lot of fun. Alas, it's no longer the worlds largest pipe organ. I believe that honor goes to a recently expanded instrument here in SoCal (tho that may have changed, too, since last I looked.


Don't give up yet. As my real estate broker says, "There is no smooth real estate transaction. Every single one has a snag or a snafu." Just because the property is under contract doesn't mean it's a done deal.
I bet even the Pope finds humor in those hats.