Do Church Systems Cost More?

 

An EV line array for a church needing concert sound and powerful spoken word.

The Rock Church, Kansas City by Advanced Sound & Communication

The internet is a great resource for the church.  Unfortunately, it is a doorway to ill-informed purchases by well meaning people, trying to save their church a few dollars.  The average church treats worship arts system purchases like DIY plumbing or electrical projects.  The average church purchases four DIY sound systems before they learn learn their lesson and get some help from professionals doing nothing but worship arts systems.

There is much more to a sound system than acquiring some equipment.  An audio professional can work with you from the planning stages and save you considerable time and money on your system.  Most importantly, you will have a system that has been tailored to your specific performance needs and aesthetic requirements.  The money spent in the future can be used to compliment the existing system rather than replace it.

Consider 10 good reasons why church sound systems cost more:

1.  Dynamic Range

Church auditoriums are usually quieter than other “places of gathering”.   The sound system must be quieter than usual to prevent audible noise in the audience area.  Our systems provide for 96 dB of dynamic range in the system electronics.  This figure is typical for recording studios and other critical listening environments.  This extended dynamic range assures that the signal chain will not be the “weakest link” when it comes to overall system performance.

Audio equipment is not “plug and play”.  There are no strict standards that all manufacturers follow when establishing the operating parameters of their equipment.  All electrical devices produce noise.  That noise is  can be annoying “hiss”.   Audible hiss can be eliminated from a sound system with proper gain structure.  When done properly, proper gain adjustment will result in the best possible signal-to-noise ratio for the system. We provide accurate and meticulous optimization of the gain structure of sound systems.

2.  Energy Ratios

Many listening environments have a “sweet spot”, where the sound system sounds best.   In houses of worship, every seat must be optimized for adequate signal-to-noise ratio and suitable early-to-late energy ratios.  We provide a minimum of 25 dB signal-to-noise ratio and a positive early-to-late energy ratio for your type of worship – for every seat in the audience area.

3.  Uniform Coverage

Many auditoriums are plagued with “hot” and “cold” spots in the sound coverage.  This can usually be attributed to interaction between multiple loudspeakers, and is unavoidable when more than one loudspeaker is required to provide sound coverage for the audience.  A proper design assures “even” coverage in the audience area.  No seats should be rendered unusable by loudspeaker interaction.  Our designs begin with computer modeling.  We assure there will be excellent sound quality at every listener seat.

4.  Versatility

It is possible to design sound systems optimized for speech.  It is possible to design sound systems optimized for music.  House of worship systems must perform well for speech AND music.  The attributes of these two types of systems are often at odds.  This is a very difficult design task.  Our systems have the accuracy and clarity required for speech reproduction, while maintaining the extended frequency response, imaging, and power handling required for music.

5.  Hum and Buzz

Hum is a major detriment to a church sound system.  Improper grounding practices, the installation of the wiring or the actual equipment can be the cause.  Off-the-shelf equipment often requires special grounding practices to work without hum.  Our systems are grounded properly.   All system wiring is routed and shielded properly.  Equipment is be tested for proper grounding.  Suitable modifications are made when necessary, ensuring “hum-free” operation.

6.  Gain-Before-Feedback

The potential for feedback exists whenever a microphone is placed in the same room as a loudspeaker.  Multiple microphones and long miking distances, a necessity for most choirs and orchestras, increase the potential.  For a sound system to work properly, the system must be extremely stable.  The loudspeaker array design and mic placement are critical to the end result.  Sound techs must understand the limitations of the sound system and be trained to manage the open microphones and working distances for people using the system.  We address these issues, providing a stable system along with operator training to assure that feedback does not hinder the performance of the system.

7.  Wireless Microphones and RFI

Sound systems can be adversely affected by frequencies above the human hearing range. They must be properly shielded.  Appropriate filtering devices must be installed when required.  Wireless microphones are actually small radio stations.  Each wireless mic needs its own frequency.  The selection of this frequency is critical to the mic’s proper operation.  In addition, the operating frequencies for your wireless products must be carefully selected to work properly in the presence of other wireless systems in your building and RF broadcasts in your area.  A radio frequency scan must be performed to produce a documented frequency allocation table.   Our wireless systems are compliant with the pending FCC consolidation.

8.  “Clean” Installation Practices

The most important and overlooked aspect of a sound system design is the installation of the system.  It is imperative that proper structural engineering and rigging practices are observed.  It is a matter of life and death.  Wiring and interconnect practices must follow all local and national electrical codes.  A “clean” installation means that wiring has been concealed as much as possible, and the finished system blends well with the decor of the building.  All wall and floor connector plates should be permanently labeled for reliable identification.  All equipment should be mounted and ventilated to manufacturer specifications.  Equipment should be organized for proper ergonomic operation.  Equipment rack wiring should be neatly organized by type and labeled for identification.  Wall plates and connectors must be wired properly for the system to work correctly.  Our systems include a meticulous check of all cables for proper termination and identification. A system wiring diagram is presented to upon completion, making future modifications and system repairs simple.

9.  Professional Equipment

There are many brands of equipment available in the audio marketplace. Fortunately, there are many reputable professional audio companies that make equipment suited for your needs.  There are also low cost “knock offs” marketed to be equivalents to pro gear. Our systems only include equipment from reputable manufacturers.  We give preference to companies with excellent support and parts supplies.  Our years of experience in the audio field have enabled us to eliminate marginal equipment from our inventories.  We deal only with companies providing reliable, repairable products.  All loudspeakers have been “stress tested” for rigging safety, and can be suspended above a congregation with confidence.  All equipment meets applicable codes for fire safety and radio frequency emissions.

10.  Calibration, Training and Documentation

A properly calibrated sound system will be much easier for your personnel to operate.  A significant amount of expertise is required to make a system “user friendly”.  Systems must be calibrated (or “tuned”).  We use advanced audio and acoustic testing equipment, software and techniques.  Most DIY church systems have EQs to address frequency issues.  We address the other two issues of the trinity, time and energy.  Upon completion of this process, all controls that do not require user adjustment must be rendered inaccessible.  Our systems use digital processors with administrative security.  Back-up copies of the calibration files are stored off-site, for security and longevity.

After calibration, personnel are trained to operate the system.  A digital user’s manual, including equipment manuals, system wiring diagrams, and operating instructions shall is provided for future reference.

Conclusion

In conclusion, your house of worship is a critical listening environment for speech and music.  The sound system must provide adequate acoustic gain, intelligible speech, even coverage, and extended bandwidth to all listener seats.  The best value in a sound system is one that meets all of these criteria.  A properly designed, installed and tuned system will provide years of trouble-free service and serve to complement your worship services.