One other aspect of a complete system design is provision for future needs. This may take the form of recommending more mixer input channels than are initially needed, additional wire, cable and conduit (installed at the outset even if they’re not needed until later), and a digital processor that can easily be expanded in functions and input/output capabilities. This can save thousands and thousands of dollars down the line.
Finally, the design package should be complete and not require the contactor to “fill in the blanks.”
Another valuable ingredient is the bidding part of the process itself. If a church attempts to shop around for a sound system package, not only is this very likely to lead to multiples of package proposals (these are not designed systems in any way, shape or form), but prices will vary widely.
All of this leads to chaos since there is no way to qualitatively compare the multiple proposals.
Aside from confusion about what the church is really buying, this also opens the door to temptation to accept a lower quality system based solely on dollar value.
A consultant designs the appropriate system and estimates what it will cost. If this is too much money, then the consultant may be able to provide a lower cost option, and with a full explanation of the ramifications.
Note, however, that consultants must be willing to say “no” when being pressured to provide a compromised design, and if necessary, they will walk away from a client with unrealistic expectations.
Another option is to stage the system purchase and installation into several phases, allowing the client to obtain the best system over time. But note that this is still a “system” design and not a piece-meal approach.
As part of the bid package, the consultant provides a list of several pre-qualified contractors and they bid on the same system design. This results in no ambiguities, and the client can then accept the lowest (or one of the lowest) bids.
Programming is the most important first step in developing a design that provides what is needed. The consultant must also attend worship services and interview key personnel to establish what their needs and hopes are. This also helps the consultant to identify the technical capabilities of the crew.
Following programming and the various design phases (schematic design, design development), the entire sound system design must be presented in the form of contract documents, which include drawings and a written specification.
The drawing set must include the functional aspects of each part of the system, as well as detailed drawings of key components such as loudspeakers (clusters, arrays, rigging and mounting methods), rack elevations, custom panels, and the isolated ground AC (electrical) power system.
The latter is provided as a concept (because consultants are not licensed to engineer them), and then it must be approved, detailed and stamped by a licensed electrical engineer in the local where the church is being built or the system is being installed. This is also the case for any suspended devices such as loudspeakers.
Once the contracting firm is selected, the consultant serves as the primary interface on all issues related to the system, and then interfaces with the client on any aspects of note.
Yet another important part of the services provided by a consultant is an ability to measure and optimize the system after it is installed, and then to train the users in its operation. This completes the picture.
Finally, the consultant will be available to answer questions later, as they crop up, which can inevitably happen with a new sound system.
Churches that invest the time and care in finding and vetting qualified candidates for design and install services are much more likely to achieve a sound system that serves their needs, and will do so for many years to come, while also receiving a very high return on their investment.