Proper Sound Reinforcement

August 15, 2013

SpaceAge Consulting not only does Video Production and Editing but we also provide Audio Engineering for live and studio applications as well as Audio consultation. One of my favorite aspects of my job is to work with Churches on improving and installing their audio systems. I have been blessed to work with many churches on making minor and major improvements to their sound systems. However, over the years I have noticed a few common themes with church sound systems: there is no long term plan….

Quite often a church will develop a plan for a new building or renovation of an existing structure. They will take into account many thing: Handicap accessibility, meeting rooms, parking spaces, adequate bathroom, etc. They will consult with many individuals internally and externally that specialize in those areas. They will revise their architectural drawings quite a few times until they get it right and they will, usually, budget accordingly. But, for some reason, they will forget about their audio visual system until the moment they are planning their first service, after all the drywall has been hung, the last screws screwed, nails nailed and paint dried. Then they compound their mistake by not seeking adequate, trustworthy A/V installation counsel but by trusting the ideas of a layperson who does Audio-Visual work on the side, as a hobby, in their basement, on weekends…

Truth be told *I* started AV on the side, as a hobby, in my bedroom but at that time I wasn’t qualified to recommend equipment let alone an entire installation. It took many years, much learning, and research and failed experiments to gain the knowledge I and my team have today to really help churches and businesses create an AV infrastructure that is transparent not only to the users of the equipment but to the consumers, your audience or congregation. If someone listening to the program  can recognize the problems in the system then the system has become a hindrance to the service and not a benefit.

The minute a church is deciding on a renovation or new installation they should also start researching a good AV consultant or Installation company. One of the reasons to employ a consultant that you trust is to have a go between.  Hire someone who can talk to the installers in their language and your building committee in their language. Someone who is looking out for your best interests and not just trying to sell what is overstocked in a company’s warehouse. Someone who believes in the mission of your church to “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16:15). I have seen too many churches and organizations having blind trust in AV companies that don’t have the orgs best interest at heart and will sell them anything.

The next step is to find knowledgeable AV people in your org (or church) to work WITH (I stress WITH) the consultant or installer but empower one individual in that group to be the final word. This is the part of the process which usually has the most problems because it deals directly with people working together. I love unboxing and installing new  equipment because it is normally a Pass/Fail endeavor; the equipment either works or doesn’t work… Simple. Working with people is much more complex because each person brings their own perspective and ideas (and egos and problems) to the table. Make certain the people involved have the same agenda and goal in mind: serving the company or church’s interest. For an organization it should be the company’s mission statement and for a church it should be God.

Let that group form a plan, a workable 3-5 year plan with a budget in mind, and then go about implementing that plan. Don’t get caught up on equipment brand name at this point. What is popular at the local department store most likely is totally inadequate for a sound reinforcement installation on a commercial level. You are looking for function above fashionable name. And realize that equipment does not last forever, it will eventually go bad so don’t be shocked that in year 4 you may need to replace a wireless mic or mic cable or CD player. Plan for minor upgrades and corrections in-between major upgrades.

Please realize that the process should take sometime and should be started early… before the drywall is in place because it will cost twice as much to poke holes in walls to run cables than if you had been able to run cables early in between studs.

Overall though the process may look daunting on the onset. If you follow some basic rules, however, things will normally work out in your favor:

  1. Start Early
  2. Form a team with a common goal and agenda
  3. Empower that team
  4. Put the plan into action

In this day and age you CANNOT ignore your Audio/Visual installation without paying a steep price in the long run.

Notice that I didn’t go heavily into budgeting? Without a good plan a budget is useless. Start with the plan and we will work on the budget in another post.


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