When faced with a need for either a significant improvement to an existing sound system or an entirely new sound system, the most often-heard advise is “hire a qualified consultant.” Or at least it should be.
But many churches balk at the notion of paying a fee to a professional to help with sound system needs.
The thinking: this is not money well spent because there always seems to be “someone” in the congregation confident in his own abilities to choose appropriate equipment and put it all together. Or, the local music store will provide the required expertise - why pay anyone else?
These approaches have lousy track records, wasting buckets of money and making everyone involved with the church suffer through poor sound quality for years. And years…
Full disclosure at this point: I am a long-time electro-acoustic consultant, so there might be temptation to think I’m biased in dispensing advice.
But the reality is that I truly wish I didn’t have to address this topic, because I’ve spent my career trying to help churches pick up the pieces after they’ve suffered mightily by putting their trust in totally unqualified personnel.
The bottom line is that a qualified consultant who specializes in live sound reinforcement (because this is what a church sound system is designed to do) will end up saving the church money, time and a whole lot of heartache.
Sound systems may be obtained in three basic ways:
1) All at once or piece-meal from a retail outlet (music store) or catalog vendor, usually installed by church members.
2) All at once or piece-meal from an AV contracting (“design-build”) firm that usually does at least part of the installation as well.
3) All at once with design by a qualified consultant and installation by a contracting firm that both work as colleagues in the process.
New let’s clarify these sources and what they do.