In the world of professional sound design and installation, there’s an old adage that goes “your system is only as good as the weakest component in the signal chain.”
This is especially true of a sound system’s loudspeakers. They are the last link in the chain, directly responsible for communicating everything that’s been done to the signal along the way.
One thing’s for sure: if a system sounds lousy, the listening audience will automatically shift their gaze first upon the loudspeakers, viewing them as the primary culprit whether they are at fault or not.
Indeed, loudspeakers are one of the most important aspects of a sound system.
Going beyond the simple term of “output,” or distributing sound into the room, they actually become a living physical element, dynamically interacting with their surroundings.
In other words, what you’re usually hearing from a loudspeaker is more than it’s output, you’re also hearing what’s happening to that output as it travels through the space.
A wide range of quality professional loudspeakers are available, produced by an equally wide range of manufacturers, for house of worship sound systems. Selecting the “right” loudspeakers for a given system and room is no simple matter, and there can be more than one “right” answer.
The type of programming featured in worship services is one issue; the acoustical nature of the space is another. Budgetary issues are almost always an important factor influencing loudspeaker selection. Aesthetics are another concern.
The only certainty is that every project is different and needs to be treated as such.
Most church sound systems should utilize full-range loudspeakers, which are intended to adequately reproduce the entire audible frequency spectrum, ideal for spoken word as well as musical performance.
You’ll hear the term “20-20K” bandied about by sound designers/installers regarding the full-range issue. What they mean is that the loudspeaker provides output ranging from the lowest end of the frequency spectrum - 20Hz - to the highest end of the audible spectrum - 20kHz.
Note that most humans can’t detect sound at frequencies above about 18kHz, so the remainder, up to 20kHz and sometimes above, is usually enjoyed only by animals with hearing better than our own - like dogs!
Therefore, a loudspeaker proclaiming frequency response up to 27kHz is likely no better (or more useful) than one listed at 20kHz, or even 18kHz, for that matter. At the low-end of the frequency spectrum, while many full-range loudspeakers are listed with response down to 20Hz, the reality is that they often can’t truly provide useful low-frequency energy much below 60Hz.