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Church Sound: It Takes Three (Due To Silly Decisions)
Defining a good church sound system often requires living through several bad ones...
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Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, because the contractor was only interested in turning a quick and highly profitable job.

After sitting through a service, I must say it was truly one of the worst sounding systems I’ve ever heard. As Don and Carolyn might say, it should have killed me on the spot. I left with virtually no memory of what the pastor had said.

In preparing my written evaluation, I waited until mid-week and finally composed a detailed analysis of the system, and sent this along with a two-page cover letter, the gist of which said, “the only correction to your system that will work is to tear it out, throw it away, and start over, using a competent sound contractor.” And I recommended three.

Did they follow my recommendation, which, by the way, they paid me to provide? The answer, sadly, was no.

Instead, they went back to the original contractor and told him of my concerns. He confidently replied that he could fix the system, and at a price of “just” $35,000. Of course they took him up on his “generous” offer—the classic good money after bad scenario.

Cobbled Together
Several years later, I ended up becoming a member of this particular church. By then, they had moved on to “Sound System Number 2” – a truly cobbled together thing, done with the help of a different contractor and the “input” of several church members.

Just to complicate matters a bit further, an audio equipment manufacturer was also directly in the mix.

You guessed it—another bad system design. In most of the seats, one can either hear the loudspeakers before they hear the person speaking, or vice versa. Add in some regular doses of feedback, distortion and other quirks, and it’s a fine mess. One that cost more than $80,000, by the way.

You probably know the rest of the story…

Currently, the church is in the evaluation process for “Sound System Number 3.” While that process continues, the only thing I can tell you for sure is that my wife and I are always certain to arrive very early, in order to sit in the few seats where sound is delivered without the “bonus” of psychoacoustic fatigue.

When we look around during services, we see at least a dozen folks sitting in the “worst seats,” and invariably, they’re dozing off.

Pastors, friends, sound system operators—can you now better understand why so many people are taking a nap during worship services? It rarely has anything to do with what’s being said, but everything to do with how it’s being heard.

Or not.

Charlie Moore has been involved in management positions at various professional audio manufacturers and large installation contractors for more than 40 years. He also has first-hand experience in live mixing, system design and installation and has been active as a volunteer in a number of church sound system operations.


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