Selecting loudspeakers is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks a church sound tech – volunteer or paid – can face.
The myriad options, costs and opportunities for things to go wrong make this a challenge unlike any other.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t get it right; rather, it’s a matter of education and choosing carefully.
Let’s consider options and weigh some pros and cons, and this input, combined with well-informed guidance from a professional systems integrator, should help define the right path for your situation.
Here’s a little secret: there is no “perfect” or “best” loudspeaker. I’m regularly asked for my views on the subject, and the absolute truth is that the “best” solutions are chosen from a wide variety of options that typically represent a compromise of cost, performance and voicing.
This is why it’s so important to bring a professional into the process early.
An experienced integrator will be able to suggest solid approaches and options, and then will utilize computer modeling to help predict performance in your specific room.
An integrator can also help you consider related factors, such as acoustic treatment and structural issues (if the loudspeakers are to be flown), that can be an important piece of the puzzle.
Any funds devoted to a thoughtful, informed design are usually money well spent.
JBL VRX Series line arrays at Grace Bible Church in Sebring, FL. (click to enlarge)
Spaces, Style, The Future
Matching loudspeakers to the room is critical to not only getting great sound, but in keeping the people of the church happy.
For example, a big line array might work well sonically in a historical chapel, but it might be visually objectionable to the leadership and/or congregation.
Or, if a room offers less than 20 feet of trim height, a line array is going to be very difficult to accommodate.
It is also important to consider the style of the worship services. Contemporary services presenting pop/rock music tend to benefit from a loud, edgy, “in-your-face” concert sound, and so line arrays providing that voicing might be the preferred direction.
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC-Live steerable arrays at Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Pacific Palisades, CA. (click to enlarge)
But traditional services – primarily spoken word and maybe a little choir, piano and organ – can be well served by a loudspeaker approach of a lesser scale. Then there are churches that offer both styles, either within the same service or in separate services.
After considering the space and style of worship to narrow the field of possible choices, it’s helpful to visit other churches in the region with systems serving similar spaces and styles.
There’s nothing like evaluating performance in real world settings. Your integrator can help arrange these visits.