The following details will help you understand the performance of the sound system and the interaction relative to the acoustics of your church or hall. These details are only meant to show potential weakness in the system you are evaluating. At the end of this article, each item is explained. (You may want to print these files direct to your printer. It's about 6 pages long.)Name of Church ____________________________Age of Existing sound System ______ yrs.
Age of the Existing Church ________yrs.
Each test is a window into the world of church sound. To the non church community, the acceptance of poor sound is common. For the church community, poor sound week after week is insulting, degrading and costly. Today, there are many churches that have better sound than any local establishment within a 20 mile radius. These are not expensive systems, just well designed systems. Each test will let you know the strengths and weakness of a church sound system and its acoustics.
In a speech only system, you must have at least ½ watt per person. The moment you add music to your weekly service - meaning taped music, folk music or worship teams or special music - the system must have a minimum of 2 watts per person or more Some churches require a minumum of 8 watts per person.Equalization (EQ)
Every live mix into the sanctuary should have nothing less than a 1/3rd octave EQ. This means the house mix and all floor monitor and choir monitor mixes.Flexibility (Number of output mixes)
The following is a minimum list of mixable outputs every church sound system should have. There are exception, but they are rare.
Many times during a service, the program levels are not very strong. This is most apparent when recording children or drama presentation. With a separate record mix, you are able to increase the level to the recorder without putting the system into feedback. A valuable tool for those with grow tape ministries to seniors and shut-ins.Separate and Adjustable hearing impaired output
Most people who have hearing loss, loose their high frequency. By being able to cut the bass to the hearing impaired transmission device, it mean better hearing for those who use hearing aids or those who just need a slight volume assist.Where is the Mixer located in your church?
The best place to be to operate a mixer is where the people are sitting. Usually second row from the back of an outside isle is best. Please, please, don't use a balcony!!!, or be under one. If your in a separate room or booth, you can not mix without constantly checking by walking to an area with seating. - Just what a weight watcher needed, and sound system designed to disturb people and walk off the pounds. Isn't it better if the soundman can just sit and do the job without disturbing others? (There are plenty of ideas on this in the book.)Which body member of the church is responsible for the sound system and acoustics of the church?
In many churches, to my surprise, the sound and acoustics is left up to the property managers. Since when was property responsible for the spiritual well being of the people? If your church sound system can only just work, then it is just property. However, if your sound system is good enough that it enhances a person's voice or plays a supporting role in helping people to play music or sing better, then, doesn't the sound system become an instrument? Is the church Organ or Piano under property? It shouldn't be. These items should all be under the worship committee or pastoral control. The only thing that stand between the minister and the people in the pew is a sound system and air. The minister speaks the message. The sound system is the messenger. If the message is getting screwed up, kill the messenger!
The Sound System and Acoustics plays a bigger role in a church than what most people realize. A faithful church member will hear everything they need to every worship service for a minimum of 50 hours per year. In some churches, they can be listening for over 200 hours a year. If the minister knows the sound system is no good, if the people who use the system for music of any kind has it degrade their work, shouldn't those people have a large say into what happens? The sound system, the messenger for the whole church can be responsible for drawing people into church or turning them off church because they can't understand or hear things clearing.( Please notice that I did talk about loudness.)What is the Annual budget for sound and acoustics?
Nothing is forever. Just as we are taught that 10% is a reasonable tithe to the church, if you look carefully through scriptures, what did it cost to maintain the tent for the Tabernacle? Check out Numbers, chapters 18. A tenth of the tithe went to the upkeep of the House of God, which at that time was just a Tent. Is your church investing 10% of it's annual income in church maintenance of property and hardware? This does not include custodians salaries. This is money set aside for maintaining the building in it original condition.
A church sound system will get old. The technology will change and get
better. A new sound system that has been designed and installed as the
final system design change your church will ever need, will have to be
maintained through parts replacement. The following is a rough outline
for scheduled equipment replacement.
A church sound system can have a long life. If your system was done right, it probably cost over $30 per seating position. As you can see, there is always something to invest in a church sound system. In case you are wondering, a church sound system is a high maintenance system. It costs more to maintain a church sound system at peak performance than the church computer - if your church has a computer.
Then there is the acoustical maintenance cost. How many churches paint or make repairs to the sanctuary without checking on the impact it might have on the acoustics of the church? Almost every day I hear about a church that renovated and discovered that the sound of the sanctuary changed. The reason why I hear about it is because they didn't like the change. Usually it made things worse. They ask me how to fix it. Guess what. It doesn't get fixed because they can't afford to fix their mistake. A few years down the road, I hear how that church is struggling because attendance is way down. If only they started a sound and acoustical fund or budget in the first place, they would be better off.
Good Church sound cost at a price to maintain. It is not unreasonable for a church to invest over $4.00 per seating position per year. Make this a fund that can accumulate over the years. A 400 seat church should have a minimum annual budget of $1,600.00 per year that is cumulative. Every year the budget should be increased by half of the inflation rate. After 10 years, the fund would have replace half of the sound system and there should be enough to paint the sanctuary, or replace the carpets or make some of those acoustically improvements you could not afford earlier. After 20 years, the sound system will still be "state of the art" and no one will have to ask to board for extra money.
How often are the sound people in your church trained for sound mixing operations?
Do you even have to ask what to do if your people are not being trained regularly?
Is the Soundman included in the weekly preparations of the worship service?
The soundman has ultimate and final control in running things. Is he always
trying to guess what will happen next or does he know?
Copyright (c) 1996 JdB Sound, Acoustic Lab.
Last updated, January 29, 1996