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Church Sound: Taking Future Interconnect Needs Into Account…Now

Saving considerable hassle and expense later with a well-considered present plan...

By Rob Stam March 12, 2014

Over the years, in my many encounters with church building committees, there’s often a common theme: The desire to build a room that can be utilized for a multitude of functions, including worship, special events, dinners, receptions…the list goes on.

It’s a discussion filled with looking toward the future, and one that necessitates compromise in order to accommodate any number of issues.

For example, wouldn’t it have been nice—25 years ago—if the building committee had considered that there might be need of more than a “roamer mic” and organ at the platform?

Today when building or remodeling a church, every future idea should be considered now as it relates to sound systems, since it’s much less expensive to install cabling that may not be used for five years rather than trying to retrofit it later when the cost will undoubtedly be five to 10 times more costly.

Cautious Approach
Of course, when addressing these subjects, caution should be exercised since we may be dealing with some of the same committee members who helped make the initial decisions with which we are unhappy today.

That said, the committee members who were present when the initial construction or installation took place may also remember the subsequent funding needed for more conduit and floor boxes for the platform, including cutting up the concrete floor to get the job done.

Meanwhile, the sound crew regularly trips over a bundle of mic cables and faces the unnerving challenge of tracing a bad cable to the soloist five minutes before the service begins.

All of this points to the fact that we need to be thinking about cabling and connectivity as it will affect future generations, perhaps long after we’re gone.

What can we reasonably estimate to happen in the next 15, 25, or even 50 years? We start by listing what will currently and likely could in the future-be needed on the platform. Such a list may include singers, pastor(s), pulpits, baptismal pool or fount, communion table, piano, drums, guitars, organ, bass, strings, brass, musician’s monitors, and so on.

A clear, relatively cable-free platform. (click to enlarge)

Location, Location
Next, the question becomes location. Can we really anticipate the exact position of each of these items in the years to come?

One answer is yes – we can anticipate positioning because we will control it with a well thought-out platform design. This is a popular option among larger churches, but can also be useful for the small-to-medium church. This approach means designing the platform or the front of the church with reasonably fixed choir, piano, organ, orchestra, monitor mixing, and other positions.

The result is superior sound quality in addition to consistent entrance and exit to various areas on the platform by those playing instruments, singing, or speaking.

The other answer is no – we can’t possibly anticipate everything accurately. In reality, this is the case in the majority of situations. But let’s back up. When discussing systems, I always have two perspectives: talkers/musicians and technical staff.

Two Sides
The musician side of me wants an area that I use to be free of cables, with plenty of space to interact with other musicians and the congregation. I want the ability to plug in any instrument at any realistic place on the platform.

For example, if the drummer in the praise group is in the back, the technicians should be able to mic all of the drums if required. The technical side of me wants easy cable runs, clean signal, and happy musicians.

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